Interview with Monica Crocker

Last Updated: September 10, 2019By
[glossary_exclude]Monica Crocker is the Group Records Coordinator for Wells Fargo’s Wealth & Investment Management business. In her role, she mitigates the risk associated with electronic and physical records. She began her career as a Digital Imaging Consultant in 1993, defining electronic content and records management strategies for government organizations across the United States. She spent the last decade of her career working with organizations that range from manufacturing to food production to banking. She has earned both the Certified Records Manager and Certified Project Management Professional designations, and was inducted into the AIIM Company of Fellows in 2019.

A firm believer that “simple” does not necessarily mean “easy,” she is passionate about identifying solutions that allow users to spend less time managing records and more time fulfilling the mission of the organization. She is a frequent speaker at eDiscovery, AIIM and ARMA conferences and has authored many articles; she was a contributor to the Minnesota eDiscovery Working Group’s White Papers, ARMA’s Information Governance Book of Knowledge and to Robert Smallwood’s Information Governance: Concepts, Strategies, and Best Practices (Wiley, 2014, 2019).

When not at work, Monica has contributed her time to multiple non-profit boards and is dedicated to improving the welfare of the world’s animals. We caught up with her just as she was making her move from chilly Minnesota to California’s Napa Valley:

IG World: Where did you grow up? Go to school?

I spent my childhood years in Fairbanks, Alaska. But we moved to the Twin Cities as I hit my teens, and I lived there for, well, decades. Not surprisingly, they were very different. I went to the University of Minnesota. The two most valuable things I learned at the University of Minnesota were: no one is paying that much attention to you because they are too busy with their own stuff (so get over being self-conscious already) and how to navigate a large bureaucracy.

What are your fondest childhood memories?

Most of my fondest memories involve food! I remember how great the trout we caught that day tasted when cooked over a campfire. And the delicious burst of flavor of wild blueberries in pancakes that was your reward for braving the bears to pick them. I remember what a big deal it was when the first McDonald’s opened in Fairbanks; I still have Ronald McDonald’s autograph from his appearance at that event. And I remember my dad bringing home a king crab with legs the size of baseball bats for dinner. Also, him making the first batch of, “new peas and potatoes in cream sauce” with produce from the garden. He also grew giant cabbages, but I don’t remember anyone eating those other than the moose.

I remember every year, during the ugly, muddy, slushy “spring breakup” my mom would take us down to my grandparents’ in Northern California for a vacation. I loved being at my grandparents.’ They got more TV channels than we did in Alaska and we went to see the ocean and go out to lunch at Brooktrails Golf Club where I was allowed to order a club sandwich with those fancy toothpicks in it. Wow, even that turned into another food memory!

How did you get involved with records & information management?

I blame it on two people, my mom and document imaging pioneer Terry Menta. Terry was doing a consulting gig at the county where my mom worked. I had just relocated from Minnesota and was looking for work. Mom suggested I intern for Terry. It snowballed from there. It turns out I had a knack for understanding processes. We consulted on digital imaging consulting projects for government agencies for years. In the course of doing that, I became a Certified Records Manager so I could speak with authority to the Records Managers in those organizations. I enjoy both aspects of the industry—the Records Management side that helps organizations comply with regulations and manage the risk associated with their records; and the technology side that provides tools to help people do their jobs.

How has RIM changed in the last 10 years or so?

I certainly hope RIM is more visible and a higher priority in many organizations than it was 10 years ago. From what I’ve seen, RIM is able to ride the wave of other IG initiatives that have become organizational priorities: data protection, privacy, big data, eDiscovery, technology simplification, and business continuity. These initiatives have become opportunities to apply records management principles, particularly records classification and records destruction. And if you happen to have an inventory of official records, well, then, heck, it’s like you have a map to buried treasure that can be leveraged for any number of organization initiatives.

Another factor contributing to RIM visibility is the increase of regulations related to records, such as those related to privacy. It’s much easier to comply with regulations that affect your records when (1) you don’t have a bunch of extra records and (2) you can find them. Those are both areas where good RIM practices can help.

How does working in the banking sector compare with your other commercial experience, from a RIM perspective?

It is very different. My previous position was for a business that was very low risk from a records standpoint; lightly regulated and no one sued them. As a result, records management was not a high priority. The banking sector is closer to my government experience; the records management program in both are significantly impacted by regulations in two ways: First, there are extensive regulations related to the way you do things, and you have to keep copious quantities of records to prove your compliance with those regulations; and second, there are regulations that dictate the specific records you need to retain and the manner in which you need to retain them. Therefore, records management is perceived as a critical function in both my government and my banking experience.

Has GDPR had an impact on your departmental procedures? How? Are you taking any steps to prepare for complying with the California Consumer Privacy Act?

Heck yes. Both of those regulations give organizations yet another good reason to NOT retain records any longer than absolutely necessary. And I always say, a Records Management program should “ride the coattails” of high priority initiatives whenever possible. As long as your organization has a need to remediate records in light of GDPR requirements, that may be an opportunity to implement Records Management compliance at the same time. The California Consumer Privacy Act may provide a similar opportunity.

