Dorothy Kahlau serves as First Senior Vice President and Director of Valley Bank’s Women in Business Program. A lifelong (Valley Bank) banker, she has spent most of her 40-year career in commercial lending. The many positions she has held include credit underwriting and customer relationship management to management and leadership of the C&I Lending group in NJ.
Her background is varied and diverse. She began her career in banking in high school with her first professional job as a bank teller. This first job created the foundation for her love and dedication to her profession. The best part of her job was the customer interaction and the relationships she made. In fact, many of her customers then are still Valley Bank customers today.
Banking was also “in” her extended family, she shares.
“Truth be told, my uncle, Peter Southway, was president of Valley National Bank for many years,” says Dorothy. “When I graduated from college, I remember giving Uncle Pete my graduation photo and writing on the back of it: ‘Watch out!’ At the time, I fully intended to work, rise and succeed with this company—and the rest is history. I have been with Valley for nearly 40 years now, and every year it has become an even more fantastic place to work. And I know that it’s an even better place to bank!”
Dorothy’s current role as leader of Valley Bank’s Women in Business Program is a dream position that incorporates all of her areas of interest. It’s roles like these that have driven Dorothy throughout her 40-year career and made her eager to strive for more and achieve success.
“It’s my passion to help people that really drives me to do what I do every day,” she says. “This role fits me to a tee because I am able to work with people within the bank, outside of the bank, in our communities and in our corporate marketplace. I am able to work all of my skills, including my creative skills. I often joke that I have the best job in the bank, but there is some real truth to that!”
Advice to other women in business looking to succeed
With over 40-years of experience as a woman in the professional world, and as a leader, Dorothy has learned many lessons on how to succeed and get ahead in one’s career.
To young women just starting out, she shares her own story of her struggles as a recent graduate entering the professional world.
“I had graduated from a company-run management training program with other people my age, all fresh from college, and all landing our first full-time banking positions. From that point in time and onward, it seemed that no matter our individual accomplishments, we progressed at the same pace – same promotions, same salary increases, all at the same time.
“What was frustrating to me was I knew that I had outpaced my accomplishments and successes versus some of the others, but the formal recognition did not reflect that. It was then I realized that I should really stand out, so I made sure that happened. How? Similar to a classroom, I “raised my hand” at every opportunity. I took on new assignments, I volunteered to participate in events. I not only stepped up and made myself visible, I also spoke up. I sat down with my leaders and showed them not only my accomplishments, but also my plans and my future path. They listened, they took note, and soon I found myself with my first major assignment in my career – starting up a small business lending group. Again, the rest is history.”
As a woman in business, Dorothy’s personal strengths in communicating and connecting with people have helped her go far. She tells women striving for success in their various professions to always push forward and to speak up.
“I pride myself as a good communicator (both in speaking and in listening – it’s very important to listen as communication is a two-way street), and I constantly use that skill in my daily life. Whether it be speaking one-on-one to people or to large audiences, to my fellow bankers, women business owners or countless community and business organizations. I ensure that I connect people with others that can help them, strengthen them and inspire them.”
She tells women to keep pushing yourself to strive in your fields. Persevere for greatness and be your own biggest cheerleader. It’s important to speak up and make sure you and your ideas are heard.
“Speak up when you have ideas to improve things around you and make sure you are respected and heard by those you work with. Finally, remember the people around you. We are nothing without each other,” says Dorothy.
“At Valley Women in Business we often repeat, ‘it takes a village’. Daily we are building and growing that village to include others to provide them with needed resources and a place to belong.”
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