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Lending a Hand

Caroline Taylor ’00 used cheerleading connections to build a career in banking.

Photographs courtesy of Caroline Taylor ’00.

By Erin McPherson

One year after graduating college, Caroline Taylor ’00 decided on a whim to audition for the Carolina Panthers’ professional cheer team. “Over 200 people tried out,” she says. “I showed up with no makeup and pigtails . . . not knowing the professional scale [of cheerleading] changes the look and what they’re usually going for.”

But Taylor ended up making the cut and found an unexpected but welcome facet of her new part-time job. “I was instantly connected with 34 other career-oriented women,” she says. “The camaraderie and commitment they had to helping each other was a huge, pivotal point for me personally and career-wise. It completely changed my life.”

That change is reflected in a career shift for Taylor earlier this year — she joined Regions Bank as senior vice president and head of Small Business Administration (SBA) lending. After 13 years in SBA lending, Taylor says she has found more than just a job — she’s found a meaningful vocation as a leader in helping small businesses. “It is a mission program,” she says, “to reach the underserved and to help the small businesses that otherwise would not be able to afford a loan because they may not have the capital that is needed.”

A former cheerleader at NC State, Taylor says the three years she spent with the Panthers (including the season the team went to Super Bowl XXXVIII) helped her find her career path. Most of her teammates also had full-time jobs as bankers, physician assistants and teachers, which provided Taylor with networking connections that helped her find new opportunities in her own full-time work in the lending industry, which ultimately took her from Charlotte to Richmond, Va., and the Washington, D.C., area. Last summer, Taylor and her family moved back to Raleigh.

“There is no particular box,” she says. “You have to do what fits, what makes you happy — and just do your best.”

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