‘We Already Made One Miracle Happen Together. What’s One More?’ — Lessons From a People-First VP

Sponsored by Navy Federal Credit Union

Elizabeth Boruhovin

Image courtesy of Navy Federal Credit Union.

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June 20, 2024 at 11:11PM UTC

“When a leader or team member tells me they don’t think they are capable of doing something being asked of them, I often respond with, ‘We already made one miracle happen together. What’s one more?’” Elizabeth Boruhovin says.

The Vice President of Security/Cyber Governance & Risk Management at Navy Federal Credit Union believes strongly in her employees and team. “The goal is to help them evolve into more empowered and collaborative leaders,” she explains. As a result, she aims to be a very transparent leader with her direct reports. “It’s always my goal that, after working with me, they see they’ve proven to themselves that they’re capable of more than they initially thought was possible,” notes Boruhovin.

In this interview, she explores her journey into leadership, how she’s grown and what she’s learned from the people around her — including her direct reports and teams.

Tell us about your job.

To protect Navy Federal and its membership, SG&R supports leadership decisioning through innovation and risk standards, expertise, assessment and analysis to prepare for and effectively manage Security/Cyber risks across the organization using integrated risk management practices and a data driven framework. My role recently expanded — I was asked to assume the role of VP, Security/Cyber Governance and Risk. Prior to that, I was head of Real Estate Lending Risk Management.

My current position as a leader includes:

  • Attracting, developing and retaining talent.

  • Strategic planning and execution.

  • Development and implementation of risk management programs and capabilities

  • Heightened awareness and monitoring of the ever-changing risk environment and emerging matters.

  • Influencing strategic enterprise decisions.

  • Managing through ambiguity.

  • Building and fostering partnerships and relationships.

What’s your overall approach to work?

My work is my passion. What drives me the most is making a difference, and by difference, I mean making anything I’m involved in better. 

Work is a byproduct of synergy and cross-functional efforts from a diverse, talented and engaged workforce. It’s all about working with other individuals who are as passionate, dedicated and interested in bringing value to the organization and to our membership. This philosophy is my overall approach to work. Work=people, and I’m very passionate about both at Navy Federal

What’s one strategy you’ve used that’s been particularly effective? 

I refer to my strategy as “CCPTV”:

  • Communication

  • Courage

  • Passion

  • Transparency

  • Vulnerability     

I’ve found that when I convey all five elements of CCPTV to my team, it organically drives them to be more engaged, effective, excited, innovative and brave to make the “impossible possible.”  It’s important for others to see a leader demonstrate and lean into these key behaviors; It becomes contagious. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to manage people who make me want to be a better leader and person.

What is your No. 1 piece of advice for other women who are moving into/want to move into leadership? 

Be sure you care about and enjoy working with people and decide what kind of leader you want to be. Be the type of leader for your team you would want for yourself. 

How do you ensure your direct reports feel well-supported?

I’d like to think my direct reports and I each have a special relationship, and they know how much I value them. This is the starting point for ensuring they feel well-supported. It’s important to think progressively about work-life balance and empathize with everyone’s individual situation in and out of the office. 

I personally recognize the little and big things in and out of the office. Through words and action, I reiterate the importance of their mental health, hold regular check-ins and directly ask how I can support them more. Nothing is more important to me than my direct reports’ health, happiness and overall well-being

We’re piloting what I call “Breather Day.” Once a month, I block out a day on our calendars, encouraging my employees to not have meetings and/or start their day at a later time or shut down early. I try to do it on a Friday to extend the weekend. I’m trying to improve my own work-life balance, so it creates an opportunity for me to model this.

What do you believe is the No. 1 thing managers must do when onboarding new employees?

Make the employee feel immediately welcomed, valued, engaged and connected to the team. 

We welcome all new employees in our Webex group chat, via email and at town halls and encourage them to start meeting with team members to establish personal connections. My leaders host hybrid (in-person and virtual gatherings). I also schedule individual meet and greets. When we introduce new team members, we do it on a personal level, asking for fun facts and photos to include in their intros. We also highlight them in a monthly newsletter. 

When I was onboarded, my managers supported me by integrating me into key meetings and topics, seeking my counsel and giving me a seat at the table regarding strategic discussions and issues immediately. From day one, it was clear I had their support and confidence. This is the warmest welcome one can have as a new leader.

While building your team, what surprised you most? 

What surprised me most was the passion, dedication, unwavering commitment, flexibility and loyalty my team showed me. They corralled and supported my vision — it was such an amazing team effort, and we developed a rapport incredibly quickly. Although we were given a short timeline to build out and operationalize a large body of work — the largest risk program buildout in a six-month period I’ve ever seen in my career — the team flourished, and we met all target milestones with less than 2% attrition. We learned the impossible is possible.

What has enabled you to develop/advance your career?

Being proactive in driving change and influencing enterprise-wide strategy, objectives and transformation. Throughout my career, I’ve been viewed as a “fixer,” not just a change agent. Volunteering and engaging in enterprise-wide matters that many often shy away from allowed me to demonstrate my abilities. 

With each project/initiative’s success, I was asked to take on more and assume greater responsibility. This resulted in organic advancement and development opportunities. You don’t necessarily need to switch companies to grow. In fact, I think the best balance is having both industry experience and institutional knowledge within a given company. You can’t obtain institutional knowledge if you keep changing companies every couple of years. It takes time. Diverse industry experience and extensive institutional knowledge within an organization is a powerful combination.

Can you identify anything you said or did that earmarked you as someone ready for advancement?

I’m a long-term thinker and strategist. Nothing I do is in haste. Demonstrating that I understand the dots and how they connect, coupled with successful teams and achieved/exceeded objectives signals to others that you are ready for advancement. Have a plan A, B and C — effective leaders always do!

What’s something you’re especially good at at work?

I’ve evidenced that I can attract and retain exceptional talent, build high-functioning teams, engage employees and together be transformative, while creating a fun and innovative environment.

What about outside of work? 

I love helping people and being a tiger mom. I’m also interested and involved in crypto and blockchain-related advisory projects.

What are you trying to improve on? 

Being a change agent is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the courage and candor needed to execute change are viewed as visionary and innovative. However, at times, it can also be met with resistance. Therefore, I’m trying to improve how I leverage my diverse risk management experience to drive change while preserving the many important relationships and balancing stakeholder views involved in any given circumstance.

What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of? 

Early in my career, I listened to an economics professor, who encouraged me to pursue a private-sector fellowship at a federal banking regulatory agency. It was that experience that opened a lot of doors for me and exposed me to what risk management is and how critical it is to an organization’s success. 

I still draw from that experience to this day, and, if I look back at how my career has blossomed and the many amazing opportunities I’ve had, all roads lead back to that decision.

Who is/was the most influential person in your professional life and why?

I would point to a few people. My father, who recently passed away, instilled a tremendous work ethic in me, which has served me well professionally. I’ve also sought out mentors throughout my career, including at Navy Federal, and some of them have been my biggest advocates.

Executive coaches, great mentors and even direct reports have influenced me. People are very important to me; my professional success is largely attributable to the many talented individuals I have managed who taught me what being a leader is about — they’ve shaped me as a leader.

What’s your go-to stress-relief activity?

I love spending time with family, especially smothering my two little boys with hugs and kisses and our weekend morning music video dancing sessions. I also enjoy online shopping, reading and catching up on world events late in the evening before I turn in. Pre-pandemic, I indulged in shoe shopping and regular manicures/pedicures.

What’s led you to stay at your company?

My teams and immediate manager, along with continued opportunities to build new capabilities and problem-solve challenges. 

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