A college education can impart a solid academic foundation and help direct a person’s career track, but flesh-and-blood mentors have the ability to exert lifelong influence, and sometimes redirect the course. Just ask Ray Wrobel, vice president at Align Credit Union.
Wrobel earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Merrimack College and an associate’s degree in accounting from New Hampshire College of Finance. Beginning literally at the bottom, he swept floors at Holy Family Hospital before taking a job at a parochial school in Lawrence, Mass., teaching social studies.
Soon after, he switched career tracks and underwent management training while working at Arlington Trust Company, and then moved to Pelham Bank and Trust, which merged with First Essex Bank.
As he was finding his way professionally, Wrobel converted his interest in politics into action, and met his first mentor when he joined current Secretary of State John Kerry’s first Senate campaign in 1982. “He taught me to work with people to make the system work,” Wrobel said. Continuing his political volunteerism, Wrobel met Paul Tsongas, former U.S. senator from Lowell. According to Wrobel, “he taught me to listen before making a decision.”
When he began working at Pelham Bank and Trust, Wrobel met his third mentor, Louis Fineman, cattle broker, farmer, self-made man and founder of the bank. “He told me not to judge people by the way they look, but by what they do,” Wrobel said.
Embracing the wisdom these three gentlemen conveyed, Wrobel worked his way through the ranks at Align Credit Union (formerly Northern Mass. Telephone Workers (NMTW) Community Credit Union), to his current leadership post.
“Based on these influencers, I’ve learned to work with members, listen and not pass judgment. Although it’s challenging, I’ve tried to incorporate these qualities into my job and into my life,” he said.
Nominator Gail Brown, senior program manager for the Greater Lowell Workforce Investment Board (GLWIB), praises Wrobel for his strong commitment and presence in the community. She notes that he sits on the GLWIB board and helps promote workforce development initiatives in the interest of employers and job seekers; in June 2013, he was elected first vice chair and belongs to the executive board as well. “He has consistently demonstrated his commitment to serving the diverse needs of individuals seeking to improve their lives and overcome challenges,” she said. “Toward that end, he has assisted the GLWIB in reviewing proposals from organizations seeking to provide services to in-school and out-of-school youth under the Federal Workforce Investment Act.”
Wrobel has also partnered with the GLWIB on a proposal designed to assist homeless individuals acquire basic job skills and occupational training with the end goal of self-sufficiency. He supports business and economic development efforts across Northeast Massachusetts by serving on the Merrimack Valley Workforce Investment Board. He is also treasurer for the North Andover Lions Club.
“In addition to his very active leadership role in the financial sector and his contributions to business development in Massachusetts, Ray devotes time and energy to initiatives designed to help residents successfully meet today’s social, economic, career and educational challenges,” said Brown.
A member of the Methuen Board of Health, Wrobel hopes to enhance the overall well being of area residents with his knowledge, expertise and guidance. He also supports the Nevins Family of Services in Methuen as a member of its board of directors. “Ray’s professional demeanor, great attitude and approachability make him the ‘go-to’ person among his colleagues, peers and community leaders,” Brown adds.
When asked about his greatest professional accomplishment, Wrobel can’t offer any specific example, but wisely notes, “There’s always something in the future.”