As part of RCN Capital’s 10 Year “Birthday” celebration we interviewed different team members about their time with the company. Let’s meet our team member, Mark Blake.
I’m Mark Blake, I am currently Chief Technology Officer I work on the intake side of things in terms of all the customer interaction before the point of a Loan Officer. That involves the intake team over the phone, through webchats, through email. In addition, a primary part of my duties is our CRM system which is Salesforce.
How long have you been with the company?
I’ve been working with RCN for almost six years.
How did you start your career at RCN Capital?
My career with RCN is a very interesting story. I got this email one day saying, “Our CEO wants to talk to you.” I looked at it, I deleted the email. I didn’t think anything of it. Two days later I get another email saying “Seriously, our CEO wants to talk to you.” I deleted it a second time, and finally the third time I get the email with a phone number. I’m sitting there thinking “Who’s Don Vaccaro?” I don’t know him, I don’t know anybody that knows him but, he is persistent so I’m going to make a phone call. I make the phone call and then I get pulled in for a bunch of interviews at our apparent company, TicketNetwork.
There must’ve been four or five different divisions within TicketNetwork that I interviewed with and they all paraded in front of me and at the very end of the day, it was about a seven or eight hour interview day, there was this RCN Capital. This business that had just gotten started a couple years before. They were in the back of the building occupying a little bit amount of space and they were put on there just to see another part of our business and see how they’re doing. I talked to this guy by the name of Jeff Tesch and just the excitement that he was talking about the operations and where he saw the company going got me excited.
So, the next day I’m talking to Don and he asked “Which one day you think you want to work for?” and I said “You know what, I want that step-child in the back.” That little RCN that’s kept in the back of the building, there’s something that’s happening with that business. They’re growing, they’re figuring things out and I want to be apart of that and that really is how I got introduced to RCN. It was a chance to come in and as RCN’s growing and going through things that we’ve done over the few years, just to be a part of that.
How does this company differ from others? What makes RCN stand out?
I’ve worked for companies of all sizes. At one point I worked for Cigna Healthcare and Cigna Healthcare is just a division within Cigna Corporation, Cigna Healthcare had about thirty thousand employees, so I’ve worked for companies that have been that large. I’ve worked for some companies that are in between (when I worked for Accenture). I’ve worked for companies that have been four or five people, and so I’ve seen the whole spectrum in terms of how those companies may operate.
The thing about RCN again, it’s not just the company, but it’s the industry. It’s the space that we operate in terms of financing for commercial real estate and how that industry is exploding. I told somebody just yesterday I said: there’s this transfer of wealth that’s going on within our nation, and people who are involved in real estate know this, so our industry is growing and as a result- RCN is growing. One of the things I handle for RCN is our phone system so more than anybody else, because I hear people throw numbers out in terms of “well I think we’re under a hundred people or we’re around eighty people.” At last check yesterday we had a hundred and fifteen, or at least a hundred and fifteen phones, so our company is growing, and our businesses is growing. I’m just so happy to see how we’ve gone from the early years, where we did some loans, but now we’re closing in a month what we used to close in a year and that’s just phenomenal growth.
To me I think that the best years are still ahead. As RCN continues to grow and continues to evolve as a company, you’re going to find opportunities in certain areas, departments that we never had before, like Servicing popped up within the last two years, and that was an interval part of us. I think that those kinds of opportunities are going to be there as we continue to grow.
What do you look forward to the most coming into work each day?
I’m a natural problem solver and in fact that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to work for RCN, because I consider it challenges. There are so many challenges and so many things that we still need to figure out at RCN and how we can tweak this to yield more business or change that to make a step or an operation go a little bit better. To me, that’s the peace that I look forward to the most. I’m a people person, I love the fact that we have folks from all walks of life and just interacting with them and trying to contribute in ways so they can succeed. That’s one of the reasons why I get up in the morning and bagels twelve steps.
What has changed the most during your time at RCN?
The most significant thing has been a more formalized structure. RCN is not a small company anymore when you start to look at the decentralization that’s starting to happen. I think the most significant step in our company history was last July when Jeff was named CEO for RCN Capital. That gave us full control in terms of shaping the company and shaping the culture the way that we want to. It’s always been tough kind of living in the shadows of TicketNetwork and kind of inherit the way that they do things. But I noticed since last year this separation, or distancing if you will, not in a bad way but RCN started to establish its own identity.
So, to me, one of the things we study in business school is the evolutionary cycle of companies. It is exciting to see where we are and how we’ve grown and now you’re starting to find clearly defined structures in terms of this department does a certain role. In the early days I think everybody wore many hats. Now you’re starting to have departments with specific responsibility that contribute to the overall success.
Who/What has had the biggest impact during your time at RCN?
