The Attachment Point: Slackchat #1

With a little inspiration from 538 and frequent Insurance Nerds contributor, Rob Galbraith, we’re trying something new!  We love the interactivity of our podcasts, but as busy insurance professionals, we were finding it hard to find time to connect.  Starting today, you can expect a recurring series of posts titled The Attachment Point to appear on or around Thursday of each week.  Inside the post, you’ll find a lightly edited transcript featuring a handful of guests who are active in our Slack Community, which we are opening up to all of our readers today!  We look forward to hosting interesting conversations in the community and watching new connections blossom virtually!  Now, without further adieu, the inaugural Insurance Nerds’ Attachment Point conversation featuring, Nicholas Lamparelli, Rob Galbraith, Carly Burnham, and Tony Canas:

Nicholas Lamparelli
Hello Everyone and welcome to The Insurance Nerds’ first SlackChat convo (we’ll figure out a clever name later). The purpose of SlackChats is to allow us to have informal conversation about insurance-related stuff and then compile the conversation into readable content for our platform. (hat tip to Rob for introducing us to this concept via 538)

Carly Burnham
Nick! You spelt hat tip correctly! Well done. 😛 @Rob Galbraith

Nicholas Lamparelli
haha, is it one word? spell check said no…oh well

So I will kick off the first ever SlackChat by throwing out a question to @Rob Galbraith, who was the host of the 2018 Q1 Insurance Nerds meetup. Rob, How did you think the meetup went this weekend? What did you like, what did you wish we would have done but didn’t?

Rob Galbraith
We had a solid turnout – around 20 people – and it was an engaging group, so overall, I thought it went really well.  The venue was really good, although San Antonio is such a big city geographically it might have been tough for everyone who wanted to come to make it with traffic.  Also, we didn’t get anyone who works in a call center and I think putting a smallish time window of 5-7 pm might have been overly restrictive so I’d go to 8 or 9 pm in the future.

Nicholas Lamparelli
It’s always surprising to me when such large geographic cities have such bad traffic. There are plenty of roads.

Rob Galbraith
One more observation: we got a lot of attendees that are mid-career or later.  I think we don’t always appreciate the value that this audience derived from Insurance Nerds, particularly the podcasts and more technical articles about P/C industry trends and insurtech.

Tony Canas
The podcast really helped us attract a lot more mid-career talent, and we’re actively learning how to best serve them.

Carly Burnham
The only thing truly missing from Friday night was Nick recording! I’m guessing that’s why a lot of folks didn’t show. They just wanted to be on Profiles in Risk. 😀

Rob Galbraith
We had a couple of great personal stories.  The first was Dan who is a big podcast guy and happened to listen to the very first Profiles in Risk that morning.  He visited the InsNerds website and could not believe that there happened to be the Q1 meetup in his hometown that night!

Nicholas Lamparelli
I love that story

Rob Galbraith
The second was Mike who is an adjuster that traveled all the way from Houston to attend.  That’s easily a 3-4 hour drive!

Nicholas Lamparelli
I’m bummed that I missed it. My favorite part of these events is walking around with my phone and interviewing the folks that show up.

Carly Burnham
One thought that Rob shared yesterday that I thought was valuable was being sure to somehow share a bit about what Insurance Nerds is at the meetup and in the invitation, so people who see the invitation but haven’t been a part of our audience know a bit more about what to expect.

Nicholas Lamparelli
That should be fairly easy to do when Tony sends out the social media broadcasts.

@Carly Burnham Same question as Rob. What did you like, what do you wish would’ve happened?

Carly Burnham
Yes. It’s a good note for us.

I thought the turnout was good, and I had a lot of great conversations on Friday! I think we should consider choosing a different time, maybe longer, maybe even a Thursday. But overall, I can’t think of how the event could have been better. Rob managed logistics, and it was a fabulous venue. We missed you, but I think some great local connections were made between those who attended.

Nicholas Lamparelli
So San Antonio/Austin is a good spot for future, recurring meetups?

Rob Galbraith
Of course I’m going to say yes!

Carly Burnham
Yes. I think so, too. We can certainly find ways to make more concerted efforts for newer tenured folks including call center employees. And while Rob made a strong social media push, I think the three of us could also have done more. One thing we’ve done in the past that we didn’t do this time is use one of our ad spots on Insurance Nerds and show it in the right states.

Nicholas Lamparelli
That’s a good idea…we’re learning.

Carly Burnham
Yes! Always learning. It’s what makes this fun.

Nicholas Lamparelli
@Tony Canas thoughts about the weekend?

Tony Canas
The event was great and peeps hung out until well after 7 pm. Overall the weekend was super fun and productive.

Nicholas Lamparelli
@Tony Canas any conversations stand out (how many people asked for me 😉 )?

