by: Tandeka Nomvete, External Engagement Director for Spencer Educational Foundation

In my senior year of college, I decided to switch my major from Actuarial Science to Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) and I desperately wanted an RMI internship! I knew the Actuarial Science career path and understood the exam process, but I didn’t know what the actual “job” was when one obtains a degree in RMI. I needed an internship to build out my resume and help position me for a full-time role upon graduation. Below was my process and lessons learned during this time – Hoping that this will help you along your journey of finding an RMI internship:

Revise Your Resume

Even if you have revised your resume 100 times, keep editing and upgrading it! Put your resume in front of as many people as possible and understand that each person who reviews it is going to give you a slightly different perspective and opinion. Not only should your family, friends, and professors review it but try to get your resume in front of working professionals and recruiting experts. I had revised my resume so many times and thought it was perfect, but one day my RIMS mentor took me to a lunch with his boss, and he had the foresight to print out my resume and bring it to the lunch that day. During our lunch meeting, my mentor’s boss grabbed a pen and started making tons of edits and scribbles all over my resume. I was shook! If you find yourself in this type of situation, you need to keep an open mind and be open to receiving constructive criticism. Without constructive criticism, you cannot progress. Those edits that he made to my resume on that fateful day transformed the resume from good to excellent. He provided so much insight that was specific to the Risk Management & Insurance industry and he helped me tailor my resume to make it stand out. That networking lunch literally changed my life and it would not have been possible without a mentor.  

Apply Everywhere

Armed with my newly updated resume which had been reviewed by an industry professional, I was ready to apply for internships! I kept hearing certain company names over and over again, so I knew I wanted to apply to those companies first. I searched the internet for a comprehensive list of RMI companies to apply to, but could not find anything. I ended up going with google searches such as top 100 insurance companies, top 50 brokerages, etc. Thank goodness for RISE, who in 2020 started providing a list of the top 50 RMI internships to apply to – This valuable resource will hopefully save many of you a lot of time. As a student, I created a tracking spreadsheet and started listing details of the companies that I was applying to. Columns I would suggest using are: Company, Job Title, Location, Website, Applied? Y/N, Date Applied, Resume Type, Contact Name, Contact Email Address, Next Steps. If you’re tailoring the objective or summary section on your resume, or if you have different versions of your resume, it’s important to keep track of which resume you send to which company – Which is why the “Resume Type” column is important. Now that your tracking sheet is ready to go – Apply everywhere! Start by making a list of 50-100 companies in our industry that offer internships. It will also help if you add a column for “Industry Sector” so that you can also keep track if the company is a Brokerage, Insurance Company, Third Party Administrator, Risk Management department, Consulting firm, etc.

Network, Network, Network!

Applying for an internship online is all good and well, but one thing that will enhance your success is networking. I found myself in a situation where after applying, I would receive emails and calls to do either an informational interview or a 1st-round interview. I would often progress to the final round of the interview process but was not receiving internship offers. It was very frustrating because I did not know what I was doing wrong. Networking is how I ended up getting my internship! After I emailed my updated resume to my RIMS mentor and his boss, they were both kind enough to share my resume with their networks. My mentor’s boss was a broker and he sent my resume to a Risk Manager in Florida, who happened to be South African. Guess what – I am South African! The Risk Manager encouraged me to connect with her and we set up an introductory phone call. We immediately connected and she then sent my resume to all of her contacts that offer internship programs in both Florida and Georgia. One of those contacts was a broker at Marsh in Florida who then sent my resume to Marsh New York and it wound up on the desk of the recruiter who was managing the national internship program. He gave me a call, and a few days later I was doing a four-hour interview at Marsh in Atlanta. A couple of weeks later I received my internship offer – Just in time for the summer!

Lessons Learned

What I didn’t know at the application stage was that obtaining an internship (or entry-level job) can be a long and arduous process that can sometimes take months. It’s not as simple as apply today and you’ll get the job tomorrow (no matter how fantastic of a student you are)! After the recruiter reviews your resume, they have to decide if you’re going to progress to the 1st-round interview stage. Then there is a 2nd-round, and often a 3rd and 4th round. The company might even call it an “informational discussion” or say they want to set up some time to “chat” with you, but you must recognize that any conversation with the company is an interview, so you should treat it as such. The earlier you start your application process the better, to allow more time for interviewing. Before I received my internship offer, I was low-key freaking out because I was applying to tons of companies online, but I was not receiving any internship offers. I didn’t know how fierce the competition was for internships. Had I understood the importance of networking earlier on, I would have spent just as much time joining RMI groups and associations and seeking ways to network with working professionals.


Not sure where to start? Several organizations and professional associations within the RMI industry would be happy to review your resume and assist you along your journey as you seek an internship. Some recruiters serve as career coaches that can point you in the right direction. Get involved with your local RMI community and start networking. These days, you can network virtually just as effectively as in person. Keep in mind that these opportunities will not just come to you – You have to seek virtual meetings that you can join and turn on your camera & speak up to meet new people. The nice thing about virtual networking is that it takes up less time and you can connect with people from all across the country. Examples include joining virtual RIMS chapter meetings in various locations and joining the Spencer Educational Foundation’s monthly networking sessions for students. Tell your professors that you are interested in traveling to attend regional and national RMI-related conferences. Raise your hand to volunteer with a nonprofit organization. Do what you can to secure face-time with RMI professionals and have your elevator pitch ready, so you can share your story. Don’t be shy to let them know that you’re seeking an internship and would appreciate any assistance that they can offer (including an introduction to other contacts).

Wishing you all the best with your journey to finding an internship. Feel free to connect with me and I’d be happy to point you in the right direction. Don’t give up – You got this!

By: Alatta Lawrence, Actuarial Science Major at Georgia State University

Q: What do you look for when choosing an internship program to apply for?

A: There are several factors that I consider when choosing an internship: the type of work the company does and whether there are areas of focus to launch my career, the corporate culture, the growth opportunities, and flexibility given to employees to discover their niches, and the overall values that the company deems essential to their existence (community involvement, employee programs, clientele centered, etc.).

Q: What is most important to you about a company when considering interning/employment?

A: A company’s willingness not just in word, but in action, to provide the best resources possible for me to succeed and in turn bring value back to the workplace.

