As we so often hear, the path to equipment finance is not always a linear one. For Lexie Dressman, her professional journey started well outside the bounds of the industry, as she worked as a public defender for roughly three and a half years after receiving her juris doctor degree from Northern Kentucky University in 2011.
Even though she was in a completely different field, Dressman’s attention to detail and willingness to learn caused a cousin of hers who worked for The Huntington National Bank to suggest a career change. Dressman explored the opportunity, speaking with Joel Hardman, associate general counsel and vice president at the bank, who provided an outline of the bank’s culture and processes that impressed Dressman enough to get her to sign on.
When she first started, Dressman worked in a sales coordinator role, which she likens to being a “closer” since she would review new documentation for facilities and close transactions. She’s played other roles since then in her more than six years with the company, but it all started with a little bit of old-fashioned coincidence.
“It was a major career change,” Dressman says. “One thing I have learned is that with a lot of opportunities, you just get lucky. I think if you put yourself out there, the right things will come to you.”
More Than a Lawyer
Dressman is now counsel and assistant vice president at The Huntington National Bank, but she is and has always been adamant about not being a “lawyer in a vacuum.” To avoid being pigeonholed as just someone providing the legal perspective, Dressman has taken on multiple roles across the bank and that has helped her get a clearer picture of how the bank operates.
“I want to understand the business and understand that side because it’s integral to being able to support from a legal perspective,” Dressman says. “I’ve learned a ton and I like to be able to share that.”
Dressman has specifically pursued roles in operations and in sales coordination, giving her a look at the back-office side of the bank, which has a particularly important influence on her current role.
“Lexie enjoys learning about all aspects of the business and regularly attends credit and business leadership meetings to both learn and share her knowledge,” Hardman says. “Lexie’s broad experience is a tremendous asset to the business, as she understands how to resolve issues and create efficiencies from multiple perspectives.”
Dressman supports what she calls “specialty verticals,” which include public capital, renewable energy finance and lender finance, but by constantly looking for ways to learn about the business, she finds exciting challenges that keep her engaged.
“I love learning new things and I can really say that on a daily basis, I am learning something new,” Dressman says. “The minute that I’m not being challenged, I feel like I start to stagnate, so it’s really important to me to keep pushing myself to grow.”
Dressman is also passionate about creating strong connections with her colleagues, which is evident in how she works and leads.
“Through Lexie’s diligence, outstanding communication, positive attitude and drive, she has become a well-respected leader at Huntington and in the industry,” Stephanie Wagner, operations manager of sales support at The Huntington National Bank, says. “She has a way of keeping not only herself organized and goal-focused when working on deals or projects but everyone around her as well.”
Finding a Voice
Dressman has three siblings and her parents have 13 of their own combined (11 from her father and two from her mother), so she knows about needing to speak up. However, Dressman still feels like some of her greatest growth as a professional has been in finding her voice and increasing her own confidence because although her upbringing involved a large family, Dressman was also taught to be humble.
“It’s been kind of a mental shift for me to recognize that I am capable,” Dressman says. “I am able to learn hard things and improve my communication skills so that my voice is really heard.”
That’s not to say that she’s never had a problem communicating, but as she notes, “being heard is different than just talking.” Using her own experience, Dressman encourages newer members of the equipment finance industry to find their own voice and use it to influence decision-making for the sector’s future.
“You are important to the industry because you are the future of the industry. We don’t exist as an industry without you,” Dressman says. “You need to use your voice the right way to be heard. When you have ideas, talk about them, speak about them.”
Dressman also advises young professionals to seek out “informal mentors” by always asking questions and getting help when necessary.
“Don’t ever feel like you have to force something. Just talk to people,” Dressman says. “I don’t even really like the term networking because I think a lot of people think that that implies that they’re forcibly talking about things and looking for jobs, and it seems a lot more rigid than it needs to be.”
Outside the ‘A Job’
Dressman doesn’t just make an impact inside the offices of The Huntington National Bank. In addition to being a mother of two young children, she is the chair of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association’s Emerging Talent Advisory Council and has continually made civic engagement a core pillar of her life outside of work.
For the ETAC, she helped pivot the group’s Emergence2021 conference from an in-person event to a virtual one in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of Lana Kralik of U.S. Bank and Alexa Carnibella of the ELFA, along with numerous other contributors, Dressman and the ETAC held Emergence2021 on July 14, cutting the event down to one day and including both engaging networking opportunities and future-focused content while balancing the challenges of things like Zoom fatigue. Dressman says the event attracted the largest turnout in its history, at least partially due to the online delivery, which provided more opportunities for people to attend without the barrier of travel.
Speaking of getting more people to these types of events, Dressman believes the industry should create sponsorships to support younger professionals and those outside of leadership roles in attending important industry conferences where collaboration, education and networking opportunities abound.
“We need to, as an industry, work a lot harder on providing opportunities for emerging talent to get into the thick of things outside of their everyday jobs,” Dressman says. “If we could offer some scholarships to supplement that, we could get more emerging talent a seat at the table and really get their perspective.”
Dressman is also passionate about bringing in even more varied perspectives beyond the next generation, including her own as a mother of two children.
“It adds a whole new perspective when you get to know me not just professionally but when I’m on a call and I’ve got a one-year-old running in the background in a diaper or something like that,” Dressman says, noting that she dislikes the term “working mom” because raising children is work on its own. “We’re all human and we all have a personal component to our lives and that’s what we bring to our professional jobs.”
When it comes down to it, Dressman says that having an authentic understanding of who people are is the most effective way to build strong teams and to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion.
“We all need to recognize as an industry that we have different perspectives and we can’t just keep hearing the same ones,” Dressman says. “We all have different backgrounds and we need to embrace those because, as an industry, we represent all of those different perspectives.” •