A Day in the Life of…

Gracemarie Mende

Claims Manager Arch Reinsurance Company

While providing some insight about her day to RISE Director, Katerina, Gracemarie states, "The best way to find productivity in my day is to make a to-do list of even the littlest things." We spoke beyond her day and more in depth about the positives of pursuing a career in insurance in the following Q &A.

What time do you wake up?

If I had to pick a specific time, I’d say around 6:45 am however, with my husband’s work schedule, I tend to fluctuate depending on the time he gets home at night. Most days lately he’s been working from 1 PM to 9 PM which results in my stay up closer to midnight.

How do you get to work?

My morning consists of about a 45 minute drive to work. Throughout my career thus far, I’ve experienced the worst and the best commutes from as short as a 20 minute drive to as long as an hour and a half train and car ride one way on unreliable mass transportation.

What is the first thing you do when you get to the office?

They say your first few agenda items upon getting in the office would be to get yourself situated, get your coffee, straighten up your desk, etc. However, as my career has developed, I find myself dropping my coat in the same spot, logging on and immediately jumping into emails. Half the time it's over an hour or so later when I pick my head up and realize I need water, breakfast, and a bathroom break. It's probably not the most productive way to start the day, however, when your mind has been racing the entire way to your desk, you don’t want to lose your train of thought or momentum.

Who do you work most closely with at work?

In this role, I work closest with a number of TPA firms and adjusters. My job requires supervision and oversight of the firms, programs handled, and individual assigned adjusters. However, part of my job is collaborating with the other departments like Operations, Compliance, Legal, Finance and Underwriting.

What does 9-12 look like in your day?

99% of the time, my day begins well before 9 am. From those morning hours through mid-day, most of my time is spent diffusing situations, resolving questions and concerns, and dealing with the last-minute emails not addressed from the night before. If I’m lucky, that will consume the first hour and a half of my morning allowing me to begin my to-do list for the day. The best way to find productivity in my day is to make a to-do list of even the littlest things. It can become daunting if you sit down and realize all the things you still have spilling over that can never get accomplished. Once my morning emails are done though, I find myself able to actually supervise and monitor the claim files being handled. Of course, all of this only applies IF there are no meetings scheduled. Let’s not even begin to address the monkey wrench that throws into the day.

Lunch?

I’m lucky, or unlucky, enough to work for a company who is obsessed with food. At least once a week, there is some sort of lunch being ordered, however, it's important not only for your health but, wallet to plan your meals. This enables me to not only work through lunch when necessary, but, step away from my desk to accomplish those little things I may not have time for after work, get a manicure and other beauty maintenance, stop at the cleaners, make a doctor’s appointment, etc. At least 2-3 times a week, I step away from my desk for at least a half an hour to sit and socialize with a number of co-workers, but, the rest of the time, I take the opportunity to accomplish personal things. That time is what I make of it. I sure won’t be leaving any earlier if I don’t step away which drags out the little tasks needed to get done in life. Theoretically, it sounds like my lunch time enables me to get it all done, realistically, it never works out according to plan.

What does 1-5 look like in your day?

The second half of my day I try to break up into setting aside time to accomplish tasks and diffusing more problems that arise. Upon returning from whatever I do during that lunchtime hour, I take some time to answer a few emails and calls. By mid-afternoon though, I’ve tried to set that time for meetings, projects, and closing out the needs of others, unless that’s the project I’m working on. By closer to 4/4:30, I circle back to the outside world and begin closing out emails and calls for the rest of the day.

Who is home waiting for you at the end of your day?

I’m blessed to be married for the last almost 2 years to my husband, although after living together for the last 4, the honeymoon stage has long passed. Our children consist of 2 fluffy big brown dogs and a bossy cat. All of whom require an excessive amount of attention when I get home.

What is your biggest motivation in getting up every morning to do it again?

I actually enjoy the work I do and what I’ve learned. When asked what my job is like, I’ve related it to law and order. There’s a claim behind almost every action nowadays. Think of a horrific car crash, hurricane, #MeToo, product recall or the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee complaint. All of these breaking new stories result in some sort of claim regardless of the carrier or who handled the claim. Whether news worthy or not, the claims department of an insurance company is tasked with investigating a complaint and allocating responsibility. It not only provides dinner conversation but, always keeps your day interesting.

When you were 18 did you envision your life to be like this?

At 18 years old, I still envisioned myself as a Special Education teacher working a set work day, lesson planning, summers off, and hoping to have started a family by now. I never wanted to be in the industry nor high powered as I grew up an only child of a successful single parent in the industry. I never appreciated the demands and work. At 18 you’re still jaded by decisions that you may not have appreciated growing up.

What advice would you give to any 18-22 year old making decisions about their career goals?

Try not to pigeon hole yourself. Appreciate the ability to learn and challenge yourself to new skills and career options. As much as you want to believe you’re not trying to live up to expectations from movies, TV shows, social media, etc. Your future and career can be much more enjoyable without having to be some version of TV glamorous. Don’t close off a possible career path because you don’t know what it is or it may sound boring.  There’s a cheesy fortune cookie saying I keep on my desk. It doesn’t always work on the daily, but, every once in a while, it keeps me grounded, “Aim for the sky, because even if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.” Like I said, cheesy, but, if you think about it, if you keep trying and open yourself up to anything, you’ll still find joy and success at the end of the tunnel regardless of whether it's part of your initial plan.

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