Q: What things stand out to you about a company?

A: A company’s involvement in the community stands out to me. I am a firm believer in paying it forward, and companies that take time to step outside the corporate bubble to lend a hand and develop the surrounding communities gain true admiration and consideration as a potential place to start a career.

Q: When you start looking for your full-time job what factors will you take into consideration? (Location, benefits, time off, remote etc.)

A: Some of the factors that are considered are the benefits, time off, location, compensation, personal development training, mentorship, and the potential of working remote.

Q: What responsibilities do you want when interning?

A: The responsibilities that I prefer when interning are impactful/meaningful work and a workload comparable to what it would be working as a full-time employee. I desire to know that what I will be spending my time to learn and develop won’t be locked in the closest when my internship ends.

Q: What type of impact do you want to make in an intern program?

A: The type of impact that I want to make in an internship program is to absorb all that has been taught and turn it into value, so that I can be a part of the solutions to problems within my team that will be in use long after I have left.

Q: You have had a few intern experiences, what differed? 

A: I did one in person and the others virtually. During my internships, I was involved in meaningful work, however, completing an in-person internship gave a better feel for permanency. I was able to connect with more people at the company and get a primary feel for the culture. Additionally, nothing beats walking over to my manager’s desk and working out solutions together.

Q: You have experience in the military, how do you feel that contributed to your working experience as an intern?

A: Being in the military has contributed to how I see the world and interact with people. During my military tenure, I learned a lot about myself, how I learn and interpret information, how to effectively communicate with people of different backgrounds, making effective plans, prioritizing my schedule, and the list goes on. That experience was transferable to my role as an intern because they helped me discover how to handle certain situations and what worked and didn’t.

Q: Do you plan on doing another internship?

A: I don’t plan on doing another internship because I have already lined up my full-time employment upon graduation.

Q: How do you think a company could support interns?

A: The best way to support interns is to strategically place them in areas that they will be the most impactful and assigning projects that not only pulls on what they have learned in the classroom but throughout the duration of their internships. Additionally, giving them enough room to fail and learn from those mistakes.

By: Daria Zand – Insure National Intern

Just inked your name on a job offer letter? Congratulations!

New beginnings like this can seem daunting-but don’t fret. You can still feel confident and prepared while entering the unknown. And while it’s important to succeed in your new position, it’s also important to thrive in your new environment.

Here’s a guide to help you on navigate the start of your new chapter:

The First Day

First impressions are lasting and difficult to sway. Understand the importance of this and plan accordingly.

1. Test run everything

You can ease your nerves and ensure a smooth start by testing everything you’ll need to do on your first day.

If you’re in person, plan your commute so you will arrive 15-30 minutes early. Waze and Google Maps have helpful features for calculating or planning a drive. If you really want to be prepared, test drive your commute before your first day so you can be familiar with the route, because there’s nothing more unnecessary than missing an exit.

If you’re working from home, test your computer/laptop, especially if your work provides one for you. Test your internet connection, your computer software, and other equipment you’ll need to use for the job the day before or a few hours before you are set to start.

2. Prepare your first day attire

Pick out and try on your outfit the night before you start your job. Your clothing and general appearance communicate a message about you. Make sure you choose a clean outfit that you look and feel confident in!

3. Take notes

You will be exposed to a lot of new and important information on your first day. You will also probably have a lot of questions to ask! Carry a notebook and writing utensil with you to write these things down. While writing notes on your phone is convenient, it can send the wrong message.

4. Be available for lunch plans

Keep your lunch plans open. Lunch is an opportunity to socialize! You may get an invitation from a co-worker or there may be pre-arranged lunch plans. You might feel inclined to invite a co-worker to join you for lunch. While the first day can be overwhelming, try to refrain from excluding yourself. Try to plan to meet with a few coworkers virtually if you work from home!

5. Be attentive

As hard as it may be, keep your attention focused throughout the day. You will experience copious amounts of information being thrown at you on your first day. Be present and act like a sponge- soak up all this information. Check yourself periodically that you’re actively listening and being attentive.

The First Week

You’ve survived the first day, now it’s time to make the most of your first week.

1. Introduce yourself

Brush up on your elevator pitch­- you’re going to need it. An elevator pitch is a short but effective explanation of yourself. Here are a few questions to guide you: Who are you? What do you do? How did you get to where you are? Try to make it appropriate and relevant to your career. And remember- keep your handshakes firm, not your demeanor. A cordial and enthusiastic introduction can go a long way.

As you meet new people during your first week on the job, you’re going to introduce yourself frequently to these people. Others will probably do the same. Try your best to remember the names of the people you meet. You can help your memorization by associating a person with something notable they said (i.e., Julian the baker, Ali from Toronto, Mabel the dog lover).

2. Build rapport

If you’ve memorized the names of your colleagues, you’ve already made the first step towards building a good relationship with them! All jobs require teamwork at some point. When that occasion comes, having pre-established relationships with your teammates will make that process less challenging and more effective. Even when you’re not actively engaging in teamwork, rapport creates a more pleasant work environment. Having peers to rely on when you have questions, need favors, want feedback, etc., and vice versa will be helpful and beneficial for you.

3. Know your role

You know your title, but do you know your role? Speak to your manager to get clarity. Figure out what your role consists of, what your responsibilities and expectations are, how your job performance will be assessed, and what resources you need to do your job well. Establishing this at the very beginning of your career is essential. This will help eliminate unnecessary confusion and wasted effort.

4. Understand the company

Knowing its background, structure, and culture (which includes its personality, mission, and values) will help you comprehend your company’s identity and how your behavior should align with it.

Specifically, many companies have an organizational chart that explains its operating structure. Inquire about the operating structure and ask your manager to explain how it works. Get a sense of how you fit into the big picture and where there are opportunities for growth.

5. Learn your benefits

Sometime during your first week, learn the basics of your benefits. Here are some topics to inquire about:

  • Health, vision, and dental insurance
  • Sick leave, time off, and holidays
  • 401(k) or how to roll your 401(k) from your previous job.
  • Opportunities to get involved (volunteering, team bonding, work-related travel, etc.)

The First Few Months

Hopefully, you’re getting settled in nicely by now. Let’s continue that precious momentum into the next few months.

