GBA Member Profile

Sofia Aun
Community Affairs Manager and Government Affairs Liaison
Truist, Atlanta, GA
At Large Member, GBA Public Affairs Committee
Published May 25, 2023

Q: What was your first job, and was there a lesson you learned there that you still use today?
A: My first job was as a dental assistant in my parents’ dental office in Dahlonega beginning in high school and lasting all through college. My dad is a dentist, and my mom is a dental hygienist, which led them to open their practice together over 40 years ago. My sister and I essentially grew up there and we both learned how to work with others by helping at the dental office. We spent many long days there cleaning instruments and working as dental assistants. Not many people have the experience of working with their parents, and it was special for my sister and me because we were able to see firsthand how hard our parents worked to provide for us and others while running a small business.

Working with my parents in rural North Georgia taught me so much about people. My parents showed me how to serve every person with dignity and respect, whether they were a college professor or someone with an elementary school education. I learned how to talk to and listen to people from so many different walks of life. Every person had a story to tell. The skill of intentional listening helps me in my current role, whether it’s in grant making or advocacy.

Q: What was the most useful piece of advice you received from a mentor (or in the early/formative years of your career)?
A: Doug Shipman, one of my mentors who is now the Atlanta City Council President, had a meeting with me and asked me how many organizations I was serving with. At the time, I was serving in eight different leadership positions for local boards and organizations. He looked at me and said “you’re doing too much. You need to cut back and only do half of this.” I was floored because I thought I was doing a great job and he asked me “can you honestly say you’re giving 100% to every one of these organizations? When you stretch yourself so thin, it’s not helping anyone - yourself, your community, or others. You need to serve intentionally.”

That changed the way I approached service, and soon after, the pandemic happened. I realized that I had been spending so much time in the community, I hadn’t been spending time with my family and was missing out on time with them. I have many different passions: Greenspace preservation, interfaith advocacy and inclusion, politics, urban agriculture, historic preservation. Unfortunately, our culture wears “busyness” as a badge of honor. Before the pandemic, I prided myself on being so busy I only went home to sleep but didn’t realize it was taking a toll on my body and mental health in a way I didn’t realize until the pandemic.

Doug’s advice taught me that I can still volunteer in my community, but that I can’t serve others unless I’m taking care of myself and my family should always come first. I now have two small nephews and each week they grow a little bigger, or I see how their personalities develop. All four of my grandparents are alive, and I also get to spend time with them. The most important lesson I’ve learned is when I’m presented with a leadership opportunity to say “no” and “I can’t do it, but here are three other people who would be fantastic”. That’s a wonderful way to help others grow and connect them intentionally.

Q: Tell us about one experience you’ve had that exemplifies being a banker or your role at the bank.
A: Truist wants to be the bank that cares, and what’s so beautiful about my role is I get to show care. As Community Affairs Manager and Government Affairs Liaison, I’m public-facing and get to work with non-profit partners to help them explore potential grant opportunities. My favorite days are the ones when I get to call the non-profit organizations to notify them when they’ve received a grant, as well as doing site visits and seeing how the non-profit organizations work and help better the community.

I want to be very approachable and make it a point to let people know they can talk to me about anything. I will take a 30-minute meeting with anyone. Making time for people is important because even if we’re not a fit I can recommend other foundations or philanthropic giving options. I am one person, but if I can embody that sense of care, I will have done my job.

Q: What would someone be surprised to learn about you?
A: I know how to operate a log-splitter. My dad decided to buy an old wood-burning stove even though we have central heating and air in our house. I grew up on the edge of a 100-acre forest, and I guess he thought it would be a good idea to buy a log-splitter and taught my sister and me how to use it. Because of this, I know which types of wood split best (poplar) and which types are the most difficult (oak).

Q: First tap/click of the day?
A: I read the daily ABA Newsletter and then The Jolt by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Between those two, I get a good feel of what’s going on locally and in our industry.

Q: Podcast you recommend?
A: Archive Atlanta by Victoria Lemos. She picks neighborhoods and buildings in Atlanta and researches their history. It was voted one of the best podcasts during the pandemic in Atlanta. She truthfully presents Atlanta history in a way that helps the listener understand our complex history. For those local to Atlanta, I’d recommend picking any episode of the podcast and then touring the site while listening; it’s a wonderful and immersive experience!

Q: TV show or series you love?
A: My husband and I enjoyed watching Rise of the Ottoman on Netflix. We absolutely love history and think the show is so great because it deals with the fall of Constantinople and the widespread global implications.