It’s 4:30am and Anthony Niciejewski, Spencer’s Business Banking Officer, has started his day. He’s having breakfast, heading to the gym, checking some emails, working on pending school assignments, getting dressed for work, dropping off his kids at school and heading into work to finally … “start” his day. A day in the life of this millennial, balancing work and family, is not easy but like Anthony’s family has taught him – if you want something, you need to go out and make it happen for yourself. Don’t expect anyone to give it to you.
A first generation American of Polish descent, Anthony was raised mostly by his mother who was left to care for two children alone after his father passed away at an early age. A very strong and tough woman, she would instill in him some values that would prove to take him far. A path that has led to graduating top of his high school class, a college scholarship with NJ Stars, quick promotions at work and his most recent acknowledgement by his peers with the NJ Bankers’ Emerging Leaders Rising Star award. We sat down with Anthony to learn about paving a path to success – his way.
You are considered a millennial. How do you feel about the way society views millennials at times?
People have a misconception about millennials. They think that they are lazy slackers. They think they don’t want to work hard or whatever the case is. I think you have to look at it from a different perspective and from the younger generation’s viewpoint. For myself and other people I went to school with, we entered an economy during a recession. We weren’t afforded as many opportunities as our parents were. Getting work was tough. A lot of my peers have student loan debt. It was not an easy time for the younger generation. We also have a different way of thinking. Our parents’ generation worked hard for the same company, their entire lives, and then retired. Many of us didn’t see our parents growing up because they were too busy working hard trying to provide for us. Millennials don’t necessarily want that kind of same life for their family. They are more involved in their childrens’ lives more. The work for them will always get done, but it doesn’t have to get done between the traditional hours of 9-5. If they can get it done on a Tues. night or a Sat. afternoon, they’ll do it then. They crave flexibility because they are balancing many personal and professional responsibilities and really value work/life balance.
What are your thoughts on leadership?
The best thing that a manager can do is get their people promoted. It is not about being selfish and saying you are my best employee and I want to keep you. It’s about helping people grow. I think great leaders know they may lose a wonderful employee but realize that the best thing that they can do for someone is to help them move on to something bigger and better. I feel the good intent in that and the positive energy in that will come back to you eventually. It is great to give people opportunities. Having a defined employee training program also helps. It gives individuals a path to go on. If someone has a defined path, then they know how to get there – they then have an objective they can work towards. I’m a big advocate of employee training programs because they have worked for me in the past. This is good leadership. Aside from this, with today’s generation, if you don’t do this, they will get bored and look into joining other companies that do provide more opportunities.
You seem to have had success from an early age which transferred over to your professional life. What is some advice or tips you can give people that will lead to a more successful life?
I think it is important to attach yourself to the right people and to express your desires. You have to put in the work but you also have to align yourself with the right people and get their support. One mistake professionals often make is waiting around for people to ask them what they want and give it to them. They do not express what they want. I’ve found if you express your interest, people will help you. That is something very instrumental and something I’ve always done in my career. I always try to find that person, that mentor, that will help me get to the next stage. Find the right people and don’t be afraid to have an open dialogue with your managers and leaders. Also, try to learn as much as you can from them.
What’s your philosophy on success and getting ahead in life?
I’ve always had a strong belief that if you want something, you have to do something in order to get it. You have to put yourself out there. You have to make it known that this is something you want to accomplish. I also feel like you have to get really honest with yourself about what you want to do – you should follow your passion, your dreams, and do what is going to make you happy. Life is short. Enjoy it. Family always comes first. Have a good work/life balance. Have fun with everything that you do.
And, are you having fun in banking?
If you know it and understand it enough, it can be fun. I love what I do. For me, there is always something else to learn. It’s mainly the relationships that you build that make it worthwhile. When it comes to the clients and helping them get the capital or credit to expand or helping them thru a dry spell in the season, that’s very rewarding. We also get to see a lot of people from different industries and you get to see what people do which is very interesting. One of my small business customers is a pen maker. They don’t just make any type of pens, they make pens specifically for correctional institutions. Special pens are needed so the inmates cannot hurt anybody with them. The pens are rubber and they bend. I would have never thought of that!
How do you juggle work/life balance?
It’s tough. Gender roles have changed. Nowadays, two people have to work outside the home to raise a family and are equally contributing inside the home. I’m currently in a Master’s program as well as attending the ABA’s Stonier School of Banking, in addition to working and being a father. My wife has a busy schedule herself. She is an entrepreneur. I support her every day in everything that she does. It is hard, it is a lot of work, a lot of effort and the weight is on both of us. But, we always say – if you can dream it, and work hard for it, you can do it. Follow your dreams, follow your passions.
How long have you been with Spencer and what were you hired to do?
I was hired five years ago as a Business Development Officer. I came on board to help the Retail Banking division start their Small Business Lending program. The position has evolved and I’ve been able to learn so much and do some great work here. I’ve done sales, worked with and helped train the branch staff on the new product line, have written policies and procedures, etc. Spencer’s Small Business Lending program has been very successful and it was a great group effort with staff that really cares about helping business owners succeed. We’ve all worked together – listening to customers’ feedback, making adjustments, and always striving to create the best product that will suit their business needs. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some very knowledgeable people at Spencer who helped guide me.
Congratulations on receiving the NJ Bankers Emerging Leaders Rising Star award! The program was created to recognize individuals who have the potential to become future leaders of NJ’s banking industry. Tell us about the night. I know you had to make a speech!
I had a wonderful time. I made it a point to get to the event early to meet the other awardees. Again, I think it is so important to build relationships – not only internal ones, but external. I love expanding my circle. It was great to have my wife there and the Spencer team supporting me. And yes, public speaking is the #1 fear people have. For me it wasn’t too bad – I just remembered you have to think before you speak, take your time, develop your thought and then just deliver. Never take yourself too seriously – have fun!
What drives you Anthony?
My children – what my children think of me, what they are going to think of me. My dad worked hard. I want my kids to be proud of me. You want to make your family proud.
What’s the last book you read?
I enjoy a good military biography. The last one I read was The Life and Legend of Chris Kyle: American Sniper, Navy Seal by Michael J. Mooney. This one was an autobiography that revealed the life story of this navy seal from his childhood up to his death a few years ago. It was very interesting.
It’s 10:30pm. Anthony Niciejewski has wrapped up his day. He’s had a full work day of external meetings with business customers, collaborating with branch managers and internal meetings with Spencer Executives. He’s picked up his kids from school, helped with dinner, prepped them for bed. He squeezes in one last hour to look over a school assignment and answer back a business customer’s email inquiry. Then, it’s lights out for this millennial … in a few hours, he’ll wake up and do it all over again. After all, that’s the stuff that Rising Stars are made of.