Kourtney Mason, Auto Liability Claim Manager, recently accepted a position as Regional Director for Claim Account Executives at Travelers. As she transitioned into the role in March 2022, we sat down with Kourtney to discuss her thoughts on this significant moment, her passion for diversity, equity and inclusion as well as her dedication to one other area of passion and servitude – mental health.
How long have you been at Travelers and what led up to this moment?
“I have been with Travelers for over 10 years. I’ve been a manager in the Claim organization for a little over seven and a half years. I’ve always wanted to serve in a higher level of leadership, which would be a Director role. This Regional Director opportunity came up and I just went for it. I felt like I could add value.”
Tell us about that moment when you learned you were to become a Regional Director for Claim Account Executives at Travelers.
“To be honest, I’m still trying to process so many emotions and come up with a good way to say how I feel but I’m just still so overwhelmed. I’ve been explaining to people that when you come from a background like mine, a person of color and, more specifically, a Black woman, you have dreams and you go for things but there is still a part of you that isn’t sure if you totally believe in yourself. So, when the moment happened, it was so surreal.”
How does diversity, equity and inclusion roll up into your leadership style?
“To me, diversity, equity and inclusion is far beyond race and ethnicity. It’s gender identity, sexual orientation, age, neurodiversity, there are so many different lanes. So, I’ve always had the leadership style of including everybody, making sure everyone feels they are a part of the team, and adapting my leadership style to whoever I’m with. Having one static leadership style won’t relate to everyone; it needs to be dynamic and adaptive. It’s about being authentic, being genuine, listening, and having empathy. I lead with this at work but it’s not very different from who I am at home, at church, at the grocery store or anywhere else. It’s who I am at my core.”
You’ve noted that mental health is something else you are very passionate about. Can you tell us more?
“Personally, I am very open about having anxiety. It took me several years to understand that I had it, but once I did and I began to unlearn the conditioning and pressure from my upbringing, it opened up a whole world for me. I thought, if I feel this way, I can’t imagine the percentage of the population I’m leading that also feels this way.
I co-lead a Diversity and Inclusion/Community Action group within Claim and for several years I wanted to have a platform to discuss mental health. My leaders supported me and gave me that platform and now we host panels and conversations where people can share their stressors, what they’re doing to cope and understand that they are not alone in their mental health journey.
If we understand what those around us are going through, we can create empathy and lead each other through it. If we ignore that people are dealing with life outside of work, we aren’t reaching them. Mental health shouldn’t be a taboo topic and I think if we keep fostering an open and safe environment, we’ll find that we’re all uniquely made, and we all deserve the resources and support.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
“I am just so grateful and blessed. I never thought I’d be where I am today, working in insurance, but here I am. Travelers is a place for everyone, and I mean that. Whether you are an attorney, an actuary, a nurse, you love math, you love science, you simply care for people, whatever it may be, there is a whole world within this company that will support who you are and what you do. The resources and the support are here. There is a place for you at Travelers.”
By Lynn Simon-Thomas
Manager, Diversity Engagement
For some people, making professional connections can be a rather challenging and intimidating task. Then, when you throw in extraordinary times like those in which we’re currently living, the fear factor goes from, “What if I blow this because I say something silly?” to “What if I blow this because I look a mess on camera?” I know, I get it. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
One thing to keep in mind when you’re networking, whether virtually or in person, is that the other person is just that: a person. Just like you, they are a human being who has dreams and goals, family and friends, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and, of course, quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them unique and interesting. Who knows? You may have something in common, but you’ll never know if you don’t accept the invite, phone call or email to connect.
Once you’ve made a new connection, it’s important to stay connected, even when you are unable to do it face-to-face. It’s no secret we’ve all had to get used to having more Zoom conversations than we care to count and learning how to “show up” in a virtual environment is an art in and of itself. But just about anything is possible when you focus and commit adequate time and effort.
If you stop to think about it, everyone (yes, even you) has a network. Starting with family and friends, you probably have people you can count on to help guide you with sound advice, as well as those who may periodically seek your advice. Professional networks are no different. They’re just as, if not more, important than personal ones, as they can impact the trajectory of your career path. And just like any living thing, they need to be fed and nurtured to remain healthy. As a Diversity Recruiting Manager, I regularly share articles or just send a note to my connections to say, “Hello.”
