Alumna: Business Administration '92
Carla Nealy '92 is Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer at The Harbor Bank of Maryland. With more than 30 years of banking experience, Nealy also serves on the board of the Maryland Industrial Development Finance Authority. We asked Carla how her business degree from Towson helped her achieve professional success and how she uses her expertise to give back to the community.
How did you get started in the banking industry?
I needed a job to return to school in the Spring of 1983 and a friend at church suggested I apply for a position where she worked, First National Bank of Maryland, which is now M&T Bank. Secondly, my father began his career at Equitable Trust Bank—now Bank of America.
What do you consider your greatest professional achievement?
Becoming a “C” level officer – Chief Credit Officer and really affecting the bottom line of the bank. Also, being invited to serve on the board of several private organizations and being appointed to serve on a state board. Those appointments represent being acknowledged and respected as a leader in my profession.
What do you find most rewarding about being a leader in your professional realm?
Providing leadership and serving as a mentor in my field. I want to allow others to have a safe space to vent about their concerns and offer solutions and guidance. It’s also rewarding to inform individuals about some of the mistakes I made and how to avoid them. With my 30+ years of experience and banking expertise, I have gained a great deal of knowledge and experience, so I am able to consult with any range of individuals from entry level associates up to the U.S. Congress.
Why is sharing your expertise to benefit the community important to you?
Giving back to the community is what is expected of me as a human being and required of me as a Christian. If Jesus could give his life for humanity, surely I can share the gifts (time, talent and tithes) that have been given to me with others. Some of my favorite quotes that express why I feel the responsibility to give back to the community and why it is important and the benefits from doing so are, "To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required,” Luke 12:42-48 and “If I can help somebody, as I pass along...then my living shall not be in vain,” Mahalia Jackson, gospel singer.
Community service creates opportunities for all, regardless of whether you are the provider or the recipient. Understanding community needs helps foster empathy and self-efficacy and allows me to continue to grow even while I am the catalyst for others to grow.
How did you experience at Towson help shape your personal and professional trajectory?
I worked part time while at Towson and full time while earning my MBA and MDiv. Towson’s business program was a great foundation for my continued banking career. I was a commuter at Towson and did not share in much of the social life at Towson. I was a freshman transfer from Temple University where I pledged a sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. I joined the Towson Chapter, Lambda Beta and I still maintain those relationships 30 years later.
The most influential professor I had was Professor Weintraub in economics/finance. He explained the importance of reading print material to formulate your own opinions about what goes on in the world. He also stressed that an individual should not allow the media to tell you what to think and how to think including the role and influence of propaganda. He also made you think on a global level. The things that happen around the world will also affect you in your local economy. I was proud to say he was my professor when he was interviewed years later on television about his opinion on the removal of the Berlin Wall.
What advice would you give to up and coming business students?
Apply yourself and learn all you can about each subject that is taught. Go to lectures and discussions that interest you. You will be surprised by what you learn and who you may meet. Read everything that interests you. Be open minded to new experiences and cultural diversity. Surround yourself with people who have knowledge in other fields, those that are smarter than you and those that do not think like you. Take advantage of every work situation and/or internship. When you are given a work opportunity, find solutions to the inefficiencies you see in the office and learn your job and those positions that affect your work flow. Learn to do your job, your subordinate’s job and your manager’s job. You may have to fill-in in either capacity. Make yourself invaluable. Be cordial to everyone and remember to give back. Maintain strong business connections with established individuals in your profession and do not “burn bridges”. A person I trained years earlier was on a panel to approve my completion of the Bank’s credit program to become a commercial lender.