Black History Month Profile: Connecting with others is at the heart of everything this Commerce team member does.
Mentorship is an important element in Enishika Bilberry’s professional life. Being on both the giving and receiving end has played a key role in her seven-year career at Commerce Bank, where she currently serves as an account manager and bank officer in its Treasury line of business.
“I’ve had mentors and sponsors here at Commerce, and to this day, I don’t think most of them realize the impact they’ve had on my life, both professionally and personally,” Bilberry says. “I’ve learned through the people in my network that iron sharpens iron, so I continue to seek out these connections during my career journey.”
One of the key events of her Commerce career happened in 2016, when she was selected for participation in a new pilot program. Called the Mentorship Circle, the initiative paired a group of 10 female emerging leaders with two senior mentors.
“It altered the trajectory of my career,” she says. “It changed me personally and gave me an experience that made me want to strive further for excellence. It sharpened my existing tools and taught me new ones that I still use, and I met a lot of fabulous women at Commerce. I’d never experienced anything like it in my journey.”
Commerce’s focus on developing its people is part of what attracted Bilberry to the bank in the first place. “The culture here is bar none,” she says. “I’ve never encountered any other company that invests so much time and resources into its team members. The culture and the opportunities for growth and advancement were what really drew me in.”
Bilberry’s passion for helping others is a perfect fit with the bank’s culture of development for all of its team members. “I am starting to realize and embrace the power of mentorship and strive to share that secret with others,” she says. “I’m always amazed to hear that others view me as a mentor, but I also love that others see me operating in this light. I have a passion for helping others and making positive impact.” Sarah Lacy, a Treasury account management team leader at Commerce, says Bilberry’s dedication to people comes through in her customer work. “She can always put customers at ease,” Lacy says. “Nothing ever rattles her. She’s also incredibly thorough. She can think about every possibility and make sure it’s covered. That’s something you don’t find very often.”
Bilberry’s love of helping people led her to get involved in the Kansas City chapter of RISE, Commerce’s employee resource group (ERG) for women, during its earliest stages. “I attended the first icebreaker event back in 2016, and right away, I met other women who cheer and champion me on. Some have become lifelong friends and others are a meaningful part of my network,” she says.
It wasn’t long before Bilberry raised her hand to be the group’s mentorship co-chair. “I volunteered for that role because it intersected with my drive for helping women in their career advancement,” she says. “I saw an opportunity to serve Commerce Bank in that capacity. I champion women in and out of the workplace, and I feel a strong connection to the vision and purpose of RISE. To me, that’s an important part of my leadership shadow here at the bank.”
Today, Bilberry is the co-chair for the entire Kansas City chapter of RISE. Laura Ecklund, a project manager at Commerce and the other co-chair of RISE in Kansas City, says Bilberry’s presence in the group is important.
“Having a leader like Enishika makes people want to volunteer to take an active role in RISE,” Ecklund says. “She’s the most humble person you’ll ever meet, and as a leader, she’s very open-minded. She listens to people’s ideas, and her feedback can help people think more deeply about what they’re wanting to do. Because she’s so intentional about what she says and is such a great listener, her opinions have more impact.” Bilberry is also a member of VIBE, Commerce’s ERG for people of color. “I really enjoy being a part of the bank’s efforts to help promote equality, inclusivity and success for people of color,” she says, adding that she’s proud of the bank’s efforts to celebrate Black History Month, which she considers to be important for a number of reasons.
“Diamonds are formed under pressure, and I think Black History Month is reflective of how African-American people as a group have overcome a lot of adversity and have continued to shine,” Bilberry says. “So many people have done amazing things under tremendous pressure.”
She says it’s important to remember the achievements of Black people throughout American history. “We have to understand the lessons we’ve learned so we can continue to forge forward and create more opportunities for marginalized groups,” she notes. “We need to highlight the resilience we have and the successes we’ve achieved.”
As for her own accomplishments, Bilberry has lofty goals for herself. “I want to have a positive impact on the world, my community and my home. I want my family and especially my daughters, to be proud of the woman I have become and the legacy that I leave behind,” she says. “I want to be somebody who inspires people to never quit and to continue to strive for greatness. I want to be the best I can be and inspire others to be the same. I see women of the likes of Michele Obama, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey and Kamala Harris. They are women. They are also black history in the making. They opened doors and invite others to walk through. They inspire me to do the same.”
Ecklund believes Bilberry is already achieving her goal of inspiring others. “She’s such a role model and mentor to people in the bank,” she says. “I love working with her. She loves Commerce, loves clients, and overall, you want to be around her. She makes you want to be a better person.”