The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE: TRV) recently announced that it has earned a top score on the Disability Equality Index® for the sixth consecutive year, upholding its distinction as a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion. Administered by Disablity:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Disability Equality Index is the world’s most comprehensive benchmarking tool to measure a company’s policies and practices related to disability workplace inclusion.
“Through employee resource groups, specialized programming and partnerships with community organizations, we’re fostering an environment where everyone has the opportunity to succeed,” said Lauren Young, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Travelers. “Diversity and inclusion is a business imperative for us, and achieving a top score on the Disability Equality Index is a testament to those efforts.”
As part of the company’s commitment to providing an inclusive culture, Travelers maintains eight Diversity Networks, which aim to increase inclusion, engagement and retention for employees from traditionally underrepresented groups and their allies. Its Disability & Allies Diversity Network has grown to include more than 2,600 members and focuses on building disability awareness, appreciation and connectedness at work and in the community.
Travelers also has a centralized team dedicated to addressing accommodation requests and ensuring that employees with differing needs have the resources to be successful in their roles. In addition to its initiatives for current employees, the company partners with state agencies and universities to provide internships, placement programs and shadowing events for neurodiverse students. Since 2018, Travelers has been a member of the Neurodiversity @ Work Employer Roundtable, an interdisciplinary group of employers working to establish more neurodiverse-friendly hiring practices. The company is also a founding partner of the University of Connecticut’s Center for Neurodiversity & Employment Innovation.
Over the years, Travelers has been recognized by a number of organizations for its neurodiverse-inclusive culture. Accolades include the Employer of the Year award from Lifeworks, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that promotes employment and advancement for people with disabilities; the Employer of the Year award from the Connecticut chapter of Disability:IN; and the Award of Excellence from Autism Services and Resources of Connecticut.
For more information about the Disability Equality Index, visit disabilityequalityindex.org.
Photo: Susan Combs, Director, Claim Field & Financial Services, left, and Tara DiBilio, Claim Account Executive, Construction, leads of the Travelers Disability & Allies Diversity Network, accept the Travelers award for earning the top score on the Disability Equality Index® at the 2023 Annual Disability:IN Conference in Orlando, Fla. on July 11.
Travelers is home to more than 1,000 veterans and former service members in various roles directly related to the skills and knowledge gained during their military careers.
Veterans like Christian Beisel, whose experience in the U.S. Navy Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program eventually led him to a civilian career as a Forensic Specialist and Boiler Liaison in Travelers Risk Control.
Read on to hear how the skills Christian acquired in the Navy have helped him in his roles at Travelers and how his military experience and values align with our workplace culture.
Describe your current role at Travelers and your career journey at Travelers.
“I am a Forensic Specialist and Boiler Liaison at the Risk Control Lab. I shifted to this role in March 2023 from my previous role as the Northeast Field Manager for Boiler and Machinery Risk Control.”
Describe some of your team’s roles and work in Forensics in the Risk Control Lab.
“Forensic Engineering helps bring science to claims. We bring investigative support to better understand the facts of a claim and determine the “why.” The collaborative nature of working with claims and subrogation as an internal expert is appealing to me because it offers a new set of challenges and the ability to continue to learn and grow.
I am still amazed by the lab’s capabilities to provide large loss, investigative support to the Claim organization on behalf of our customers.”
What is your military and career background?
“I enlisted in the Navy as an Electronics Technician in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program in 1995 during my third semester at Virginia Tech. I went through the nuclear training pipeline and served as a Reactor Operator on USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) until I was selected for a commissioning program in 2000. I returned to Virginia Tech and was commissioned in 2003. I went back through the nuclear training pipeline and became a Submarine Warfare Officer, serving on USS Nevada (SSBN-733), USS Providence (SSN-719), and PCU Vermont (SSN-792). I also served on several shore tours, including as the Submarine Group 2 Engineer, the Naval Submarine School Navigator and Director of Pipeline Technical Training, Submarine Development Squadron Twelve Tactical Analysis Group, and the Executive Officer of Naval Submarine Base New London. I joined Travelers upon retiring from the Navy in 2019.”