1. Seek a mentor

After familiarizing yourself with your co-workers, prioritize finding a company veteran who can provide mentorship to you. Seeking someone who once fulfilled your role or fulfills a role that you are interested in would be especially beneficial. Once you’ve found a sufficient individual, humbly and politely ask for their guidance. Clearly discuss their capacity to mentor you and what you hope to learn from them. Ask them to meet with you periodically in the future for development and feedback. Then, profusely thank them if they agree to this feat.

2. Avoid Gossip

Engaging in gossip in the workplace can be tempting, especially if you agree with what’s being said. But refrain from this. Realize that you interact with your coworkers very often, and conflating your relationship with any one of them over an off-handed comment would not be worth the hassle.

If you have an issue with a coworker, approach them or a higher-up with the issue rather than venting your disapproval with your peers. Have a firm stance in deterring gossip for the sake of your company and your integrity.

3. Set boundaries

During your first few months, you will probably say “yes” frequently as you aim to build good relations and make a good impression. Don’t make this a habit. After you’ve got an understanding of your role and responsibilities, and your workload, recognize your abilities and your limits. Prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed by saying “no” when it’s appropriate.

Divulge with your teammates that you will abide by your work hours and your non-work hours accordingly. Therefore, only check and respond to emails during work hours. This will be a preventative measure against potential burnout. Preserving your well-being is essential for growth and longevity.

4. Assess your progress

After you’ve experienced your first few months on the job, look back at what you’ve done and how you’ve done it, and where there’s room for improvement. To further, ask your manager or mentor for feedback. While it may seem daunting, it will be beneficial to you and will probably please and impress your higher-ups. Have an open mind and don’t take any comments personally. Instead, see it as a good thing that you’re receiving constructive criticism rather than a reprimanding, and see it as an opportunity to grow.

5. Set goals

A great way to foster professional growth is to set goals for yourself. Once you’ve gotten the swing of your role and workload, realistically contemplate goals that you want to and can achieve. Aim for long and short-term goals. Whether it’s to master a certain skill, or grow your network, or achieve a promotion, setting goals may help keep you engaged and motivated.

Create accountability by either sharing your plans with your mentor or teammates and setting specific times to conduct your goals and measuring your progress on them.

The End of the Beginning

As you assimilate into your new workspace, be patient with yourself. Mistakes are inevitable as you find your footing. Don’t fixate on them. It matters more how you respond to them rather than the fact that you’ve made them.

Instead, acknowledge how far you’ve come. Because out of all the potential candidates, you were chosen as the new hire. Believe in yourself and know that your best is yet to come.


Tom Armstrong
Senior Manager – Construction, Crime, Management Liability, and Contracts
Global Risk Management
Comcast NBCUniversal
Ryanne Thomas-Ward
Safeco Personal Lines
Kellie Vasquez
Senior Vice President, Environmental Sector
Charles Taylor

Has it been difficult to bring your authentic self to work while working in the insurance industry?

Tom: I’ve been very fortunate to work with and for people who have been supportive and inclusive during my career so far.  In my current day-to-day, I rarely feel as though I cannot be myself, but that has not always been the case.  I clearly remember early in my career struggling to decide how much of myself to share.  In one internship interview, a perceived-straight male interviewer kept pushing to talk about hockey rather than my experience or the details of the internship. Because of the power imbalance, I did not feel like I could simply say that I don’t care about hockey and I was there to talk about an internship.  I tried to play along, uncomfortable the entire time, and ultimately did not get that internship.

I also remember when the Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell V. Hodges decision. I was at my desk at work and I could feel my world shift around me.  It was amazing to me that my coworkers didn’t appear fazed at all while the possibilities for my entire life had just changed.  My manager was understanding, and let me take the afternoon off to go celebrate, but I was struck by how something so important to me could seem so ordinary to others.

Ryanne: At the beginning of my career, I found it challenging to live my truth in the workplace. Partially due to a lack of understanding of how to be authentic at work in work environments that were not inclusive. As I began to progress in my career, I started placing emphasis on the importance of authentic living in the workplace. I sought out careers at companies who had a clear appreciation and dedication to cultivating an inclusive and equitable environment for all employees.  Along with placing greater expectations on my employer, I also dedicated time to growing as a person. This change has impacted me positively both in and outside of the workplace. By reflecting on all the distinct components that contribute to who I am, I found it impossible to stifle my true self, regardless of the setting.

Kellie: No, not really.  I am authentic as to who I am.  I pride myself in being adaptable to any situation and in any social environment. My background was not based in insurance so I have grown up in this industry and am extremely proud of the transition and change I have personally witnessed in insurance.                                        

a. If it has been difficult, has it changed over time and how?

Tom: Over time, I feel that I have established my career enough to feel comfortable showing my true self in professional settings.  I think we still need to do a better job of giving young professionals implied permission to do the same.

Kellie: The difficulty has been instilling change in an industry which has existed for generations.  I strive for constant evolution and change and sometimes this can be difficult.  In our business unit we look to challenge the norms and ideals.  I challenge my team to change their normal thought process and be creative in bringing new ideas to the table. I believe everyone in the organization should have a seat at the table. We have seen change from so many recent events we want to stay cutting edge in our thought process and in front of those industry changes.

b. If it’s changed, how have you adapted to the change and why?

Tom: Being LGBTQ means that you’re never finished coming out.  Every interaction with a new person brings with a split-second decision of whether it’s safe to acknowledge my self.  I have become bolder with age and stability in my career, but there is always a question of whether sharing my self will mean not getting an opportunity, or creating a negative impression of me.

Kellie: This industry has always been very male dominant.  It took me a few years to establish myself in this field as a young woman and build the confidence to accomplish our goals.  Not only have I adapted, but I also realized that I would need to educate myself in order to be taken seriously and hold conversations with executives.  It is important to me that I hold a good reputation in the industry where men and women will respect me and my position, and understand how hard I worked to earn the position that I am in.

In what ways has the industry moved closer to acceptance and inclusion?

Tom: Speaking from my experience, the insurance industry has followed broader business trends in supporting diversity.  Being LBGTQ doesn’t elicit overtly negative responses, and the majority of my colleagues treat me with respect.  But we need to do a better job of giving visible examples of diversity within the industry, for both LGBTQ individuals, and other historically disadvantaged groups.

