August 18, 2020

How to have a Courageous Career

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Rowena Solomons has taken a number of brave steps in her career, challenging herself to continually grow and learn. In her eight years at Zurich she has moved around the business and is excited about the future.

Starting her career in insurance and then briefly stepping out into telecommunications, Rowena missed insurance.

“I liked making a difference in my work. I missed some of the reward you can get out of managing teams who help customers in their time of need,”

She returned to Zurich eight years ago and shared her story.

Creating an interesting career

Rowena joined Zurich as the National Accident & Health Claims Manager, leading teams of up to 20 people largely looking after travel insurance claims. Wanting to increase her company exposure she stepped into a claims governance role. She planned to be in Governance for a couple of years and return to a customer facing claims role, and now six years on she’s the Head of Governance for Claims & Operations.

“It was quite a strategic job move that I didn’t foresee, and it has really paid off. I deliberately stepped into a new position expecting it to be two years, and then found a love for the value governance adds,” said Rowena

Her journey wasn’t linear though. She moved into Governance, then took a secondment to be a Zurich Ways of Working (‘ZWow’) Change Navigator. She was a ZWow Change Navigator, running and facilitating a project creating lean processes and claims efficiencies. She then moved back to her original claims area, with additional responsibilities looking after shared services (recoveries, investigations, quality assurance, governance, etc).

“I needed to challenge myself again, and took the brave step to Head of Casualty & Specialty Claims,” she said.

In this role I was focused on ‘long-tail’ claims, which introduced me to new product lines and a deeper level of detail, explained Rowena.

“It was a great opportunity for me to technically upskill. I worked with a diverse group of people across Australian and New Zealand with amazing skills and experience.”

In October last year she took a three-month career break – something Zurich offer and support – and travelled around South America. She then started her current role in January 2020.

It can be easy to say that opportunities just come to people who get “lucky” but it’s not just luck.

A photo of a woman sitting on a swing, overlooking a vast city

Rowena’s tips for putting yourself in the right spot at the right time are:
  • Find supporters – “I’ve got some strong supporters in the business. I’ve had managers who encourage me by saying ‘If you’re brave enough to do it, the opportunity is yours.’”
  • Back yourself – “Sometimes you need to just take that brave step and back yourself.”
  • Have trust – “Every challenge I’ve taken, I’ve landed on my feet and found more happiness.”

Zurich places strong importance on developing individuals to achieve their career goals, says Rowena. Who has taken advantage of this philosophy with all of her career moves.

Choosing Courage

Rowena’s bravery has often been driven by her desire to learn and challenge herself. These values encourage her to push herself outside of her comfort zone. Her move from Claims to Governance happened because she had previously spent time engaging with the team to understand their responsibilities and then a role came up.

“I knew I wanted to continue to progress my career, so asked what logical steps I needed to take to put myself in the best position for my professional and personal development. I wanted exposure to new opportunities, knowing I’d need a new skill set,” she outlined.

If you want to have a courageous career, Rowena’s suggestions to push yourself are:
  • Use your network – “Draw on your trusted network.”
  • Ask for feedback – “You’ll always have people in the organization who will give you real and honest feedback. Then it’s up to you what you do with that.”
  • Find a mentor – “Find someone you look up to who can coach you through different scenarios.”
  • Be inspired – “Look for people who inspire you to take similar career steps. It’s good to watch people grow and develop. Any time someone else has got a new role I think, ‘Well, I want that too!’”
  • Take risks – “Have confidence in your skills. Nine times out of ten you’re going to land on your feet and that one time just keep learning and moving forward.”
  • Ask for help – “No one knows 100% of all the things. Often, we won’t know the answer but will be able to source it.”

A photo of a woman with blonde hair wearing a red dress sitting in a cable car

Living the Flex Life

Zurich have strong support for flexible working options that were well established before COVID-19 hit. Rowena has always worked one day from home, did three months full time at home during COVID-19 – and actually relocated from Sydney to Queensland for the office closure period – and has now chosen to return back to the office.

Rowena thinks there is a silver lining to forced office closures,

“There’s a learning that you don’t need to work core business hours. It’s ok to work around other life commitments. That doesn’t necessarily have to be children, it could be sport, lifestyle or other things you put value on, as long as you’re able to do your work.”

“I have a colleague who surfs a few mornings a week and arrives to work at 10:30am, it’s a woman, which makes it even better! Spending time in the surf means she’s more productive and energized during the day. She’s absolutely committed, and I have full respect for her prioritizing her wellbeing and balancing it with work commitments,” said Rowena.

Zurich have several other programs and policies to support their people.

“Zurich promotes a one team approach with a strong diversity and inclusion strategy. There are female sponsorship programs, a Women’s Insurance Network and mentoring programs. Benefits include an annual lifestyle payment of $500 every July to support work/life balance, options to purchase additional leave, access to partner discounts and access to physical health and mental wellbeing programs. You get a volunteer day every year, and I’m a committed blood donator and take two hours blood donation leave every quarter to give blood.”

“The best thing is not just that it’s there and available, but our policies and practices are well established to support everyone making use of these opportunities.”

“It’s a great company. I take pride knowing I work for a strong, global brand. I enjoy the people I work with and the customers I get to engage with. And Zurich’s values align with my personal values,” said Rowena.

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job. Check out the latest job vacancies with Zurich