Help Wanted signs are everywhere these days. As companies compete to attract and retain qualified associates, Heartland Bank remains confident in the ability to “sell itself” to current and prospective workers. Using the community banking foundation and relationship vision that it promotes both internally and externally, Heartland is proud to boast that associate engagement and internal culture are both priorities as companies struggle with the “great resignation of 2021. Darren Blake, IT manager, contributes to the positive atmosphere at Heartland and is honest to admit that he is not even interested in looking at opportunities elsewhere.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’m not looking to leave Heartland until Tarne (Heartland’s IT Director) kicks me out! The bank is growing and there are a lot of very talented people throughout. I think we can do amazing things and I look forward to being a part of that. If you’re considering Heartland, I would tell you that you have enormous opportunities at Heartland, and you should make this your home. Heartland is unlike any place that I have ever worked. I have felt like part of the Heartland family since the day I was hired, and I’m sure you will feel that way as well.”
Raised in Gallipolis, Darren understands the Midwest mentality and agricultural influence relating to community banking in the Ohio region. “My family had a farm where we primarily raised tobacco and corn as well as having some cattle and pigs. Growing up, I was involved in 4H where I showed pigs and steers. I wasn’t very good at either, but it was fun.”
How did he progress to working in a financial institution in the Information Technology department? According to Darren, “I started working around the age of 14 mowing lawns and tutoring. When I got my driver’s license, I started working at Kroger and was involved in that store’s installation of their first inventory system and scanners at the checkouts. I also spent some time ‘playing’ with the computer system at a chain of auto parts stores where my mother worked. From that early interaction with computers, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I use the term computer loosely since those were the very early days of computers.”
College was Darren’s next stop. “Out of high school, I headed to Florida and college but ended up home sooner than planned. Back in Gallipolis, I started working at a local bank as a teller and was going to college at Rio Grande for computer science. Keep in mind, this was back when IT didn’t really exist. We didn’t have computers or networks. We had mainframes and terminals. While there, we grew as technology advanced, and I was able to be involved in almost all areas of that bank over the next 12 years.”
Darren spent 18 more years at Citizens Bank in Logan helping them to grow and eventually becoming their Chief Technology Officer until acquired by Merchants National in 2019. “I started at Heartland as the IT Manager in 2020 and have been here a little over a year. I had the opportunity to meet Scott, Tarne and Ashley a couple of years prior and was happy to have an opportunity to come onboard.” Darren is responsible for the bank’s technology systems and support for the users of the bank’s computers and systems, as well as the management and maintenance of anything labeled IT. Because IT touches nearly every aspect of the bank, Darren and his team have exposure to most physical and functional areas of the bank, and every associate.
“Heartland doesn’t just call itself a community bank, it IS a community bank. In the world of big banks, regulations, and impersonal interactions, Heartland treats its customers and its associates like the old small community banks of yesteryear. Heartland is a true community bank, and the employees are like a family. We don’t just act like it or just say it. We live it and are it, every day.”
He does like to brag on the group of guys that are in his department and the work they do. “We have a group in IT that works well together and has a dynamic that is unheard of in my experience. IT that has customer service skills and interacts with the users in a positive and friendly way is amazing.” According to SVP, Director of Technology and Information Security Tarne Tassniyom, “Darren has built and leads a highly effective team which has allowed us to efficiently manage our technology and provide superior support to our associates. Since he has joined the team, our IT infrastructure and level of customer service has never been better!”
Darren does find spare time to assist Rush Creek Conservancy District in Bremen when they need IT assistance and has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and Southeast Ohio Foodbank. He loves grilling, cooking and riding his old Victory motorcycle. Darren currently lives in Lancaster with his wife, Stephanie and son, Jonny. Two other sons, Dylan and Andrew, live in Logan, Ohio.
If you want to feel confidence in your bank’s behind the scenes IT professionals, come on over to Heartland where your banking relationship is supported by great associates behind the scenes!