Ryanne: The industry is starting to understand the need to have representation within in the company and in its advertising. Obviously, there are certain companies who place a greater emphasis on equality and inclusion, and I am proud to work for a company who values the differences in each employee.

Kellie: This industry has evolved over the years. It is great to see a very diverse industry where there are women and people of color in leadership positions.

a. What steps are still needed?

Tom: Recently, a colleague from another company referred to “Diversity, Equity, and Belonging.”  It really caught my attention, and I asked him about it.  We both agreed that belonging is a much better goal than being simply included.  To me it represents a glimpse of what steps may still be taken to make all insurance professionals feel like they have a place in our industry.

Ryanne: I feel there is a lack of representation in the LGBTQIA+ community. While we are growing accustomed to seeing more wide-ranging faces, ages, and sexes in advertising for insurance, there is a distinct lack of LGBTQIA+ targeted marketing. This is a missed business opportunity but more importantly, it continues the alienation of a large segment of the population.

Kellie: We need to continue to strive for leaders with open minds, who want to give everyone the same opportunity, regardless of race or sex. If the candidate brings something different to the table, new ideas, great culture and a teamwork mindset, they should be considered.

Do you ever face micro aggressions at work related to who you are and how you identify?

Tom: Absolutely yes, and that’s not to say that people are intentionally mean or discriminatory.  Often it takes the form of assumptions that a partner is opposite sex, or that all families consist of parents and children.  On rare occasions there are assumptions that gay men are less masculine, but I haven’t seen that overtly in recent years.

Ryanne: Unfortunately, I face microaggressions frequently. I work in a department which sometimes interfaces with people who are not accustomed to interacting with people outside of their immediate circle. When I encounter these conversations, I try to use them as learning opportunity. Responding in love rather than frustration typically diffuses the situation and deters the offending party to putting up defenses.  This was not always my tactic. I used to ignore the comments, but I then realized the disservice to myself by internalizing feelings and how that was impacting my self-image and mental health.

Kellie: I have in the past, but I believe its how we respond is what sets us apart and shows growth and maturity.

a. If so, how do you handle the offenders?

Tom: For me, as long as I feel safe and secure in the interaction, I’m happy to gently correct the assumption. On occasions when I don’t feel secure, or if I’m not up for a potential debate, I may let the comments pass.

Kellie: I would remind them how long it has taken me to get to this point in my career and the endless hours and sacrifices I have made to set myself apart from my peers.

b. Has your approach changed at all over the years?

Tom: I’m more willing to be vocal these days.  I think that’s partly due to the current stage of my career, changes in the industry and business environment, and my own perception of the need to stand up against a political climate that is less assuredly friendly.

Kellie: Definitely. I do not feel the need to explain or prove myself to someone who doubts my potential. I know the value I bring to the company I work for. I know how hard I have worked to get where I am, it reminds me to always stay humble and work harder to continue proving people otherwise.

What advice would you give your younger self beginning your career in insurance?

Tom: Self-advocacy is not the same as rudeness.  One can stand up for oneself without burning bridges.

Ryanne: I would advise young Ryanne to network. For the first few years of my career, I kept my head down and completed my work. I did not attempt to build bridges or foster work relationships. Engaging in networking has had an immediate and substantial impact on my career and I am grateful I now understand its importance.

Kellie: I would say don’t be intimidated, by anyone. Regardless of their position. There are so many opportunities and doors to open, don’t sell yourself short. Continue to educate yourself and stay hungry. Don’t ever get comfortable.

Do you see yourself represented in your peers and/or leaders in the insurance industry?

Tom: Truthfully, no.  A friend recently asked me if I know anyone LGBTQ in the insurance industry, and I had to think very hard to come up with 2 names, and I didn’t feel confident that either of them would be comfortable with my sharing their names without explicit permission.  There is a distinct lack of LGBTQ visibility in my experience in the insurance industry.

Ryanne: I feel the industry is getting better but as always there is room for improvement. As a black woman I see us mostly represented in frontline positions. I would like to see a greater emphasis on creating a track for black female employees to transition into management and executive roles.

Kellie: Yes we are beginning to see more women and minorities In leadership positions as the Indutry evolves.

Do you feel that your voice is heard in the insurance industry?

Tom: I do. Whether because of my employer, or because of my work with industry professional groups, I do believe that I am able to participate in our industry regardless of my identity as a gay man.

Ryanne: I am blessed to sit on the National Leadership team for Pride@Liberty.   I have access to executives and senior leaders who often serve as a catalyst for changes to improve the workplace for all. I value my position, because I know my voice is being heard and I am able to advocate for my peers.

Kellie: Yes, in my specific field, but we need more strong voices advocating change in the industry.

By: Stephanie Hawkins – Production Underwriter, AmFed

Q: What is underwriting?

A: In short, underwriting is a thorough analysis of a risk and the type(s) of exposure(s) connected with that risk for insurance pricing purposes.

Q: What role do underwriters play in insurance? Why are they important?

A: Underwriters play a very important role in insurance as we are the first ones to set eyes on incoming risks. It is our duty to establish and nurture our working relationships with our agents to maintain a steady flow of incoming submissions and determine if that business fits our company’s business portfolio and risk appetite. It is also our role to provide the utmost service to our insureds over the lifecycle of an account – from processing endorsements in a timely manner and assisting with loss control coordination to bi-annual stewardship meetings and day-to-day policy servicing.

Q: What are the steps in the underwriting process?

A: For a typical account, the underwriter must review the risk, its historical loss history, projected losses, risk management capabilities and ability to comply with recommendations, financials, and so much more. It’s like getting a puzzle and putting all the pieces together without having the box/picture to reference – but that is what I love about the underwriting process! You will be equipped with countless tools to assist in the process, and again, cultivating great working relationships with your agents is key to keep the line of communication open and to obtain additional information to further review each risk.

Q: How does an underwriter decide whether to approve an application or deny?

A: Whether an application is ultimately approved or denied is generally determined by the insurance carrier’s appetite. If you have a solid knowledge of the types of risks that your company will and will not take on, that part comes easily.

Q: How do underwriters classify risk? How do underwriters determine appetite?

