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.

Barry Dillard
Vice President,  Risk Management Services
Bonnie Boone
Area Executive Vice President 
Gallagher Risk Management Services
Holli Charles
Account Manager, Distribution & Service
Helmsman Management Services
Abel Travis
Vice President, Fundamental Underwriters
AF Group

What advice would you give yourself just starting out in the insurance industry?

Barry: There are so many things! If I had to pick one, it would be to focus on being a better communicator, both written and verbal. So much of our success depends on how well we communicate with peers, our leaders, business partners and customers.  The ability to speak comfortably in front of groups is also important.

Bonnie:  I would tell my younger self to be more strategic and watch the politics. I never had a sponsor and that is key.  To have someone speak up for you in the room when you are not around. To recommend you for new opportunities, etc.

Holli: Own your career and be prepared to advocate for yourself. I know that it’s easier said than done but my mother always said a closed mouth won’t get fed. Track your wins, accomplishments, successful projects, positive feedback – some days you need to remind yourself that you’re in your role for a reason and other days you need to remind others. Practice gratitude – you should want to go as far up the career ladder as your ambition and aptitude will take you. However, it’s so important to  find space to appreciate where you are in the moment. When I make space for gratitude, it helps me stay grounded, resilient, and hopeful. Be prepared to be a lifelong learner. One of the exciting parts of being in the insurance industry is that there is always something new to learn. Challenge yourself to learn something that not absolutely necessary but makes you more valuable – a new language, Excel, something that makes you the go-to subject matter expert. Perfection is an allusion. If you’ve made the best decision you can with the information you were given/have, that’s the most anyone can expect of you.

Abel: Advice that I would give my younger self is to be unapologetic about your goals, and ambitions in the Insurance Industry.  While this is a great industry, in order to meet your ultimate goals you must continue to develop professionally and technically in your field. Don’t wait until later in your career to make an impact in the industry, which is broader than the needs of your organization as its critically important to focus on providing value to your company, but the industry at large. 

If you were starting today, as a young African American professional would that advice change? If so, how?

Barry: The advice wouldn’t change, but I would add the need to build a network of people as a support system.  Seek out role models that look like you, and some that don’t.  Make your village as diverse as possible, make genuine connections with people and learn their stories. Lastly, be of service to others because you get as much as you give in the process.   

Bonnie: Yes, you must have allies, and as I said a sponsor. The sponsor does not have to be a person of color, but someone that you trust, has integrity and you respect. I think the younger people of today have senior executives they can use to assist them (like myself), and networking organizations. It’s important to have a plan and ask for what you want. You must follow through and get things in writing.

Holli: I would still give the same advice. However, I would also say to start building your network early and nurture it because at some point, it’s no longer entirely about what you know but who you know. You want the right people to say your name in the rooms you’re not in yet – the advocates, allies, and activators.  We also need others to cheer for you and give you wise counsel, and for whom you can return the favor.

Abel: No, I don’t believe the advice would change.  Now more than ever, there is a gap, and a need for talented Black professionals in the executive leadership ranks across all levels of Insurance.  I believe this isn’t necessarily a problem that can be solved without intentional efforts from organizations across the insurance industry.  Intentional recruiting of young talent, developing of all individuals, and promoting into positions of leadership.  I truly believe that once people see leaders that resemble themselves in the executive ranks, they can aspire with optimism to lead organizations and add value in ways that support to the customers of this great industry.

How has the insurance industry embraced diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion? What challenges still exist?

Barry: The industry is starting to embrace these concepts, but progress has been slow.  This is true despite the business case for diversity being made evident years ago.  The killing of George Floyd was a galvanizing event for the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community and it has put a spotlight on corporate America.  Our industry, at all levels of its organizations, should reflect the communities and customers we serve.  In order to be successful, organizations need to ensure they have a comprehensive strategy that engages all stakeholders.  It can’t be another “flavor of the month” program, it has to be woven into the fabric of the organization.       

Organizations need to look at DE&I as who we are instead of something we do.  We need to continue to recruit diverse candidates and look for ways to retain and develop those employees.   Organizations need to commit to partnering with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) to develop talent pipelines. 

Bonnie: We still are not in decision making roles and on boards (in abundance), and running profit centers.  On the brokerage side there are few AA producers because we don’t have the board room contacts. Diversity of thought makes good economic sense.

We don’t receive the support that our fellow colleagues receive. We talk about generational wealth, but in our business we don’t get the opportunities of inheriting books of business or get opportunities to run offices. Always act with integrity, no matter who you are; client , CEO, underwriter, receptionist, claims person, actuary… you get my drift!

