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Cremer credits FSU MBA for equipping her for new executive role

Aug 25, 2015

Terin Barbas CremerIt’s not unusual for an MBA graduate from Florida State University’s College of Business to earn a coveted post in the C-suite of a multimillion-dollar company. But few – like Terin Barbas Cremer, JD-MBA 2010 – accomplish that feat at age 30 and just five years after graduation.

Named the new chief human resources officer (CHRO) at Bankers Financial Corporation in July, Cremer now leads HR strategies and operations at one of Tampa Bay’s largest privately owned companies. She credits her FSU MBA for equipping her for the new job’s daily management responsibilities.

Bankers CEO John Strong said he chose Cremer because “she has demonstrated the trust, integrity and other leadership attributes that are essential for success in this critical position.” Strong’s father-in-law started the family-owned insurance company in 1976. Since then it has grown into a vast enterprise offering insurance, business solutions and surety services, employing 700-plus employees and generating more than $420 million in annual revenue.

Bankers’ executive team first asked Cremer, who was hired in 2012 as associate general counsel, to temporarily lead HR operations after unexpected vacancies in the No. 1 and 2 HR positions in July 2014.

“They asked if I could step in,” Cremer said. “I had been practicing labor and employment law, and I had been working closely with the HR department.”

What began as a short stint turned into months.

“Initially I took the interim approach, but I started to notice some areas for improvement within the HR organization. As an interim, I was working directly with the CEO, and so I started asking him what I could tackle. I started reshaping the HR organization.”

At the same time, Cremer was coordinating the search for a new CHRO with a contracted search firm.

“We were looking for at least 20 years of experience, which is outside the realm of my resume,” she said. They reviewed resumes and talked to dozens of applicants, ultimately narrowing the search to a short list of seven.

But in the end, Strong decided Cremer had a proven track record of trust and integrity that couldn’t be guaranteed with an outside candidate. He surprised Cremer by offering her the permanent post.

Cremer is a graduate of Florida State’s College of Business and College of Law. Students pursuing FSU’s joint JD-MBA degree apply to the full-time MBA program during their first year of law school. If admitted they typically spend their second year completing their MBA coursework, then return to the law school for their final two years of legal studies.

Named a 2013 Up & Comer among the legal elite by Florida Trend, Cremer didn’t make the decision to switch careers lightly. She took time to think it through and discussed the decision with her husband, a fellow FSU law graduate who completed MBA real estate classes while earning a master’s degree in urban planning at FSU. “I couldn’t just stop being a lawyer without talking to Jake,” she said. The Cremers – named a young “power couple” by the Tampa Bay Business Journal earlier this year – have been inseparable since law school.

Now a company executive, Cremer finds the knowledge she gained from the MBA part of her joint degree is being put to extensive and frequent use.

“For the first time I was responsible for the budget of my department. As an executive group, we meet on a biweekly basis and review the financials for the company, determining what subsidiaries are profitable and forecasting,” Cremer said. “I had to catch up enough on just learning HR. Fortunately, I didn’t have to learn business in the process.”

Earning an FSU MBA was a great experience, she said, lauding the program’s excellent faculty and staff members, including Bill Christiansen, recently named MBA program director, and Joanna Southerland, adviser for the student-run MBA Association, which provides opportunities for community service. She said the legal field offers a defined career path, but earning an MBA has given her the flexibility to consider other opportunities, such as her new position at Bankers.

Cremer said the best benefit of her FSU MBA continues to be the enduring relationships with classmates all these years later, especially three peers – Holly Hulen Beville, Charlette Livingston and Lauren Turner. As MBA students they worked countless group projects together; now they are all excelling in their chosen careers. Beville is a Realtor in the Washington D.C., metro area. As a contracts administrator at Bankers, Livingston identifies and manages vendor risk. Turner analyzes revenue operations at McKesson Connected Care & Analytics in the Atlanta area.

“The network itself has been phenomenal,” Cremer said. “You need to have the professional sounding board outside of work who gets where you’re coming from, like-minded people with similar goals, facing those same challenges.”

A native of the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, Cremer also stays involved in the community. She serves on the City of Tampa’s Civil Service Board and the board of Leadership Florida. She is also active in the Junior League of Tampa. Other accolades since graduation include induction into the Up and Comers Hall of Fame by Tampa Bay Business Journal in 2013 and the FSU Alumni Association’s Thirty Under 30 award, which recognizes young alumni with outstanding accomplishments, also in 2013.

Learn more about FSU’s MBA programs at mba.fsu.edu.

—Melanie Yeager

 

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