Can you describe your transition into the civilian workforce? What ultimately led you to apply at Travelers?
“As I approached my retirement from the Navy, I decided to focus my search for a new career outside the defense industry. Headhunters were focused on opportunities outside of my geographic area, but my kids were in the same town and school for most of their childhood, and my wife and I had no desire to relocate. One of my friends I mountain bike with also worked for Travelers and suggested I look into Risk Control based on my background. I contacted the Director of Military Sourcing at Travelers, who connected me with Boiler and Machinery Risk Control, where I ultimately started my Travelers journey.”
What are some of the military skills that translate into your current role and the roles you have held?
“Some skills that translate from the military into my roles at Travelers include communication, collaboration and teamwork, critical thinking, decision-making, adaptability, resiliency, and the ability to learn. There are certainly technical and specific skills that translate as well. Still, my Navy career offered broad experience and developed me into a lifelong learner, which best translates into my current role.”
What is the overall workplace culture at Travelers?
“The overall workplace culture at Travelers is collaborative and focused on the customer and the team. It was a smooth transition because of the similarities between the Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment to our Travelers’ core values of Honesty, Integrity, and Accountability.
It was also important to me that Travelers demonstrated that in addition to claims, our customers, communities, and employees are also key stakeholders. Support towards charitable giving and volunteerism were also important aspects that paralleled the commitment to service that became a part of me in the Navy.
How does Travelers support the greater military community?
“Travelers supports partnerships and programs that provide a variety of outreach to veterans, transitioning service members and their families. Mentoring through American Corporate Partners (ACP) is one of the ways that I have been able to give back. I didn’t know about ACP when I was transitioning from the Navy. After more than a year of involvement with the program, I’ve found that mentoring servicemembers transitioning from the military to the private sector not only provides my mentees with support and advice through a pivotal part of their life but it allows me to better self-reflect on my own transition and what I value about my career at Travelers.”
What advice would you give transitioning or serving military members looking for civilian careers?
“Be confident in how your military experience translates to applicable skills. Be open to what opportunities are out there. Determine what’s most important to you and your family in a post-military career.”
What is your favorite part about working at Travelers?
“My favorite part about working at Travelers is the collaborative environment and working with a group of intelligent and dedicated professionals. Including our customers, communities, and employees as stakeholders bring a sense of pride in being a part of the organization. This was important to me as I transitioned from a career in the Navy.”
Amy Knowles has built an impressive career at Travelers over the past 22 years, guided by a simple but powerful question: “Why not?”
When Amy joined Travelers as an Account Manager in Commercial Accounts in Phoenix, her manager supported her desire to go back to college. “Why not?” her manager would ask when Amy was unsure about taking on a new challenge. Amy finished her degree, supported by the Travelers Tuition Reimbursement Program, and saw new doors open. She also began to think differently: “If a senior leader has confidence in me, I probably should, too.”
When she had the opportunity to become a Director for Small Commercial in the Denver field office (because why not?), she worked as an Operations Director there for five years. And then, when asked if she wanted to move across the country to take on a different experience – Why not!
In one of her recent roles in Hartford, she was Operations Director for Small Commercial, managing six leaders, spanning four business units and 80 colleagues across the country.
“I like to empower my leadership team to ensure that our front-line employees feel supported and advocated for, removing obstacles, aligning our day-to-day operations with objectives and key results, and meeting our customers’ needs,” Amy says.
While changing roles to grow and advance is one method of career advancement, Amy says there are many avenues available at Travelers for employees to develop in their careers. “Your career path here is not just one single line. There are so many different opportunities in front of you. You really own your career, determining your own path based on how driven you are and how much you want to explore, try new things and continue to grow and develop yourself.”
Amy continued to pursue her “why not” themed career journey when she made one of her biggest career jumps in 2023. After 22 years in Operations, she made the leap to the Business Insurance Business Capabilities Office, where she leads the Process Engineering Team.
