June 18, 2013

From Professional Fellow to Lifelong Friend


US Participant Leslie Jensen with Khaing Kyawt Kay of Burma. US Participant Leslie Jensen with Khaing Kyawt Kay of Burma.
Leslie Jensen, Vice President and Commercial Banker at First Interstate Bank, has always been interested in learning more about people and places outside of the United States. After hearing about the Professional Fellows Economic Empowerment Program, she felt a strong connection to the goals of the program and decided to host a participant from Burma.

“When I was matched with Ms. Kay Khaing from Burma and began learning about her skills, work experience, and what she wanted to gain from her time with her U.S. participant, it gave me inspiration to do my best for her and identify the activities and people to best meet her interests in learning,” says Leslie.

Leslie and Kay spent a lot of time at Leslie’s company headquarters where they discussed similar banking systems in the U.S. and Burma.

“We saw First Interstate’s corporate values first hand as First Interstate Bank’s management team opened their doors and their hearts to us,” Leslie explains. “They asked us lots of questions about the banking system in Burma and about Ms. Khaing’s culture along with providing information and documents related to First Interstate’s governance, values, and corporate vision.”

Leslie also set up meetings for Kay with several of her customers, including one who has conducted business in China, who eventually connected them to a meeting with a commercial bank.

“We had coffee with a gentleman who recently came to work for the Small Business Administration in Montana now but spent 20 years working at the Ex-Im Bank in Washington D.C.,” says Leslie. “He not only provided the lead we had been looking for – a meeting with a commercial bank in D.C. for the free day the fellows will have, but he made arrangements for Ms. Khaing to have dinner with his wife at a restaurant called ‘Myanmar’ that serves authentic Burmese food.”

But the benefits of the exchange experience did not stop there. The Professional Fellows Economic Empowerment Program also had a major influence on Lisa’s professional development as well.

“The professional growth opportunity for me extended beyond marshaling the resources of my company and my broader business network, structuring the work schedule, inspiring peers and colleagues to participate and assist, and managing the logistics and communication for the fellowship period,” says Lisa. “It also gave me the chance to learn more about the governance of the company I work for and how the corporate vision that First Interstate Bank communicates to employees and the outside world is practiced every day at the top levels of the company.”

In addition to connecting on a professional level, Leslie felt that she developed a friendship with Kay that will last long after the program ends.

“I found that the time we spent together in the fellowship made me more curious about the culture and history of my fellow and the idea of continuing our friendship after the fellowship period is complete,” says Leslie.

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