Defining Your Passion
Insurance Experts' Forum, June 6, 2014
There may be no better way to learn more about your professional passion than to listen to women who have made a career out of living theirs. Such were the lessons offered in Chicago this week as four panelists shared their stories with attendees at the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s Women in Insurance meeting.
Moderator Margaret Milkint, managing partner, The Jacobson Group, lead the session, Trailblazing: Wisdom of the Pioneers, by asking panelists to describe a unique defining moment that lead them to realize and act on their professional passion. Not surprisingly, some of the “ah ha” moments the women described occurred almost by accident, but all took advantage of this moment to pursue what they love.
Susan Farwell, president of The Executive Communicator, answered first, offering what was clearly the most dramatic example. After trying out several dissimilar and unfulfilling careers, Farwell experienced her “ah ha” moment after being shot in the face at gunpoint. “My passion for helping others was born that day,” she said. Today Farwell coaches insurance executives on building communication skills that will help them create competitive advantage.
After taking eight weeks off, Kathleen Savio, president, Zurich Programs & Direct Markets, says she returned to the offer of a larger new role, and found herself accepting the promotion without even thinking about it. “I think I redefined myself at that point,” she told the group. “I realized only later that one of the reasons I was considered for the promotion was that I had built a network of support I wasn’t even aware of.”
As the only woman of color on the panel, Kim Waller, EVP, Willis Open, Willis North America, said it never occurred to her that her gender or race would be an issue in her professional life. She recounted a supportive boss who promoted her until she rose to the position of his peer. “At that point, he told me that further promotions might be a challenge, because no one would want to report to me because I’m black and a female. I knew then that I had to stand on my own two feet and became more committed than ever to my professional growth.”
For Kathleen Tierney, COO, EVP, Chubb Personal Insurance and 2013 Insurance Networking News’ Women in Insurance Leadership Honoree, her defining moment had more to do with the realization of what she didn’t want. “Six years into my career, I felt I was really good at my job,” she said, “until I was told I was considered a ‘fixture.’” Since then, Tierney has been upwardly mobile, enjoying eight promotions at Chubb.
It’s pretty obvious that these women have a lot more than a professional wakeup call in common. And as a female who has chosen to work in the insurance industry for more than 14 years, I am continuously struck by the genuineness of these successful women. No pretense, collusion, snobbery, or back-stabbing (the subject of a future blog). Rather, in putting their passion to work, they exemplify the drive, ambition and talent necessary to thrive in this complex industry. A lesson we can all learn from.
Pat Speer is president of Speer Consulting, a communications and content management consulting firm. She is also the former editor-in-chief of Insurance Networking News.
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