Lauren Valenzuela clearly puts her heart and full effort into everything she does. All you need to do is read her answers to the questions below to see proof of that. That effort and ambition is likely the reason why she has become such a respected member of the credit and collection industry in such a relatively short period of time. Read on to learn more about Lauren, how her and her husband’s love of dogs has opened new doors for them, and what she drinks in the afternoon to keep going.
Name: Lauren Valenzuela
Company: Performant Recovery
Length of time at current company: 11 months
Length of time in industry: 7 years
How did you get your start in the industry?
I was looking for a job out of law school and I posted my resume on a job site as a requirement to defer my student loans. I didn’t think anyone would take notice of my resume on a job site with thousands of resumes floating around. However, my former boss found my resume. He liked my experience at the Department of Justice (DOJ) where I clerked for Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) in the Northern District of New York. He called me, I researched the industry, and I came in for a few interviews. He took a chance on a young lawyer, helped me learn and grow in my knowledge of the industry, and the rest is history!
What is your career highlight so far?
Anytime a former employee of mine tells me that they learned something from me and applied it in a new role or job (whether it be how to write a solid business letter, improve a process, communicate with diplomacy during a difficult situation, dissect a case, or navigate the CFPB Examination Manual), I am thrilled! This is truly a highlight for me. I love working with people and I take any opportunity to learn from others, as well as share what I have learned to help my staff sharpen their skills and broaden their knowledge. This kind of highlight is not grandiose by many measures – but it’s the absolute truth.
When or how are you most productive?
I’m most productive when I’ve got my earphones in and I’m blasting whatever music suits my mood. Many days my music mood is electronic dance music and other days its Chopin, the Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, or hits from the 80’s. I’ve got an eclectic taste in music. Loud music helps me focus and get in the zone to power through whatever I’m working on.
Which industry professional do you admire most?
There are so many people I admire in our industry! This is tough. If I must focus on one, I’ll say Stephanie Eidleman. She is one of the most hardworking and passionate people I know who works tirelessly to improve the public’s perception of our industry, to promote innovation in collections, and to reach across the aisle to collaborate with consumer trade groups in an effort to facilitate constructive dialogue between collectors and consumer rights advocates. I admire her work and am amazed at how she keeps up with so much going on in our industry.
What is one thing you do better than everyone else?
Editing. I’d like to think I am a competent editor. I edit for clear, concise, and easy to understand written communications. I am a big advocate for writing in Plain English – and teach this to anyone whom I lead. I was an Executive Editor on my law school’s Law Review publication. There were many days I loathed the extra work Law Review gave me, but now I appreciate how that experience sharpened my knack for editing.
What do you like most about this industry?
The people! There are so many hardworking, smart, and good people in our industry. I also feel like our industry is the “underdog” in many situations – because we are constantly striving to break negative stereotypes and perceptions the public has about collectors. I like underdogs. I’m rooting for the underdog!
What is one thing you wish you could change about this industry?
I wish that consumer protection laws provided better mechanisms to discourage and/or combat frivolous litigation. It is incredibly frustrating when you see opposing counsel acting in a manner which suggests they don’t really care about their consumer clients. I am 110% onboard for doing what is right, fair, and equitable when its warranted. However, no one likes to be taken advantage of. More often than I’d like to admit, I’ve seen consumer attorneys take advantage of the system to harass law abiding collection agencies, and ultimately, act in their own best interests rather than in the best interests of their clients.
If you weren’t in this industry, what would you be doing?
I probably would have pursued a career where the law, archeology, and/or anthropology intersect. I love archelogy, anthropology, and history! Or I would have pursued a career where I could have built upon my DOJ experience.
Describe a typical work day.
Typical – I wish! I’ve been trying to practice time-blocking in my day, where I set aside time to work on things I need to get done. So far it is helping me get things done but my emails pile up quickly when I’m working on something and ignoring my inbox. Nonetheless, on a typical day I can have a variety of things cross my desk: collector scripts to review, contracts to create or edit, articles to read from AccountsRecovery.Net for the latest case run-downs, calls with colleagues on a variety of projects or company initiatives, cases to assess, issues to research, and the list goes on and on.
What is your guilty pleasure?
This one was easy to answer – Sugar Free Red Bull. Anyone I work with knows I usually have one of these around 1:00 or 2:00 pm in the afternoon.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Everyday my 7th grade math teacher used to write an affirmation on the whiteboard and make us copy it. However, he had a fixed banner across the top of the whiteboard which read “Proper preparation prevents poor performance.” That resonated with me – especially because I was never good at math but managed to get A’s because of the time I spent studying, practicing, and preparing. I’ve never forgotten this saying. It has served me well in my personal and professional life.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve got a huge reading stack. I don’t really read a book from start to finish before I pick up a new one. Right now I’m cycling through these books and magazines: Power-Up – How Smart Women Win in the New Economy by Magdalena Yesil; My Own Words by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg; Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived by Justice Antonin Scalia; Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin; The Library Book by Susan Orlean; a biography on Joan of Arc; Harvard Business Review; and Archaeology Magazine.
What is one fact you’d like everyone in the industry to know about you?
My husband and I love our dogs! So much, in fact, that my husband quit his job and decided to design and open a hangout for dogs and their best friends. It’s called Mutts and Mugs Park Pub in Sacramento, California. It will be a place where you can unleash your dog while having coffee, beer, or wine. Mutts and Mugs will host special events, such as Pictures with Santa Paws during Christmas, Howl-O-Ween Costume Contests in October, or Cinco de Mutto in May. I genuinely love what I do and our industry, so I let my husband be the entrepreneur with our idea. The good part is that I still get to help with the fun bits (like planning Saint Pet-tricks Day, haha!) It has been a wild journey, but I’m learning so much from this experience. I have a whole new appreciation for all the small businesses and entrepreneurs out there.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Leah Dempsey of ACA International.