Debra Ciskey knows as much about compliance and the collections industry as anyone. At last week’s Northeast Debt Collections Expo, she gave two presentations and spoke for nearly two hours. For Ciskey, it was a fairly routine occurrence. For everyone else, it was a chance to take a lot of notes and learn a lot of new things. Called upon frequently to speak and educate the industry about compliance, training, and just about any aspect of running a collections agency, Ciskey appears to rarely say no and is always willing to lend a hand.
Name: Debra J. Ciskey
Company: Wakefield & Associates, Inc.
Length of time at current company: 1.5 years
Length of time in industry: 36 years
How did you get your start in the industry? My first job in the collection industry was assistant director of Public Affairs at ACA International in Minneapolis in 1980.
What is your career highlight so far? My election to the ACA Board of Directors the first year of the new governance structure in 2012.
Which industry professional do you admire most? There are so many that I can’t name just one person, but I learned the most early in my career from John W. Johnson, the EVP of ACA during my tenure there. Agency owners whom I admire include Tom Haag from State Credit in Madison, Wisc,, Linda Russell in Rawlins, Wy., and the late Jim Erickson from Seattle, Wash. I spend a lot of my time with attorneys who are very generous with their knowledge and experience, including Leslie Bender and John Bedard. And, of course, Matt Laws, CEO of Wakefield & Associates, who gave me the opportunity to move to Colorado.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else? I write very expressive and sincere thank you notes.
What do you like most about this industry? The family nature of the industry.
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry? I wish the image of our industry was more positive. I wish we were better at sharing the goodness, because it only takes an occasional bad story to push us back down.
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing? Teaching high school or college English, and freelance writing.
Describe a typical work day. “Typical” isn’t in my vocabulary — I haven’t had 2 similar workdays in a long time.
What is your guilty pleasure? Spending time outdoors as much as I can. Doesn’t matter the season. I love shoveling snow, working in my garden and yard, walking and hiking. I used to spend many hours on my bicycle when we lived in the flatlands of the Midwest, but the hills in Colorado are kind of terrifying. I don’t mind the climbs, but I do not like the steep and speedy descents.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Work hard, be yourself, never give up. That was from my mother, who lived her life just that way.
What are you currently reading? I am between books right now, but the next one in line on my Kindle is The Last Woman Standing: A Novel. The author is Thelma Adams. I generally read biographies and non-fiction, but this year I have been attracted to several novels including Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee and In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you? I have a very tolerant and supportive husband, Mark, and we celebrate 37 years of wedded bliss in July.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions? Harry Strausser III, Leslie Bender, John Bedard, Tom Haag.