Aside from the day-to-day work on her team, Amy is a proud member of every Diversity Network and particularly enjoys events that involve cooking and sampling cuisines from different cultures. She also works with the Tech & Ops Leadership Development program, advocating for, coaching and mentoring future leaders.
“The people I work with across the organization are the best thing about Travelers – there’s such amazing talent. It’s great to feel that others are invested in my career as much as I am. The advocacy and support I’ve had here has been fantastic.”
When it comes to her personal timeline, 2001 was a banner year for Amy: It’s when she joined Travelers and when she married her husband, Trip, who was her childhood next-door neighbor. They’ve since had two children, Zach (19) and Ava (13), and live with their two dogs, Sammy and Maverick. The adventurous Knowles family loves escape rooms, taking cruises and traveling anywhere there’s a beach. Amy shares that she’s “very short” (five foot two) yet played volleyball in college.
Kay Edwards always knew she wanted to work in a collaborative and evolving field like technology, which led her to the Girls Who Code Hiring Summit last fall, where she connected with members of the Travelers Technology Team. The summit welcomed Girls Who Code alums and other women technologists seeking internships or their first professional role in tech.
“What drew me to technology is the collaboration – it’s a field that’s always changing, and you learn more and understand it better by collaborating with others,” Kay said.
“I became interested in tech careers after participating in bootcamps and training courses to expand my experience in software engineering.”
Armed with courses and coding experience, she was ready to bring her dream of a career in tech to life. “As soon as I connected with the team running the Travelers booth, I wanted to apply right away. I immediately felt that the Technology Leadership Development Program (TLDP) would offer a great learning experience with the opportunity for growth.”
Kay joined the TLDP in January 2023 and entered her first technical role in Personal Insurance Technology Compelling Offerings. “I’ve felt a lot of support through the onboarding process. My learning continues through the technical bootcamp I’m in along with other members of the TLDP. I am thankful to the TLDP for their support and investment in me as an employee.”
Kay is one of five women technologists who attended the Girls Who Code Hiring Summit and identified Travelers as a place they saw themselves starting their careers in tech. The four additional hires are slated to start their Travelers careers in June 2023.
Girls Who Code is an organization with the goal of closing the gender gap in technology. Through immersion programs, leadership development and career exploration, Girls Who Code brings technology education to students and early career professionals.
Travelers has teamed up with Girls Who Code since 2020, each year hosting two-week Summer Immersion Programs for high school-aged, aspiring women technologists students to gain hands-on experience and mentoring.
Travelers will host its next Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program in the summer of 2023. Read more about Travelers Technology and Girls Who Code.
Lori Winn, Assistant Vice President in Cybersecurity and Air Force veteran, has a military and technology career spanning over 25 years. Her diverse experience in the military, cybersecurity and as a woman in the technology field helped her gain the valuable expertise that paved the way for her career at Travelers.
In this episode of “15 Minutes with HER,” a podcast hosted by EmpowHER+, Linette Camp, Assistant Vice President, Domestic Operations, Global Operations Solutions & Delivery, sits down with Lori to discuss her transition from the military, technology and cybersecurity today, and what it’s like being a woman in tech, both at Travelers and within the industry.
Before beginning her Travelers career, Lori’s Air Force career provided her with several opportunities for involvement in traditional and non-traditional technology projects.
“I’ve been able to be involved in a lot of exciting things, from traditional IT to missile defense, remotely piloted aircraft – just a variety of different defense-type roles.”
Those roles eventually led her to cybersecurity, and when she was ready to transition her military career into the corporate world, she felt fortunate to find opportunities with ease.
“Cybersecurity is on the top of people’s minds a lot these days,” Lori said. “You see it in the news all the time. The basic element of what we do is to characterize and address any risks that we might be facing.”
Now working at Travelers for over two years, Lori reflected on her transition and current work.
