I’m sure this story could be the story of so many women in the insurance industry or maybe even every industry.
As with most people in the insurance industry, my career began by chance, not plan. I was told about an Account Assistant job at a large, local agency. I applied and began my career. I didn’t know anything about insurance, so they quickly enrolled me in Commercial Union’s Producer’s School in Boston, and signed me up for the licensing test. I received my passing grade just in time to head to Boston for three weeks. Evidently, I was on the right path, because I had the second highest score in the class of thirty.
Anticipating the birth of my fist son, I left this agency to stay home with him as well as his brother when he came along a few years later. After a seven-year hiatus I returned as the manager of the Commercial department. Life took some unfortunate turns, and I found myself a single mother of two boys at the time the agency was offering me the chance for advancement to an Account Executive. This position came with a company car, a salary increase, and a chance to supplement my income with commission from my sales. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy transition for me, but I felt that I needed to attempt to juggle it all and do what was best for my children. My work/life balance scale began to tilt out of balance with this career move. Producing business wasn’t easy for me and I often worked on Saturdays, and I worked on obtaining my CIC designation, and updating it annually. I eventually left this position and moved to the company side of the industry. I had remarried, so I was able to start in an entry level position, and learned to underwrite business from the ground up. I started working on my CPCU designation and, as I was about to start the fourth course, I found out that I was expecting a third son, at the age of forty! I quickly decided that I didn’t need additional stress in my life so I stopped my pursuit of the ten-part CPCU designation. I was working fulltime, had two teenage sons and now I was having another baby! I had been promoted to Team Leader, but I decided to leave and stay home with my youngest son until he started attending school. Having reassessed some of my career goals and prioritized being home with my third son for his early years I was regaining some of that work/life balance!
After my youngest was off to school I returned to work for the same company, and when that company went from a small regional company writing in two states to a Fortune 1000 company writing in forty-eight states, I was asked to move to the Program Business department as a Relationship Manager and eventually as Manager of the team. My work/life balance was starting to weigh heavier on the work side! You could have knocked me over with a feather when the Sr. VP of Commercial Lines asked me to become the AVP of Commercial Underwriting. How could I turn down that wonderful opportunity! I had traveled extensively in my Relationship Management position, but now I needed to visit all the programs under my purview on a regular basis. I now had three sons, and I prided myself on only ever missing one sporting or school event. I didn’t consider all the family dinners and impromptu fun times I missed! I was in the air almost weekly, and regularly working sixty hours per week, when I was in the office. My husband was very supportive, and we made it work. I had supported him when his job involved a lot of travel, but he decided to make a change when our youngest son was born and take a job that involved little travel. I should have taken his lead because at that time my work/life scales were extremely imbalanced.
It didn’t let up when the company I worked for eventually had to go into Involuntary Solvent runoff. All those years of long hours, traveling, working hard to put good business on the books, and now I was tasked to non-renew the business, and methodically terminate the thirty-four people who reported to me, and felt like family. I could have chosen to stay to see the last piece of business non-renew, but I chose a very capable underwriter, who could get to retirement in that time frame. I felt good about that decision and proceeded down a new path of franchise ownership. Little did I know that owning my own business would prove to be a 24/7 commitment. At least I was not leaving town weekly! Finding the stress and lifestyle of owning a business wasn’t suited to my family’s or my goals, I closed that business after 5-1/2 years of hard work, and came across information on WAHVE. Its vision for work/life balance, utilizing skills in a business savvy model that leverages experience and talents across the nation for clients, felt like a perfect fit for me, and I applied to be a wahve. After going through the qualifying process, I got a call asking me to come work for WAHVE as an employee, in a Qualifying Specialist position.
That fateful day has changed my life for the better in so many amazing ways. I’m not flying all over the country weekly, I don’t make a huge salary, I don’t have a fancy title, I don’t stay awake at night wondering how I’m going to pay my employees that month, and I don’t miss any of that! I am truly content. I was recently asked by my manager if I’m happy in my job, and on a scale of 1-10, how would I rate my happiness. I told her 10+ and I meant it! I love what I do, I talk daily to the most amazing people, and I feel like I am helping people who want to continue to use their skills, for as long as they are able, to do just that. It took me a while to “wake up” and begin to smell the roses, and I feel so blessed that I can make my transition to the next phase as part of this wonderful team.
My husband and I have spent the last ten months designing and building our dream retirement home. We are hoping to age in place, and working from home has given me the flexibility to pursue that dream. We aren’t moving far, because we want to be part of our children and grandchildren’s lives, but we could have moved anywhere! And, most importantly my work/life scales are finally, perfectly balanced! – Melody Kauffman
This post is part of our Making Wahves series that highlights members of the WAHVE team.