Tag Archives: #InsuranceCareers

Insurance Careers Corner: Q&A with Tasha Fuller, FloodFrame USA

By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I

Triple-I’s “Insurance Careers Corner” series was created to highlight trailblazers in the insurance industry and to spread awareness on the career opportunities within the industry.

This month we interviewed, Tasha Fuller, CEO & Co-Founder, FloodFrame USA, a Houston-based company that provides homes and businesses with a waterproof cloth barrier against damage from flooding. Tasha shared her insights as a woman entrepreneur in STEM and how past flooding experiences and a background in civil engineering inspired her business.

Tasha Fuller, CEO & Co-Founder, FloodFrame USA

You started your career as a civil engineer. What led you to eventually build your own business, FloodFrame USA?

As an engineer, I wanted to do more for the community. I was designing big projects around Houston, oftentimes office buildings or huge industrial buildings, but I got into engineering to help the world in some way. It was always in the back of my mind to figure out how to best use my talents for this.

My primary focus was hydraulics and hydrology – how water works and how storms work. Then flooding happened in Houston. My family and I went to Denmark about six months after [Hurricane] Harvey to visit family, and we were introduced to FloodFrame on the news. Immediately, I knew this was something that needed to be in Houston. I contacted the Danish engineers, who developed the technology, to discuss how to bring it to the U.S. This led to six months of conversations with the engineers, myself, and my Dad, who is also my business partner. Initially, we were pursuing this [opportunity] on the side, and it was a huge leap of faith when we realized this company needed a full-time champion in order to work in the U.S.

What was the transition like from engineer to entrepreneur?

It was a huge risk, and it was scary. I’d wake up in the morning and wonder if I made the right decision. I left a corporate environment where everything was lined up for me, and I had colleagues to ask questions. The pattern of the day was figured out. As an entrepreneur, each day you ask yourself what’s the best thing for your company. Not having colleagues, it’s all on you, and it can feel like you never turn off.  I’ve been doing this for almost two years now, and I’ve most recently learned to find the balance.

What advice would you give to aspiring women entrepreneurs looking to build a STEM business?

On the days where you feel like giving up, just don’t. You are going to have days when you doubt if you have the potential. I read a quote the other day that resonated with me, ‘when you’re tired, learn to rest not quit.’ I’ve been using that for myself because I have tough days too. I recommend going for a walk or doing something that you enjoy. Go back to the challenge after that rest. Things will look a lot brighter than when you were in the moment.

In my previous job, I was the only woman and the only person under 40 in the room. I had to learn to stand my ground and feel comfortable in that situation. I would say to view that situation as an advantage to stand out and have your message heard versus blending into the room.

As a resident of Houston, you’ve experienced several severe storms including Harvey. How did you these experiences influence the business?

We wouldn’t have started this company if we didn’t see the impact of water on our community and how destructive flooding can be. During Hurricane Harvey, I remember watching the water inch towards my parents’ house. It was such a hopeless feeling, because we couldn’t stop this force of nature at the time. I remember thinking that there must be some solution out there for people who want to protect their homes. That’s really where the seed was planted and why meeting the FloodFrame engineers clicked during our trip to Denmark. My family would have been in a different position if we had the protection on our house.

2020 is expected to be one of the worst hurricane seasons on record and the pandemic will bring about new challenges in disaster prep. How have these challenges impacted your business?

We have installations already in the ground in the Greater Houston area. Our primary goal is to educate as many people as possible [in the area] about risk mitigation and property protection. The biggest hurdles have been reaching the people that really need it and educating the community overall. Pre-disaster mitigation is important. Floods will continue to happen, but protection can help people spend a fraction of cost to rebuild a flooded house. I’ve been leveraging digital platforms and accelerator programs like the Resilience Accelerator to find the right partners and get the word out on risk mitigation. We’re in this unusual time, but people realize that their homes are important and need the tools to protect themselves. Even though we are in a pandemic, that doesn’t mean the flooding will stop.

Insurance Careers Corner: A Few Minutes with Anisha Navendra, Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) intern

By James Ballot, Senior Advisor, Strategic Communications, Triple-I

It’s an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of our personal and professional lives. Amid widespread disruption, however, people are stepping up with innovative ways to overcome the distance of “social distancing.”

For insurance businesses, summer internships have long provided a vital path for educating students about the industry, and for insurance businesses to evaluate promising recruits. However, with lockdowns and other measures to contain the spread of Coronavirus extending through and beyond the summer months, many businesses were forced re-evaluate internship programs, with some considering suspension of 2020 summer internships. 

