This is not my first brush with financial disruption.

Crypto Lifestyle
9 min readApr 30, 2020


Bitcoin and blockchain technology constitute a very intriguing financial disruption in today’s world. Luckily, I’ve been able to completely immerse myself in these disruptive technologies by writing about them for a living. But it’s not my first go around with financial disruption. In fact, I was intimately involved in two money changing events long before ever hearing the word ‘bitcoin’.

Financial Disruption #1

Backstory 1994

I’m in Phoenix working ungodly hours as a restaurant manager. Each day, I’m bringing gads of cash from the insanely busy establishment to the bank across the street for a deposit. There, my favorite teller leisurely counts the cash a couple times in her impeccable and bejeweled countenance, while I wait in my khaki pants, coffee stained shirt, and sensible shoes for working on my feet long hours. That’s exactly when I decided my next job would be in a bank.

A year later, I’ve moved back east, driving across country by myself on what I considered an epic adventure, later reuniting with the love of my life. It’s the 1990s and we’ve settled in the Burlington Vermont area. I began looking for full time work. When I got to my first interview in a bank, it’s actually a credit union. And there sitting before me at the interview was the Credit Union president, who also happened to be one of my favorite guests from the restaurant back in AZ, where he had often vacationed. He remembered me and our conversations, and ended up hiring me for a job I was highly unqualified for — assistant controller to cover a 3 month maternity leave.

Starting at the CU

When I first started out, the GE credit union was small; only a handful of branches, one of which was the inside the General Electric plant, which later changed to Martin Marietta, then Lockheed Martin, then Lockheed, etc., depending on the structure of that year’s government contracts.

During my employment there, the Credit Union Membership Access Act was voted into law, allowing the credit union to essentially scale their membership beyond General Electric employees and family members. It blew open the doors of credit union membership to towns, counties, businesses, and much more (a few years later it opened to all). We then became NorthCountry FCU. This was essentially the crux of my first money disruption event.

Incidentally, computers were just taking hold at the time as it was the mid-1990s. The first time I ever used a computer was at this credit union. We had banking software that we used every day, and we were word processing and using accounting software. Back then we had WordPerfect, if you remember. Then Microsoft Word came to dominate and the Office suite soon became preeminent for office life in just about every industry.

How my job changed

The CFO learned quickly that I had no real accounting skills (I’m notoriously bad at math), but they liked me anyhow and I began to wear a number of hats, including a 12-line switchboard operator as they expanded (I helped set up the system and helped everybody learn how to use it), a member service rep, which became necessary with so many new members; an IRA specialist because we were getting so many requests, and a marketing assistant, among others.

I worked directly under the VP Marketing, the Pres, the CFO, and the lenders as the place grew like fucking gangbusters. In our brand new main office, I had an elaborate desk outside the President and VP Marketing offices, not far from the Mortgage Officers, who I also supported.

Within a span of about twelve months, we went from being only available to GE plant employees and family members to serving over 200 companies, including Ben & Jerry’s, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Burton Snowboards.

The fairness

I saw how it all worked. The credit union had a volunteer Board, and every member in the credit union had a $50 share with one vote. We still had to come under all the banking regulations, but we were non profit, non tax paying, and really had the edge up on banks as far as being quick on our feet and able to scale.

It was a fun and exciting job and I learned so much during the four years that I was there. I saw them create their own Credit Union Services inhouse, which was a mecca of financial tech geeks who were running software for our credit union and selling it to others. The Marketing Director would take me along to visit Burton Snowboards and Ben & Jerry’s for fun sign up events. I was the only one there with the President on the first day of 1998’s Ice Storm. I had actually tried to beg off, saying I wouldn’t drive, like everybody else was doing. But he picked me up since I was on his way to work and we handled the phones that day.

Back then I was enjoying the disruption — it’s fun to be able to create within your job and when things are changing, new solutions need to be thought up. And we had a good team, the VP Marketing, the Pres, and CFO, all of them top notch, I was so lucky to learn from them. Besides, I felt strongly that everyone should be able to join a credit union and that this disruption was a truly positive step.

But at the time, I really had no idea credit unions were so different from banks. That all changed when I went to work at a bank in Maine.

Financial Disruption #2

Backstory 1999

As much as I loved Vermont, the music, the camping, the vibrancy, it was time to move back home to Maine. Driving 9 hours for family get togethers was a drain. And both of our parents were getting up there in age. In Ellsworth, Maine I was able to land a job very similar to what I’d been doing in Vermont — only this time at a bank. I’d be administrative assistant to the senior staff, working directly under the Marketing Director. But the job was really being the secretary for the President, the EVP, all the mortgage lenders, the Auditor, and the HR Director, in addition to being a marketing assistant.

