June 18, 2024

Colleague Corner: How Encore’s Global LGBTQ+ Colleagues Live Our Values with Pride

Welcome to the Encore Capital Group (Encore) Colleague Corner. In this web series, we’ll get a chance to learn from our colleagues across Encore about their careers and what our Mission to create pathways to economic freedom means to them, while touching on aspects of our culture.

For Pride Month, we reached out to four global colleagues who are part of the LGBTQ+ community to share their experiences at Encore.

  • Alicia McKinney (she/her/hers) is a Group Manager, Document Services Operations, in Troy, Michigan. She has been with Midland Credit Management (MCM) 4 years.
  • Gustavo Zúñiga (he/him/his) is an Account Manager in MCM’s Costa Rica office. He has been with the company 2.5 years.
  • Varun Mehra (he/him/his) is Assistant Vice President of Human Resources with MCM’s India office. He has been with the company 8 years.
  • Vicki Roberts (she/her/hers) is a Remote Operations Team Leader with Cabot’s Wescot office in the U.K. She has been with the company 9 years.

Q: What are your interests or career goals, and how did they lead you to join the company?

Alicia: I’ve always felt drawn to roles where I can help others. I first joined MCM in 2020. I liked MCM’s focus on fostering growth and development from within, and I began looking for opportunities to further my own development. I became a Group Manager within the Document Services Operations department in 2022 and have since held a personal commitment to support and encourage my team through their own journeys.

Gustavo: I joined the company shortly after graduating from high school. MCM has helped me grow in so many ways. I’ve been able to work toward my financial goals, pay for my education as an electromechanical engineer, help my parents and give back to my community.

Varun: I’m always focused on bringing out the best in people and helping them learn on their journey. Having spent eight years at the company has strengthened my resolve and I am motivated to reach higher.

Vicki: When I joined the company in 2015, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. My previous role was a stopgap, and I had just returned from maternity leave. I knew I wanted a full-time role with room to grow professionally. I joined as a Customer Consultant, and after two years, I progressed to Team Leader. I feel that the company offers me the opportunity to keep progressing.

Q: Our Mission is to help create pathways to economic freedom. What does that mean to you? What do you think it means to our consumers?

Alicia: To me, economic freedom means being able to plan for one’s financial future. To our consumers, a pathway to economic freedom is one of empathy, education and collaboration.

Gustavo: To me, economic freedom is being able to buy what you want or need without having to worry about other expenditures or debts. For consumers, it may represent a new beginning in their lives.

Varun: I firmly believe that every interaction matters, and every conversation is an opportunity to align our purpose with the consumer’s. Working to empower their financial wellness is very powerful, and being in a position to make a difference in that regard is heartening and enriching.

Vicki: Creating pathways to economic freedom means using all our skills and tools to help people recognize the benefits of clearing debt to allow them to manage their finances better in the future. Customers have shown me and my team time and time again that they need us to listen to them and understand their situation — which in turn allows us to suggest the best solution for them to eventually get them debt-free, with more available funds and a better quality of life.

Q: Helping people restore their financial health makes me feel ____________.

Alicia: Inspired. Being involved in helping people reach their financial goals leaves me feeling a sense of accomplishment, and seeing others take that path inspires me on my own financial health journey.

Gustavo: Happy. I’ve always liked to help people, and I really enjoy every conversation with our consumers.

Varun: Full of purpose and energy.

Vicki: Proud. Every time I listen to a call or am part of a journey where someone on my team has really helped a consumer, pride is the overriding feeling because it might be one call of many to us, but to that person, it could change everything.

Q: Would you share a time when you experienced caring, finding a better way to achieve something, or being inclusive and collaborative (our Values) at Encore?

Alicia: One recent example was during Encore Connected Week. The Troy office partnered with various employee resource groups (ERGs) to launch a donation drive for a local charity. The drive was a huge success and even resulted in a surplus of donations for the charity. It was such a heartwarming experience to see the site come together to support those in need during the holiday season.

