FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – To say Jess Hopkins is busy, might be an understatement. With a color-coded calendar, she juggles her career, family, furthering her education and giving back to the community.
“Nothing’s done halfway. It’s all focus and drive and she teaches that to the kids,” Shane Hopkins, Jess’s husband, said.
Jess wasn’t much older than a kid herself when she started in the banking business.
“I was 18 and was just out of high school and looking for a summer job. I walked into a local banking center in Harlan and thought, ‘I can do this,'” Jess said.
While working at the bank, Jess also worked a second job and put herself through school. That hard work and hustle paid off. She’s now Vice President Market Leader Fort Wayne for First Merchants Bank.
“I have 10 banking centers that I support and I come in monthly and meet with the managers. It’s a lot of coaching and feedback,” Jess said.
“I really enjoy working for her. She’s very supportive and she’s easy to approach and she’s willing to listen and help to find a solution that’s best,” Ranie Miller, who’s worked with Jess in several different roles since 2008, said.
Miller is now the branch manager in Grabill.
Jess not only encourages her team to do their best, she also encourages them to pursue one of her other passions: getting involved in the community.
“The team and I just started getting involved in organizations that meant something to me or them and it took off,” she said. “All my branch managers are on boards now and we quarterly take a day and spend time in our community. We’ve gone to Community Harvest Food Bank or Habitat for Humanity and take the day and team build.”
Spreading that philanthropic spirit, while climbing to the top in her career, also earned her several awards. They include two Gold Shield awards from First Merchants for “Market of the Year” and “Community Excellence” in 2021.
Jess also just completed her Master’s Degree.
When she’s not helping run a bank, she’s running the show of a busy family.
“She’s the glue that holds the family together. She’s the one who knows what’s going on, when it needs to be done, where we need to go, what we need to do,” Shane said.
Husband Shane works second shift, so Jess handles all the afterschool sports and other kid activities on her own.
“She’s remarkable. She’s phenomenal. She makes me tired watching her from the start of the day on. She’s got an engine that doesn’t quit,” Shane said.
Jess gives credit to others for how she keeps going.
“The people around me are really what inspires me to step up my game and do more and be more. So, I can’t say I’m remarkable. I know people around me are counting on me, so I think that’s really what pushes me to elevate my performance,” Jess said.
Through that effort, she’s teaching her kids and her team to give back.
“I hope they learn it’s more than just earning a paycheck or what you’re doing,” Jess said. “It’s the people you’re impacting and making a better place for future generations.”
Jess was also a finalist for two more Gold Shield awards with First Merchants Bank this year.