We recently read and composed a review of the book Insuring Tomorrow: Engaging Millennials in the Insurance Industry, written by Carly Burnham and Tony Canas. Carly and Tony are leading by example in their industry by investing in their personal development as well as collaborating to assist others to grow in the industry that they are engaged in. The two founded the resourceful website InsNerds.com which seeks to be, "The go-to source for transformational talent development and career management serving the global insurance ecosystem." We reached out to the accomplished Carly, who holds her MBA in business administration and the insurance industry CPCU, was very gracious in sharing some of her story in reaching her current position as well as the efforts that went into co-authoring a respected industry publication.
Jon Isaacson (IZ Ventures): I've been in the industry over 15 years and in that period of time I have only met one person who intentionally set out to get into the insurance industry, what brought you into this field?
Carly Burnham: I happened to find a part time job as an office assistant at an insurance agency when I was starting college. The agent who I worked for was truly committed to her clients and taught me a lot about coverage and the principles of insurance. She was a wonderful person to learn from. When my now-husband and I re-located to Iowa, I worked in banking for a few months, but I missed feeling like I was truly providing a valuable service, so I started working for Nationwide. At Nationwide, I had the opportunity to develop technically and start taking CPCU courses and learning about all of the different career paths available. This was when I committed to growing a long-term career in insurance.
What aspects of insurance are you currently engaged in, what does your day-to-day look like and what are your goals with writing?
I'm currently a commercial underwriter. I help agents place business by advising them on our risk appetite, coverages, and pricing options. I write because I enjoy it. I think the insurance ecosystem is going through profound change due to technological, generational, and market forces. My experience has always been that consumers feel intimidated by insurance, and many who have historically been tasked with explaining concepts to those customers would benefit from additional education. At InsNerds.com, we want to promote the idea that professionals can educate themselves in a fun way and that carriers and agencies would benefit from committing to encouraging greater education for their employees. Finally, I believe that not only can you build an interesting career in the ecosystem, insurance is truly an important, pro-social service, and I want to help spread that message.
I've talked to several people that have ideas or some level of desire to write a book, for you what was the catalyst that brought you to writing Insuring Tomorrow?
Honestly, Tony said "I want to write this book. I want to publish it by June. Will you join me?" And, I said yes. We had been writing and talking about these topics for years, so it seemed like the next logical step.
In that process of formulating your thoughts into a book what was a) easier than you expected and what was b) harder than you expected in that process?
a) We had a lot of material already at our finger tips, so filling pages was much easier than expected. b) The hardest part for me was promoting the book!
What was the timeline from inception, commitment, writing and then publication?
I would say the commitment to write the book was made late February, serious writing started late March, the draft was done by early May, and final publication was the beginning of June.
What have been some of the positive responses to your book? The topic of Millennials is rather charged, has there been much opposition to your publication?
We have gotten a lot of positive responses. Our audience has appreciated the compilation of information in one volume, that they can easily reference. Given the polarity of the topic of Millennials, I am surprised that there has been next to no opposition vocalized to me or Tony. I would venture to guess that it is because our audience does recognize the talent gap, and we focused on actionable tactics to help offset that gap. We also tried up front to set a perspective on why Millennials are different and why it matters. Finally, I think a lot of the things we recommend in the book are things that would benefit any generation!
What is one lesson learned that you can share about promoting a book?
Build your audience before promoting your book. We've been blogging and working on this for years, so we had an advantage over anyone who is writing their first book without already cultivating an audience.
The subject matter that you are speaking to centers around the topic of Millennials in the workforce, as such what is one key piece of advice that first you would give to leaders working with millennials and then to millennials who are either entering the workforce or seeking to better themselves?
One piece of advice for leaders: Try to remember what it was like when you were starting your career. Unless you were very lucky, a lot of the things that seem obvious to you now were probably a surprise in your first role out of high school or college. For instance, when I worked at the agency during college, the agent who I worked for would take the time to have very direct conversations about the style she preferred in interactions with customers. A classic example: "Answer the phone with a smile. The customer will hear it." I still use this advice (and many other nuggets from her) today. For those who are entering the workforce or bettering themselves: Receive feedback as a gift and seek out people who will give you candid feedback. That being said, understand that you may hear something that doesn't work for you. Always be true to your own strengths and personality, but avoid being needlessly stubborn.
What is next for Carly? Thank you for your time and contributions, keep doing good things!
I'm working on my CIC, and I'll be pursuing the AIDA designation next. There is always more to learn in underwriting, and I love it! When it comes to InsNerds.com, the potential is limitless. We are still having a lot of fun writing articles, producing podcasts, and serving the ecosystem. . . I wouldn't be surprised if another book follows quickly.
Carly Burnahm regularly writes for InsNerds.com, she is on LinkedIn and tweets as @CarlyABurnham. Insuring Tomorrow has many applications outside of the insurance industry and is available for $20, you can find our review of the publication HERE.
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