Lauren Noland-Hajik

SENIOR MANAGER OF GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS AT BLUE SHIELD OF CALIFORNIA

FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the AgSnacc Podcast where we take a look at careers in agriculture and the journey toward those careers. I’m your host, Erin Gorter, and we hope you enjoy this tasty AgSnacc.

 

Erin Gorter:

So welcome to AgSnacc. We are here today with Lauren Noland-Hajik, a senior manager of governmental affairs at Blue Shield of California. How are you today, Lauren?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

I'm doing great. Thanks for having me.

 

Erin Gorter:

Yeah, we're happy to have you. We know this is a little bit outside of the realm of agriculture. But we also know that agriculture is a large part of your journey to this point in your career. So we're excited to talk to you about kind of your career path. So why don't we go ahead and start out with what you do as a, I'll repeat the long title again, senior manager of governmental affairs, which she said is a fancy name for lobbyists. But you can go ahead and tell us what your average day looks like.

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

Yeah, definitely a fancy name for a lobbyist. And what I do on a daily basis really depends on the legislative cycle. So as a lobbyist, my goal is to represent my clients in the best way possible. Before Blue Shield was a contract lobbyists at con saris and Conway, which means I had a whole bunch of different clients, a lot of them were actually ag trade associations and agricultural commissions. Blue Shield, I'm now in house. And so with my client, whether your contract or not, you're looking at what the legislative cycle is, right now. There's a lot of legislation being introduced. So in my day, I review legislation, I monitor committee hearings on bills and other informational subjects that are concerning my clients. And then I will testify in those committees and then talk to legislators, staff and others in the industry just about what's happening with my clients on a day to day basis, if they like legislation, or not, what ideas they may have. So a lot of my days right now are full of meetings, and, and then testifying and committees as well.

 

Erin Gorter:

Awesome. So we like to get to know a little bit more about younger Lauren, specifically your high school experience. So would you like to share with us a little bit about what your high school experience was like? Did you participate in any athletic events? Did you, were you a part of any extracurricular groups? What type of classes did you take?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

Yeah, so in high school, I was part of Youth in Government, which obviously helps in my career now just learning about state government participating. I was, I played volleyball all four years of high school. I always think being part of a team is a great thing to do. I did 4-H until I reached High School. My high school didn't have an FFA program, unfortunately, but I did do for age up until that time, and then participated in student government as well.

 

Erin Gorter:

What were your favorite subjects in high school?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

You know, I think my favorite was always English. I loved to read. I think reading, you know, is a great way, one, to kind of escape reality and, and but also just to learn what's going on in the world, get different points of view. So English was always my favorite.

 

Erin Gorter:

Okay, what's your favorite book?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

Oh, so, my favorite book, I think the one that really got me into reading is Alice in Wonderland. I actually collect those books, there's actually a stack of them behind me and every country I go to, I try to get it in a language. So that was definitely kind of one of my first favorite one. A couple of my most recent favorites are Educated, which is kind of a memoir and then The Whisper Network. Those are two of my current favorites.

 

Erin Gorter:

I have never read Alice in Wonderland. And that is an amazing hobby to collect a book in different languages. That's, that's cool. That's impressive. I know that wasn't a question that was on the list, but I felt like it needed to be asked so. When you were in high school, what did you want to be when you grew up?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

I wanted to be a lawyer. I've had, I'm one of those type A personality people kind of had a focus and so, you know, liking to read definitely helped out in that I continued to pursue that in college at Cal Poly. Took some of the law classes offered there. I knew, being from the Central Valley, I knew I like water issues and agricultural issues so made sure to take a lot of classes there then went on to law school before becoming a lawyer and a lobbyist.

 

Erin Gorter:

What was your major when you were at Cal Poly? 

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

Ag business

 

Erin Gorter:

Ag business, okay. And then took that political science right afterwards law school. Okay, awesome. 

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

Yeah. 

 

Erin Gorter:

When you were growing up, how was education and work life viewed in your household?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

Very highly. So education was always a big deal. My parents, you know, they didn't have a particular plan for me, but they really wanted me to go to college, make sure I had that four year degree. You know, and then when I wanted to go to law school, they were very supportive of that. They both, my father's an attorney, and then my mom has a couple different master's degrees. So education was always on the forefront of everything. They were both hard workers. Encouraged me to work, all of me and my siblings, we all worked in high school, volunteered all of those types of things to gain experience. But both working and education were very, very prioritized in our house.

 

Erin Gorter:

And so you mentioned your previous job and your current job, are there any other careers or experiences in there along the way that have kind of helped shaped where you are now?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

You know, in college, I think what helped is while I was taking courses in agriculture, I worked just at the Cal Poly gym. And while that wasn't obviously tied to agriculture, it really helped me develop my communication skills. I was a manager there, my managerial skills. So I think something that's important is even if you have a focus and where you want to go in a career, you need a whole bunch of different life skills just to be successful. And so really broadening my experience and making sure I'm doing things outside of my comfort zone has helped me a lot in my law career and my lobbying career.