Gustavo: Inaugurating “all-gender restrooms” at MCM Costa Rica was very special. Having these restrooms contributed to creating a welcoming space for those who have different gender identities.

Varun: I was really touched by an incident when one of our colleagues had a health condition, and all our leaders, HR team and other colleagues made themselves available in person and working day and night and over the weekend to ensure we made everything possible for our colleague’s safe return.

Vicki: I’ve seen Pride Month be a huge focus for our site. We’ve decorated the office and dedicated multiple pages in every internal communication for the whole month of June to raise LGBTQ+ awareness. It was great to see the whole office coming together to learn, celebrate diversity and ask questions. If you don’t ask, you don’t learn. And if you don’t know, you should try to learn, so asking questions really is key.

Underpinned by our Value of inclusion, our employee resource groups (ERGs) help foster a culture where all colleagues can thrive by embracing dedicated communities for our colleagues to extend mutual support and pursue professional development and mentorship opportunities. We invited our colleagues to share their experiences as members of Encore’s Pride Network, the company’s ERG dedicated to co-create a safe, unbiased, and inclusive environment that empowers LGBTQ+ colleagues and their allies to thrive. Currently, Encore’s Pride Network has active chapters in Costa Rica, India, and the United States.

Q: What led you to join the Pride Network?

Alicia: As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I’m passionate about inclusivity and ensuring access to queer-friendly spaces, especially in the workplace. When MCM announced Pride Network, I requested more information on how to become involved. An opportunity came about to become a pillar lead for the organization, and shortly thereafter, I became the U.S. Internal Education and Communication counterpart. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of helping plan site events, sending out communications and collaborating with the other leads and members to work together to ensure the Pride Network’s success.

Gustavo: I’m also a member of our local Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) ERG. My then-ERG leader encouraged me to bring the Pride Network to Costa Rica for the LGBTQ+ community at our site to have a network in which they can be themselves and help each other, while educating our peers with communications and speaker series. We now have 12 members and 10 allies of our Pride Network in Costa Rica.

Varun: I have been leading the Pride Network in India since its inception, and it’s helped me reflect on the power of elevating our employees’ potential. It’s part of my commitment to create a workplace that thrives and grows with diverse groups, which helps drive innovation and togetherness with our community.

Q: What would you say to a colleague considering joining the Pride Network or another ERG?

Alicia: I would encourage them to get involved. The ERGs are fantastic resources run by remarkable people. The more support that these ERGs can gather, the better they can operate. Even if it’s on a smaller scale, just being a member shows your support and interest, and it can help these groups continue making positive changes in our organization.

Gustavo: I would encourage them to join any ERG they like. The ERGs are created by and for the employees, for us to create a better working environment.

Varun: ERGs are the perfect platform to come together and co-create a thriving workplace in a way that enriches and strengthens our culture.

Q: What would you say to a colleague who wants to get involved in the Pride Network as an ally?

Alicia: Anyone can join Pride Network. LGBTQ+ ally support is necessary to ensure queer inclusivity, especially at work. This support helps to further these conversations by uplifting and encouraging LGBTQ+ people, as oftentimes their voices are put down or silenced. Showing up and supporting your queer coworkers is a fantastic way to get involved in Pride Network.

Gustavo: Sign up! You don’t have to be part of the community to be an ally. Allies can also help us create unity and reduce biases.

Varun: Allies are a strong pillar of any ERG, and Pride Network is proud of our strong allies who strengthen our equitable, safe and inclusive work environment. As part of the India chapter, we are running three campaigns: “Fix the Glitch,” “Be You” and “It Takes a Village.” Each of these campaigns works to bring awareness, sensitivity and reinforcement of LGBTQ+ issues to all employees at MCM India. Allies will be a strong partner to help champion these efforts, as we all are on this journey together.