Holli: I believe that the insurance industry has been strongly compelled to embrace diversity, equity, belonging, and inclusion and we’re seeing evidence of that. Frankly there was no choice. If the industry is to thrive we have to cast a wider net for talent. Smart leaders that welcome diverse talent and multiple perspectives know that they will benefit from the creativity and energy that comes with that and thus, remain profitable. However, different organizations are definitely in different places along their journey. I work for Helmsman Management Services, a wholly-owned entity of Liberty Mutual. Nearly 10 years ago, we brought a Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Dawn Frazier-Bohnert, and you can feel the shift in our organization. She’ll be the first to tell you it’s hard work, requires significant collaboration, and takes more time than many of believe it should. You have to set measurable goals, hold leadership accountable, and be fully transparent regarding what you’re doing well and where things need work. I’m seeing more of that happening in various organization including my own. I’m beginning to see far more people who look like me in spaces that I did not even know existed and at higher levels. The talent was always there but we’re now making a more concerted effort to make sure they are given an opportunity to compete for the roles for which they qualify.

There are certainly challenges. There will always be people in positions of power who say that they embrace DEI and in fact, do not. They demonstrate this by focusing on symbolic gestures and not substantive action and by limiting the amount of time and resources they’re willing to invest in DEI initiatives. I really believe that we need to start much earlier to attract diverse talent and we need to go to places we normally would not to find them and allow them to discover all that the insurance industry can offer. I  recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of high school students and many of them had no idea that working in insurance was an option and some were genuinely intrigued by the idea.

Abel: While efforts have been made in the insurance industry to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion I believe there is still a long way to go.  While I don’t only want to focus on the Black Community, a Reuters study in 2020 confirmed that only 3 of 168 senior executives a the top 10 insurers are black.  Among 119 board members, only 16 are black at the same companies.  This is a bleak outlook, and the numbers aren’t much better when you assess gender, differently abled, and other aspects of diversity and inclusion.   This fact makes it challenging when it comes to hiring into executive ranks because its been well documented that people tend to hire and promote those that resemble themselves.  I believe inclusion training only helps to a certain degree, but its even more critical to measure and provide a level of accountability within decision makers to improve DEI across insurance.  We work for a great industry, and I truly believe with the right intentions, we can recognize positive gains over the coming years.

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?

Faith Mason, Director of Workers’ Compensation, Comcast NBCU

I am passionate about my role as Chair of the DEI committee for RISE and DEI specifically because representation matters. It is important for young professionals specifically and people in general to see themselves from grassroots to the boardroom. Along the road in any career, it’s necessary to see reflections of you to reinforce a sense of belonging and to show that you can achieve things you may have never thought possible. This year within the committee I hope we can motivate college students who don’t see the benefits of an insurance career to take the leap. That engagement could be through our DEI scholarship 5k or programs specific to HBCUs and HSIs. The committee is a great place for anyone looking to put change into action. It’s my hope that we are not just another DEI crop up in name but we also do the work to create a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable insurance space for all.

Faith Mason, 2022 DEI Committee Chair

Faith Mason is the Director of Workers’ Compensation at Comcast NBCU. In her role, she manages the global workers’ compensation program totaling over $170M in risk, leading her team with strategic oversight of the TPA program. Previously, Faith worked for Deloitte Consulting where she assisted with the expansion of the Claims Consulting Branch specializing in operations management, process improvement, and Predictive Model development and implementation. Faith has worked for several Fortune 500 companies including, Liberty Mutual, Deloitte, and now Comcast NBCUniversal.

Faith is a member of RISE (Rising Insurance Star Executives) where she the Chair of the DEI Committee and a co-host of the DE&I Podcast Off the Record. She is on the Employee Advisory Committee for the Alliance of Women and Workers’ Compensation and is a Board Member for Kids’ Chance of America and FC& S. Faith earned her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

Welcome, Faith!

Click here to learn more about the DEI Committee and to join.

By: David S. Williams, CPCU, AIC, PCP, Chief Claims Officer

I’ll readily admit during most of my 36-year career in the insurance industry I was a full-fledged micro-manager.  As a “boomer” I was brought up in the business with many “top down command and control” leaders as examples.  I thought at some level job title, experience and knowledge were most of what a good leader needed to effectively and efficiently lead people and run a business. 

What I’ve learned is a lot of time and energy was wasted trying to make sure those I was keeping a close eye on, for everything they were doing, was getting mixed results and serving to stifle morale and the motivation to deliver excellence.