In 2021 we started a program called Just Coffee at Travelers to help facilitate network building. The goal was to connect several passive candidates with leaders at Travelers for an informal, yet professional, conversation via Zoom. To ensure both parties remained at ease, we reminded them that the conversation was not an interview, but really an opportunity to make a new connection and build their respective networks. Just Coffee has been well-received by both candidates and Travelers’ leaders, which has shown me that many people are still open to the idea of spending 30 minutes with another human, simply for the sake of getting to know someone new. That’s networking at its finest.
Networking is an art that must be practiced regularly. Below I’ve included a few tips to help you improve your networking skills.
Lynn’s Top 4 Networking Tips:
Lynn Simon-Thomas is Manager, Diversity Engagement within Talent Acquisition. Lynn has over 15 years of experience in recruiting and diversity engagement. She serves as the diversity and inclusion subject matter expert focused on the execution of targeted diverse talent sourcing strategies.
Since 2018, Travelers has hosted more than a dozen military fellows through the Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) Corporate Fellowship Program. HOH is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation program devoted to connecting service members with career opportunities that lead to on-the-job experience and, in many cases, full-time employment.
We are excited to introduce you to one of our fellows, U.S. Army Col. Glen Chancellor, who participated in our 2021 fall HOH Fellowship Program cohort.
Glen is beginning a new chapter in the civilian corporate world after his 34-year career, serving in both the active and reserve components. While at Travelers, Glen split his time between Bond Underwriting and Talent Acquisition to create a hybrid experience that will tap into his human resources and recruiting background as well as his business and insurance experience.
“Because I enjoyed working in and had a good understanding of the insurance industry, I chose to look for opportunities that would incorporate my military and civilian work experience in a position that would be meaningful and rewarding,” said Glen.
During his military career, Glen served in many roles, most recently with the U.S. Army Cadet Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky. There, he was the primary advisor responsible for all aspects of commissioning Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets into Army National Guard officers for all U.S. states and territories.
Previously, he served in the Army National Guard in a Reserve status and worked full-time in property and casualty insurance as a Loss Control Inspector and Premium Auditor.
Glen learned about Travelers by participating in the American Corporate Partners Mentorship Program. His positive mentee experience helped him learn about our inclusive workplace culture and provided networking opportunities that led him to his current HOH role.
“When the time came for me to apply for the Hiring Our Heroes Fellowship, Travelers was the first and only company that I requested to sponsor me as a military fellow.”
While on our team, Glen provided valuable insight into military recruiting efforts and engaged with military members and spouses during virtual career fairs. He shared various opportunities that suit those transitioning into civilian careers.
“Travelers is much more than insurance sales. While sales are vital to keeping the business opportunities growing, most current openings are in business operations and directly connect to military occupations and skills.”
In addition to helping make the transferable skill connection, identifying skills as a military member and matching them to a role is only part of the equation. According to Glen, marketing those specialized skills while connecting with employers is also key.
“Veterans have many skills that most non-veteran populations have never developed. Many employers desire that talent to enable their workforce to achieve the company goals. Learn to ask for help in connecting with employers and endorsing those talents that you bring to the table.”
If you are interested in connecting with a member of our team, join our military talent community.
In this Power of Travelers Is Us video, you will meet Jhavier L., a Software Engineer at Travelers.
While he understands and values the importance of sharing his authentic self at work, it has been a journey to grow his comfort level. He attributes his Travelers managers and mentors for guiding him along the way.
“Being earlier in my career, I don’t want to overstep or make anyone feel uncomfortable and I’m trying to kind of like find the space between which parts of myself should I leave at home,” Jhavier says in the video. Throughout his career under the umbrella, his membership of the Travelers Pride and Allies Diversity Network facilitated mentor relationships that encouraged him to be more open with his team.
“[My mentor] is teaching me that you bring your entire self to work. So I think the true benefit of Travelers as a whole, even outside of the diversity networks, is that you still have spaces on your day-to-day job with your main team where you can feel comfortable and share who you are.”
Within an inclusive community and with the guidance Jhavier has received, he has found Travelers to be a company where he can grow his technology career and a workplace culture that invites all unique ideas, perspectives and people to the table.
“[My mentor] has helped me to understand the importance of being seen and visible so that people would have more respect for your identity in different spaces.”
