Louise Mason

Senior vice president and senior credit officer, Exchange Bank, 545 Fourth St., Santa Rosa 95401; 707 524-3000; exchangebank.com

Residence: Santa Rosa

Professional background: I’ve worked for Exchange Bank since 1996 all in the commercial real estate group starting as a senior commercial real estate loan officer and then promoted to manager in 2004. Recently I switched positions to senior credit officer for commercial real estate, where I am responsible for the majority of the real estate loan approvals. Prior to joining Exchange Bank, I worked for two other banks starting with Bank of America in the mid-1970s, San Francisco while in college. My entire career has been spent working in the financial world. I love numbers, so it’s a perfect fit.

Education: B.S., liberal arts, minor in business, Sonoma State University; graduate, Pacific Coast Banking School, Seattle

Staff: 400-plus

Tell us about yourself and your company: Exchange Bank is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, and I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of this company for almost 19 years. As a local leader in the banking community, we have partnered with many businesses, builders and everyday customers over the decades, and have helped to build this community into what it is today. We are especially proud of our legacy Doyle Scholarship and partnership with Santa Rosa Junior College. I was raised to give back to the community and others. As a Rotarian for over 27 years I am actively involved in many programs including the backpack program where 144 needy students receive a bag of food of weekly, holiday gifts and meals to Committee of the Shelterless families, food banks and others that I have a heartfelt connection within the community. I am also involved with several church affiliated organizations where the less advantaged children and elderly are a major focus.

Words that best describe you: loyal, detail oriented, energetic, creative, committed, organized, good listener

What is a major accomplishment in the past year or so?: I have been part of so many wonderful things during the past year it’s hard to narrow it down to a major accomplishment. Every day is a good day and considered an accomplishment in my books. I love being part of my Rotary group where so many people do good things every day.

What achievement are you most proud of in your career?: Mentoring others. I encourage the women and men around me to grow and learn, and I make every effort to share my knowledge and show my support. I have been successful in rising through the ranks in a largely male-dominated career (commercial real lending industry).

What is your biggest challenge today?: Professionally, the changing regulatory environment. You have to be on at all times. Finding the balance between work and personal life is difficult at times.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?: The demographics of lenders is getting older and a significant number will retire. There will be a challenge to meet the demand of experienced commercial real estate lenders. It is important to train and mentor younger financial professionals to take on the lending role.

As a successful female professional, what have been the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?: Being a female in the construction world was an obstacle especially when I first started in the early 1980s. There were virtually no female lenders in the construction industry, and I had to earn the respect by showing the male-dominated industry I had the knowledge, the capacity and the desire to succeed in this industry.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?: Be a good listener! Be yourself. Find a mentor early on and exploit their knowledge. Know your strengths and weaknesses and never stop growing and learning professionally.

Current reading: I have always been an avid reader so my list includes trade journals, local news, nonfiction and of course, popular literature. I recently finished Among Heroes by Brandon Webb, American Wife by Taya Kyle and just started People Over Profit by Dale Partridge and Blake Mycoskie.

Stress-relievers: Exercise; yoga; chips and salsa; playing with my dog, J.J., and our two cats, Sparky and Stormy; listening to music.

hobbies: Gardening, kayaking, hiking, RV camping, reading, playing with grandchildren, traveling with my husband.