No matter where you are in your insurance career, you can be both a mentor and a mentee. That’s the message that rang loud and clear in a recent Dive In panel on ‘Personal and Professional Journeys,’ which featured commentary from several women in the insurance industry, all of whom are pioneers of diversity and inclusion (D&I).
Travelers Canada CEO Heather Masterson gave a candid fireside chat in which she spoke about her journey to becoming one of the few female insurance CEOs in Canada, while juggling her busy career with motherhood and family life. She admitted to finding it hard at times, but said she received some great advice from her father – a key mentor in her personal and professional life – about how to strike the right balance.
“As the mother of two small girls, I ended up at times feeling stretched and feeling like I was failing at home, or at work, or both. I needed some perspective, so I phoned my father […] and he gave me some really good advice,” said Masterson. “First he said: ‘You can’t do it all at once, so don’t try. Prioritize.’ And when I asked what that actually meant, he gave me a second piece of advice that was really valuable. He said: ‘You don’t have to do it all. There are things you have to do, and there are things you don’t have to do, so it’s really important that you figure out the difference between the two. The things you don’t have to do may still need to get done, but you don’t personally have to do it, you can outsource.”
Associate cyber underwriter at Travelers, Iveren Yongo, reflected on Masterson’s words, saying that even though she doesn’t have family in the industry, she’s been fortunate to have sources, mentors and sponsors who have given her that “family-type advice” that Masterson received from her father.
She gave the following advice to younger people entering the industry: “When I started at Travelers, I joined as a graduate and I was automatically given a mentor within the organization. But as I progressed, I also developed mentorships relationships with people outside of the organization. What’s very important is to let [those relationships] develop naturally. A lot of the people who are mentors to me now – our relationships probably started out more as friends […] and then they developed into something more like mentorship.
“It didn’t start with me saying: ‘Can you be my mentor?’ Quite often, people don’t like that [direct approach] because there’s pressure associated with it. If you have someone in mind who you know you get along with and who you feel really provides that extra value, you don’t necessarily have to put the [mentorship] label on it. Follow with process – that’s what I would recommend to the younger generation looking for a mentor.”
Read more: The business case for D&I in insurance
Alexandra Spence, assistant vice president, distribution, at Berkley Canada, agreed with Yongo about letting mentorship relationships develop more naturally over the ‘Will you be my mentor?’ approach. She also recommends that people engage with multiple mentors in order to gain different perspectives.
“It’s important to think about who’s different from you and to seek their opinions,” said Spence. “Often, it’s easier to get along with people that are like-minded or like ourselves, but really, if you want to grow and develop and push your thinking, finding someone to connect with […] who can push you to think differently is really valuable. I would strongly recommend you put yourself in those situations, because you’d be surprised how powerful that interaction can become in the long-term.”