Fourteen Years Later, the World is at her Fingertips: Ruth Harpool’s (’99) Career Journey

Meet Ruth Anne Harpool, the Managing Director of Treasury Operations at Indiana University. Her journey back to IU took her fourteen years and during that time, she learned a lot about her career aspirations and herself along the way. Read below to learn more about her inspiring story to success!

My Career Journey:

Before graduation I worked part time for two summers as a lifeguard (good money) and then eventually landed a job at a bank.  I saved nearly every dime of the lifeguard money, a wise decision as it turned out.  After 2 years at college I dropped out.  The combination of poor grades and no money for school made the decision clear but the choice difficult.  Finding the banking job, I thought, was my ticket to success.  It was..but I mistook the ‘ticket’ to ride as a ticket to a specific destination rather than as a ticket that provides ‘on – off’ career exploration privileges.  After less than 2 years in my first job in banking I returned to college, part time.  The full time job at the bank didn’t allow much time for school but this is when I learned that if you really want something…you will find a way.  I found the time, my nights and vacation time from work was replaced by 1 class a semester and 3 or 4 classes a summer.  14 years after I began college I finally graduated.  By then I was a Vice President of the bank, managed the 2nd largest branch in the state and had been nationally recognized as a leader by my peers in the bank and local financial community.  The bank paid for me to finish school so by the time I graduated I was ruthdebt free, I had 14 years of banking experience, and VP title to go along with it.  After nearly 14 years of learning the ins and outs of many aspects of the banking business I became disillusioned with banking.  The promise of opportunities to help others manage their finances became pinched by the financial institutions’ persistent requirement to hit sales goals, increase sales goals, hit the new goals, increase them, etc.  I left banking.  I spent 6 months out of work by choice.  (thanks to another wise saving program)  Then one day I called up the Treasurer’s Office at IU, knowing them from my banking operations days, and asked if they had any job openings.  They did.  It was entry level and $20K less a year than I made in banking.  3 days later I was interviewed.  1 day after that IU extended a job offer to me.  I started 1 week after I interviewed.  Since then I’ve been promoted 4 times and am now the head of Treasury Operations at IU, managing the banking processes for a $3.2 billion dollar organization.  Within 3 years at IU I was making more in salary than I did at the bank.  More importantly I reconnected with my personal goals to help others with their finances and I have never been happier in job.  Now 14 years later I strive to live my dream every day of making a positive difference in the lives of the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and customers that interact with IU on a financial basis.  I’m am a recognized expert in Treasury Operations and credit card data security in the higher ed circles and beyond.  I am repeatedly asked to speak at conferences and serve on committees and client advisory boards with NACHA, Western Union, national and local Association of Financial Professionals organizations, to mention a few.  The world is at my finger tips. 

My advice to you:

  1. Many times in life, ones goals can stay the same but the path to achieving them will be different than first envisioned.
  2. Be open to learning new things.  Expect adventure and hard work and always be open to learning. Reach beyond your assigned job and make every effort to understand the work flow of individuals and business units operating in connection with your job.  Commit to working FOR a business rather than AT a business. Dedication among employees is recognized by managers.  Many of the best opportunities in life are created by your own willingness to stretch outside of your comfort zone.  
  3. You know more than you think you know.  Be willing to accept that but don’t try to flaunt it.  Don’t limit your search to fields where you are most comfortable.  Comfortable can quickly turn into being ‘trapped’ in a job you don’t really like.  Career choices based on salary figures do not tend to be a fulfilling or long lasting as career choices based on personal passions.  Find your passion, stay true to yourself and pursue that passion relentlessly.
  4. Don’t limit your job search or consideration to what you think you can do or what others think you can do.  A College of Arts + Sciences degree establishes a sturdy and enviable launch pad for many careers.  Find your passion….the rewards will follow in due time.

My one regret:

I wish I would have started spreading my wings and learning other parts of the banking business sooner than I did.  When finally I looked beyond my specific duties and took interest in the work being completed around me, I noticed that my interest in learning other roles and helping in other departments quickly made doors fly open where I never dreamed they existed.   

If you would like to learn more about Ruth Anne and her career path, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.


By Dana Vanderburgh
Dana Vanderburgh ER Graduate Assistant Dana Vanderburgh