Interview

Lauren Mandel: VP of Public Affairs for Cross National Advisory Partners

February 25, 2021

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Involved in politics for 20 years as a campaigner, a staffer, and now as a lobbyist - I've also worked as a creative director, freelance writer, and web-designer. These worlds all collide here at Pink Granite where we work to connect women to the resources they need to grow a career in Texas politics.

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Lauren is a Pink Granite contributor and you may recognize her voice as one of the hosts of the Pink Granite podcast. We’re so excited to share this interview with her today so that you can learn a little more about her experience working in local government and now in public affairs. We’re so happy to have her perspective guiding part of Pink Granite’s work.

Tell us where you work and a bit about your professional responsibilities?

I just completed an almost four-year stint as Chief of Staff to former Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff. Commissioner Wolff’s term expired at the end of 2020 and he did not seek re-election, but I loved every second of it.

At the beginning of January, I joined former Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos’ firm Cross National Advisory Partners as its VP of Public Affairs. Cross National, or XNTL, is a consulting firm dedicated exclusively to guiding and assisting governmental, private sector, and non-profit organizations in their efforts to access domestic and key foreign markets. Think government relations and economic development – and how they intersect.

Where did you attend COLLEGE?

I attended the University of Arizona and the University of Houston-Downtown and majored in Political Science.

How did you get your start in politics?

Through watching West Wing. Kidding . . . kinda. In reality, I’ve always been interested in politics and started watching CSPAN at a young age – I loved that it presented what was happening without any commentary. Additionally, politics were always prevalent in our household growing up – my parents were always educated about the current political climate and wanted us to be as well. Early in my career I worked for non-profit organizations in fundraising and event planning, and had the opportunity to visit the Capitol a few times as a representative of my organization. I was hooked.

Anything you would have done differently in your path or see as a really smart decision you may have made along the way that others could learn from?

I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but all of them have led to the life I lead today – for them, I’m grateful. The bad is just as important as the good. And if you can embrace that even a little, it greatly changes your perspective.

Who have been your mentors over the years? What’s been their best advice or coaching that has stuck with you?

I’ve been lucky enough to have mentors from all aspects of my life, including some badass women who have been particularly influential as I’ve navigated motherhood and professional life. Perhaps the best advice I’ve received in regards to that is that “balancing it all” is a myth – some days it’s more motherhood than professional and vice versa. (And some days, you’re curled up in a stress ball on the bathroom floor and others you’re rocking a presentation to your boss.)

Do you mentor others? What is your best advice for managing these types of relationship or asking someone to be your mentor?

Serving as a mentor for others is of the utmost fulfillment for me. However, I’m not a believer in asking someone to be your mentor. I think it’s a very organic thing: you get to know someone, you believe in them and their abilities, and then you do everything you can to help them succeed. You can’t fake real relationships.

Do you ever see yourself running for office? Anything you’d like to share regarding why or why not?

Absolutely not. I have the utmost respect for those who throw their hat in the ring, but it’s not for me. I prefer to be “the guy the guy counts on.”

What do you do to stay connected to other leaders, particularly women in your industry or area of influence? How do you maintain relationships?

Lots of “check-in” emails and texts, coffee and happy hour meetings.

What do you find to be essential skill sets/personality traits for being successful in your business? On the flip side what traits or actions could totally sabotage your success?

When I first started with Commissioner Wolff, I was convinced that you needed to be an extrovert – or at least have the “gift of gab.” I quickly learned that while this is helpful, it’s not essential. You HAVE to be able to write, especially in a voice that isn’t your own. This is very difficult and takes years of practice. Perhaps the most important skill however when you work for an elected official is the ability to check your ego at the door. It’s their name on the ballot – their legacy, their goals, their successes, and their failures. Everything you do is a representation of them.

I’m a young woman and I want a job like yours. What do I do now? How do I get started in this career? Any tips on how to get hired or steps to avoid?

If you’re still in college or fresh-out-of, I can’t recommend internships with elected officials enough. You will learn more in three months than a semester in the classroom – and the variety of individuals, groups, and policy issues you will be exposed to will broaden your horizons more than you thought possible. Also – if you have connections, use them! What matters is how hard you work and how you perform once you get the gig.

What do you wish someone had told you when you were getting started in your career?

Listen to your dad – he’s right. Also, be patient!

Anything you find to be misunderstood about your profession?

That it’s chock full of “big” – both wins and losses. Good policy and governing are games of inches – just like football. Sometimes moving the ball five yards is all you can ask for (and all you really need).

You could never do your job without __________. Why?

My logical answer? My iPhone. My emotional answer? My two golden retrievers, who are the best stress relievers and cuddlers in the world.

Any leadership programs, mentorship opportunities or organizations you’d recommend for someone getting started in your industry?

Chamber of Commerce events are always effective because of the exposure to a wide swath of people and businesses. Industry-specific young professional groups are super helpful too, as they connect you to folks who likely share similar professional goals.

What’s your preferred work bag and what’s always in that bag?

The actual bag depends on whether or not I’m carrying my laptop, but its contents never change: a Fiesta medal or two (I live in San Antonio after all), gum/mints, hand sanitizer, a snack for my daughter (usually Goldfish or raisins), loose notes or agendas from various meetings, and my personal favorite, an assortment of writing utensils.

Favorite place for a business lunch?

Down on Grayson or Piatti here in San Antonio, but perhaps my most effective business meetings have taken place at Jim’s, a chain of good old-fashioned diners.

Favorite cocktail?

Vodka and ginger ale

Last place you traveled?

Port Aransas

Favorite place to get your news? Social media sources?

I check Twitter first thing in the morning so I can get a feel for what’s already happening and what’s to come. I read Texas Tribune and the Hill religiously, sprinkled with some CNN. I try to avoid cable news as much as possible though.

Favorite podcasts?

I use podcasts as an escape from reality! Right now I’m very into the Office Ladies. It’s hosted by two of the stars from the Office and each podcast delves into a different episode from the series. Mindless and very entertaining.

You could only buy clothing from one brand for the rest of your life – who do you pick?

If I had unlimited amounts of money, Veronica Beard.

If you weren’t in your current job, what would you be doing?

I have always been fascinated by weather (even though I’m horrific with all things related to science and failed Weather 101 in college), so I’m going to say an on-air meteorologist for a local news station.

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I'm Amy.

Founder + Executive Director

Involved in politics for 20 years as a campaigner, a staffer, and now as a lobbyist - I've also worked as a creative director, freelance writer, and web-designer. These worlds all collide here at Pink Granite where we work to connect women to the resources they need to grow a career in Texas politics.

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