By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I
Triple-I has created an “Insurance Careers Corner” series to highlight trailblazers in insurance and to spread awareness of the career opportunities within the industry.
This month we interviewed Emily Viner at Guardian Life Insurance, who provided us with insights about her career trajectory, how she’s working to build a more inclusive workplace, and her advocacy work helping more women reach management roles at agencies.
Name: Emily Viner
Current Role: VP of Agency Growth & Development
Years at Guardian Life Insurance: 22
Tell us about your current role at Guardian Life. What does a typical day look like for you in this role?
As VP of Agency Growth & Development, I make sure that we hire enough of the right people to serve our communities and that our leadership bench is growing. We’re committed to growing future leaders from within the company.
In a typical day, I act as a bridge between what our field needs–our general agents who own and operate their businesses as partners of the Guardian network–and the home office. A typical day depends on what’s going on in the community. In the last three weeks that’s changed dramatically in what we need to provide to our partners.
As VP of Agency Growth & Development, what is top of mind for you?
Top of mind for me is making sure that we have the capacity to hire enough of the right people, and we’re equipped to hire people from diverse backgrounds–creating workplaces that are inclusive where people feel that they want to be part of that environment.
One of my colleagues years ago called it the greenhouse. Is the greenhouse set to make sure that someone can grow and thrive, and if not, then you’ve got to fix that first.
You began your career as a financial advisor before moving on to the corporate side of the business. What advice would you give to women looking to make a shift in their careers?
I remember that first year was so hard. As an advisor, I was in complete control and in a different environment I didn’t always have that. I would tell all women to say ‘yes’ when you don’t know how. That’s a scary thing, but once you do it, you realize ‘I made it and I’m fine.’
It’s also trusting that you’re competent and that you’ll figure it out.
I read an article years ago that stated women spend a lot of time being competent but not confident. That’s why saying yes when you don’t know how is so important. If you’re taking on a project where you only know 20%–if you fall, you’ll learn, and you’ll move on–that’s how you build confidence.
How did you get that confidence to follow through knowing that you had that skillset?
I spoke at an industry meeting years ago, and during that time, two companies had asked me to join them. At the time my children were young [three and four], and the companies weren’t being flexible. One of the companies offered the idea of me consulting three days a week to help with recruiting and building field leaders, so I just jumped in to do what was best for my family and my children.
I did that for two years before joining Guardian Life. In looking back–the two years I spent consulting–the knowledge that I gained helped me accelerate in the role once I arrived at Guardian. It’s having faith in your ability and what works for the current situation and what you’re looking to build. The perspective of having patience is important. It’s knowing that maybe this is the time that you need to learn something more or different for that next role.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month, what are some ways that Guardian Life addresses topics such as equal pay, leadership opportunities, and inclusion efforts?
We have an amazing executive leadership team that leads by example [CEO Deanna Mulligan and President, Andrew McMahon]. They live our values every day through their actions. We hold ourselves to very high standards, we seek to do the right thing and people count. That transcends to equal pay, equal opportunities, and all our inclusion efforts around hiring to ensure that there’s a diverse pool of candidates for open positions as well as opportunities for internal moves. I’ve seen inclusion programs really accelerate over the last ten years.
We’re living in an uncertain time. Your CEO Deanna Mulligan and President Andrew McMahon have made a public commitment to minimizing business interruptions during COVID-19 and maintain response during the crisis. How has this type of leadership impacted your role directly, and how is it impacting the company overall?
My team feels proud of the communication. There was a work-from-home strategy starting March 10th. The safety of our employees is a priority, as is client communication and services. We were built for this. We got through the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. We got through the great recession. We payed our obligations and still paid the dividends. We’re in the same position to be able to do that today–not just for our employees but for all our clients and consumers across the country.
Our clients are in good hands. We updated our website and communications to clients to let them know they can update their policies and get answers to questions through all our digital platforms. We’ve also provided our field partners with information they can share with their clients on market volatility and what they can do to help calm their fears. With the stock market volatility, the cash value in life insurance is not going to change, [it’s not subject to the same volatility] so there is also reassurance with those decisions.
What are your goals for the future in terms of where you want to take your career?
I’m thinking about how I’m positioning the firm for the future and building up our bench– ultimately grooming my successor. I’d also like to continue to help young women in male dominated industries. I’ve been working towards this for the past 30 years, but there is so much more to do whether it’s in my company or philanthropic/volunteer. It’s important to me to continue this work.