Meet Jill Edwards, Senior Vice President and Commercial Lending Division Manager of United Community Bank. Edwards is also this year’s Chair for the Gwinnett Chamber Board of Directors. And she joins only four other women to have ever held this prestigious title making her the fifth female Chair in the Chamber’s 74-year history. We sat down with Edwards just before the holidays to discuss her secrets to success and her goals for the 2022 year.
“Treating people with respect will always return to you in ways you could never have imagined,” said Edwards when asked how she has managed to successfully navigate an otherwise male-dominated banking industry. She nodded to the age-old adage of what goes around comes around. And when it comes to Jill Edwards, respect is the one thing, that no one can argue, she most readily deserves.
Edwards attributes a lot of her success and philosophy on respect to her upbringing and education. Her father, a GE salesman for 42 years, would take her on his sales calls and golf outings, inspiring her with his customer interaction, sheer joy of the job and pride in her. It was during these trips that he would often remind her there was nothing she could not do; so, she never thought in the most binary terms of a male or female role or occupation; she only knew to pick a job, realize the potential in oneself to do it and do it well. And numbers speak to Edwards. She majored in Finance at the University of Tennessee and got her first job out of college at an Atlanta-area bank where she underwent a classic management training program. One that today, she shared, no longer exists in most banks. It is perhaps why she manages her all-female team of support staff, underwriters and commercial bankers with an intentional focus on the basics. Respecting her team, and understanding their needs, is something Edwards takes considerable pride in doing. She finds fulfillment in supporting them, removing obstacles, and helping them accomplish their goals, while systematically ensuring they do their jobs with excellence. Edwards attributes various challenges she faced early in her career with shaping her management style. From conflict resolution to raising a family, she learned that respect given often returns to you when you most need it, citing the experiences she had where coworkers rallied around her in a time of need and when members of the team began coming to her for guidance, direction, and problem-solving assistance. Through these experiences, Edwards has learned not to sweat the small stuff; plan what’s best for the long-term and move in that direction.
In addition to her experience, Edwards offered some keen insight on how to implement her take on the value of respect, a long-term viewpoint and its return-on-investment in today’s ever-changing corporate landscape. Her advice was concise, “Find something you love to do, and do it well.” Edwards believes that if you do not love your job, your ability to be excellent in it diminishes greatly. “When a person loves what they do it is amazing what can be accomplished when you go the extra mile. Show up. Put yourself in the room. And take advantage of every opportunity given to you.” You see, Edwards’ rise to being Chair of the Gwinnett Chamber Board of Directors began with just showing up and putting herself in the room. Years of implementing this simple, yet strategic, approach have produced a consistency and reliability that others feel comfortable trusting. Asked about mentors, she replied that there are just too many to name and claims to have received value from just about everyone she has ever had the privilege to interact with. Very early on in her career, Sam Williams, former President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, helped her realize this strategy through introductions, connections, and networking opportunities that she took and ran with, ultimately establishing herself as a business leader in the region and finding her love for what she calls “the chamber of commerce effect”. Basically (again), plug in and show up. From there, as many members can attest, the Gwinnett Chamber was a no brainer for engagement and connection, where she has faithfully served to the point of filling the leadership role that she carries in 2022. “Nick Masino is a master of finding and developing talent. He then relies on the leadership of his organization (board and staff) to guide the decisions he makes, which is something that attracted me to this role.” Her goals for 2022 include focusing on diversity and inclusion, attracting more young talent, and continuing to lead and invest in others. Edwards added, “Patience is a virtue and timing is everything. I look forward to serving the Gwinnett Chamber community, with much respect, this year.”