Today, as I work here in Austin, TX for a not for profit in a very competitive job market, it’s hard to find the experienced talent you need at any cost.  We’ve found the best alternative is to hire smart recent college graduates and develop them into the employees your company needs to be successful. 

Over the last 7 years I was provided with the opportunity to lead and develop several Millennials.  What I’ve learned from them has helped to fundamentally change my leadership style while providing the pure satisfaction of watching young less-experienced professionals learn and grow their careers.

I’m the father of 3 Millennials so I know a little bit about how they think and act and unlike some members of my own generation don’t have much of the perceived or actual animosity toward this younger generation simply because “they don’t do things the way we do things”. 

I’ve seen first-hand how they use technology (taught my wife and me to text since they never answer their phones) and how they build relationships, communicate and collaborate with their friends and peers, for good or bad, during the high school and college years. 

In raising our children, my wife and I thought ahead about where we wanted our children to end up, worked with them to set goals, parameters for acceptable behaviors, to take steps to think through their actions before taking them, and to take smart risks.  Like most children, ours made mistakes.  When that happened, we reminded them to understand what they learned from the mistakes so they would not repeat them.  This approach helped our 3 children grow up to be successful adults. 

I realized when given the opportunity to lead Millennials, the same approach might work with our new less experienced employees.  Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying a leader should be a parent to their employees.  Instead, a good leader may use good parenting techniques to guide their people to look ahead, think about where they want to go with their careers, help them set goals, encourage them to seek out challenges, take smart risks, think through their actions before they take them, and learn from mistakes so they are not repeated.  This is probably good advice for anyone.

So, what have Millennials taught me over the years? 

First, they’re fearless.  Don’t be afraid to challenge them.  They love to solve complex problems and do so in very creative and what some may see as unconventional ways.  Trust them enough to let them do it in their own way, which usually means intense research and communication and collaboration with their peers inside and outside of your organization.  This might take longer, but in many instances, I’ve seen them move faster and come up with solutions many, including myself, may not have considered. 

Second, understand they will not do it the way you might have done it or want them to do it.  Give them the freedom to explore and make mistakes in their approach or solutions.  What damage can they do if ultimately you work with them to make most of the final decisions?  At times they may not deliver the results you expect.  When that happens, use these opportunities as teachable moments, not failures.  

Third, let them get out of their normal office environment to explore options not readily in front of them.  Let them work from home or somewhere they feel more comfortable.  I’ve seen first-hand many times how this works for the better.  Here’s some good advice: If you’re ever struggling to get someone at another company or governmental agency to respond to your inquiries and requests, I’ve learned if you “have your Millennials talk to their Millennials”, quite often they will open up the communication channels you were unsuccessful at opening up. 

Lastly, they want to learn constantly.  Be sure to expose them to as much of your business as possible.  Stretch them by giving them unique or non-traditional tasks or roles.  Immerse them in new and different roles, even if temporary.  Give them the opportunity to learn and establish their key business and personal relationships through a variety of educational courses and especially conferences and seminars where they can meet with their peers and share knowledge and experiences. 

Watching Millennials work, learn, and grow has re-energized me as a leader and helped motivate me to be more open and flexible in my leadership style.  I’ve found my natural curiosity has increased and I find more satisfaction than ever conducting research and learning new things.  I truly believe this will help me be the leader I need to be through the constant change we’re all going through now and for the next ten years and beyond.

I know some reading this might think that spending so much time and energy developing Millennials only to have them leave your organization might not be time and money well spent.  I can assure anyone that the satisfaction of seeing them move on to an even better job somewhere else, knowing you played a part in their success, makes up for any feeling of loss.   It also provides the opportunity to replace them and the satisfaction to start all over again with a new employee making the effort all worth-while. 

Deborah Saunders

Senior Director, Claims Management Comcast NBCUniversal.

Deborah Saunders is Senior Director, Claims Management for Comcast NBCUniversal. She is responsible for managing all lines of Comcast and NBCU’s claims programs, including Workers’ Compensation, Auto Liability, General Liability, Employment Practices, Property and Media Professional E&O. Prior to joining Comcast in 1998, Deborah was the Workers’ Compensation Claims Specialist for Campbell Soup Company. She started her career in claims as a representative for Travelers Insurance, where she handled both workers’ compensation and commercial liability claims. Deborah earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts. She also holds Associate in Risk Management (ARM,) Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional (CWCP) and Certified Claims Professional (CCP) designations and is a certified paralegal.