A: We can usually classify and determine if a risk is a fit for our company fairly quickly by looking at class codes, historical losses and how well it matches up with our company’s established appetite. However, I have learned in this industry that appetite can shift from time to time based on the individual risk.

Q: What experience did you have prior to becoming an underwriter?

A: I have now been in the workers’ compensation industry for 15 years! Prior to my role in workers’ compensation underwriting, I worked for a workers’ compensation insurance defense law firm doing legal secretarial work and marketing coordination.

Q: How did you get into underwriting?

A: I was very fortunate that a local carrier with an amazing reputation, AmFed (now an Ascot Group company), had an opening in their underwriting department. I did not have a day of experience in underwriting prior to starting at AmFed, but over the last 7 years, I have learned a lot and loved every single day of my job. I was driven to learn and blessed with supervisors who had the extensive knowledge and patience to provide me with the tools I needed to excel.

Paul Bi
Director, New Product Innovation
GRS global Insights & Innovation
Liberty Mutual Insurance
Jung Wong
VP & Region Manager
Workers Compensation Claims
Bert Dizon
Senior Client Services Manager Gallagher Bassett

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

Paul Bi: Just because you can’t measure the ROI of something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. What’s the ROI of hugging your mom?”. This thought comes from the late Tony Hsieh, former Zappos CEO. While this piece of advice wasn’t directly given to me, it is something that has had a big impact ever since I first learned about it in Tony’s book “Delivering Happiness.” Often times work that we do cannot be easily quantified in define figures…particularly if it’s exploring and innovating in brand new spaces. Return and a level of accountability will always be an important aspect in determining if something was successful or not, but it should absolutely not be the barrier that prevents you from getting started.  

Jung Wong: Strive for continuous improvement – there is always room to grow and become better no matter what role you are in. The key to this is self-awareness of your skill gaps, opportunities and being open to advice/help.

Bert Dizon: Be an advocate for yourself!

Throughout my career, I have always operated on the mindset of doing you best in all that you do and promotions and raises will follow.  My family instilled the concept that you will ultimately be rewarded by your hard work and perseverance.  Keeping your nose to the grindstone was the best way to do your work and your supervisors will reward you appropriately. 

While this is absolutely true to a degree, it was not until I met my industry mentor, who also taught me the value advocating for yourself.  It was no longer just about expecting talent and worth to be recognized and rewarded but putting yourself out there to advocate and ensure that your talents and efforts are not going unnoticed.  Being an advocate for yourself does not mean to be cocky or overconfident.  It has a lot to do with building a rapport and level of mutual respect with your management that you can openly and often talk about your successes and goals, but also candidly about your challenges in an effort to steer yourself in the right direction.  The best way to advocate for yourself is candidly, as no one is perfect.

Advocating for yourself must also have a high degree of self-reflection and active listening.  You cannot put blinders on when it comes to your weakness, nor can you just put a magnifying glass on your strengths.  You must be willing to take feedback and make the effort reduce and eliminate deficiencies while continuing to build upon your strengths. 

While this is not easy and it requires a manager who operates more in a leadership style, it is important to make that effort to ensure the growth and results you are seeking.  

Members of the AAPI community are often viewed as the “model minority” – smart, hardworking, team-players but state that they are not always sought out for leadership roles. What, if any challenges have you faced because of this perception and how have you overcome those challenges?

Paul Bi: The broader implications are that the ‘model minority’ exists but the issue comes down to how it is understood and perceived. Often, the Pan-Asian community is viewed in the context of a monolith and applied in a way that praises the community as whole for the apparent success they experience. However, this is misguided as there’s an ugly history to the term and done in contrast to other underrepresented and marginalized groups acting as wedge to divide communities and bring attention away from the core issues at hand. The reality is having the ‘model minority’ applied in this way ignores the real challenges, biases and discrimination that exist in the community. Additionally, it takes-away from the unique experiences, stories and diversity that the broader Pan-Asian community brings as we represent multiple nationalities, languages and cultures. To address these issues, I was one of the founding members of an employee resource group for Pan-Asians and led the group as the National Co-Chair for several years. Our goal was to bring greater awareness surrounding the inequities being experienced and shift the conversational paradigms back into the hands of the community. From here, we’ve been able to open new lines of dialogue and have real honest conversations with company leaders of what needs to be done to create change. Whether it is my own experience dealing with ‘model minority’ dynamics to colleagues going through ones of their own. Each one is unique in its own right and is important to continue bringing these experiences to the forefront to create the kind of culture change that would benefit everyone.

Jung Wong: The ‘model minority’ persona is what I experienced in my first job out of college. I worked hard, long hours and had exceeded expectations year-over-year but was never a candidate for a leadership role when I applied – most times did not even get an interview. After a few years, I transitioned to a new role and company. It was there that I observed multiple AAPI senior leaders that motivated me to strive for that next step. At that point, I knew I had to own my development to address certain fears/opportunities – taking public speaking courses, conflict resolution training, being a leader within my peer group.

In your opinion, what needs to happen in order to break the corporate glass ceiling and expand the presence of Asian Americans in executive suites?

Paul Bi: There needs to be a greater acknowledgement and understanding that the ‘bamboo ceiling’ exists in order to address the problem and create change. Often, these problems are given little weight or flat out ignored. This leads to the further perpetuation of the ‘bamboo ceiling’ as there isn’t a belief that something is wrong, Pan-Asians are advancing, and the community is doing well. However, that is the exact opposite of what’s happening. Extensive research and data already exists identifying the perils of the ‘bamboo ceiling’, the misperceptions behind it and the significant gaps that exist regarding upward mobility and Pan-Asians in leadership roles. So many authentic stories and experiences go untold in the community. There must be a greater adoption of a growth mindset to foster an environment where you can listen and learn from the challenges that affect the community. Recognize that there requires a stronger willingness to open-up, be vulnerable, asking and being asked tough questions and transparent that there still remains a lot to improve on. By not acknowledging the disparities within, issues will continue to be ignored and disproportionately harm efforts on bridging gaps to bringing greater diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging in an organization.   

