Jennifer Maxfield started her career in the advertising and marketing industry, exactly where she wanted to be. One of her first accounts was a credit union, and although she says she never envisioned herself working in a client-side marketing role, she’s now senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Tampa-based GTE Financial, one of the largest credit unions in Florida, with more than 230,000 members and $2.86 billion in total assets.
Prior to joining GTE nearly 12 years ago, Maxfield says she bought into the misconception that banks and credit unions were “stodgy” institutions that aren’t innovative.
“I had an advertising degree, and I was very passionate about marketing and communications,” she says. “What’s kept me at GTE is I absolutely love working in the nonprofit, financial institution space, because you get the opportunity to do big things and help people improve their lives, either with an affordable loan or getting them started with their first checking account. These are important, big things in life that our credit union helps members with all the time.”
Maxfield knows all about big life changes. Eight years ago, her partner, Chad Burney, suffered a severe spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down. After years of rehabilitation, he regained the ability to walk — an extremely rare accomplishment, she says, given the severity of his injury. However, he still experiences chronic pain and fatigue.
“He's taught me so much,” Maxfield says. “You always hear things like, ‘Oh, life can change in a heartbeat’ and ‘You never know if tomorrow’s going to be there.’ It’s so true.”
Burney's ordeal, Maxfield says, has taught her many lessons she’s been able to apply in her professional life.
“He chooses to get up every day and try to be the best he can be that day,” she says. “That’s a choice we make for ourselves and the people we care about. It’s something I always keep in the back of my brain — being grateful for the little things that might seem bothersome, but they’re not if you focus on the big stuff and be grateful for the time you have.”
Maxfield also enjoys her career at GTE Financial because it gives her the chance to do well by doing good. She appreciates the fact that the credit union locates many of its branches in areas that are underserved by financial institutions, and that it donates so much money to charitable causes, including the Tighten the Drag Foundation, a fund that supports people and families with spinal cord injuries.
“It’s easy to assume that working in finance is going to eat your soul,” Maxfield says, “and that you’re going to be driven by money and numbers. But the younger generations, they’re looking for brands and companies they can believe in more than anything else. That’s what GTE has delivered for me.”
Name: Jennifer Maxfield
City of residence: Riverview
Employer: GTE Financial
Title: Senior vice president and chief strategy officer
Birthplace: Adopted from South Korea but grew up in Fort Myers
Years in the area: 16
Marital status/children: Forever committed to my life partner, 20-year-old stepson, Hunter, and our three fur pupparonis
Alma mater/degree: University of Florida/bachelor's degree; Saint Leo University/MBA
Are you working from the company office, home office or hybrid? Hybrid
What community group or organization are you most involved with? Tighten the Drag Foundation
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had? Dress up in '70s gear and dance on TV for a home giveaway (I can't dance, LOL)
What’s your top tip for being productive? Prioritize and protect your peace. First, know the things that are most important and prioritize them. Secondly, actively preserve your peace! Make sure to reserve time and energy for the stuff you love, so you can show up more fully at work and for the people you care about.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? Writing speeches
What’s your favorite off-hours activity? Watching movies at home with my soulmate and pups
What's the most significant item on your life bucket list — and what's keeping you from completing it? My bucket list is, honestly, making each day count, with a focus on enjoying the ones I love. Circumstances, the stuff I can't control … can test this, but I conscientiously wake up each day trying to make the most of the time I have.
What's your favorite podcast? I don't listen to podcasts, but my twin sister sends me enlightening, challenging and inspirational content on the regular. She keeps me learning.
At what percentage on your phone to you start to get low battery anxiety? 10%
What are the top three apps used on your smartphone? Notes (I write down stuff all day), GTE's mobile banking app, Facebook
What's your go-to music genre, band or act to be inspired? The last book I read was Time, Talent, Energy by Michael Mankins and Eric Garton.
Who would play you in the movie of your life? Selma Blair
Where is your happy place? Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza
Describe yourself in three words: Full, grateful, optimistic
Who is your mentor for your career and why? Brian Best (my boss) and Chad Burney (my partner).
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor? "Behold the turtle, he or she never makes progress without sticking their neck out." While this quote was first given to me by my mother (the turtle is her spirit animal), Brian Best (president and CEO of GTE Financial) brought this to life for me! When you are responsible for the whole kit and caboodle, big change is big risk. Brian showed me if you wholeheartedly believe something is right, take that leap. During my career, I never want to lose sight of that responsibility and privilege. Outside of the office, the hardest moment in my life came about eight years ago when my forever partner was paralyzed in an accident. Suffering a spinal cord injury, he regained the ability to walk (1% do that). However, he is in chronic pain every day with unrelenting physical and mental fatigue. And yet, he rises and shines, ready to show up and make a difference at work and at home. I am without a doubt a better person because of his love.