 

Erin Gorter:

So in your current position, what is your favorite part about your day at work?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

My favorite part is really just talking to people in the organization about their specific experience. To be a good advocate, and this was in my other job too, and I think this applies to everything, to be a good advocate, you have to first be a good listener. A lot of being an advocate, whether it be for agriculture or otherwise is understanding issues, understanding points of views, being able to really take that in and understand it, and then be able to say it back because being an advocate means also being an educator. And so that's kind of my favorite part of the job is really when I get to listen to people and their experience. Right now at Blue Shield, we have teamed up with the governor to administer the vaccines for COVID-19. And a big part of our job is figuring out how to distribute those in the most equitable way possible. And being from agriculture, I have a vested interest in getting these vaccines out to the farm worker community. That's very important to me. And so a lot of what I've been doing is listening to what ideas does agriculture have? I've been talking to folks about what they can do at their facilities, how they can help their employees to be educated so that we can make sure we're protecting people. And I love that part of the job. I really love listening so that I can go try to find a solution and try to find an answer to these big problems that we're having today.

 

Erin Gorter:

Then on the flip side, what's your least favorite part about your day at work?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

Least favorite part is just the, especially working remotely, the amount of zoom meetings and everything else meetings I have. As a lobbyist, I'm used to meeting with people in person and talking to them and I really missed that one on one interaction. So sometimes just staring at a computer screen all day is just, it, I found is more exhausting than when as a lobbyist I'm running around in my four inch heels in the Capitol talking to people. That's exhilarating, exciting. Staring at a computer screen all day is, it's been a tough one.

 

Erin Gorter:

Agreed. 100%. So we're kind of, on AgSnacc, we like to focus on agriculture. So I'll ask you what is your favorite ag snack?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

Avocados.

 

Erin Gorter:

Avocados?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

I’m a California avocado girl. So yeah, and conferees in Conway we represented the avocado commission. So I got to work with the avocado industry quite a bit.

 

Erin Gorter:

Good. That was a quick response. Usually people like pause for a long time on that one.

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

I probably should, I'll have previous clients that are, you know, get mad if they hear this and be like I said, I sent you packages of almonds in the mail. But avocados are my favorite thing. 

 

Erin Gorter:

They're delicious. Can you think of any, you mentioned the general communication skills earlier that you got through that job while at college. But can you think of any other opportunities like that, or experiences that high school students could work on now where they would gain some experiences to fill a role like you do later in life?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

Yes, so writing and public speaking are huge. And I think whether you're in my career, or there's a lot of other careers, you have to learn how to communicate effectively, both in your writing skills and your speaking skills. And it's definitely harder if you're more of an introverted person, I'm kind of those, that introverted extrovert. So forcing yourself to take on those opportunities, you know, maybe you don't like speaking, sign up to do a speech anyway, learn how to put arguments together. That skill of communication will carry you so far, no matter what you're doing. And no matter if you're speaking to small groups of people or large groups of people.

 

Erin Gorter:

Awesome. And our last question here on AgSnacc, it's the big one always, if you could go back and give 1617 year old Lauren, biggest piece of advice, what would it be?

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

Stay curious. And I think that's the best way to advance yourself personally. You know, you've got to be always looking for learning opportunities. And that means hanging out with people that maybe don't have your same interest, talking to people who may be, who come from different walks of life, taking opportunities to travel and read. You've got to stay curious, so that you don't get locked into your box. I think one of the most dangerous things you can do is just be kind of stuck in your own views and forget to look outside your narrow worldview. One thing that I did if people want to see in agriculture, I did this a couple of years ago, I did the ag leadership program that we have here in California. And that was just an unbelievable experience. So that's always in that high school. But again, it was just pushing boundaries and pushing your own personal views. And that doesn't mean your personal views have to change. But at least you understand other people. And then you can communicate more effectively, you can be a better advocate for agriculture or whatever you're you're needing to advocate for. But you've got to stay curious and make sure that you're learning from other people.

 

Erin Gorter:

Great advice. that's come up a lot here. And I think that's important. I think you bring up a good point of you don't have to change your views, but you need to understand the views that are around you. So that's awesome advice. So thank you, Lauren, for your time. Again, this is Lauren Nolan-Hajik, senior manager of governmental affairs at Blue Shield of California. Thank you, Lauren.

 

Lauren Noland-Hajik:

Thank you. 


Thank you for listening to this AgSnacc, a production of the Brock Center for Agricultural Communication at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in collaboration with the South Coast Region Agricultural Education Consortium. For more information, please visit our website at www.agsnacc.com. That’s www.a-g-s-n-a-c-c.com.