Rob Galbraith
Everybody kept asking “don’t you have a 3rd person?”  You’re the guy everyone knows but can’t quite place @Nicholas Lamparelli…would make a terrific spy 🔍

Carly Burnham
Haha! Just wait till the new PiR logo comes out. Everyone will know Nick, then!

 

Nicholas Lamparelli
It’s pretty frightening for someone when I put my phone in their face and begin asking them questions. The Chris Hansen effect

Rob Galbraith
In terms of promotion, it would be good in the future to have Insurance Nerds “champions” at local employers to help promote meetups on internal channels.  I only did so on my external social media accounts this time.

Nicholas Lamparelli
That worked out well Rob. Our next event will be in NYC, and I expect the turnout to be super for that. I think we have committed to Chicago in the fall and we will need to get one of our champions to step forward on that one.

@channel I am curious, was having the event on the same weekend as SXSW an issue?

I know it was for me for flight purposes but were you all bumping into the event at all?

Rob Galbraith
No, we were successfully able to avoid any issues with traffic and I do not believe we lost any possible attendees due to SXSW.  There *might* have been a missed opportunity to actually tie in with some of the insurtech community there. 🤔

Carly Burnham
I think since we were in SAT, I don’t believe it caused any issues except as Rob mentioned; meeting up with anyone who was in Austin as an insurtech company would have been a good idea.

Rob Galbraith
I keep hearing about this insurtech community in Austin and when I ask friends who I assume would be in the know, they respond “what insurtech community in Austin?”  So it would have been fun to go on a search for it at SXSW, like searching for the black swan to see if it really exists

Carly Burnham
2019 plans!

Nicholas Lamparelli
We will have to twitter search to find those folks! If anyone is reading this and knows about the Austin #insurtech scene, please reach out to us.

@channel So the topic came up about older Millennials and Gen-Xers and how Insurance Nerds can help them. I am assuming the issues they are dealing with are almost entirely weighted towards career development. Am I right?

Carly Burnham
I would say yes. They are aware of some of the big changes that are being caused by technological advances and various other forces and are often seeking to make sure that they are developing skills that will keep their value in the insurance ecosystem.

There is also frustration from this cohort in that they see the cultures at some of their workplaces as frustrating and stymied in the same ways that we discuss in “Insuring Tomorrow” but are often not in roles where they feel they can impact or improve those cultural issues.

Rob Galbraith
Yes, helicopter dropping copies of Insuring Tomorrow is desperately needed!

Nicholas Lamparelli
So that sounds a lot like the podcast we did on Gen-X: For them, they are part way through their career and something doesn’t feel right. For millennials the world is their oyster so to speak, for Gen-Xers, it’s more frustrating because they probably have fewer options or the trade-offs are starker. For some Gen-Xers, switching companies can move a lower salary or status or needing to uproot a family.

@Tony Canas I think we need to have some podcasts on this topic. I agree that we have neglected these folks

Carly Burnham
And! @Tony Canas and I are starting to resemble these folks more.😟  We’re going to need some fresh voices on the truly new professional!

Rob Galbraith
A book I would recommend to insurance professionals at every stage of life is The Episodic Career by Farai Chideya

The preview is that the days of lifetime employment with 1 employer are over, for a variety of reasons – some having to do with employers, but also employees.  People have disruptions in life: family members who need care, a partner moves cities for a better opportunity, etc.

We had a vigorous debate at work recently as our Chief Underwriter has been looking to better define what an Underwriter career path looks like.  My response is that “career paths are dead” – or certainly resemble “The Drunkard’s Walk” (another excellent book, not about careers but randomness and its impact on our life)

I think rather than trying to plan out the next 3, 5 or 10 years of career moves, 99% of the time which won’t work out an anticipated, people should focus on 2 things: 1) general areas of focus that align with their personalities and 2) acquiring transferable skills.  For example, we had a great discussion this weekend on project management role in insurance carriers – these are easily transferable to other industries outside of insurance.

Tony Canas
While no plan survives contact with the enemy the planning process is still important. I think career pathing is still important to give employees at least an idea of what possible growth looks like and how to get there.

Carly Burnham

I love this conversation. Another book I often recommend in this arena is “The Alliance”. It helped me recently think about how to have transparent conversations with managers about what I want out of my own career.

Nicholas Lamparelli
@Rob Galbraith we’ve discussed Talent and Antifragility and what you just described is exactly that. Develop a skill set where randomness can actual enhance your opportunities. Basically increase your chances for lucky strikes.

Plans almost never work out as planned. To quote the philosopher MG Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”

As I drove around and thought about this conversation, I couldn’t help but think that a big part of this problem is management itself. I can count on one hand the number of really good manager I have had in my 20+ year business career.

I would even venture to say that most managers are just plum bad. That too puts a lot of pressure on Gen-Xers

Tony Canas
I believe it’s called The Peter Principle, people get promoted to the level of their incompetence. Great independent contributors get promoted to manager with no aptitude for actual management.