Several organizations have stepped in to fill this gap, including insurance businesses, industry trade groups, and in particular, Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS), a student society with 77 chapters serving more than 5,000 members across North America that’s recognized by many as “the insurance industry’s premier collegiate talent pipeline.”  Earlier this year GIS launched their Virtual Internships program. Despite getting a somewhat late start, the program placed more than 65 students on 30 projects at 14 insurance businesses.

As part of the Triple-I Blog’s “Insurance Careers Corner” features series, we spoke with student interns about their experiences during summer 2020 and their insurance career journey so far. We also reached out to internship program directors to get a fuller sense of how their organizations benefit from expanding outreach to students even in the midst of a pandemic.

First up is Anisha Navendra, who is a rising sophomore at University of Texas, Austin. Anisha spent part of the summer of 2020 interning at the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s (IICF) Southeast Division. She’s double majoring in Mathematics with a concentration in Actuarial Science and Finance—and has “a keen interest in the insurance industry.”

Name: Anisha Navendra

Current Status: Rising Sophomore, The University of Texas at Austin

Internship: IICF

Triple-I: Tell us a bit about your experience as an intern. Did you have an internship lined up before schools and offices went into COVID-19 isolation?

Anisha: I was looking into internships earlier this year, but by the time classes went remote many programs were either suspended or cancelled. Gamma Iota Sigma stepped in to find ways to connect students with insurers and insurance businesses. My internship with IICF is an opportunity to learn more about the unique philanthropic side of the insurance industry by allowing me to spend time working closely with industry professionals.

How long is your internship with IICF and what sort of work are you doing there? 

My internship runs through August. I’m assisting with a wide variety of projects, including pulling and researching financial reports for insights into how a charitable foundation works.  

What skills and knowledge are you picking up along the way?

I’m learning more about teamwork, communications, doing due-diligence, time management and research skills, as well as how to use tools of the trade, like Microsoft Office. Also, I’m meeting and networking (virtually) with a lot of insurance professionals from different backgrounds and getting exposure to a wide range of business areas–marketing, finance, operations.

I plan to use these skills and the knowledge gained about insurance and the insurance industry to help me in my future endeavors as an actuary, or financial consultant.

When did you first consider insurance as a career path?

I became more aware of insurance as a member of my high school debate club (the topic was health insurance). Entering college, I discovered how actuarial sciences aligned with my other interests.

Any “surprises”; things you did not expect to learn or do?

Working with IICF has shown me a unique and more creative side of the business and how the industry’s charitable activities are helping to redefine the narrative about insurance. I’m also learning how companies are reacting to the pandemic—and that insurance is nimble and responsive.  It’s exciting to be behind the scenes at a non-profit.

How will this experience affect you going forward—both in your studies and in preparation for life after college?

Working with IICF has encouraged me to be more innovative and team oriented. The experience has made me want to learn more about non-profits and has gotten me interested in marketing and brand strategies. I plan take more classes in business law and ethics to round out my knowledge.

Insurance Careers Corner: Q&A with Rahel Abraham, ClimaGuard

By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I

Triple-I’s “Insurance Careers Corner” series was created to highlight trailblazers in the insurance industry and to spread awareness on the career opportunities within the industry.

This month we interviewed Rahel Abraham, CEO of ClimaGuard, a Houston-based start-up that provides protective coverings for cars (and personal belongings) to prevent valuable losses from flood damage. Rahel shared her inspiration for creating ClimaGuard, her experiences as a first-time entrepreneur, and how she prepped her business for hurricane season, amid a pandemic.

Name: Rahel Abraham

Current Role: Founder & CEO, ClimaGuard

Years at Company: 2 years

Tell me about ClimaGuard. What led you to start the company in 2018?

The idea of ClimaGuard came about a month after Hurricane Harvey. This event was a historical devastation – not only were residential homes flooded, but many businesses and vehicles were flooded also. I lost my car, and there was a shortage of rental vehicles. Living in Houston, I depend on my mobility – being vulnerable post the hurricane was a challenge. I realized that I needed help, and so did many of my neighbors.

Shortly after the storm, a friend and I thought of an idea to produce a protective covering. As more hurricanes hit, we realized that flood mitigation wasn’t going to be solved overnight, but that we could come up with a way to help people safeguard themselves in real time. My background prior to ClimaGuard was in Engineering, so I knew that I had the background to create a product that would work.

ClimaGuard protective coverings can be used for other purposes outside of automobiles. I have a client who used it to protect a grandfather clock that was passed down through generations. I wanted the covering to be large enough to fit a car, but easy enough to use for quickly packing other valuable items in the home – sofas, electronics, tables, etc.

As CEO, what’s top of mind as you look to grow your business?

There are two goals that are top of mind: 1.) Spread awareness about flood risks, and 2.) Encourage and empower at-risk communities to proactively mitigate. Education in creating awareness for disaster planning and mitigation is vital to the growth of ClimaGuard. Whatever life looks like post-event – whether it’s running for home supplies, shopping for groceries, or accessing temporary living (hotel) – you need mobility, and, more importantly, peace of mind throughout the event.

