Tara L. Grays, State Bank of Cross Plains

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Tara L. Grays, assistant vice president – business relationship manager, State Bank of Cross Plains.
Pow Tara Grays Headsot

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

The most challenging aspect of my job is figuring out the best work-life balance for me. My career has been a very high priority my entire life, and part of that is a lot of networking and after-hours events that I love. Now that I’m married and have two kids, juggling that part of my career and home life can be a big challenge. I’m glad to have a partner who understands how important it all is to me.

The most rewarding aspect of my job is when the financing, partnership, and guidance that I have provided turns someone else’s dream into a reality. Being a part of that is such a huge motivator for me.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

There are several local people in my network who are successful and inspire me every day. However, I must say that there is not just one, but many females in my network who I admire. When I feel frustrated or less motivated, they are there to help support, provide guidance, or lend a hand. Each one has my admiration for a different reason and are proof to me in a moment of need that if I keep working hard, success is mine for the taking and a difference will be made.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

The first year that I got involved in Forward Fest in Madison. The Forward Festival is eight straight days of events put on for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs and supporters of entrepreneurs. That first year I found out about it I decided to jump all in and put on an event as well. I had a panel of three successful business owners, each of whom had chosen a different path to get there. I felt it was important for people with small businesses, or wanting to start a business, to see there is not just one path to success. It was a very well attended event and I was told several times that there hadn’t been an event like that at Forward Fest before. The dates for this year’s festival are Aug. 12–19.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

The same advice I would give myself today — be patient! It really is the hardest advice for me to take. Sometimes I need to force myself to take a step back, recognize the accomplishments that I’ve had so far, and just be proud of where I’m at. I’m always on to the next step or challenge.

What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

My game plan in life actually never involved Dane County initially. I was making plans to move to Denver, Colorado with a friend after college, but when our living situation fell through, I came across a job in Middleton on my college’s career website. My younger sister already lived in Madison and she asked me to come live with her, so I applied for the job and got it. As I’ve come to find out, State Bank of Cross Plains has been the best career fit that I ever could have imagined, and though my sister has moved away from Madison (not far), my roots are definitely here with my family.

Having so many amazing outdoor activities, family-friendly venues, fantastic restaurants, wineries, and breweries everywhere, and Badger sporting events, you really can’t ask for more — and all in an area that you undoubtedly will run into so many people who you know while you’re out. It makes it so easy to want to be involved in the community, both professionally and personally.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass ConvertibleSeveral years ago, I helped my dad restore his 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible. We pulled an all-nighter to get it street legal for a car show the next day. The paint job on this car is so unique — there is only one in the entire world. It’s beautiful and we had so much fun! Other than that, if I wanted to I would have no problem changing my own oil and rotating my own tires.

What are your guilty pleasures?

My guilty pleasure is using my reading time to “get away.”  Though I have read leadership and skill development books, they are not my favorites. I would much prefer to read fictional books such as the Harry Potter series (rereading this yet again with my 10-year-old son), the Hunger Games, Twilight, etc. My favorite authors are Jodi Picoult and Nora Roberts.

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