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.