Claudia Sanchez is Portfolio’s Lake Forest-based marketing projects manager and winner of the “Embracing Innovation and Change” award in April’s inaugural Core Value Awards. Speaking with this 17-year veteran offers an incredible journey through Portfolio history.

“I started in a clerical role when the company was called Express Systems,” she says. “Express was upstairs and IFS, the VSC part of the company, was downstairs. There were only eight people total! And now look at us — locations across the country and 400-plus employees, including acquired agencies.”

Claudia’s initial duties involved pitching in to help with a variety of tasks. “We were a ‘do-it-all’ group. We all could invoice, call customers, start claims.” Her department became more marketing-centric when the creative groups were restructured. Claudia now manages all projects that come through the graphics department. She bridges the CRM teams, shipping and agents.

“CRM receives all of the requests and I vet them, reach out for more information, manage the creation of materials and ensure they’re delivered,” she says, noting that agents factor in critically. “They make the requests on behalf of their dealers. We communicate with agents to make sure we have the direction we need to produce the materials they require.”

Portfolio now is vastly different from her early days. Claudia believes one of the greatest changes is technology. “Before, agents insisted on doing business ‘belly-to-belly.’ They resisted doing anything electronically. Agents liked meeting dealers personally, shaking hands, delivering checks, picking up new business and dropping off contracts. Technology has changed this old-school business.”

Another change was integrating with NAE. “It was a challenge learning how another company does things and learning their business model. But it was also rewarding to find solutions that suit us both. Being part of the integration initiative, seeing it successfully come to life, was a positive learning experience.”

After the acquisition, Claudia began managing Portfolio’s graphics team, which includes Kayla Rossman, Gabby Shuster and Vina Castillo. “The ‘girls’ are talented and have been able to bring that talent to light with Portfolio’s new product suite materials. The quality of the materials available now is like a new world for our legacy Portfolio agents. We’ve had a very positive response. They’re blown away. I’m proud of that.”

Claudia has established close bonds, professionally and personally, with many agents. “We’ve been together for so long and have been through so much. We know and care about each other’s families and personal lives.” She remains connected with agents who have retired or moved on. “It shows Portfolio is a family that I treasure and value. I am fortunate that I can experience that type of family relationship in my professional career.”

Several agents serve as her mentors, as does Tariq Kamal, Portfolio’s director of marketing and advertising and Claudia’s manager. “Tariq is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to creativeness. He is accessible and open-minded. I can go to him for nearly anything. He is one of my biggest supporters who sees my potential and makes me feel confident and hungry to do more.”

Her professional peers are like family, and family means everything to Claudia. “I am a family girl,” the Southern Californian native explains. “My husband and I serve as the hub for hosting our extended family for events and holidays. I love being able to provide nice moments and create beautiful memories for my family. That makes me happy and drives me to do better.”

Claudia also enjoys cooking for her family. “Cooking is my love language!” And, in her spare time, she admits she is a reality TV fan. “Anything from ‘Jersey Shore’ to the ‘Real Housewives,’” she laughs. “When everyone goes to bed at night, that’s my time to watch literal junk! It’s my guilty pleasure.”

After a long day of working with both her Portfolio family and her family at home, we certainly deem this pleasure well-earned!