Despite a decade or more of encouraging girls and young women to explore science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects, women still make up only a small portion of tech company employees. For example, a recent report on tech companies’ diversity shows that women make up only 23% of the workforce at Apple, 21% at Google, and 20% at Microsoft. Many small and mid-sized organizations mirror these percentages.
At RGAX we believe women can offer a valuable perspective to the field of technology and more specifically, insurtech. That’s why we’re proud supporters of Quesnay’s Female Founders in InsurTech competition. To encourage other women to consider a STEM career, I wanted to share perspectives from my 20+-year career, the past 10 of which have focused on operations and insurtech.
6 Timeless Truths Inspired by Lao Tzu
Over the years, I’ve found inspiration in any number of places and from more people than I can count, but one particular quote stays with me:
Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.
~ Lao Tzu
As I consider the following six lessons from my own experience, it never ceases to amaze me how closely they align to Lao Tzu’s wisdom even though he is believed to have lived somewhere between the sixth and fourth centuries BC.
1. Keep an open mind
Having taken a series of classes in programming languages such as Cobol, Fortran, and RPG2 in college, I wanted nothing to do with technology because it minimized human interaction. But as fate would have it, here I am in a leadership role at an organization that leverages technology to transform the insurance industry. Companies need more than just computer programmers. So even if your education isn’t heavy on STEM, don’t rule out tech as an option.
2. Look for problems to solve
Before joining LOGiQ3 - the company that kick-started my insurtech endeavors and is now a subsidiary company of RGAX - I knew exactly what I wanted to do: bring a new approach to the underwriting industry to solve recurring challenges such as the perennial shortage of trained underwriters.
I immediately put my sales hat on and pitched my idea to two companies. Because I focused on how they could solve a problem (the key to successful selling), LOGiQ3 promised they’d give me fifteen minutes. In the end, they gave me much more time than that: a leadership role in the organization.
Perhaps I was lucky I only needed to approach two companies with my idea before finding the right fit. Still, I believe my success lay in doing my homework. I knew the challenges facing underwriting, and I learned how I could help solve them. But a well-crafted business proposition is only the first step because you may have to knock on a number of client doors to sell your idea. Hone your message to demonstrate value with each interaction and keep at it.
4. Grow a thick skin
People will reject your business proposition, but you can’t let it deter you. Remember, it’s not about you. Persistence is especially important in the insurance industry because we tend to attract people fond of tradition or hesitant to change. When I first started telling clients we could help them reduce the time it took to train and onboard a new underwriter to less than two months, I often heard, “No way! It can’t be done.” Or, if I told them we can help optimize their organizational performance, some would ask, "What can you do that we haven’t done already?” Undeterred, I just kept going until I found people open to new ways of working.
5. Look for ways to apply your particular skills
Tech organizations offer all kinds of intrapreneurial opportunities as well. I am intensely fascinated by how corporate culture affects productivity and organizational performance. Fortunately, I joined a company that was highly intentional when it came to corporate culture. Seeing my passion, they named me their Chief Culture Officer. I’m proud to say that with their support and the commitment of culture champions throughout the organization, LOGiQ3 was named one of Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures in 2015.
Interestingly, our focus on culture has had a ripple effect. As soon as we won the award, it raised the awareness of culture among our clients. In fact, I started getting calls to speak about our culture at conferences. Clients even called me to conduct workshops for their leaders. Eventually, our business caught the eye of RGAX because, like them, LOGiQ3 helped carriers transform lives through insurtech. And without a like-minded focus on culture, I doubt RGAX would have acquired us in 2018. After all, innovation shapes culture.
6. Develop your trustworthiness
Once you gain buy-in for your goals and ultimate vision, you need to stick to your word and realize them. To be sure, not everything will work out as you hoped, but coworkers and clients must know these failures weren’t from a lack of effort and that you’ve learned from your mistakes. Being transparent goes a long way toward building trust. We’ve always been guided by one of our core values: "Do the Right Thing."
Gratitude and Optimism: A Powerful Combination
Approaching life from a “glass is half-full" perspective, I naturally focus more on the positives than the negatives in life. This philosophy gives me the strength to persist and thrive. Lao Tzu’s words along with the lessons I’ve shared are very much about remaining optimistic. And there’s an important element to maintaining this mind set: gratitude.
Each day, I ask myself, "What am I grateful for?" to reinforce my optimism. I have realized that most of all, I am grateful for the support of those who came before me and those who will come after. Certainly, none of us can reach the pinnacle of our careers without support.
Gratitude is a powerful approach to leadership. Optimistic leaders failing to demonstrate a sense of gratitude can easily come across as egotistical. On the other hand, those acknowledging the hard work of others while remaining optimistic about the future are inspiring.