Before it was Synovus, Carolynn Obleton joined Columbus Bank and Trust in 1989, taking on various roles and inspiring other professionals along the way. During her decades-long career, Carolynn has served diligently, helping the Synovus brand achieve great organization through merger. Carolynn and the rest of the reorganization team worked with a consulting firm for 12 months to work on restructuring the bank, and in 2019, she was given the opportunity to lead branch administration conversion.
Those are her accomplishments, this is her story.
Carolynn was born to young parents in Fort Meade, MD. Since her father served in the U.S. Army for 22 years, Carolynn lived as an only child on several military bases before her parents purchased a home and settled in a segregated neighborhood in Columbus, GA. “That is the home I was raised in and the home where my mom still resides today,” she said. “Our family values were a strong belief in God, strong work ethic, honesty, and generosity.”
Q: How did you come to be where you are today?
A: “Although I had good grades in high school, education was not one of my top priorities. College attendance was not something I observed growing up. My mom has a GED, and my father had a high school diploma during my childhood. One of my teachers encouraged me to go to college, so I attended the local university, which was the local college at the time. Had it not been for my father starting college one quarter before me, I would have been a first-generation scholar, meaning the first in both my paternal and maternal parents’ families to go to college.”
Q: Do you remember who first saw your full potential, or helped you realize you had greater potential?
A: “Yes, I was fortunate to have an informal mentor in a former executive at Synovus. She is strong, knowledgeable, and competitive. She advocated for me with senior leaders, she challenged me, and she showed her compassion though words and actions.”
Q: What did your mentor teach you?
A: “My mentor taught me that being competitive as a female is okay. She often referenced sports and compared them to corporate life…In sports you build teams, develop strategies, set visions, etc. I currently apply these lessons as director of branch administration, and with the various organizations I serve.
Aside from your director role, are you a mentor or in a position of leadership anywhere else?
A: “I have served as president of several local boards: The Columbus Museum, Sisters Inc., and Junior Achievement of Columbus. I am currently not serving as a formal mentor.”
Q: What are some lessons you aspire to teach other women in your field?
A: “The lesson I learned from my mentor is to encourage other women to be competitive in a healthy way. Women sometimes shy away from being competitive. I encourage women to watch sports—I have found sports to be a fantastic way to expand my thinking from selecting the team to training, strategy, coaching, leadership, vision, and building a team. These are among a few things you can glean from sports.”
Q: What else would you encourage women to do?
A: “Form a personal board of directors of people you trust to give you honest feedback, people who will encourage and support you.”
Q: Was there female representation in your field at the start of your career? How does it compare to now?
A: “When I joined Synovus, there was strong female representation overall; however, not in management positions. Synovus continues to have strong female representation overall and there has been significant improvement in the number of females in management positions since I joined the company. One of my proudest moments as a female at Synovus was when I was pregnant and the bank president and my senior leader came to my home to communicate my promotion to a senior position. In addition to getting the opportunity while out on leave, I was the first minority female senior leader at the company.”
Q: Are there any materials or resources that have inspired you throughout the years? (Book, film, public speaker, etc.)
A: “I love reading leadership books, and one that still resonates with me today is Winning with People by John Maxwell. It focuses on the importance of relationships and being able to collaborate with people. John Maxwell has several terrific books. As a Christian, I have found his leadership bible to be very insightful.”
Q: What is something about you that people would be surprised to know?
A: “My personality presents serious—people would be surprised to know that I really enjoy seeing others having fun and being happy.”
Q: What are you most proud of in your personal and professional life?
A: “In my professional life, I am most proud of the successful teams I have had an opportunity to lead and when someone on my team is given an opportunity to move on to the next phase of their career. In my personal life, I am so proud of my children. Three of the four have received two or more college degrees and are productive citizens in their communities. My youngest is a sophomore at UGA and I look forward to him graduating—so proud of them all.”