In­surtech presents a great ca­reer path


Shobana Sankaran is VP of in­sur­ance at Nauto, an au­to­mo­tive safety and data plat­form that is mak­ing fleets and in­sur­ance com­pa­nies smarter and also in­form­ing the de­vel­op­ment of au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle tech­nol­ogy. She has also worked at Pro­gres­sive, Esurance and Cal­i­for­nia Ca­su­alty Co.

Where should a bright, am­bi­tious woman start her ca­reer right now and ex­pect to suc­ceed? The an­swer may sur­prise you: In­surtech, that con­ver­gence of tech­nol­ogy, data and plat­forms that is now driv­ing dra­matic ef­fi­cien­cies in the in­sur­ance in­dus­try.

While the P&C in­sur­ance in­dus­try is tra­di­tion­ally sta­ble and con­ser­va­tive, it's now ex­pe­ri­enc­ing seis­mic change, fu­eled by the avail­abil­ity of mas­sive amounts of new data and tech­nol­ogy. Only the moon is the limit for an in­tel­lec­tu­ally cu­ri­ous per­son — fe­male or male — with the right skills, smarts and am­bi­tion who jumps into the dy­namic in­surtech arena now.

Both in­sur­ance and tech have tra­di­tion­ally been math- and data-ori­ented, with fewer women in lead­er­ship roles. But as women are in­creas­ingly en­ter­ing and be­com­ing suc­cess­ful in STEM dis­ci­plines, in­surtech is a ter­rific sec­tor to con­sider.

It's also widely known that the tech in­dus­try must be­come more di­verse; but on this, we've reached a high-wa­ter mark of aware­ness in the need for gen­der equal­ity, and that equals op­por­tu­nity for women. Sev­eral Sil­i­con Val­ley firms are re­spond­ing in mean­ing­ful ways. I'm proud, for ex­am­ple, that 45% of the ex­ec­u­tive team at my em­ployer, Nauto, are women. I'd ad­vise any in­tel­lec­tu­ally cu­ri­ous, am­bi­tious and coura­geous in­di­vid­ual to con­sider that the in­sur­ance in­dus­try is right now a great place to look for tech­nol­ogy-ori­ented roles.

I was ini­tially at­tracted to the in­sur­ance in­dus­try be­cause I was in­ter­ested in us­ing data and quan­ti­ta­tive ideas to solve busi­ness prob­lems. I have been for­tu­nate to work for some world-class com­pa­nies with in­cred­i­bly smart peo­ple and men­tors, and at a time when the in­dus­try is forg­ing a close con­nec­tion with tech. I'm now work­ing with in­sur­ance car­ri­ers to help de­velop new prod­ucts and ser­vices that will make them more mean­ing­ful part­ners to pol­i­cy­hold­ers. I'm also work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively with in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, fleet-de­pen­dent busi­nesses and auto mak­ers to re-de­fine in­dus­try mod­els as trans­porta­tion em­braces the brave new world of au­ton­omy.

While in­surtech presents an ex­cit­ing ca­reer path, it's also a nur­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment. I am thank­ful that my em­ploy­ers have pro­vided sig­nif­i­cant train­ing, strong men­tor­ship and many op­por­tu­ni­ties to be ex­posed to sev­eral func­tional ar­eas of the busi­ness, and a rea­son­able work-life bal­ance when I've needed it.

A lead­er­ship pro­gram I re­cently par­tic­i­pated in at the Cen­ter for Creative Lead­er­ship in San Diego spent some time fo­cus­ing on four as­pects im­por­tant to a per­son's life — ca­reer, fam­ily, self and com­mu­nity — all tied to­gether by one's core val­ues. Which of the four is em­pha­sized will be dy­namic and ever-chang­ing, but there's one con­stant that's im­por­tant here: bal­ance among these four val­ues. And that bal­ance re­quires a nur­tur­ing and sup­port­ive work en­vi­ron­ment that re­wards ta­lent, cel­e­brates hard work and mer­i­toc­racy, and al­lows for flex­i­bil­ity when needed. One thing I can state based on my ex­pe­ri­ences is that the in­sur­ance in­dus­try pro­vides that.

I'm of­ten asked for ad­vice on how to get an un­der­stand­ing of the sec­tor and net­work with its key peo­ple. What's worked for me are sim­ple things: go­ing to lo­cal mee­tups in the area or join­ing rel­e­vant groups at your alma mater — you'll be sur­prised at whom you might al­ready be con­nected to in in­surtech. Also look into con­fer­ences and we­bi­nars that bring to­gether top­ics like data and tech to solve prob­lems as­so­ci­ated with pre­dict­ing and man­ag­ing risk.

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