The Women Transforming INSTANDA

Posted on 8th March 2021

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The Women Transforming INSTANDA

Posted on 8th March 2021

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The Women Transforming INSTANDA
Rocio Garcia, UI Lead, INSTANDA

Rocio Garcia, UI Lead

How has your career developed? Where did you start and what has led you to work at INSTANDA?

I started my career building corporate and public sector online courses in Flash (that’s right, I said Flash!). Later, I became a freelance designer and learned to appreciate resourcefulness as well as working within a larger team.
When I moved to the UK, I had the opportunity to work as a web designer at INSTANDA. While still in its early stages, it was a chance to really put my skills to the test with higher stakes. As INSTANDA grew, so did my responsibilities, input, and confidence.

What obstacles have you met and overcome throughout your career?

I could mention difficulties like learning to sink or swim when working fresh out of university or managing clients and payments when you're a freelancer, but I'm most proud of overcoming obstacles within. It can be challenging to trust yourself and your skills at times when the playing field is fierce and expectations are high. At your worst, you can feel like a fraud (hello imposter syndrome). You try to "fake it 'til you make it" and over time it's that much easier to believe. With continued encouragement and support, you can put self-doubt on the back-burner and push yourself to grow.

This is something I see amongst other women in the workplace. A female host in a webinar talking about not having the confidence to go for more senior roles or take on challenges, and other female panelists will immediately nod in agreement. Women not applying for jobs because they don't meet the 100% of the criteria where men will apply anyway. Women coming back from maternity leave who feel they need to play catch up. Role models I've looked up to fighting over years to make their voice heard in a male environment. We need to bring down the barriers between us and our goals, and, more importantly, the walls we build inside stopping us from realising we can.

What does your current role involve and what are you doing/have you done to transform INSTANDA?

Since starting at INSTANDA, my current role has evolved significantly into something pretty unique.
I head up the Design team: this includes anything from understanding the business challenge to fine tuning the final look and feel of the user journey.

As of last year, I also lead the UI/UX for the INSTANDA platform as part of the Solutions team. This gives me the space to ensure we grow our platform organically with a stance on usability. I contribute to bridging gaps within the organization between clients, teams, technology, and creativity.

Additionally, I’m a proud member of the leadership community and the recently formed culture committee.

Helen Williams, Marketing Lead, INSTANDA

Helen Williams, Marketing Lead

How has your career developed? Where did you start and what has led you to work at INSTANDA?

Like so many others I finished my degree and thought, what next?

Completing a degree in Business Studies means you can take a number of routes professionally, but I knew I wanted to get into marketing from the get-go. At the time I thought it was all international travel, product launches and promotions… and to a certain extent it was! But that was 2001, the world of marketing has changed dramatically since then!

I started my career working for a training and consulting firm who specialized in delivering Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). It was a small company, so it was one of those jobs where you really get to make a difference. We worked with some incredible clients such as Jamie Oliver’s 15, The GB women’s curling team, and BBC 5 Live. Sadly, I did not get to meet Jamie.

And from there I’ve worked my way up and across the career ladder holding a number of Senior Marketing roles working for charities, local and central government and the recruitment industry prior to joining INSTANDA.

We all have our reasons for looking for a new role and for me, it was about working in a completely different size, type and pace of organization. INSTANDA ticked all of those boxes. But ultimately, I do think you buy into people. To me that is a crucial factor when considering a move. I really bought into the people I met along the way. And they bought into me. No regrets.

What obstacles have you met and overcome throughout your career?

A big challenge, for me, is and always has been, a lack of female role models in the workplace in senior positions. It is harder to be what you can’t see.

Equity for women in the workplace has come a long way but there is a still a huge amount of work to be done. Some positive steps would be for industry leaders to make a long term investment to ensure women have an equitable pathway into senior roles and there are inclusive leadership behaviors modelled throughout the organization.

In fact, since this is still an issue, we saw an acrimonious online parish council meeting last month became a viral hit, making a heroine of its unflappable host Jackie Weaver. A woman who was shouted down by her male colleagues “you have no authority here Jackie Weaver," trending on Twitter globally.

