It's with great pride and excitement that we share Taralesha (Tara) Smith, Bindable's Customer Advocate and Retention Manager for our agency team, has been recognized in The Standard Publishing Corporation's annual "Salute to Women in New England Insurance" issue!
We're so proud to have Tara on our team, and are continuously in awe of the amazing work she does in support of our valued customers. Her dedication and determination are an inspiration to everyone across the Bindable organization; this is certainly a well-deserved recognition!
Congrats to Tara and all the accomplished women featured in this year's issue. You are all truly making a positive difference in your workplaces, your communities, and the industry as a whole.
We're pleased to share the text of Tara's feature below. Please check out the full list of recognized insurance professionals via the July 21, 2023 issue of The Standard here.
How did you get your start in the insurance industry?
I have been in the insurance industry for more than twenty years. I began my career at AIG in 2002, where I provided administrative support to the product line managers, actuarial team, and legal team in the property and casualty department. This role gave me my first insights into what insurance was all about.
Working with the product line managers gave me exposure to how insurance supports different industries like transportation, construction, and healthcare. Supporting the actuarial team enabled me to better understand the financial costs of risks and how to manage them. Spending time with the legal department helped me understand the intricacies of insurance policies and how they’re created.
Seeing how diverse the types of roles were in insurance and the room for advancement made me want to pursue a career in the space. Fortunately for me, I met Barbara Gard, a product line manager at AIG, who became a mentor of mine. She saw something in me and encouraged me to become a licensed P&C broker. She supported me by sharing educational resources and reading material with me, and encouraged me to attend classes at The Insurance Library Association of Boston which I did. She always made herself available to me, taking time out of her day to carefully review materials with me and answer any questions I had. Her impact on me has helped me become the leader I am today.
Ever since then, I’ve called the insurance industry “home,” and have always worked on the broker and carrier side, working directly with policyholders to drive customer satisfaction through the highest quality of service.
What career challenges have you faced and overcome?
Working in a historically male-dominated industry like insurance has challenged me to advocate for myself and not refrain from making my voice heard, even when it’s uncomfortable. I’ve found that the best way to overcome any bias in the workplace is by being my authentic self and being confident that my thoughts and ideas are as valuable as anyone else’s. As a manager, I also use my position of influence to help support other women progress in their careers.
It gives me great pride to think that what I’ve accomplished throughout my career may help others overcome any unconscious bias they have about women in insurance. I hope my presence in this space helps inspire more and more women, especially those of color, to take advantage of the unique and fulfilling opportunities a career in insurance presents.
What has been your most important leadership lesson?
For the past five years, I’ve managed teams of all sizes and structures. My teams have been made up of people in all different stages of their careers and with all types of backgrounds and experiences. Throughout it all, I’ve realized in order to be the best leader possible, I need to show patience and understanding through humility, which subsequently encourages trust.
Leading with humility generates better listening, increased collaboration, and a more compassionate work environment. It shows my teams that, just like them, I also have areas where I need to grow, change, and improve. While I make sure to embody confidence as a leader, I also make it clear to my teams that I need the support of others, including them, in order to make the best decisions for all.
I believe this has made me more accessible and relatable to my employees. It has inspired efficiency and teamwork. It has allowed me to be authentic to who I am and encourage others to do the same. Showing up for, listening to, and being open to learning from everyone around me has developed a sense of trust within my team and empowers better outcomes for ourselves and the customers we help.
What advice do you have for young female insurance professionals?
Look for guidance, whether that’s through a formal mentorship program or more casually through someone with a lot of experience in the industry that you trust. Establishing relationships with professionals further along in their careers will give you the space to access advice and feedback, to build your network, to gain new perspectives, and even help you to become a leader yourself. As previously mentioned, my own experience with my mentor Barbara has helped me grow in ways I probably couldn’t have otherwise, and has given me the confidence to succeed in an ever-changing industry.
On top of this, surround yourself with good people. Before joining a company, try your best to understand the organization’s culture and be cognizant of their values, attitudes, and objectives. We all spend a lot of time at work, so we hopefully are spending it with people we respect, admire, and care about. Not only will such an environment help you thrive professionally and personally, but it will also make work more enjoyable, which leads to maybe the most important advice I can give to a young female professional - make sure to have fun!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I’d remind myself that life can be challenging, but never impossible. No matter what happens, it’s important to stay true to yourself and not compromise on the things that really matter to you. It’s only by having the courage to be vulnerable, take risks, and connect with others in genuine ways that we can be truly seen. Accept where you are at any given time in your life, and be confident that you already have everything you need inside you to get where you want to go. The world is a big place and there will always be room for you exactly as you are.
Reprinted with permission of The Standard, New England's insurance newsmagazine.