“I’ve got a fantastic team here at Travelers. This made the switch extremely easy. I’m so happy I was able to bring my particular skillset from the Air Force over to Travelers with general ease.”
In addition to providing meaningful career opportunities to military members and veterans, Travelers recognizes diversity and inclusion across all aspects and areas of our business. Lori believes Travelers does an excellent job of providing opportunities to diverse groups but sees the industry overall as less varied.
“The technical side can be intimidating in general, but especially if you’re a woman,” Lori said. “That’s why we focus a lot on upskilling. I think there are more opportunities available to women than they know about. “
Regardless of the team she is on, Lori believes that surrounding herself with the right people for the job and genuinely listening to feedback is the secret to her success.
“I’m not by any stretch the smartest person in the room,” Lori said. “But I know enough to get the right people around me. I try to get their input, which gives people some real vested interest in our success. We put people first; we’ll do amazing things.”
Listen to the full podcast to hear more about Lori’s journey.
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In 2022, we marked the 15-year anniversary of Travelers EDGE® (Empowering Dreams for Graduation and Employment). Since 2007, Travelers EDGE has provided a unique, sustainable school-to-career pipeline for hundreds of underrepresented students. As we mark this milestone anniversary, we look back on the extraordinary achievements our alumni have accomplished and the legacy they have left behind. We reached out to Travelers EDGE graduates to hear their stories and learn about the success they forged for themselves and their families.
“How you do one thing is how you do everything.”
That’s Belma Pehratović’s piece of advice for future Travelers EDGE scholars. Belma says Travelers EDGE instilled a sense of pride in her that she now carries with her everywhere.
“Travelers takes diversity and inclusion seriously,” Belma said. “And I take that seriously. They don’t just put their name on things and provide financial support – they foster their programs to be inclusive, impactful and helpful to those they affect.”
Belma is a first-generation refugee. She came to the U.S. in 2000 from Bosnia and Herzegovina and has lived in Hartford ever since. She learned about the Travelers EDGE program in her junior year of high school and made it her mission to be selected as a scholar.
The next summer she succeeded and started her first internship with Travelers.
After being selected as a Travelers EDGE scholar, Belma decided to attend the University of Connecticut (UConn), a Travelers EDGE partner school. Not only was she able to choose a school that was the right fit for her, but the program also helped her to choose without immense financial pressure.
“If it wasn’t for [Travelers] EDGE, I wouldn’t have been able to choose UConn,” she said. “The financial burden was lifted.”
Belma emphasizes that Travelers EDGE opened many doors for her but acknowledges that being a Travelers EDGE scholar is also a lot of work.
“We had to start college classes before everyone else through summer bridge programs,” she said. “We had monthly meetings and we constantly had to revise our resumes to ensure we stayed ready and prepared for the job we wanted.”
The program’s mentoring resources also helped sharpen her professional skills. This guidance helped her navigate her way through the corporate world, not just as an employee, but also as a woman working in technology.
“The mentorship that Travelers EDGE provides is great because it teaches you everything,” Belma said. “When I was in college, I struggled with finding mentors from similar backgrounds, that understood the challenges that come with being from a minority group. Travelers EDGE helped me see that the differences in my background can be my strength. I am happy to be here, and I am grateful to work in a company that celebrates and leverages my diversity.”
Belma now works at Travelers in PI as a Data Engineer on the Machine Learning Operations team within Data and Analytics and says she loves it. She reiterates how low the odds are for first-generation refugees to make it as far as she did. She often thinks about how different her life would have been if she had stayed in Bosnia, or if she had not been introduced to Travelers EDGE. This realization has shaped what success looks like to her.
“I didn’t have professional role models to look up to – now I have little cousins, ages five and eight, who follow everything I do,” she said. “Now, I measure my success in and outside of work by how good of an example I can set for them. You have to believe in yourself, trust your abilities, and set the tone for generations to come.”
When Hurricane Ian made landfall last September it devastated a large swathe of Florida’s coastline – including Sanibel Island, a small vacation spot about an hour from Fort Myers.