Jung Wong: The first thing that comes to mind is making sure companies are assessing and investing in their AAPI talent. By connecting your AAPI talent with the right mentor/sponsor and other resources to develop their leadership skills early on, you help unlock their full potential. I have been lucky to work for a company that has provided me with positive influencers throughout my career to help me grow personally and professionally – that along with internal and external development trainings have helped me get to where I am today.

As a way to pay-it-forward, I recently took on the role as the National Advancement Program Director within LEAAP – Leading & Empowering Asian & Ally Professionals, which is one of Liberty Mutual’s Employee Resource Groups. Our program purpose is to identify the top talent within the AAPI community and help them get where they want to be via various internal and external training resources.

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you began your career?

Paul Bi: Don’t sweat the small stuff because it really is all small stuff. While simple, it is profound in many ways. Early in my career I spent a great deal of time and effort trying to get every little thing perfect. Part of it is driven by model minority dynamics, having to live up to certain standards and perceptions that have been placed on the broader community. And part of it was driven by proving my worth and seeking validation through others. There is a detriment to that as one can get overwhelmed, place too much importance on it and often lose sight of the bigger picture. It was a lesson that took me some time to learn and realize just how potentially harmful focusing on aspects that really wasn’t worth the energy or just out of my control. Instead of sweating the small stuff, I’ve learned to redirect my focus into things that bring more fulfillment and value. It has help me better prioritize, gain new levels of confidence in myself, and create greater balance particularly as life gets busier with its complexities. 

Jung Wong: That everybody has a voice at the table… Early on in my career, I was always afraid to speak up and voice my opinion, especially when senior leaders were part of the audience. This was partially driven by how I was raised in a traditional Chinese culture of “keeping your head down”. It wasn’t until I connected with an impactful leader/mentor, that consistently made it a point to ask “What do you think Jung?” in front of a broader group that I felted empowered to express my thoughts.

Bert Dizon: When I first started working in insurance, I looked at the industry for the most part as a job and not a career, it was a means to an end and that one day I would find my career.  I had even left the industry a couple of times because of that.  I like most had the story of how I fell into a role in claims as opposed to seeking out a role in it.  While I was told and I felt that that I do my job well, it was not something that I even considered being long term.  I did not see myself being a claims representative for the rest of my life. 

While still unsure about claims as my future, I took a job working for a broker.  While in that role I found that my knowledge and experience of claims helped me to better understand risk.  I also found myself being the person that many of my colleagues came to help them answer claims questions for their customers.  When I left there I started working in the TPA world and discovered yet another side to the industry.  I began to discover the depth of the industry and the opportunities within in it.  I realized that there was a career path in this for me.  I began setting goals and developing a trajectory that I would like to see myself go and today I continue on that journey. 

If I could go back and talk to myself, I would tell me to embrace the insurance industry, as I do now, as a career and start setting my goals with that mindset.  That the world of insurance, while it can be tough, can be very rewarding and provide an outlet to gain and grow knowledge and understanding of something that everyone in the world will need help with at some point in their life. 

Katie Rossbach
Risk Placement Services, Inc.
Suvarna Ayyagari
Director – Business Intelligence
Gallagher Bassett
Deborah Saunders
Executive Director, Claims Management – Global Risk Management
Comcast NBCUniversal
Kimberly George
Global Innovation and Product Development Officer

How would you describe your leadership style? Do you see it as different from your male counterparts?

Katie: I have a visionary leadership style, driving results and change by setting my vision and inspiring others to come along on the journey with me. I provided my teams the autonomy and empowerment to drive their own operations forward. I build trust with my teams by personally caring about them and their career development, understanding what motivates them, and fostering a collaborative work environment. As a woman, I do see my leadership style different from some male counterparts, as mine relies more heavily on interpersonal and empathetic skillsets to gain the trust and buy in of others.

Suvarna: I tend to use different styles of leadership based on different situations. I am in a technology leadership role that typically entails a planning exercise to identify the top priorities for our cloud platform in alignment with organization goals. In this scenario, I seek input from the team members to ensure alignment.This approach fosters intrinsic motivation and strong engagement and ownership from the team during execution.  

When it comes to process improvement initiatives, I tend to be both a coach and player. I provide guidance for defining the process, getting the buy-in from stakeholders and following through on roll-out. I lead by example by setting the initial tone and then I let the team self-organize. In most cases, the team masters the process very quickly. 

In a situation when there is a need for quick decision-making or solving something critical, I use a more directive style by assigning responsibilities. I find that my male counterparts also use different styles, but I have found them using the directive style a lot more often than me. Overall, I strongly encourage self-initiative and accountability while creating a collaborative culture to solve problems by working alongside my team thereby building trust. 

Deborah: I hope that my team would say that I lead with trust and respect for their talents.  I support their autonomy to make decisions within the scope of their responsibilities much more than I direct their work, and encourage relationship building with others who can also support them.  I hesitate to generalize or ascribe merit to different leadership styles, but my observation is that my male peers prefer to exert more control and require more input into routine decision-making.

Kimberly: Through the years I have modified my leadership style to lead by influence. In doing so I have become much more aware of behaviors, attitudes, and opinions and their impact on the team and results. My style is collaborative, and I am focused on creating an inclusive, team-centric, approach. This involves intentionally bringing others into the team that did not have an opportunity previously. I also believe in communicating a clear vision and goal while allowing the team to modify and adjust to ensure success. When each team member feels they belong and understands the vision I find the collective is empowered and driven to succeed. As I evolved my leadership style and influencing others became part of my personal brand, my career trajectory advanced and more importantly people sought me out to join my teams and projects.

I find most leaders are less focused on leading by influence and more broadly focused on leading by authority. My male counterparts are more likely to have their “go-to” team to get things done. With that mindset the same people are called upon repeatedly and others lack opportunities and new experiences which broaden their skills. Whether women or men, I find many leaders fail to provide a clear and concise vision. Without the vision team members flounder and inevitably one person or a couple of people on the team will run with the project instead of the collective. Both scenarios result in slower decisioning, less innovation, lack of creativity, and a narrow view of the project.

How do you bring your authentic self to the workplace? How has that changed throughout your career?

Katie: I bring my authentic self to the workplace by having fun! My mantra says that if we are spending 8+ hours a day at work, we better have fun doing it! Opening up meetings with laughs, story sharing, or simply asking how someone’s weekend was, goes a long way. I am an active participant during collaborative sessions and I am not afraid to be myself and speak my opinion, a confidence that took time to develop in the earlier years of my career.