Nicholas Lamparelli
That has been my experience. An employee shows some aptitude with a particular position and they get promoted to manage people to do the same. I follow a lot of sales blogs and that is a common theme – great salespeople get promoted to sales manager. They fall on their face because the skill set they needed to be a rainmaker is a completely different skill set to helping other become rainmakers. It happens all the time.

Rob Galbraith
You bring up a good point @Nicholas Lamparelli.  I recently polled my team on how often they wanted to have a career conversation.  All but one said “ad hoc” but our company standard is quarterly. When I pressed them on the by they were seemingly so casual about this, one said “We know we can come to you as our boss any time and you will be open to this conversation.  But employees who do not trust their boss want some built-in accountability to force a quarterly conversation about their career.”

My team also felt annual development plans were a complete waste of time and a “check the box” exercise for management to feel good about saying they value employee development.  They were quite cynical about them.

In my view, there is a balance.  I recall the old adage: “Nobody plans to fail; they simply fail to plan.”  Goals are good and some planning is worthy of your time, but definitely 1-3 paths for the next 5 years seems overly perspective to me unless you really know what you want.  Heck, many hot jobs in 3-5 years do not even exist today!

Nicholas Lamparelli
all great points. From personal experience, I loathed the annual review. 1 time a year is useless. I’d argue that 2 times a year is useless.

Again, from my perspective, I have always wanted my managers to be coaches. I want to know how I should be fielding the ground ball when I am doing it wrong. DON’T wait to tell me that there is something I could improve on…let’s discuss asap so I can start to fix it. I’ve only had ONE manager in my career that did that. And it was a super hard decision to leave that job, even when I doubled my salary. That is how much I valued that feedback.

I think part of the issue is lack of managerial “skill”. The other is probably lack of slack (not this channel, althought ,that might not hurt). Just that little extra time to be able to work with employee because the manager is also caught up in a hundred other things as well..or their team is too big.

@Tony Canas any thoughts on the Gen-X crises that Rob and I conjured up?

Tony Canas
Annual reviews are not for employee development, they’re to document bad performers and protect the company if someone must be fired. For the 95% who are not in danger of getting fired they’re completely useless.

Nicholas Lamparelli
@Carly Burnham I am curious as to what sort of feedback mechanism you personally prefer?

Coincidentally, in my email I got this offer from HBR: Teams at Work: Giving Difficult Feedback (with Facilitator’s Guide)

 

I think I am being sent a message…

Carly Burnham
While I agree that performance reviews and/or formal development plans can be treated as a checkbox activity, and that we should feel empowered to work on these kinds of issues without a formal meeting on the calendar, I think they serve as a good reminder to check in. The reality is that we’re all busy and taking a “required” half hour to update our manager on the things we’re working on and ask them if they see any blind spots is a good practice. I think it can be a bit on the employee to take the practice seriously if their manager isn’t.

As far as feedback type, I prefer video chat or in person. I want to see your body language and be able to ask questions. I would say this applies for both giving and receiving feedback.

Nicholas Lamparelli
I think this is something we will need to dig deeper on over 2018.

So San Antonio/Austin…sounds like a success. To quote the philosopher A. Swartzenegger, “I’ll Be Back”.

For Quarter 2 – Insurance Nerds will be in NYC. Q3/Q4 is Chicago and there is one spot open in which I will push Boston or Philly (or Columbus or Minneapolis). We’ll see.

@channel any parting thoughts?

Rob Galbraith
I had a blast!  Thanks for taking the Insurance Nerds roadshow to San Antonio!!!  One parting thought – perhaps you can chain together a couple of meetups?  We could have easily done SA one night and an Austin or Houston meetup the next.  You get more meetups for your travel $ for the 3 of you.

Nicholas Lamparelli
I like that idea. That would work well in some places. Chicago/Madison, WI comes to mind

Carly Burnham
And a bit farther afield, my new hometown! [Editor’s Note: St. Paul, MN]

Rob Galbraith
You might be able to almost double the number of meetups for 4 trips.  SF and LA. Tampa and Orlando. NYC and Boston (and even Philly and DC – the InsNerds spring break tour!)

Erie, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati would be a good swing.

Could even hit Pittsburgh in there

Carly Burnham

Pittsburgh over Cinnci all day.

Rob Galbraith

Think in sections of the country first, then look at locations and determine if it’s feasible

Nicholas Lamparelli

We are becoming the Grateful Dead

Carly Burnham

My final thought: great Q1 meetup, glad we have some awesome folks in our corner helping out with envisioning our next steps, and I’m looking forward to the next Slackchat.

Nicholas Lamparelli

@channel thats a good way to end it. Thanks to @Tony Canas @Carly Burnham and @Rob Galbraith for your time and thoughts! Until next time, auf wiedersehen

 

Let us know if you enjoyed this format or if you have thoughts on interesting topics for upcoming chats!  And remember to join our  Slack Community!

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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