From GTCC student to commencement speaker, life comes full circle for Kim Simon

Published on: May 26, 2022
GTCC 2022 commencement speaker and GTCC graduate, Kim Simon.
GTCC 2022 commencement speaker and GTCC graduate, Kim Simon.

When Kim Simon moved South from New York in 2001, she decided to leave her banking career behind.

"I was a little burned out," she said.

She soon changed her mind, though, and returned to the industry. What followed was a meteoric rise through the ranks at Carter Bank & Trust, where she is now a vice president. Along the way, while shepherding her family, growing her career, and becoming a civic leader, she found time to earn an associate degree at Guilford Technical Community College and a bachelor's degree at Guilford College.

Life came full circle recently for Simon when, seven years after graduating from GTCC, she was asked to give the commencement address for the Class of 2022.

"You have no idea how humbling that was," Simon said of the phone call inviting her to speak at graduation. "I'm still in awe that I was asked to do that. When I got the call, I told them to let me call them back because it was so humbling."

Simon says it took her a while before she got her degree, and no wonder. She was juggling family life with a flourishing career and more community involvement.

"I had to develop a strategy. I did not want to fail," Simon said of her college career.

"I probably started around 2006. Then I stopped. Then I went again," Simon said. "When my son went off to college, it let me be more consistent, take a few more classes and get it out of the way. I made a deal with my son … If I'm an adult and have these responsibilities, let's see who gets the best grades in college. It was my way of encouraging him. We worked in tandem."

Earning a degree didn't suddenly change Simon's life, though.

"My life didn't get easier because I had an associate degree. I kept working and doing what I did. I still had to be a mom. I still had to be a wife. I still had to make sure the branch (bank) I was managing did well," she recalled.

"I had to develop a strategy … I did not want to fail."

In her commencement address Simon stressed three factors that have been a constant in her life. "I talked about owning your career, continuing to learn, and mentorship. I feel like those things are very vital if you want to survive work-life balance."

"Continuing education is very important. I tell people I have been at Carter Bank & Trust for 20 years, but while I'm there, people are coming with more experience. Being there 20 years somehow reduces my value if I'm not adding to it," Simon said.

Volunteerism and community involvement are also big parts of Simon's life. Over the years she has been recognized for her work with Junior Achievement and continues to engage areas of North Carolina and Virginia teaching financial literacy. In 2021 she was named the ambassador of the year for the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce where she is also co-chair of the We Connect group. She is on the GTCC alumni advisory council, and she serves as treasurer of the Eco Ambassador Council Board.

"It (volunteerism) provides me with a sense of purpose and meaning, knowing that I make a difference in the community," Simon said. "I want to ensure that I don't become anesthetized to the needs of others in the community. Often, we discount the impact we can make in one person's life. If I'm able to improve one person's situation, then I hope they too will model that behavior."

Simon remembers that GTCC "instructors were phenomenal," and although she attended the college mid-career, there were many valuable takeaways for her, especially the decision to take psychology classes to better understand those she worked with and customers. These are life lessons she still uses today.

"While managing, I found my recall on the lessons taught were very valuable while managing employees," Simon said. "The most valuable, is that you manage the individual by setting goals, building relationships, etc., to build a team that works collaboratively. It was a challenge, but I accomplished just that. Because of that accomplishment, I was able to leave my office to go into the community and volunteer with many local organizations."

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