2019 In Review

Originally published in AM Best in December 2019 Edition

Just the other day, I was reflecting on the fact that I had been writing this column for about 3 years now. Last year, I spent more time on insurtech and technological trends. Those topics are interesting, but they’re not my passion. This year, I was able to focus on career development in each month’s column, and I’m glad I did. It was a reminder that even as technological change continues to speed up, people are what make the insurance ecosystem the interesting place that it is.


People and the choices they make drive the direction of our industry.  We can easily be distracted by the shiny new things that come our way. But, at the end of the day, we all must remember that any shiny thing we purchase should meet the goal of facilitating the transfer of risk so that our customers are protected when they need it most. To understand which shiny things we ought to invest in, we must understand that end goal, and the mechanisms by which we can achieve it. In order to best understand, we must invest first in ourselves and the teams of people around us.


As I prepare for 2020, I am thinking of what I have learned in 2019 and how I can use those lessons best next year. Here are 3 key takeaways from my professional year:


1. Resilience is key.


My career took turns this year that I never would have expected. I went through challenges in my day-job that were surprising and left me wondering where I had made a wrong turn.  However, I looked at every unplanned incident as an opportunity to learn and choose my next step. I’ve not traditionally been a glass-half-full kinda person, but I tried it on this year, and it’s been refreshing.  I will actively try to engage that optimism in 2020. 


2. Vulnerability can open doors.


Some of the surprises led to having candid conversations with my managers and colleagues that I would not have had in the past.  But, asking for help when I needed it and expressing where I thought I was weak enabled my manager to assist me in ways he would not have been able to if I had kept quiet.  I still think it’s important to know if your vulnerability will be respected, but if you’re in an environment where you can be candid, I say try it out. Start with something small and if the risk is rewarded, you can grow trust within your team and begin to help each other overcome your weaknesses. As I move in to 2020, I will strive to be the type of professional who assists those when they share their vulnerabilities and who doesn’t hide behind a façade of strength.


3. Value yourself at least as much as you value others. 

We’ve all experienced Imposter Syndrome.  When it is at its worst, for me, it can lead to me second-guessing myself and taking advice or opinions that I would otherwise disregard. This has led to me doing things like designing presentations in styles that don’t suit my personality or re-doing work that was perfectly well done because one person objected to a single element.  In either case, I ended up having to adjust to fit what I knew was best after wasting time. While these are small examples, they are the type of thing that I will look to avoid in 2020. If I remember my worth, I will perform better and engage with my strengths. 


I’ve learned a lot this year. These 3 takeaways are the ones that I hope I can hold on to, and if you have had similar experiences this year, I hope that you bring that growth in to 2020.

About Carly Burnham

Carly Burnham began her insurance career in 2004 as an office assistant at an agency in her hometown of Duluth, MN. She got licensed as a producer while working at that agency and progressed to serve as an office manager. Working in the agency is how she fell in love with the industry. She saw firsthand the good that insurance consumers experienced by having the proper protection. When Carly moved to Des Moines in 2010, she decided to commit to the industry, and she completed her CPCU in one year finishing it in 2012 and attending commencement in New Orleans. She completed her MBA at Iowa State University in 2014. During this time, she and Tony founded a Gen Y Associate Resource Group at Nationwide in Des Moines. After they had both left Nationwide, Tony recruited Carly to co-author and manage InsNerds.com. She has the difficult task of keeping his constant flow of crazy ideas focused and helping to flesh them out into useful articles. Carly enjoys sharing knowledge and ideas about the future of the industry and finds the website a good outlet for this passion. Carly is involved in the the CPCU Society Underwriting Interest Group. She also writes "Next Wave" a monthly column in the "Perspectives" section of Best's Review.

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