Residents and businesses across Sanibel’s 16 square miles were now in need of help. One such business, a grocery chain that provided essential supplies to Sanibel’s residents and workers, was one of those businesses.
The grocery store’s corporate office asked the Travelers team to join their mitigation company in assessing the damage to the store, along with getting any repairs started as quickly as possible.
Kevin and Scott flew down to Florida and started to plan. First hurdle? Getting onto Sanibel Island.
“The causeway had washed away – it was washed away,” Scott said. “The only way onto the island was by hitching a ride with the local fishermen, who you could charter to bring you over.”
Local consultants advised Scott and Kevin to postpone their inspection until the causeway was repaired – in other words, simply sit and wait.
Time was working against Sanibel though. “We knew we couldn’t wait,” Kevin said. “The only other food provider on the island had already been deemed a ‘complete loss.’ This grocery store was essential to providing supplies and food to repair crews and emergency workers.”
Kevin and Scott finally secured a charter, and they were on their way.
The grocery store manager and representatives from the store’s mitigation company were waiting for Kevin and Scott by the docks.
“It was too far to walk to the grocery store, and the streets were impassable for cars because of the storm,” Scott said. “So, they gave us bikes. But there were only 3 bikes, not enough for everyone there plus Kevin and I.”
“They did say there was one tandem bike in the back we could use though,” Kevin said. “Nobody had used it in a while, so we had to inflate the tires.”
Kevin and Scott said they trekked out on their tandem bike together (Scott in front and Kevin in back). As they rode along, they saw the damage that had wrecked the island.
“The devastation was vast. One part of the street was completely washed out,” Kevin said. “There was a lot of debris – debris everywhere, and 3 or 4 feet of flooding.”
Despite this hardship, Kevin said he was moved by the support from the local community. “Eventually we had to swap out the tandem bike for another one. Luckily, residents were leaving bikes out at the edge of their property. They had signs on them that said, ‘Please use and return.’ Seeing that level of support was really amazing.”
Once they arrived at the insured’s location, they immediately got to work.
“Everybody was on the same page,” Scott said. “We identified areas of damage and did an in-depth analysis while the mitigation teams began disposing of trash and drying the inside of the store, essentially salvaging what could be saved.”
At the end of the day, Scott and Kevin were able to get in contact with the grocery store owners and answer their questions. The rebuilding process could begin.
“Other business owners told us later that they hadn’t heard from their insurance companies for months,” Kevin said. “Being on site, putting ourselves out there, we weren’t going to wait for the causeway to be rebuilt. We’re going to do what we’re going to do. We biked alongside our customers and built a connection. We put our feet in the same shoes. I think it built trust that led to a quicker resolution.”
“It takes a village,” Scott noted.
And that village is doing its part to uphold the Travelers Promise, taking care of our customers, communities and each other.
“I’ve enjoyed how positive the environment is here – I’m always learning and am allowed to try new things – there’s no better way to grow,” Chi said.
His team, called Momentum, recently rolled out an internal product that analyzes the engineering behind applications different teams are working on to test and ensure best practices and standards are applied to enhance the effectiveness of applications that handle customer and internal information.
“With our team being so new, it was great to see how we were able to experiment and learn as we went when developing a finished product that benefits our team and the larger engineering community. And for some of us, we’re using certain types of technology for the first time, which is both challenging and very rewarding.”
Chi credits the focus on learning and collaboration as one of the greatest benefits he enjoys on the team.
“I got my AWS Cloud certification shortly after joining Travelers, and I’m putting what I learned to use every day. We also have dedicated knowledge-sharing time and training sessions where we learn from each other, which is especially helpful for us junior engineers to learn from those with more experience.”
Chi’s team is working on several projects, including an enhancement to the Application Portfolio Management System that will allow for automation and increased accuracy within the tool.
Outside of work, Chi likes to play tennis and basketball. He has also been skiing for the past few years and goes hiking often in the New Hampshire mountains.
