By: Shannon Harjer, Vice President of Personal Lines, Founders Insurance

At a leadership conference many years ago, I received a “sticky note” holder engraved with the wording “Attitude & Environment Matter.”  While I do not remember the specific details of the conference, I do remember who designed this special item – and his legacy of being a leader whose value system was based on serving others. This keepsake has been on every desk I occupied in the last decade as a visual reminder of the importance of professional leadership attitudes and the impact it has on the workplace environment.

Recent studies on psychological safety and work product improvement corroborate the importance of creating a culture of inclusiveness through a myriad of leadership behaviors and corporate strategies.  Studies also indicate that more work needs to be done on leadership inclusiveness wherein positive psycho-social climates are examined from a diverse group perspective. Even without these studies, we can act now with a focus on deterring the effects of status difference on engagement and our environment by examining three contributors: leadership, culture and strategies.

Leadership. From a leadership vantage point, developing an inclusive, genuinely collaborative workplace starts with each leader, at all levels within the organization. This is not driven by Human Resources as a mandated leadership behavior or class, but within oneself to build self-efficacy to truly “walk the talk” of inclusionary leadership. It is a deep conversation you have with yourself, analyzing your thoughts, decision-making processes and actions impacting others. Performed with honesty, it can develop your self-awareness beyond normal feedback and personnel surveys.

Culture. An organization’s culture is often guided by value drivers – not the mission statement. For many organizations, value is derived by who they serve. It is ingrained in their attitude and decision-making processes, noticeably impacting customer and employee retention. They exist to serve their customers’ needs, quickly adapting to new expectations faster than their competitors because they are value focused. They lead with intensity because it matters to those they serve.

Strategies. Strategies are a piece of the environment often overlooked. You might think they only exist in the silos across your matrixed environment. Organizational strategy is the sum of all strategies and the beacon to which all strategies align. When business functions are not in congruence, cracks begin to form. Collaboration across the organization and genuine service to those you serve may be inconsistent, feigned or nonexistent, resulting in unsustainable deficiencies.

Transforming an organization where your leaders execute the behaviors and actions aligning with your value drivers is key to success beyond revenue. It starts with being true to oneself and those around you through true service. Here are my personal commitments that help me stay the course:

  1. Focus all strategies on organizational value drivers.
  2. Inspire others through an unbreakable spirit of service to others.
  3. Recover quickly from disappointments and learn from them.

As we move into late summer, please take the time to discover more about yourself. Your attitude and impact on the workplace environment do matter!

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Utica Mutual Insurance Company, its subsidiaries and affiliates.

RISE interview with Brian Pozzi, Vice President, Office of General Counsel & Corporate Claims Officer for AAA-The Auto Club Group at the 2019 ACE Conference in Las Vegas, NV. From court room to board room, Pozzi shares his take on the industry and advice on advancing your career.

Regina Cedeño

Resolution Lead
Blackboard Insurance

Regina C. Cedeño, MBA, CLMP is a Resolution Technical Lead at Blackboard Insurance Company, a subsidiary of AIG. Ms. Cedeño joined Blackboard Insurance Company with over 13 years of insurance experience in the areas of Financial Lines including Errors & Omissions, Professional Liability, General Liability including Automobile, Construction, Construction Defects, and Environmental. Ms. Cedeño is licensed as an adjuster in thirty-two states, and due to reciprocity, she is able to provide claims management in all fifty states. In addition, Ms. Cedeño has experience within three different sectors within the insurance industry, having held positions with insurance carriers, third-party administrators, and clients (insureds).
Ms. Cedeño also completed the extensive requirements for the Litigation Management Institute hosted at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and was awarded with the designation of Certified Litigation Management Professional (“CLMP”). She is also a member of the Claims and Litigation Management (“CLM”), National Retail and Restaurant Defense Association (NRRDA), and The International Association of Claims Professionals (IACP). Ms. Cedeño received her Master’s in Business Administration from Florida Metropolitan University in 2006 and her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, with a minor in English, from Pennsylvania State University at Altoona College in 2001.