“I think when people either look at risk management programs in schools or look for a career path when they get out a lot of focus is on underwriting, but I’ve found that claims provides endless opportunities to do good in the world and to satisfy curiosity and the desire to grow.” Deborah states in an interview with RISE founder, Amy Cooper. Deborah discussed more about what her typical work day is like along with some encouraging advice for young career seeking professionals.

What do your mornings look like?

My alarm is set for 5:25 but I get up between then and 6 am, depending on the day. I actually have an evening regimen, so I don’t need a morning one. I lay out clothes, look at my calendar for the next day, and have my bags packed. That’s a trick I learned from my mom.

What is your commute like?

I go to the office almost every day that I’m not traveling. I cross a bridge from New Jersey to Pennsylvania during my commute, which takes 20-30 minutes. I purposely add one mile to my route in order to pass by the fountain at Logan Circle. It’s one of the many things in the city that makes me happy so I make sure to enjoy it.

What is the first thing you do when you start your work day?

A: I pick up coffee on the way in. The first thing I do when I get to the office is break out the lint roller! I have pets. I update my to do list for the day and carry over any leftover tasks from the prior day.

Who do you work most closely with?

I am responsible for a claims team within the Global Risk Management team for Comcast NBC Universal. There are eight  of us in claims, and with our colleagues in program placement, we make up the risk department. I consider our TPA, brokers, and insurers partners to be an extension of our team. Not everyone can say that, but these partnerships are very collaborative.

How do you balance meetings, email, solving problems, and your own tasks?

I’m not a practitioner of a formal time management technique. I’ve been here for more than 20 years and I have a lot of practice pivoting when needed. It’s second nature for me. I have non-traditional work hours while traveling, which is great catch up time. I travel 2-3 times a month but usually they are short trips.


Usually I eat lunch at my desk. When I was starting out, it was Snickers and Diet Coke. I’m doing a lot better with my food choices now, so I typically get soup or sushi. I try to avoid lunch meetings because I find them to be inefficient.

You never get through a day without ______.

On the downside, I never get through the day without falling into an internet news rabbit hole. I’m extremely interested in current events.  On the positive side, I never get through the day without stopping to be grateful. I have a wonderful family and fun career. I try to think about it every day.

Who is home waiting for you at the end of your day? What is your biggest motivation in getting up every morning to do it again?

My husband, who is now retired, two cats and a dog. Motivation isn’t an issue because I don’t need to motivate myself since I love what I do. I thought it would be hard to leave the house once my husband retired, but it’s not.

What changes in the role of technology have you noticed in your department? Does this change the skills you hire for?

I began my career with paper files – I’ve been at Comcast for more than 20 years. Yes, it does change at least some of the skills that you’re looking for. We need people who are effective and accurate at a much faster pace, with the efficiencies that come with technology. I appreciate people who are detail-oriented and methodical but need them to be thoughtful about how they spend their time.

What is the most rewarding/favorite part of your job?

I work with great people inside my organization – everyone is smart, creative and looking for solutions that improve people’s lives.  I love the diversity of the business in both within Comcast and in the claims profession. I’ve had the same role since joining Comcast, but endless opportunities to learn. Almost every day, there’s something new.

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

We use data analytics, as a lot of people do, but we tried to figure out a way to use it not just for goal setting, but also to eliminate bottlenecks that stood in the way of  resolution and closure. We used data analytics to set discretionary settlement authority limits with our TPA – we figured out how much authority we could give them so they don’t have to wait for our response, while still controlling the dollars. We were able to eliminate 80% of the instances they had to contact us but still keep control over the vast majority of the spend. It worked exceptionally well.  We’re also looked at how closely we monitor ALAE.  We trust our TPA team as professionals as long as spend is line with industry benchmarks.

When you were 18, did you envision your life to be like this? What advice would you give to your 18-year old self?

I absolutely did not envision it. I have this great career because the path I had in mind didn’t play out the way I thought. Follow your dreams, but if through circumstance you’re diverted, be open and curious. Wherever you can, set yourself up for job satisfaction – there’s always something you can turn into a positive. Find it, build it, focus on it, and you’d be surprised where it can take you. I could not be happier.

What advice would you give to other women who might be considering a career in insurance?

This is so important to me. My advice is to consider claims. I think when people either look at risk management programs in schools or look for a career path when they get out a lot of focus is on underwriting, but I’ve found that claims provides endless opportunities to do good in the world and to satisfy curiosity and the desire to grow. It’s perfect for people who think of themselves as lifelong learners. The number one thing I would say if you’re considering claims – call me! I’ll be delighted to tell you why  I think it can exceptionally rewarding career.

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.


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.

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.