More than 250 Technology & Operations and Actuarial & Analytics employees joined a recent speed networking event hosted by Travelers’ internal professional business groups EmpowHER+ and Women in Actuarial & Analytics (WIAA) for employees across the Tech & Analytics organizations.
The virtual event created a networking opportunity between employees and Travelers’ senior leaders to promote collaboration, while enhancing personal and professional growth through upskilling and continuous learning.
“Learning and development are a crucial part of our culture at Travelers,” said Tracey Cournoyer, Vice President, Data Engineering, Enterprise Data & Analytics. “As a leader, it’s important for me to enable and encourage networking opportunities like this for our employees’ career development.”
Participants joined virtual “round robin” rooms with nearly 40 Travelers leaders from all businesses and disciplines and had the opportunity for introductions and question and answer sessions.
“I appreciate the chance to learn from other Travelers employees and the work they and their organizations do,” said Tracy Patterson, Director, Middle Market Field Operations. “An event like this helps me get a broader view of what is happening around the company. Networking is a very important part of career development.”
Networking opportunities like these allow employees with different responsibilities and duties to connect to gain new insights and a better understanding of how to succeed.
“This event provided access to our most senior leaders, along with an opportunity to meet and learn more about peers and partners,” Steve Palasek, Vice President, Engineering Infrastructure & Cloud Services said. “Networking opportunities like this show that senior leadership is invested in us. They are there to guide, but also learn and listen, which is empowering to the broader organization.”
Misty Kuckelman, VP of Business Insurance Middle Market Operations and co-leader of EmpowHER+, said her goal with this event was to go beyond typical networking opportunities and hopefully open the door for employees to connect with leaders and each other further.“We want to go beyond superficial introductions and into conversations that allow for opportunities to share perspectives outside everyone’s typical business area.”
“Chatting with leaders from across the company helped boost my own happiness as an employee,” said Hakema Hussein, Data Engineer, Enterprise Data & Analytics. “It was fun and the experience motivated me to achieve more career goals.”
EmpowHER+ is a Technology & Operations group designed to inspire women to achieve their full career potential and drive business outcomes for Travelers. WIAA is an enterprise-wide professional business group whose mission is to increase the influence of actuarial and analytic women at Travelers by enhancing culture and fostering business development.
When Didier Bouba Ndengue was an analyst at an electronic commerce company, he did not expect that he’d be looking into multiple leadership opportunities when he landed a new job at Travelers.
He began his Travelers Journey as an Operational Decision Management (ODM) Software Developer in 2016 and transitioned to the Technology Leadership Development Program in Claim Tech in 2018. Didier graduated from the program as a Data Engineer in Personal Insurance in the Fall of 2021, a role he continues today.
“Being young in my career, I was all about the exploration,” says Didier. “And my motivation continues to be learning and growing,” says Didier.
Didier leads the BI Data Modernization team and collaborates with groups within Tech & Ops to transfer application data to cloud services. He also works with colleagues in India to address any issues or make updates to applications. Didier enjoys mentoring interns and employees in his leadership role, helping to cultivate the desire for colleagues to grow their careers at Travelers.
“I tell my colleagues: If you want to develop people skills, become certified in applications, learn new coding languages, there are so many classes and resources for you to advance. And people care about your growth – not just your work.”
Didier also gained valuable experience at the 2021 Innovation Jam when his team’s idea for a new telematics solution for Boat and Yacht, Vesse, was a winner. Currently, Vesse is undergoing a Personal Insurance pilot for Travelers employees. Didier and his team have been conducting marketing research on how customers will engage with the product once available.
“It was very rewarding to be part of the team that created Vesse and to go through a 24-hour hackathon to develop it,” says Didier. “There were many talented and brilliant individuals in the team.”
Outside of work, Didier enjoys playing soccer in his free time. He likes to spend time with his family, listen to Congo and Latin music, and he plays soccer with his two-year-old son.