Embracing the unexpected twists of life, Jay Ogle transformed his associate degree earned in Human Services in 2009 from BCC into the foundation of his dynamic approach to business development.
Today, Jay is a successful business development officer and relationship manager at Adams Community Bank.
Flexibility and resilience through change have been necessary skills in his life. Originally from the San Francisco area, then San Diego "and a few places in between," Jay moved around a lot due to his father's job as a defense contractor. His first introduction to the Berkshires was in the early 90s, when the family moved to Lanesborough. After some subsequent moves to New Jersey and New Orleans, they moved back to the Berkshires in the late '90s and settled in Richmond.
"Fortunately, I was able to stay here and to go to one high school, Monument Mountain High," Jay says. "I've lived here long enough to make you think I'm from here, but I still say things like 'rad.'"
After graduating high school, Jay went directly into the work force while some friends moved on to college. "I had a couple of friends who had gone to BCC, but most of them had just gotten their gen eds out of the way and left," he says. Pursuing a college degree wasn't an immediate move for Jay until he learned that he had a son on the way.
"It was time to go back to school, cut my hair and kick it into gear," says Jay, adding that there was an immediate desire for stability and creating an impactful future. "I was a little bit older by then, and I was able to pay for it myself. I had a purpose." Through some additional funding of scholarships, financial aid and student loans, Jay was able to make the commitment to higher education.
"When I started at BCC, I was already working full-time in a residential facility for people with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries," Jay explains. "Going to BCC really helped shore up my skills."
Jay praises the flexibility BCC offers, and the nearby location, which allowed him to coordinate his 3 to 11 p.m. work shifts with morning classes, evening classes and an early generation of online courses. As he says, "I chose BCC for its accessibility, affordability and the fact that I was able to integrate the huge time commitment of school into my working life."
He also credits Human Services professor Audrey Ringer with helping him get course credit for real-life experiences. "I was able to take a test and get college credit for my job experience," Jay recalls. "That's a super adaptable option for the nontraditional college student, and I very much appreciate that."
Jay continued to work in human services for two more years after earning his degree, a phase of his career that lasted from 2002 to 2011. "I worked in the human services field for years, but some life things happened, and human services just wasn't making it for me," Jay says.
Looking for more autonomy and opportunity, Jay moved towards insurance. Putting together a plan that considered the actual resources of an individual, together with empowering them with the knowledge necessary to make the best choices in their own care, seemed a natural transition area that he could expand on from his many years supervising in human services.
Jay says he appreciated the comradery and a healthy competitiveness with "a good group of guys" in the insurance sales position and was able to utilize many of the skills learned at BCC.
"I had the case management skills, the crisis management, the counseling, the connecting to people, building rapport — all you need to have in social work and human services, but I was able to translate that into doing a financial needs assessment, into understanding how I might be able to help these folks and point them in the right direction," Jay says. When his sales manager watched him do his style of needs assessment, he called Jay "the financial social worker."
"He would say, 'Give the financial social worker a call. He'll work it out.' That became kind of my brand."
After three years working in insurance, Jay was growing weary of the inconsistency of insurance sales. "There were the waves, the ups and downs," he says. "I'd have a really good month and think I was king of the world, and then I wouldn't have another commission check for 45 days." Combined with the long days and expansive territory, which was "brutal" on Jay's vehicles — especially in the hardy New England winters — Jay started preparing for the next phase of his career. Using the MassTransfer program, he was able to transfer all of his credits to MCLA. There, he finished his bachelor's degree in Business Administration and Management, graduating summa cum laude.
In 2014, he decided to find a job with more stability and switched to the banking industry. "In my insurance job, I worked with banks a lot. I was like, look at you guys, you have a desk, a brand, credibility. There's me doing it the hard way, working out of the back of my Subaru," Jay says. "So, banking attracted me. I applied for a job at Berkshire Bank in Great Barrington, and that was the beginning of my banking career."
Ten years later, Jay's resilience and flexibility in navigating through different industries has paid off. He is thriving in banking. After starting as a Platform Financial Services Representative and then moving into the Branch Manager role (running several locations over time), finally on to being a Business Development Officer, he has found a job he loves. This role with Adams Community Bank, where he is responsible for making connections, building rapport and establishing trust with community members, revolves around active community engagement. He works with a wide variety of clients, from small and large businesses to individual consumers.
It's my job to bring people into the fold of what banking is — to tear down that wall. Banking is not a big, scary institution. We are in fact a living, breathing organization that benefits the communities we operate in. What I do at Adams incorporates all of my BCC education into the financial management I do in the Berkshires. I put the human face on banking.
Jay reflects on how BCC helped him form professional habits. "It's the routine of it, the respect of the hierarchy, the respect of the process," he says. "The professional habits we develop in school help form our working behavior, which is tremendously beneficial. Kids need to realize that, like banking, education is not this huge brick and mortar institution that's there to be an obstacle. It's there to help you."
Case in point: Even when Jay did well in his classes, it was always more than just moving past an assignment, he says.
"I would ace a certain paper, get an A+ on it. You might think, 'Oh, that's great, you checked that box.' But my professors worked with me to build upon that." He names Stacy Evans, a sociology professor, as particularly influential.
"She always helped me push harder, go further. That's a great foundation," Jay says. "The partnership with the professors at BCC was tremendous."
As for Jay's future, he plans to continue working at Adams Community Bank, which employs about 120 and which he calls "a bank with a soul." He sees the room for growth and opportunity there. "I want to continue growing on the career path I'm on, making connections, getting to know folks, bringing people into the fold," he says. "It's not uncommon that I'm texting customers at 8 pm because they have a concern. I'm super personal," he adds.
He offers one last piece of heartfelt advice to those considering enrolling at BCC.
"We have to be honest with ourselves with the time commitment college requires. If you're going to jump in, you're going to have to commit to swim," he says. "But BCC uplifts instead of holding back. It gave me the foundation to my success. Whatever the degree obtained, it's the skillsets developed during that time that will serve long after."