As the first female president of core provider DCI, Sarah Fankhauser has a lot of advice to offer those rising up through their careers, men and women alike.
Fankhauser’s story begins with a college job at a DCI customer bank where she realized her passion for banking. She advanced through several roles at the bank, moving to DCI itself in 1993. “I definitely feel like it’s something I fell into, but I’m so grateful that I did,” she said. “I really enjoyed the organization and the company and the employees. Obviously since I’ve been here 29 years, I’ve absolutely loved it.”
Fankhauser was named president of Kansas-based DCI in April 2020, adding CEO to her resume in 2021, replacing the retiring John Jones. She’s found herself surrounded by a team of talented people, including a fair number of women. “I think it just comes down to obviously the women at DCI and a lot of women in the industry,” she said. “We work very hard and are very passionate about what we do.”
Communication and confidence are the keys to success for anyone trying to climb up the corporate ranks, Fankhauser advises. As people move into leadership positions, they must learn how to effectively communicate to those around and under them, tailoring their message and delivery to the individual they’re addressing. But equally important is knowing what you want, having the confidence to own that goal, and then relaying that vision to leadership around you, Fankhauser said. Collaborate on a plan to achieve your goals, but understand that the plan might morph and require you to adapt as well.
“We have a lot of one-on-one discussions with our employees; we want to know what their dreams are, what their aspirations are,” she said. “It’s not always a perfect fit for every person, but communicating what you want is really important. And then hopefully your leadership team can work with you to get to that point.”
Although Fankhauser describes her career in the banking industry as partially owing to chance, she also emphasizes the value of intentionality in work choices.
“I think it’s really important for all of us that we’re in careers and in positions that bring us value and that we enjoy,” she said. “We all spend a lot of time at work, and so it should definitely be a place where you’re valued and a place where you can communicate what you’d like to do or where you’d like to be and then be able to strive toward your goals.”