What drew you to the captive space?

In the early 2000’s I was an adjuster with Crawford and Company and after doing that for about 12 years, I made a pivot into risk management with the Jim Ellis Automotive Group. I tell people all the time that when I found captives, I found my people and I found my niche in the insurance industry. It is rewarding to build a program as a captive owner and as a risk manager, it’s just something that brings me joy. As a risk manager, there’s so much going on that keeps it interesting, not just the captive itself. It’s the duties that you have and that you touch every single part of the organization in some form or fashion. Because of this, you can have a lot of different experiences and learn a lot. I don’t want to say that I stumbled into it, but I evolved into it.

What do you like most about the insurance industry/the captive niche?

When it comes to a captive, you are only limited by your imagination, and I have seen this time after time, with my captives. If you have a sound business plan and your captive manager demonstrates to the regulator that you plan to grow your business and your captive, it works. I saw the surplus from my last captive grow exponentially over the almost 10 years I was there because we were always looking for ways to add value. I like to add value, improve processes, and create efficiencies. It’s all so interesting to me, and being able to reap those rewards, those dividends for my board is always very gratifying. It is nice to have the opportunity to do that.

What is the best advice you’ve received?

The best advice came from my dad. I shared this at the CICA Amplify Women luncheon. He said, “You belong in every single room you walk into.” Early in my career, and I’ve talked about this on diversity panels in the industry, I was the only woman and the only woman of color. I found myself in a lot of intimidating situations, but when my dad told me that, it shifted my perspective and my way of thinking. It gave me the confidence to know that if I’m at the table, there’s a reason why, and to show people and let them know that I do have this skill set, expertise and knowledge that is going to bring value to the organization. Once I became confident in myself in that way, thanks to my dad nudging me, so many doors have opened from there on out. I’m so grateful to him for that.

What is the advice you would want to have known at the beginning of your career?

It’s okay if things don’t go the way you planned. I did not intend to be in the insurance industry, and it’s been the most rewarding career. I’ve traveled all over the world, and I’ve met some of the best people. My people. Before I found my way into captives, I was 110% sure that I was going to become a teacher and that did not happen. That’s okay because fortunately, with what I do, I still mentor and teach, which is gratifying.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received?

That I wasn’t good enough to do what I was doing. I’ve dealt with many naysayers throughout my career. They used a lot of passive-aggressive comments, questioned me and my decisions, and were just hostile toward me for the things that I was doing that I felt were in the best interest of my board and my company. People don’t like that, especially when it comes from a woman. I’ve dealt with that in the past and to be honest, it’s still something I deal with at times. It can be very mentally draining and exhausting to constantly have to justify yourself and your decisions.

Do you feel as if you have made a difference in the industry? How so?

I feel like recently I have really started to make a difference. I’ve been in many situations where I haven’t been able to expand and grow, and that’s frustrating. I decided that if someone does not want me to go to a conference, speak on a panel, or contribute to an article, I’m going to do it anyway by not taking no for an answer. I’ve been in situations where I’ve just had to find a way. Whether it’s paying out of pocket to go to conferences or do certain things. I know what I want out of my career and just because someone says no, that shouldn’t stop me because I have a vision and I would like to see that through. I’m going to do anything to make it happen. I feel like over the past 12 months or so that, hopefully, I’ve made an impact. I think I have.

How would you encourage other women to get involved and supported in achieving success in this space?

Don’t take no for an answer. I mean that 1,000%. People are always going to be naysayers, and some will always be trying to hold you back. If you know what you want for yourself and your career, it’s important to find a way to make that happen. It’s hard, I’ve been a single mom most of my adult life, and having that responsibility, while also trying to build and grow a satisfying career, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I realized that I was severely underpaid for a long time, and I’ve finally gotten to a point where my salary has become on par with my peers. Now, with financial resources, I utilize them to do these things to improve my career and that has been wonderful.

How important is mentorship (or reverse mentorship) for your career or the careers of others?

We have been talking about this with the Amplify Women conference subcommittee I am on. We talk about having a personal board of directors. I have been lucky that I have had some great mentors. Now I’ve become a mentor because I’ve been doing this for so long. Now I have a personal board of directors, people that I have gathered and collected throughout my career to help me with one thing or another, whether it’s personal or professional. One of my best friends in the industry was part of my village and watched my son while I was out of town for conferences. She helped me tremendously. I have certain people that I go to for certain things, and everybody brings something different to the table, but I’m able to draw on each of them in some form or fashion to be able to get to where I want to be.

What is something personal about yourself that you want readers to know?

I travel, travel, travel. I love traveling to conferences. I use conference travel to see new places and I use conferences to elevate my industry status by speaking on panels and sharing my expertise. It’s important to be upfront and out there to help grow the industry. So – I travel and sometimes, I try to tack on personal time so that I can decompress. My favorite place I have visited so far was on a recent trip to the Galapagos Islands where there had been a recent volcanic eruption, and we were able to walk through the lava field and go into these caverns. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. My next dream trip would be to the Seychelles.