What advice would you offer to women
just starting out in the industry?
Take advantage of all of the training pro-
grams offered by your employer, become
active in the CFA (both locally and at the
national level) and join the Women in
Commercial Finance Committee. CFA and
WICF provide great opportunities to keep
you updated on substantive business and
legal issues as well as other issues facing
the industry as a whole. Also, attending
the various CFA educational programs and
events throughout the year will facilitate
your ability to enhance existing business
relationships and friendships and develop
new ones with others in the commercial
finance industry and the lending communi-
ty-at-large. You should be invested in build-
ing genuine connections, i.e., a real give
-and-take. You are asking for advice and in-
troductions, and you should be pro-active
in offering the same in return, if not im-
mediately, then in the future. In addition,
while you are immersing yourself in your
own industry, don’t forget about keeping
up with and expanding your non-industry
want to hear new perspectives and profes-
What kind of role has mentoring and/or
sponsorship played in your career?
Mentoring has played a very important
role in my career, both in terms of skill
development and for achieving short and
long-term career objectives. I think it is important to have at least two mentors: one
within your organization who can offer
regular support and encouragement and
help you navigate the corporate structure
and politics of your organization, and one
outside your organization who can be an
objective sounding board and offer guidance and support of your career in a more
general way and with a wider world view.
What do you think the industry could
do to attract and retain the best and the
There are many promising initiatives
underway right now both at the individual
organization level and industry-wide.
These initiatives are acknowledging and
embracing the importance of diversity in
achieving successful outcomes. They include programs that provide opportunities
such as training, education and mentoring
and management initiatives that encourage participation from all team members
in various areas of the organization’s business and strategy.
contacts. You never know when they will
become important to you or some of your
other contacts. Network development can
be just as important as skill development.
Stay in touch with your college classmates
and become involved in your alumnae
association and not-for-profit activities.
Participation in non-industry organizations will provide additional opportunities
to develop team and leadership skills and
at the same time broaden your network of
relationships. And last but not least, if you
don’t know how to play golf — learn, and
that advice is for women and men.
What do you know now that you wish you
knew in the beginning of your career?
Only half-jokingly, how important it is to
know how to play golf, even if not well. Do
you sense a theme here?
Happily, I was lucky when I chose my
first and current firm, Otterbourg P.C. Otterbourg’s structure then and now affords
attorneys beginning their careers with real
opportunities to develop legal expertise
in the banking and finance practice area
and exposure to the business side of commercial finance from the get-go. The depth
and breadth of experience of our lawyers
creates a natural learning atmosphere in
which new associates feel comfortable
asking questions of attorneys who have
seen it all and then some. We understand
that, when you are starting out, you are
in the learning phase of your career, and
we encourage questions. Additionally, we
alerie S. Mason is a member of the Banking and Finance department and
specializes in the representation of domestic and foreign banks, commer-
cial finance companies, and hedge funds, in the structuring and restruc-
turing of financing transactions, including revolving credit facilities and
term loans for acquisitions, refinancings, and restructurings and general
working capital needs, workout arrangements, acquisition financing, lender finance
transactions, and Chapter 11 debtor-in-possession and “exit” financing facilities.
In addition to her substantive law responsibilities, for the last 14 years, she has been the
Hiring Member of the firm, and serves as a member of its Diversity Action Committee.
Valerie is a member of the CFA Women in Commercial Finance Committee, past president and current member of the Board of Directors of the Women’s Prison Association
& Home, Inc., serving as Chair of the Development Committee, and a member of the
Audit Committee, and a Trustee of The Brick Presbyterian Church in the City of New York.
Valerie recently received the New York State Assembly Woman of Distinction Award
from State Assembly Woman Rebecca A. Seawright.