I think it would be Jeff his leadership and his vision, I think is legendary but to be truthful the area I think that has impacted not only my work, but my attitude means toward work is the marketing department. I often times refer to them as a second family, and it’s a great group of people who were in marketing and there’s something special I think that doesn’t get noticed. I know people for other lenders who are not in a position where we are, where we have a steady stream of leads in business that comes in and so really the influence of the marketing department, just in terms of making me feel welcome. Not only that but the way they go after business and then involve me in that process. That’s really been a big differentiator for me. The marketing department is so under rated and marketing needs marketing because there’s so much that happens, that’s not happening in other places and it really makes a difference for me. It’s that glue that holds everything together as far as I’m concerned.
What is your favorite memory you have of your time at RCN?
The first time we went to Foxwoods to celebrate the accomplishments of the year before. It’s nice working with folks on a day to day basis, but when you see your teammates in a social setting, which I don’t see it as often, I mean I work in an office, I look around and it’s just me. But when you’re able to go and be in South Windsor and be with the team, I’ve gone bowling with them, I’ve gone to a formal dinner. That first Foxwoods trip sticks out in my mind because it was both. We had dinner and then we went bowling and if anybody knows anything about me, I love bowling! I’d do it professionally if I was any good, but that sticks out in my mind as one of my favorite memories. Just seeing people and just seeing their natural and softer side.
What’s your favorite way to celebrate a job well done?
I’m very task oriented. Every day I come in with about fifty things that I want to do and so still in this day and age of technology, you’ll see me with various lists, checking off this one’s done. That’s kind of for myself, my pat on the back, just to say, it’s done, move onto the next one. There isn’t much time to reflect and celebrate with this job. It’s a mile a minute but it is nice every now and then just to be able to look back and say that things have been done. One of the things I am most proud of is just being able to be involved in the training and onboarding for new people coming in. When I look back I’ve had Loan Officers reach out to me and I see when we go through the celebration meetings and say “Oh great you’re at the top of the list” and they say “a lot of this was made possible by some of the things you’ve shared with me” and that gives me a good feeling. I tell people that my role here at RCN I view as being a nail on a wall that you hang the picture of success at RCN. And if the nail is doing its job, it never gets noticed. You’re behind the picture and supporting it, and my job is a support role and I’m totally okay with that. When people reach back and say, “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you”, that gives me a sense of accomplishment and maybe the nail wasn’t as unnoticed as I thought it was.
How would you describe RCN’s company culture?
It really took the COVID pandemic for me to fully crystalize what I know to be the culture for RCN and despite the fact that we’re growing and growing really quickly, there’s still a family atmosphere at RCN. One of the things that impressed me the most is we moved through this pandemic. I looked at all around companies within days of the pandemic, started laying people off. [We] just said look we’re just going to pause until things get better and then resume. The fact that Jeff made it in his mind a strategic imperative “we’ve got to keep it going” and wasn’t so much to keep the name of RCN there. Knowing Jeff the way I know him, he did it because he wanted to make sure that the family was taken care of. He’s like this big Poppa bear and it’s really a family environment. That has crystallized in my mind in terms of how we bonded together and as a senior management team and as a team in general, in terms of trying to have this collective effort and view on how we do this. I know a lot of people talk about family, but that’s the culture that RCN is becoming. Clearly one of the top lenders in the country, but not so big where we get in our own way.
One of the things I love the most about RCN is the reputation is important, and so it’s not going be growth for the sake of growing. But RCN wants to make sure that the customer experience is there. Are we a hundred percent there? Not yet, but it is a goal and it’s something that we’re moving closer and closer to each and every day.
Advice for someone who is just starting their career.
When I tell people when they’re coming out of college and doing their first job, you need to interview as much as you are being interviewed. You need to look at the organization and it’s very similar to when you’re picking a college or university to attend. There are some people who will go to a technical university like MIT and it’s very single focused and then there are some who might go to a liberal arts school where you learn different types of things. It’s important for people to make sure that you’re joining a company where there are multiple career paths.
That’s one of the things starting to emerge at RCN, whether it’s in the financial area, in loan origination, or it’s going to be a part of the underwriting team or part of the servicing team, part of the tech team. There are multiple career paths now within RCN. I would tell them look, interview that job that is interviewing you. You are going to spend eight to nine hours a day with folks. That’s 45 hours a week out of your life. You want to make sure these are people you feel comfortable with, who share some of the same values that you do and motivate you. When you’re working with people who are driven and motivated and sharp it makes you driven, motivated, and sharp.
Mark Blake, Chief Technology Officer, joined RCN Capital in 2014 and is responsible for customer Intake, RCN’s CRM, telephony, technology integration, and productivity enhancements. Mark is also responsible for vendor negotiations and management. His experience prior to joining RCN includes working as a product and implementation manager for CIGNA HealthCare & CIGNA Financial Services. Mark also spent a number of years as a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Accenture. Mark holds a B.S. and MBA degree from Stanford University.