What is your biggest career achievement?

I like doing the day-to-day and project-related stuff involved in IG.  But I also cherish those occasions where I have the opportunity to reflect on my experience and what I’ve learned from others and condense that into guidance. Particularly the lessons learned about what NOT to do. As a result, I enjoyed writing the chapters in Robert Smallwood’s books, Managing Electronic Records and Information Governance. I also got to contribute to the ARMA Information Governance Book of Knowledge, which involved multiple days in a room with other really smart people brainstorming what to put into that publication.

Similarly, I love doing presentations at conferences because it forces me to organize my overabundance of opinions into a few bullets on a few slides. I usually get good audience participation, and I end up learning more from the questions and counterpoints that are raised than I do in months on the job. I can remember a motorcycle instructor encouraging everyone in the class to take up racing; not for the racing itself, but because it forced you to focus what you’ve learned, learn more really quickly and soak up the wisdom that can be gained by being in an environment with people that live and breathe motorcycles. A good conference is sort of the same thing.

But I guess I’d have to say my favorite work achievement is the fact that the content management system I built at the State of Minnesota is still up and running, continues to expand and that the team we built to support it is still building and supporting it. It was a magical combination of the right tools and the right people for the job.

What advice do you have for others trying to implement compliant RIM programs?

Be patient, but stay alert. I have always had a strategy/plan to move forward independently. But by keeping my eye open for opportunities, I have managed to piggyback on other initiatives to get way more done than my plan, with its limited visibility and limited resources, would have ever accomplished. Need to prepare for potential Legal Holds? Let me slide records destruction into that initiative. Need to prepare for potential Legal Holds? Let me slide records destruction into that initiative. Need to prepare for privacy regulations? My taxonomy development and records destruction can help with that. Information security became a priority after a data breach? Well, records destruction can assist with that. Come to think of it, records management offers one of the most cost effective and universally applicable solutions to almost any IG issue: destruction. Records gone means problem solved (at least for that data). All of which translates to: network and keep up to date on what’s going on in your organization. I have saved my employers a ton of money by being able to identify which applications were and which were not systems of record, so they won’t have to take archive or migrate the non-systems of record as part of a divestiture or acquisition. And I won’t have to manage archives of data that we don’t even need. Those projects didn’t have anything to do with records management on the surface, but I was able to help them reach their objectives with less effort and reduce the amount of ongoing work for the records program at the same time.

What special skill or hobby do you have that might surprise your colleagues?

I am a PADI certified scuba diver and, until recently, I had my motorcycle license. And I might be the oldest newlywed you’ve ever known. Also, I used to do volunteer work for an organization that rescued big cats. Which means I learned how to move in a way that doesn’t trigger the “you are prey” response. I’ve fed lions and cleaned a bobcat habitat and shoveled snow around a tiger cage and built a surgery table that will hold a tiger. The most important thing I learned from that is that every animal has its own personality and its moods and is capable of recovery from trauma, even the wild ones.

What do you like most about the Twin Cities?

I love the art and music scene in the Twin Cities. There are many small and medium sized concert venues, some of which are beautiful historic theaters and a couple of which are in outdoor settings. And many of my favorite performers are from right there in the Cities, so you get to see them perform in a variety of settings and contexts and really learn to appreciate their skills. And the art is incredible. When I went to pack for the move to California, I think half of my boxes were just for art… sculpture, blown glass, paintings, pottery. I buy art directly from the artist at a show or at their studio, so I get to meet them and talk about their work, which I think makes for a more meaningful connection to the piece. Oh, and the Twin Cities has a thriving estate sale business; I have a blast hunting for treasures.

What is your favorite lunch or brunch place in the Twin Cities, and why?

I can’t pick one, but I can narrow it down to three. One, Hell’s Kitchen is fabulous (no connection to the TV show). I didn’t “get” huevos rancheros until I had theirs; their scrambled eggs are perfectly fluffy. They make their own salsa and deep fry the tortillas so that the entire dish has a satisfying crunch. And I get to eat them while admiring their collection of Far Side cartoons with a Hell theme. Two, the World Street Kitchen food truck makes a rice bowl with fried tofu that is perfectly crispy on the outside and velvety on the inside and the whole thing is covered with an addictive sauce. Three, a few times a year I get to walk over to the State Fairgrounds, have a breakfast quesadilla with fresh made salsa for breakfast, coffee from the Farmer’s Union, walk around until I get tired, go home for a nap and then go back for cheese on a stick, a bowl of honey ice cream and a free concert. Those are my three favorite Twin Cities lunch/brunch experiences.

But now I’ve just moved to northern California, so I have a whole new territory to explore![/glossary_exclude]

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About the Author: Robert Smallwood

Robert F. Smallwood, MBA, CIP, IGP, is a thought leader in Information Governance, having published seven books on IG topics, including the world's first IG textbook which is being used in many graduate university programs as well as to guide corporate IG training programs.