You hear it quite often in this industry – insurance chose me, I did not choose insurance. Yes, I too was one of those.
My first career choice, what seems like a thousand years ago, was to be a bilingual international secretary traveling the world. So, I began my education in the mid-70s learning typing, shorthand, Dictaphone, communications, etc.
My first job as a secretary was in a non-profit organization working with the executives who were cultivating structured working environments, teaching work skills to the disabled. This was, and still is, one of the best work experiences I’ve had.
The nonprofit had some financial upheaval, which forced me to leave. I then went to work for a large insurance company. As part of their clerical pool, I was tasked with transcribing claims reports. Soon, I was promoted from the pool to secretary of the claims department, then to the secretary of a company executive. It wasn’t long before I requested training and a promotion to workers’ compensation adjuster.
However, that was at a time when young females advanced only so far within this insurance company (the company is no longer in business). In a primarily male-dominated world, I was stuck. It was time for me to move on.
Yet, I now knew that I wanted to achieve personal and career growth in the insurance field. I wanted to work in all areas of insurance, so I set out on my path, which led me to working in personal and commercial lines, life, health, and claims. I worked in all sectors of the industry, paving the way to be a part of one of the largest independent agencies and MGA in Texas.
That was 1983, and I had a wonderful, encouraging employer and great team members. I wasn’t expected to remain a secretary, either. I held the positions of Chief Operating Officer and Human Resource Director until my retirement after almost 30 years of employment. Also, I served a term on the Independent Insurance Agents of Tarrant County, serving local communities working with other insurance professionals in the industry.
I retired on a Friday. The following Wednesday I was headed to Chengdu, China for my husband’s business. We loved it! We enjoyed learning the culture, going to Hong Kong, seeing the Great Wall of China in Beijing, interacting with pandas, and making lifelong friendships that will be a part of our lives forever. While in China, I volunteered at the Sichuan University assisting the Professors in the International Language student studies helping students communicate in English. I learned much from the students, and shared plenty of laughs, including the time they performed Thriller by Michael Jackson for me. We were to stay for twelve months, but another business venture for my husband brought us back home.
It was then I felt the full impact of retirement. I wanted more than idle time. I still wanted to feel retired, and enjoy that status, but I realized I wanted to give back to the industry that was so good to me, but still have a work/life balance. So, I started an independent consulting business helping rural agencies with organization, automation, and assistance in finding talent for their offices. During this time, the Independent Insurance Agency of Texas approached me to be a part of their instructor team, and at the same time I learned about WAHVE through the IIAT.
I started with both organizations as an independent contractor. With WAHVE, my plan was to work 20 to 25 hours a week as an independent contractor temporarily. Three and a half years later, I am a full-time WAHVE employee and I manage a team.
At WAHVE, I work as a Qualifying Specialist. I talk with some of the most knowledgeable individuals in our industry throughout the United States. This knowledge cannot be replaced, and I see people every day who want to give back to the industry. They have empathy, drive, and still want to learn and at the same time mentor others. As I’ve witnessed, it is not always about the value of the dollar in their pocketbook for wahves, but the desire to still feel of value.
Working with WAHVE was such an easy decision that was further confirmed once I started working with the leadership of the company and the other team members. They care about you as an individual and believe in family first. They understand the need to be there for others, and there’s no attempt to make you feel guilty for making the right choices for you.
WAHVE provides a work/life balance that allows us to enjoy my other hobbies – traveling, outdoor activities, and sometimes last-minute changes to our schedules due to an illness in the family. A WAHVE career allows me to work remotely – I can pick up my computer and work from just about anywhere. Every wonderful team member has your back and supports you. WAHVE truly feels like family – so much that we often refer to ourselves as The WAHVE family.
I may work from home, but I do not work alone. Anyone is only a phone call away, including the wonderful leadership of the company. We travel to different locations of the U.S. every six months. When we get together with the WAHVE family, it seems like family reunion time with smiles, hugs, and stories. My husband often asks, why do I not just stay retired and enjoy life. That is so easy to answer – I am enjoying life and I could not imagine it without WAHVE. I am one of WAHVE’s “pretirees” and I love it.
I give thanks every day for that wonderful profession that I did not choose. – Carla Cowan
This post is part of our Making Wahves series that highlights members of the WAHVE team.