Hopefully, someone has shown the video clip to Yoshiro Mori, the former Japanese prime minister now running the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, who last week complained that meetings with women “take so much time."

Due to the power of social media, these high profile examples have resulted in action: the resignation of Yoshiro Mori and in the case of the Parish Council meeting, have illustrated the challenges women face not only in local government but often across industries.

For my generation, wanting to challenge these behaviors and attitudes for my female peers is a must. While times have changed, we still need to look at the make-up of Boards and Leadership teams. There are more men named Peter leading top UK companies than there are female CEO’s in the FTSE 100 companies.

Let’s start by addressing the issue of more women in senior roles through increased targets and accountability but also coupled with a cultural change to accelerate progress for future generations.

There is work that still needs to happen - challenging the traditional view of leadership is one I welcome and have been championing throughout my career. Traits such as empathy, empowerment, resilience and collaboration are increasingly valued.

Personally, it’s not about being the loudest person in the room to be heard or add value. Stand up when it feels right, be assertive, and champion what and who you believe in. It goes a long way.

What does your current role involve and what are you doing/have you done to transform INSTANDA?

I head up the marketing team for the EMEA business and my role is broad and varied. It’s about positioning INSTANDA as the world-leading cloud native SaaS insurance platform that enables the industry to transform and empowers our clients to stand out in the market.

I’ve nearly hit my two-year anniversary at INSTANDA and I have witnessed some incredible achievements: launching our Life & Health business, becoming the first InsurTech in the Microsoft Azure Marketplace and being named in the CB Insights top 250 FinTech Company’s to watch, just to name a few.

It is an incredibly exciting company to work for. What happens in a day here can often take months in other businesses, so that gives you the idea of the pace at which we can and do operate.

It’s not for the faint hearted but it is for the brave.

Patricia Stevens, INSTADA

Patricia Stevens, Account Delivery Manager

How has your career developed? Where did you start and what has led you to work at INSTANDA?

Like most people in insurance I fell into the industry. Insurance was never a sector of finance talked about in Scotland as an option for a career. I moved down to London after graduation and, thanks to a family friend, I found myself at one of the major insurance broking companies. Then I moved onto working for an insurer and then to insurance software, but with a focus on catastrophe models. I was intrigued by INSTANDA, having worked at an insurer and using archaic, grey policy admin software with lengthy timelines to implement any change, I wanted to see what INSTANDA was all about in innovatively transforming this area of insurance.

What obstacles have you met and overcome throughout your career?

One thing a male colleague told me in my very first job role was, “good luck getting another job- women are overlooked as they are too costly as they go on maternity leave." This comment left a lasting impression that there was/still is bias in the workplace towards women. I can confidently say I have overcome this comment by excelling in various roles in different companies. Through determination to succeed and being passionate day to day, while knowing that sometimes, your best is not enough and that is OK- it's what you learn from when you fail. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor- and how you adapt to overcome issues and problems will help shape who you are.

What does your current role involve and what are you doing/have you done to transform INSTANDA?

I am part of the Account Management team which entails ensuring our clients are successful and have what they need from us to continue to grow. I have helped shape this by driving forward our webinar series to highlight INSTANDA development and roadmap items to our clients. I have also strived to improve several processes to assist with client enhancement and delivery.

Rebecca Angell, INSTANDA

Rebecca Angell, Global Account Manager

How has your career developed? Where did you start and what has led you to work at INSTANDA?

My career has experienced an unconventional path. I started my career as an Environmental Engineer but found a keen interest in the software world in the mid 90’s. I took a job as a corporate trainer for an energy/utility billing software company. Through that job, I quickly understood that education and communication are crucial elements to success both personally and professionally. My career progressed from business analyst to project management to sales support. I left the energy industry for the insurance industry, taking on a role of sales engineer. It is at this point where I ultimately met one of my mentors.

While I enjoyed my demanding and dynamic career, I made the choice to stay home with my children when they were born. When I re-entered the workforce five years later, I reinvented myself by taking on a very challenging business development and PR role with a Sports Industry Tech StartUp. After years of gaining invaluable experience in that world, I was drawn back to the innovation of the insurance industry through my mentor.

I feel my experiences across multiple industries with a vast number of personalities is a unique strength. I build relationships with the C-Suite down to the end user. Regardless of title or position, it is important to remember that a company is made up of people. Each person has a job that influences the success of that company. When we understand the Who/Why, it makes the What/How much easier. At INSTANDA, we strive for an elite experience, both with our platform and our personnel.

What obstacles have you met and overcome throughout your career?

I had a female manager during my first job out of college. I was thrilled at the possibility, as women were severely under-represented in the software industry at the time. I looked at that potential relationship as one of mentor/mentee. I was in for a rude awakening. This manager was not invested in communication or professional growth. I and other colleagues were quite confused by her actions and communications, which led to a very tense and often unprofessional atmosphere. That relationship never affected my performance, but it certainly affected my quality of life. This manager did not have the company’s or her employee’s best interests in mind. Thirteen of her direct reports left the company in a span of three weeks (including myself), and eventually she was fired. I was quite heartbroken that the potential to have a meaningful and impactful working relationship was never realized. I vowed that if I were ever in a position to manage people, I would do all I could to clear a path for success. Once again, the power of communication was a theme.

When you are confident that your teammates and your employer are supportive, a path for growth and innovation is paved. I have never forgotten that experience. It is what drives my professional demeanor. Mutual respect, the art of listening, and validating the opinions and suggestions from coworkers and clients are cornerstones of my professional philosophy.

What does your current role involve and what are you doing/have you done to transform INSTANDA?

As an Account Manager, it is my job to ensure the success, satisfaction, and growth of our existing clients. The most paramount factor in achieving these goals is listening. By listening, not HEARING, I am able to communicate wants, needs, and industry trends to our INSTANDA leadership. Our clients’ success is ultimately our success. Our company was founded on the principle that there must be a better way to innovate in the insurance industry. It is my job to uphold that principle.

I and my team revolutionize our offering through the communication of ideas that result in new functionality in the platform. I identify ways our clients may further utilize our platform within their corporation through either migration work or creation of new programs or products. When our clients are not limited or trapped by technology or multiple platforms, they can focus on creating. They can focus on growth. We eliminate the hurdles and clear the path for transformation from the ground up. I always ask our clients what they are trying to achieve. They usually counter with the question, “What can I do within INSTANDA?” I then tell them, “That’s not what I asked. What do YOU want to do? Let’s look at the business problem or idea you are working through. Let’s design it your way, not a way that is constrained by a series of screens.” I love seeing people succeed. I love solving problems. At INSTANDA, we are here to solve problems. That motivates me.

Sara Shipley, INSTANDA

Sara Shipley, Head of HR & Talent

How has your career developed? Where did you start and what has led you to work at INSTANDA?

My career has taken many twists and turns to bring me to where I am today. When I left university I had no idea what I wanted to do as a ‘proper grown up’ and fully intended on putting it all off by going on the obligatory year travelling. To earn some extra cash, I went for an interview at my local Sainsbury's, little did I know my life plan would change significantly. The Personnel Manager who interviewed me had gone to the same University many years earlier and said what a shame it was that I hadn’t applied for their grad scheme and suggested I submit an application for the following year. I told my dad when I got home and he encouraged me to submit the application that day - I thought "why not, I can go travelling and come back to a job."

To my surprise I was invited in for an assessment and days later I had been offered a space on the September intake. I was on a general management scheme but another twist would see me move in to HR when the Store Manager asked me to hold the reins in place of the current HR Manager who was out sick. I jumped at the chance! After covering the function for 11 weeks, the HR Manager returned and I was faced with returning to the General Manager Program. I had decided this wasn’t what I wanted to do, so scheduled a meeting with the Regional HR Manager. I told her I wanted to stay in HR and was delighted when she agreed to create a bespoke HR scheme for me. Within 12 months I was promoted to my first stand alone HR Manager role and my love affair with HR had officially begun. I managed a number of different stores and had the most amazing time learning HR from the ground up. After two years I was keen to take on more, so I left Sainsbury’s to join Cannons (now Nuffield Health) and started a regional HR role. This was my first introduction to HR tribunals and was a real learning curve. 2000 employees and three HR people meant we were busy all the time but it was great fun and I worked with two amazing people who shared knowledge freely.

After Cannons, I joined Superdrug and by now it was clear that to progress effectively in HR you had to have a working knowledge of all the key specialisms. I had seen HR directors completely defer to ‘specialists’ because they had, by their own admittance, no experience of that field and I made a commitment to never fall into that trap. During my time at Superdrug, my role evolved three times and each time I stretched myself, dealt with a fair amount of imposter syndrome but on each occasion I learnt to swim and started to tick off more elements of HR. With the financial crisis in 2008, for the first time in my life I realized how important working for a company that was aligned to my moral compass was to me. As the company struggled financially our approach didn’t sit comfortably with me, so when the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy presented itself I took it.

From Superdrug, I joined Starbucks and had the most amazing 5 years. During my time there I took every opportunity to experience broader areas of HR; I managed the payroll function, led the comp and benefits function for EMEA, led the talent function and managed organizational design across EMEA. Having spent my entire career in retail and hospitality I was keen to see if I could cut it in a new sector and when a friend said a move to financial services would never be possible, I set my mind on proving him wrong.

The opportunity to join Hiscox presented itself and I moved across to lead HR for the corporate center and two of the Business Units. In the early days, a few people looked at me like I had two heads because I hadn’t ‘grown up’ in insurance but I always loved proving people wrong and showing them what HR could really do. During my time at Hiscox my role grew and two years ago I was offered the opportunity to hold the newly created Chief of Staff role supporting the global CEO – I leapt at the chance and had a great time working with the Executive Directors to help evolve the company structure. After 6 months, I transitioned again and took on the UK Location Project and Head of M&A role pushing me entirely out of my comfort zone as I managed the sale of two books of business. In January, the location project concluded and with no further M&A activity on the horizon I once again opted to take redundancy and moved to INSTANDA.

Here I am hoping to leverage my varied HR and sector experience to support INSTANDA with our ambitious growth agenda, utilizing our most important asset – our people. I am passionate about helping people grow and develop in their careers so keep an eye out for more in this space.

What obstacles have you met and overcome throughout your career?

  • In the early days it was looking young (three children have definitely resolved that for me!) but people would constantly underestimated me and what I could deliver.
  • Generally I think a lot of people still view HR as the tissue and sympathy function, and therefore expect you to stay in your box and ‘do the HR stuff!’ Nothing annoys me more than opinions like that. I believe HR is one of the most strategically important functions in any organization and when executed correctly has the capability to truly influence how the company performs.
  • Mediocrity – in environments where mediocrity rules, restless people that want to raise the bar can be seen as difficult. I have definitely found myself in environments where I have been seen as difficult or too opinionated. When this has happened I have tried to stay focused on being a positive force for change, pushing to collectively raise the bar but it doesn’t always work. As I have got older I have realized you need to work somewhere that allows you to be you, when you find somewhere that supports you being the best version of yourself you will fly!
  • Women who have pulled the ladder up behind them! I sometimes think we are our own worst enemies and I have definitely worked with women who have reached senior roles and instead of championing others around them, they pull the ladder up and approach it with an ‘I made it on my own so why should I help you’ attitude. I am a strong believer that we should all champion talent, whatever it looks like. When talent is the only gatekeeper, companies will flourish.

What does your current role involve and what are you doing/have you done to transform INSTANDA?

It's still early days – today (8th March) marks my one month anniversary at INSTANDA but I am excited about the role I can play in the next stage of the journey. As we look ahead to returning to our offices over the coming months I want to make sure we take the learnings from the last 12 months and adapt what and how we use our space to unlock the most value. Through the EOS feedback I am keen to build on the ICF and create a clear talent framework which enables each and every employee to have a conversation about their career development opportunities. I also want to invest in our management population ensuring they have the skills and toolkits to effectively lead, motivate and inspire high performing teams.

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