College of Business
Multiple factors made Anderson University a great fit for Fakoornejad
When AJ Fakoornejad was considering colleges, Anderson University appealed to him for so many reasons: classes just the right size so he could build relationships with his professors, experiencing a strong sense of community, and making lasting friendships with his classmates as well as teammates. AJ also enjoyed being Troy the Trojan and competing on the Men’s Basketball team.
How did you choose Anderson University?
I chose to come to Anderson University for multiple reasons. One factor was for the strong professor-student relationship due to class size. In addition, finding a college campus that would encourage me to focus on my relationship with God was important.
I went to Berea High School in Greenville County and I had a couple of upperclassmen who went there the year before me. Through my church, which was Monaghan Baptist in Greenville County at the time, I just started looking for private universities close to me. Anderson had a better feel and it was a little farther from home, which is also why I went there, to try to branch off a little bit.
So between it being a Christian university, small classroom sizes and still somewhat close to home but far enough away—those were the main things that attracted me. I also ended up playing two years of JV basketball at Anderson my freshman and sophomore years. I knew I wasn’t good enough for Division I, so I took a chance and walked on for two years at AU.
What position did you play?
I had to be a point guard because I’m 5’8”. I didn’t really have any other choice (laughs).
What are some favorite college memories?
The biggest one is the dorm life; that’s the biggest, the most fun time to me. I lived on campus all four years. I had the same core but every year some people would cycle in and cycle out. Playing video games, talking about homework, running to and from class, going to dinner at the same time—Those are some of the fun memories. Even going to class was good, like you had big classes, you had small classes, being a business major we had some of the same professors like Dr. Joe Spencer and Dr. Laing, when he was there. Dr. Carnes, she was at the top when I was there. Just the relationships that I built through the people I just mentioned—those were fun.
Several organizations that I was a part of—basketball. I was actually one of the first (to be) Troy the Trojan. I was in SIFE, which was a business department program. The Business Club, Intramural sports… all that was huge for me.
What are some ways your Anderson University education helped you professionally?
By teaching me time management. Right now I’m a branch manager at a local credit union, so I might be closing on a loan this minute and then 10 minutes later I might be handling a past due account and then 10 minutes later I’m training someone, so I have to adapt. College prepared me a lot for that because you don’t have your mom and dad checking on you. Has your homework been done? Your grades are on you. I was lucky enough to get some scholarships but I knew if I didn’t get scholarships the financial hardship would come on me, so it put all that big picture and mindset for you.
I took management classes, marketing, business law, so in addition to your English and your Gen Ed classes, those business classes helped me be prepared with some of the terminology and the professional emailing and time management. That was a very good base of learning.
Tell me about what you did before coming to Spero Financial.
When I came to Anderson University, I was actually still working at Shoe Carnival in Greenville. So I was on the microphone announcing specials, stacking shoes, doing a little bit of everything still. I thought I wanted to own my own shoe store; that’s why I went to AU for business management to be a retail owner. Thank God I didn’t do that. I graduated in 2010 then in the summer of 2011, one year later, I had a neighbor who worked at a finance company. He said “why don’t you come work for me? Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, no weekends, no holidays and it’s numbers,” and I love numbers. I said “Sure, I’ll give it a shot.” So I stopped working at Shoe Carnival after seven years and went to work for a finance company. That was in 2011 and in 2012 I went to another finance company that had better interest rates, not as high. And then in 2016 is when I actually spoke with Jason Rutland and he connected me with AFCU at the time, and that’s when I joined.
What in your job gives you the most satisfaction?
I’ve got three answers.
The first one is the growth of my employees, whether it’s professionally or personally, I like to see them either make more money, grow in a different department or just learn more to take care of their own loans and their own deposit accounts.
Part two of that is the challenge to become one of the better credit unions/branches/managers. Obviously closing loans and opening new accounts are the main two goals if you have to have them, but specifically with closing loans, I don’t like just to close loans to say I did the most, I want to close the most loans that actually help people, like, get a lower car payment, not to put them in a bad situation. I have one lady specifically that I always think about. When she first came to me her score was in the 490s and I said “if you can do this, this and this, we can get you better,” and a year later she did everything I said and she was at a 600. That’s the stuff where I say “yes, thank you. That’s the fun.”
And the last part of that answer is just the challenge of seeing us get better, whether it’s efficiency numbers or just helping the community—all those things—one percent better than yesterday. I don’t want to compete with anybody else, I want to compete with myself.
When you’re not managing a branch at Spero, what do you enjoy doing?
I have a dog, his name is Dallas. He’s my boy. Outside of that I play kickball and softball with Greenville County Rec. I’ve been known to play soccer and basketball, but basketball I just tore my achilles back in December so I’m probably done with that sport.
My mom and dad still live in Greenville so I visit them to try and help out with yard work or finances or whatever it is just to keep in touch. I love going on the lake of course being this close to Hartwell.
I’m on the Alumni Board at AU so I come to a lot of those events—basketball events, soccer events, homecoming. Spero has other things we’re doing. We go to some Drive games and we support Homes of Hope in Greenville—I try to stay with the community and just network and market communications.
What advice would you give someone who is considering working in a financial career?
Conquer your fears. When you see a club that you think sounds interesting, don’t be scared like “I don’t know anybody” or “it might be too big for me.” Just join it. You’re not going to know until you do it. There’s a famous basketball quote, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
Seven years ago I worked at a finance company and I was always thinking “I’m not going to apply for that job because it’s too big for me. They make too much money” or “they do too much” and my boss at the time, she was like “don’t sell yourself short. Apply for it.”
Part two of that is just learn as much as you can. Specifically with Spero, I’ve been promoted throughout the years because I was typically doing the job before it got available. Amber Crisp was huge on teaching me that. She said “you’re already doing the job, why aren’t you applying for this manager position?” It gave me confidence, it gave me leadership skills and other people through that process started saying “oh AJ knows how to do it, go ask him.” I’ve become a resource and I’m happy to do that, but I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t conquer my fears.