When I first started, the bank president, who was essentially a big banker in his retirement role, had zero knowledge about how to use computers. Same for the EVP. I essentially replaced 3 secretaries who’d been taking dictation. It’s now 1999 and everyone in the bank has a pc, regardless of whether they know how to use it.

I would get handwritten notes and letters from both the Pres and the EVP on yellow lined paper. Then I would type up whatever it was. I sent their emails, took their calls, created their digital folders, fixed the office equipment, backed up the payroll, dealt with external auditors, and was like a paid watchdog sitting outside the President’s office.

The biggest difference I noticed between the bank and the credit union was the atmosphere. At the CU, it was an all hands on deck, sink or swim, exciting time of growth. When I got to the bank, I had to admit, the quietness and sturdiness of it was somewhat of a relief. The coastal community bank had been around for 150 years. Everything had a set way and the work atmosphere was much more formal, with little of the unexpected.

Second disruption unwinds

I’m trying not to forget that this story is about disruption. So, I’m working in the bank a few years now and legislation has just passed. Banks again can have in-house financial services and insurance products. This had been taken away from them following the Depression as a way to separate misaligned interests. But now they again are given a legal and direct route of betting with depositors’ money, if you will.

It was the beginning of an era where banks could once again offer brokerage and insurance right to their depositors. Just like what happened when the law changed for Credit Unions, the business atmosphere in the bank hitched up about twenty notches.

My role expanded. I took on support for the brand new financial planners and the VP insurance. We planned an addition next door for financial services and insurance. I ordered the artwork and furnishings for the new space and we set up house. In the mix, I trained a replacement for myself to serve the Pres and others. Then, I moved into the new wing to start helping everybody and developing business.

My new role

I had a beautiful, mahogany circular desk, where I’d welcome all those coming into the financial services wing. We had huge sunny windows and there was the big TV behind me, always running Bloomberg.

[Side note: I was the first one in the bank to see the first plane crash into the World Trade Center, where I’d myself stood with my grandparents as a child in NY. When I saw the crash, I went in to Mr. B’s office, the pres, and said you gotta come see this. (Remember, this is before social media and cell phones). Soon, we were all standing there in front of the TV, the senior staff, the financial planners, the new insurance agents, and the favorite mortgage lender we’d brought over to bring in traffic. All of us stood there watching as the second plane crashed. Never once did any of us ponder the role of banks in the global abyss we’d most certainly contributed to.]

Again, I was fortunate to be thrown into a situation where everything was changing quickly and innovators and organizers were needed. So much was learned and again I worked with amazing people. The benefits were sweet. But before I left to have a baby and begin a long stay-at-home stint, I took one big lesson to heart:

Banks are different from credit unions.

Every week, one of my duties was word processing reports and preparing the board packets, which included budgets and future plans. I could see with my own eyes how they were positioning themselves for several buyouts, the last of which saw 90% of my co-workers lose their jobs at the number 2 employer in our rural Maine county. With banks, you see, it’s not one account, one vote as you have at a credit union. In this case, the twelve, already-rich shareholders had a personal financial stake that was directly tied to my community suffering a great economic loss.

The incentives were, and still are, misaligned.

I knew everybody was going to lose their jobs. And I couldn’t say anything. There were only a few people who knew about the latest merger. If anything leaked, it would blow the whole deal. I remember thinking I never wanted to be in that position again. The bank paid me a $2000 bonus once the merger had gone through for my “discretion”, in other words, for keeping my mouth shut.

I worked for seven years in financial services in the above two jobs and learned tremendously. One thing was the the difference between what is real and fair, as opposed to what’s real and fair for only a select few.

When I had my first child, I gave up on banking. I gave up using a computer for 40 hours a week and delved into motherhood, homesteading, volunteering and living tech free. Technology really had been rather boring in the banking environment. Even though I had an entire tech department at my beck and call, since my pc had the President’s files. Later on, my intention of wanting to still be at home when my kids got out of school got me working online in 2013.

A few years later in 2017, I discovered blockchain technology and bitcoin. I was completely unable to look away. I pivoted completely, leaving behind a self publishing business and all my editing clients. But I saw a chance — for hope in a corrupt world of money. And oddly, it was steeped in complicated technology that I felt compelled to learn.

I have a lot of first-hand insight into financial disruption. Financial corruption is another area of interest for me. So, I hope you join me for my upcoming story on the illustrious Rod Hotham, an accountant who, to this day, is on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. He was also a partner in the accounting firm where I had my first paid job at age eleven. More on that story to come.

Author Bio:

Mary Thibodeau spends her days and many nights researching, writing and strategizing on the topics of open finance, cryptocurrencies, and web3 financial technology. You can find more of her work on her Substack Bitcoin newsletter, “Mined Over Matter” here: