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Meet Marci Malzhan

One of my favorite parts about Preferred Speakers is getting to know the speakers. While their bios provide insight into who they are and what they speak on, there is often so much more to their story. Those details are usually reserved for speaking engagements and personal dialogues. When I get to peek behind the curtain, I always learn something new and find inspiration in what many of these speakers have experienced in their lives.

Marcia ‘Marci’ Malzahn is one of these inspiring speakers. She is is the founder and inspirational keynote speaker at Crowning Achievements International—inspiring and educating emerging leaders in the financial services industry. She began her career in banking as a teller, rising to the level of executive vice president/chief financial officer, chief operating officer and later as chief risk officer of a bank she helped start in 2005. In 2014, she founded Malzahn Strategic, a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management, and talent management to help community banks strengthen their infrastructure.

Marci speaks frequently at industry conferences and association events, as well as leadership and women’s conferences, is a published author of four books, and the recipient of several professional awards. As a Certified Virtual Presenter, Marci also provides online and onsite training for financial institutions. Marci is a certified life coach, holds a B.A. in business management from Bethel University, and is a graduate and faculty of the Graduate School of Banking in Madison, Wis.

Today, we’re sharing a bit more of Marci’s story.

Tell us about leaving Nicaragua and your journey to the United States.
I was born in Managua, Nicaragua, but only lived there until I was thirteen years old. My family fled Nicaragua due to the revolution against a 66-year dictatorship. The “Sandinistas” who were nationalists wanted to overthrow the government but didn’t realize that behind the scenes a communist regime was at the core of the revolution. They thought they were fighting for a new democratic government when instead they were fighting for the communist party. Once they took power, they took all of my family’s possessions—a lifetime of work invested in homes and land—and appropriated them. They took everything from everyone who left the country.

Most of our relatives fled the country and dispersed throughout Central America and Miami. In our case, the only country we had family in that could take my family of eight was the Dominican Republic where my aunt lived. She married a Dominican and they opened their home to my parents and their six children. I’m the second child. We lived there for more than 6 years and then moved to the United States, specifically to Minnesota because my parents met people in the Dominican Republic who lived in the Twin Cities and they opened up several homes for each kid to come at a different time.

My turn came in January 1986. I came to St. Paul with only my suitcase to start my new life. One of my brothers came in August 1985 and one of my sisters came in September 1985 to start school. I had to wait to finish my third semester at the university in the Dominican Republic. I never imagined it would take me 27 years to finish my four-year degree I started when I was eighteen.

What was it like to start over in the United States?
It took a lot of courage, resiliency, and determination. The hardest part of it all was leaving my friends behind—yet again. First, when I left Nicaragua at thirteen and then when I left my teenage friends in Dominican Republic at nineteen years old. I knew no one in the U.S.—nobody!

I couldn’t continue my college studies because I had to work right away. I got a job as a bank teller in downtown Minneapolis and that was the beginning of a wonderful career in community banking that continues today after thirty years.

How did you overcome adversity to forge your own path?
As the title of one of my keynotes says, “Leading through Crisis. Resilient. Thankful. Happy.,” that’s how I overcame. But there are other traits that helped me, not only survive in a new country, but thrive. In addition to determination and courage, a “no victim” mentality helped me chart my own career path and avoid the comparison trap. But most of all… my strong faith in God is what sustained me then and keeps me going now, regardless of the circumstances or what life throws at me. God loves me and He is with me wherever I go. That’s all that matters in the end.

Can you share what immigration and the ability to seek change meant to you and your family?
It took my parents several years and thousands of dollars to come to the U.S. legally. It’s a long and complicated process. My mom started a small jewelry business in the Dominican Republic and opened a branch in Miami which allowed my parents and the two older kids (my older sister and me) to come to the U.S. with our working visas.

We came to the U.S. for the same reason most immigrants come—searching for a better life, the opportunity to work hard, and freedom… something we lost when the communist regime took over Nicaragua. This change meant we would not return to live in Nicaragua nor Dominican Republic. Moving meant not looking back and start fresh knowing the journey would be difficult but worth it.

My family stuck together through the years and we are still very close. We appreciate each other and don’t take for granted our U.S. citizenship. Some day I hope to write a book sharing the entire story. It’s very emotional to even remember all the details of the journey but I believe it’s something I have to do in my life.

I met a Minnesotan and we’ve been married for 32 years. We have a son, daughter and grandson. My husband joined Malzahn Strategic and we are enjoying our lives with appreciation and thankful hearts.

Whether inspired by the words of Marci or seeking a speaker who can educate and inspire, we have speakers who can speak to current events and provide much needed motivation during these strange times. Contact Preferred Speakers today to learn more about Marci.
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