Suvarna: I bring my authentic self by acting on what I believe is the right thing.  When I started off my career, there was a lot of learning, I was honest about what I already knew and what I didn’t. I was transparent about where my deliverables stand. As I grew in my career, being authentic translated to being a trusted advisor to my business partners. I earned a reputation of always stating the risks, issues, and mitigation strategies in a timely manner. I backed up deliverables with factual data and openly asked for feedback. In my current role, authenticity also translates to being empathetic and humble when working with peers and senior management as I am cognizant of the dynamics of relationships. 

Deborah: I’ve always shared a fair amount of my personal thoughts and experiences with my colleagues during small talk and informal encounters, but I’ve also maintained a clear distinction between my work and family lives. In fact, I use different versions of my first name depending on whether the conversation is work-related or personal to remind myself to switch modes.  It wasn’t until the pandemic forced a blurring of the lines between home and work that I fully realized the importance and value of authenticity at work.  Maybe, because I tend to over-share, the transition was a bit easier for me to make, but I was humbled and grateful to witness members of my team open up in very personal ways that I’m sure made them feel uncomfortable. I definitely learned far more about the team-building power of trust, authenticity, and humility from my team than I could possibly offer them in return.

Kimberly: Bringing your authentic self to work is something I think about a lot and discuss with my peers and those I mentor. Mid-career I found that sharing my personal story inspires others and people relate to me in a more positive way. Prior to being more open about who I am, my career journey, and what drives me people often thought I was aloof or intimidating. Being relatable to others is important to me and partly why I am a nurse and it took me time to find balance with being my authentic self and a successful woman in insurance.

While I flex my approach based on my audience and believe that is likely the case for most women, I stay true to my values and guiding principles. What do I mean by that? My attire for a board meeting in New York is more formal than a board meeting in Los Angeles. My level of engagement will vary if I am the most senior person in the room, or not. I read my audience and may dial up or back my personality, as needed. For me, this is bringing my authentic self to work.

What advice would you give to women who are just starting their careers in the insurance industry?

Katie: Explore, set a plan of how to get where you want to go, and don’t be afraid to take risks!

Insurance is a complex industry employing a multitude of disciplines and skillsets. Take time to explore and understand the industry so you can find a path that excites and motivates you. From there, set a plan of where you want to go and how you’re going to get there, leveraging management feedback, mentorship and networking from those who’ve already paved the way. Don’t be afraid to take risks and go after challenging roles, as this is where you learn the most. And lastly, ALWAYS be your own advocate!

Suvarna: I would emphasize being self-confident and believing in oneself. Have a problem-solving mindset and be part of the solution. Raise your hand often to take on additional assignments to push yourself. Be persistent. The industry is constantly evolving, so stay curious and always keep learning so you can innovate. Be kind and respectful, but at the same time, stand up for yourself. Find a mentor whom you trust and who will coach you through your career. I constantly give the same pieces of advice to my young daughter who is a freshman at college, and I find that they apply regardless of where you are in your career.

Deborah: First, I’d congratulate them for choosing a career that is essential to helping people navigate through adversity and offers endless opportunities for lifelong learning and career growth. I’d tell them that they’re part of an industry that is undergoing an essential transformation to being far more diverse and inclusive for women, and in every sense of those terms. Most importantly I’d tell them to seek out the many highly successful women in this field who are inspired to help the next generation, and to make connections early and often.  

Kimberly: Believe in yourself. We all question, can I do this? Know that you can do it, you deserve it, and be flexible to take the next opportunity even if it might not be the opportunity you thought would come your way. Be open to meeting others and seek out opportunities to do so. Networking is important for everyone in the industry and certainly women entering the insurance industry. Find your sponsors, those who will support you when you do not know it, those who will help you learn, grow, and get to the next level. Be open to mentors who will be your cheerleader, give you the tough feedback, and the advisor you need for the given scenario. Always stay inquisitive and learn as insurance is an industry that is continually evolving.

So you just got an offer for a great internship that you’d really love to take, but you already accepted an internship a few months ago from another company and they are expecting you to start in May. It was a good company, decent pay, and you felt some pressure to commit at the time because it was the only/best offer you had and they weren’t going to keep the position open forever. Can you renege on (back out of) your acceptance of the first offer? Should you?

It’s not illegal, but it’s also not without consequences.

Going back on your commitment to join a particular employer, even as an intern, is something companies take very seriously. It is considered unprofessional and unethical because you are not keeping your word, essentially breaking the foundation for trust. You most certainly will “burn a bridge” and miss out on future opportunities to be hired for paying positions by that company. The company will be put in a difficult decision to either extend an offer to the runner up they already turned down (and who probably accepted another offer) or to start the recruiting process all over again in the final hour. 

On campus, your school may have certain consequences depending on how the internship was obtained. If it was on campus recruiting (OCR), they can ban you from future job fairs, resume workshops, and career resources. Even if you didn’t get your internship through OCR, some companies may contact your school, who could still impose sanctions because they feel that students reneging on accepted offers harms the school’s reputation with employers they count on for donations and student placement.

Finally, you have a personal reputation to uphold. You may think that the only person who knows is company A, but recruiters talk, people change companies, and you’d be surprised at the potential harm down the road in your chosen industry. If you worked with a recruiter, internal or external, they won’t be willing to put their own reputation on the line for you again. Additionally, internal recruiters can move to other companies, causing you issues down the line should that person be working for a company you want to work at. There are plenty of cases where candidates have lost both offers due to people who knew about the situation talking. At the end of the day, you have to decide if your word matters and if that is a personal value you want to uphold. 

Prevention is key to avoiding an ethical dilemma.

The trend of reneging offers is becoming increasingly more common, mostly due in part to a competing marketplace for talent. Companies are contributing to the problem by moving dates up sooner and sooner, and some pressure candidates to accept offers even up to a year before. However, leading employers understand that top talent has choices and will respect and work with you through exploring those options, within a reasonable timeframe, provided you are open and communicate. 