RISE Director, Katerina spent time with Regina to discuss what a day in her life is like, the insurance industry, and suggestions for young professionals entering the space. This is what she said.

What are your mornings like?

My morning starts at 5:30 am. I leave my house by 6:45 am. Time is of the essence because I commute from western NJ to NYC at least 2-3 times a week and to PA at other times. In fact, my preparation starts the night before. It entails sorting the clothes for my two girls and myself, filling their backpacks with all school supplies and mine with work essentials including my laptop. School lunches are prepped the morning of and packed before I depart. Once my mother arrives to take assist my little ones for school, I’m off to work. My commute is usually a three-step process. It’s long at best. I drive approximately 20 minutes to a bus stop. The bus then takes me to NYC Port Authority–approximately 1.45hrs. Then, I take the NYC subway to Fulton Street, and walk three blocks to my office building. The total commute time varies, but it’s usually 2 ½ hours one way.

What do you do once you walk into the office?

The first thing I do is grab a cup of Bustello coffee and a KIND bar. I recommend the almonds & coconuts KIND bar. Then, I look at my emails. At the office I work closely with my Chief Claims Officer and my direct counterparts. I supervise and oversee the claims being handled by our Third-Party Administrator, consisting of 15-20 adjusters. Prioritizing at work is very critical. Ongoing handling of situations never ceases. Generally, priority hinges on the level of severity. I prioritize problem solving first, followed by critical emails and team meetings.


I prefer to dine out at a pub/restaurant with colleagues and friends, but at times meetings keep me in for lunch. I never get through a day without coffee. I need that boost!

How do you get back into work?

Finishing what I started along with resolving new issues and matter. The most rewarding part of my job is resolution–being able to resolve an issue or matter, where all parties are satisfied and agreeable to the resolution.

What do you look forward to after work?

At the end of my work day, I look forward to two smiley faces waiting at the door, calling me, “mommy”. They are the biggest motivation in my life along with my husband–my family motivates me to get up every day to endure the long commute to work.

Can you name an innovative solution that made a huge impact for your area of responsibility?

Yes, but we’re not talking about it just yet. Our innovative solution to claims handling will rely on new technology that we are building. It will have a huge impact not only on my position, but other participants in the insurance industry, including policyholders. Stay tuned!

What changes in the role of technology have you noticed in the workplace?

Technology is now firmly entrenched in the insurance industry. It has enhanced the access to information so that almost everything is available in a paperless environment. Also, technology allows individuals to work remotely, yet communicate instantaneously with co-workers, clients, brokers, policyholders, etc.

What technology skills seem most important now and in the years ahead?

I would say Artificial Intelligence, and the ability to access things from anywhere. Combined, these two technologies open up unlimited possibilities to resolving problems anytime, anywhere.

How is technology improving the customer experience?

Technology helps in two-folds: 1) through the efficiency in retrieval of information, as opposed to receiving by “snail mail,” and 2) the ability to respond instantly to customers to ensure a superior service experience.

What advice would you give to your 18-year old self or any other 18 year old?

At 18 years old, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I never once thought of insurance as a career. At 21 yrs. old, the television show, Law and Order, caught my attention–particularly the investigation aspect piqued my curiosity. From that curiosity, I pursued a career in investigation, which inevitably led to insurance. If I were to give advice to my 18 year old self, I would say, major in Business, and minor in Communications. It would make you a solid performer in any industry. Also, never forget to network. To the 18-22 year olds, don’t worry if you are unsure as to what you want to do with the rest of your life. 80% of college graduates venture into a different direction from their major that they studied. That’s okay. Just find something that you enjoy and look to correlate it with an industry. Then, make that industry or work your passion and continue to build yourself up in the industry. Always network! Look for a mentor! Plenty of us love to take new grads under our wings. Then, remember to stay in touch with those people who helped you along the way and they will remain a constant source for your growth.