It wasn’t until I got flooded that I understood the challenges post-flooding, and the financial costs to recover. I was fortunate to have a support system, but I know individuals who are still trying to recover three years after Harvey. I’m focused on preparing individuals and communities to get back up and running as soon as possible.

Being a woman and Black-owned business, what challenges have you faced in growing the company?

I didn’t know anyone personally who ran a successful product-based company, or any start-up, in general. I quit my job to pursue my business, so my cash flow was limited. I relied on my savings in the beginning, because I didn’t know how to seek funding. I was concerned that I would lock my business into a situation that would prevent it from thriving, if I didn’t partner with the right people. Because I didn’t have the network here, I went overseas to build partnerships, understand manufacturing, and learn how to create opportunities.

What activities have you been involved in to help build networking and partnerships?

Prior to COVID-19, I was part of an accelerator program called DivInc out of Austin, Texas. Austin is a great community for start-ups, and I wanted to be in the mix among entrepreneurs who were also starting from the ground up. After completing that program, I began outreach specifically to dealerships and the insurance industry. These two markets have proven to be good partnership opportunities for ClimaGuard. With insurance, my goal is to touch on the fleet business, the rental car space, and the commercial and residential customer base. With the dealerships, I am seeking access to the residential and commercial buyers who are invested in protecting their assets.

[ClimaGuard is currently a participant in Triple-I’s Resilience Accelerator]

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in seeking opportunities and overcoming challenges? 

Just like your ingenuity led to an idea that solves a real problem, that same creative thinking will lead you to solutions to overcome your challenges. Your path is your own, and you don’t need millions of dollars to make your start-up successful. You do not need a proven track record to show you are capable. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, so don’t burn yourself out.

2020 is expected to be one of the worst hurricane seasons on record and the pandemic will bring about new challenges in disaster prep. How have these challenges impacted your business? How are you preparing for the season?

Currently, the nation is highly focused on COVID-19. The lack of attention to this hurricane season concerns me, however we are living in very unusual and uncertain times. Many of us, myself included, are taking things day by day. I’m trying to be observant of the climate and the emotional health of our communities. In terms of preparedness during hurricane season, I know that hurricanes and flash flooding only allow a few days of notice before hitting an area. I’ve ensured that ClimaGuard inventory is ready, and I’m prepared to ship units (with the available supply) through a local fulfillment business in Houston. ClimaGuard’s mission is to prevent loss from natural disasters, and we’re ready this season and preparing for next season. Our goal is increase inventory next year as we develop more opportunities with partners and retailers.

Generational Differences in the Workplace: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt Your Bottom Line

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Insurance Information Institute

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jennifer J. Deal, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), who helped provide insights into generational differences, leadership, and the insurance industry.

Deal will be speaking on many of these points at her upcoming talk at the WCRI’s 36 Annual Issues & Research Conference, March 5 and 6, 2020, in Boston, MA. She points to WCRI’s data-driven model as a mission she shares – and pushing for a greater understanding of the employees they both study. Deal also notes the importance of generating this data-driven understanding for the insurance business, which is tackling how to best engage and retain Millennial and Gen Z employees, groups that hold the future of the industry.

Why is studying Millennial engagement important?

Organizations want employees to be engaged and are deeply concerned that young people aren’t engaged at work. In general, when new cohorts come into an organization, it’s important to understand if anything is meaningfully different about them. If there is, then the organization can address it and hopefully continue to be effective as it integrates the new employees into the larger organization. 

How can a company use your insights to create a more cohesive, inclusive environment?

A company can use my work to help staff better understand the perspectives of the different generations.  Part of what my work does is provide data-based information about generations to clarify where there is a difference between stereotypes and reality.  This helps both leaders and people throughout organizations understand the perspectives of people from other generations who may or may not think like them.

How do generational differences affect the bottom line?

When people feel disengaged because they feel pushed aside or ignored simply because they’re from a particular generation, that’s a cost. When a company feels the need to implement very expensive training programs that aren’t necessarily going to improve how people work together because they don’t move the needle on the real issues, that’s a cost. When people leave because of unmet needs, that’s a cost. Unnecessary tension, conflict, and disengagement that arises because of generational stereotypes is a drag on the organization – and the bottom line.

Do you see all this affecting the insurance industry?

Definitely. I’ve had numerous conversations with leaders in the insurance industry about issues related to attraction and retention of the next generation of employees. One of the conversations we’ve had is about the desire of young people to have stability in their careers. Young people are much more interested in stability and long-term careers than people think they are. If that’s something the insurance industry can offer, it will likely be of great interest to young people.