Let the company know that you haven’t finished hearing back from all of the companies that you’ve interviewed with, and you want to make an informed decision, but that you are interested in working there.  If you don’t really intend on accepting their offer, release it to someone who really wants it. Stay in communication and jointly agree on a date that you will get back to them. Without the communication, they will assume you don’t really want to work there and give the offer to another candidate. Alternatively, if you drag it out unnecessarily but ultimately end up joining, you show that you aren’t that excited and could cause an awkward situation when you start.

Know what is important to you about an internship and be able to vet out opportunities up front. If an internship is missing a “must have” on your list or shows any reg flags, don’t waste their time or yours. If you’re truly excited and it really is what you want, trust your gut, commit, and stick with it. Your intuition is usually right.

As for return offers, your best bet is not to accept them to begin with, unless you are 100% sure you want to work there post graduate. You won’t be the same person you are in one year from now, and it’s probable that what you want from an internship will be different too. While this may not seem logical at first, you most certainly will have other offers next year and the purpose of interning is to gain broad experience. If you already interned with a company, give another a try. You don’t know what you don’t know, and this is the best time in your life to unapologetically try new things.

If you do renege, be as professional as possible.

If after careful consideration, you do decide to renege your original offer, be as professional about it as possible. Let them know as soon as you can, so they can start working on a backup plan. Write a letter explaining the situation and apologize for the inconvenience you have caused. This will minimize your reputational risk. You can even recommend a replacement, which they surely will appreciate. Under any circumstances, do NOT wait to no show on the first day.

Don’t renege and still win.

You still really wanted to accept that new/better offer, but you’ve decided it isn’t worth the risk. Both the current employer and the prospective one will thank you. You can write a letter to the prospective employer and let them know that unfortunately you have already committed to another company, but that you would like to be confirmed or considered next year for an internship/full time position. They will understand and respect this, and most importantly they will respect you. You will build good will with the new company and open a door for future positions, while protecting your reputation with the current one. At the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do.

You’ve been through months of revising your resume, applying for internships, attending virtual job fairs, and interviewing with companies. You finally have an offer, but you need to make sure it’s the right fit. Your internship sets the foundation for your career. Ask yourself these questions before accepting:

  1. Am I excited about the work I will be doing?

When it comes down to it, will you be happy with what you are doing for the length of your internship? Do you find it valuable and useful to your career as well as enjoyable?

  1. How did the people I met throughout the interview process make me feel?

It’s important to feel comfortable with the people you’ve met with so far. Did they make you feel welcome? If you had a chance to meet the teams you will be working with, are you excited to work with them? 

  1. What are the hours like?

Will the hours work for you and your schedule? Are you planning to take any summer classes you need to schedule around? What will this mean for your current daily routine?

  1. Do I care about the company’s mission?

The answer can be no, but it could also be yes. If you get excited about what the company does, its culture and values, you know you’re on your way to a good fit.

  1. What else did I learn throughout the interview process?

How did the company answer the questions I asked throughout the interview process? Did those questions make me more or less excited about the company? Were there any red flags?

  1. Are there opportunities for professional development or full-time work?

Post-internship, will there be full time opportunities and is that important to you? What other professional development are they offering? What skills will you learn?

  1. What are the pay/benefits?

Obviously pay is important. Look at the total benefit package available to you, not just the hourly rate. Weigh this against your other options and expectations. Is this negotiable? Is it a fair offer?

  1. Is the structure (virtual/in-person/hybrid) ideal for me?

You’ll have to weigh the benefits of both. Virtual is convenient and flexible, however you miss out on some of the interaction with people as well as the feel for the company’s culture in the office. In Person has more opportunity for collaboration, community involvement, and spontaneous learning, but sometimes lacks the flexibility of schedule and location.

  1. Do I have any other offers on the horizon?

It can be exciting to get an offer, but if you have other opportunities that you haven’t heard back about yet, it could make sense to wait to accept. You want to avoid reneging an offer. If there is a deadline you are unsure of meeting, consider asking for an extension. If you know that this is the one, trust your gut and go for it!

  1. Can you see yourself succeeding in the role?

Can you visualize a successful internship with this company? Do they have clearly defined goals? Did they give you assurance that they will equip you with the skills necessary to succeed?

Entry-level Underwriter $45-55k

As an underwriter, you’ll provide credit decisions as well as review medical, legal, financial, and occupational information to determine insurance rates. You’ll also review risk management plans and procedures, and deal with applications and renewals, acceptance, and rejections. You’ll be expected to have a deep understanding of risk, insurance policy coverage, and financial responsibility. Ultimately, an underwriter is the individual who decides if a company should offer insurance to a particular risk.

Entry level Claims Adjuster $45-55k

As a claims adjuster, you are the one to fulfill the company’s promise to pay for a loss when something bad happens. You’ll be responsible for strategic processing and payment of claims while keeping abreast of regulations and legislation in regards to insurance claims. You’ll be in charge of strategies, developing budgets, and overall supporting the operational infrastructure. Most importantly, you interface with the policyholder when they’re going through a bad time and help them restore their life.

Marketing Associate $45-55k

Insurance is competitive and each year companies spend Billions on marketing. Marketing and branding go beyond TV commercials, extending to social media, YouTube, internal communications, and more. As a Marketing Associate, duties can range from arranging proposals and presentations using marketing resource materials to coordinating client communications to internal marketing.

Actuarial Associate (Actuary 1) $65-70k

Using pricing and risk assessment, an actuarial associate is a support role that focuses on projects of limited complexity. They may work in conjunction with more experienced actuaries to develop probability tables that estimate the probability and cost of certain events—death, illness, injury, disability, or loss of property. However, it’s important to note that an actuary has quite a bit of education. 

Risk Management Analyst $70-80k

As a risk management analyst, your job will be to protect your organization’s assets. You’ll forecast potential losses, work on solutions to eliminate or reduce risk, and monitor and report on controls. You’ll also work on risk model construction.

Junior Data Scientist $77-97k

As a Junior Data Scientist, you work on projects that change the fundamental roles of traditional insurance professionals by applying machine learning, statistics and business applications to models. You will prepare tables, graphics or software tool components using statistical/biostatistical/machine learning capabilities. You also will assist in the interpretation of results and writing of small sections of technical reports/presentations, and support Senior Data Scientists in data cleaning, coding and validation.