Watch the full video to hear more about Jhavier’s journey.
A Connecticut nonprofit that helps women build businesses has presented Tara N. Spain, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Travelers Foundation and Assistant Vice President, Community Relations for Travelers, with a 2021 Impact Award.
The Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC) recognized Tara for “fostering a culture of diversity, inclusion and social change at Travelers and beyond.” The organization recognized honorees at its annual luncheon in October.
Travelers has partnered with WBDC for a number of years. Last year, Travelers helped launch its Equity Match Fund, which was designed to bring equitable resources to women entrepreneurs throughout Connecticut during the pandemic.
“The decision to establish a relationship with WBDC was easy because their mission to support economic prosperity for women aligns well with the values of Travelers – and my own personal values,” says Tara, who has worked at Travelers for 16 years. “WBDC is driving a collective effort to reduce the barriers that women business owners face, and I am proud to partner with them and be recognized by them.”
Watch Tara’s remarks [34:44] in the video below.
A career pause for family obligations, military commitments, or relocation can be challenging to overcome, even for the most qualified and experienced professional.
When faced with this very issue after two career breaks, Ginny Brzezinski found herself ready to reboot her career but was unsure how to do so, especially at the age of 52. Ginny reached out to her sister-in-law, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, founder of the women’s empowerment community, Know Your Value. The two dug deep into the topic and, in January 2020, published “Comeback Careers: Rethink, Refresh, Reinvent Your Success – At 40, 50, and Beyond.”
Crafting Your Comeback: An Interview with Ginny Brzezinski, moderated by Joan Woodward, President of the Travelers Institute, was featured on the Wednesdays With Woodward Travelers Institute Webinar Series.
Joined by Comeback Careers co-author Mika Brzezinski and Ashley Wilson, creator of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “Women Taking the Lead,” the team shared insights from their research and job market trends for professionals thinking about revaluating, reinventing, or relaunching their careers.
The three women shared a wealth of career advice to empower the job-seeker, even amidst a pandemic. Key points focused on personal assessments, updating social media accounts, reaching out to former colleagues to up your network game and adapting to the new norm – video meetings and interviews.
Watch the full webinar to learn more about Ginny and how her career and life experiences encouraged her to educate and inspire women and men looking to relaunch their careers.
Wednesdays With Woodward Travelers Institute Webinar Series interviews thought leaders about topics that impact us both personally and professionally. Travelers created the Travelers Institute to engage in public policy dialogue on issues relevant to the insurance market.
For the past ten years, more than 200 Travelers employees have upheld the Travelers Promise to take care of our customers, our community and each other by mentoring veterans through American Corporate Partners (ACP).
ACP is a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping transitioning veterans and active-duty spouses find civilian careers by matching them with mentors from a broad range of industries. Travelers Community Relations signed on with ACP as its thirteenth corporate partner in 2010 as a way to expand leaders’ and managers’ mentoring options.
Since 2010, more than 200 Travelers employees have engaged in about 600 mentoring relationships with veterans, transitioning military members and active duty military spouses through ACP. To celebrate the partnership’s 10-year milestone, read the first-hand experiences of seven Travelers employees who accepted the mentoring challenge.
Hina, Senior Director, B.I. Technology Analytics, St. Paul, MN
“I’m working with my fifth protégé. One of those protégés served 20 years in the U.S. Army and already had an MBA. During his transition, I helped him gain knowledge about skills he could acquire for the current job market in his field. He was very driven and rapidly was Certified as a Scrum Master and received his Scaled Agile (SAFe) certification. Within six months, he was offered a program management position at a Fortune 500 technology company in Seattle. I get immense satisfaction from sharing my knowledge and experience with others. I help my mentees translate and map their skills from their military background – organizing and executing, dealing with conflicts, evaluating risks, etc. – to the corporate world. I take them through the journey of writing effective resumes and preparing them for interviews. I’ve become a big advocate of hiring veterans. They’re resilient, strong, rigorous and in some ways, I learn from them as much as they learn from me. It’s a truly rewarding experience.”
Daniel, Field Director, BI Construction Risk Control, Chicago, IL
“Having 13 U.S. Marines in my family – including my younger brother – compels me to help veterans. I’ve completed five mentoring relationships through ACP. What all my protégés have had in common is a feeling of uncertainty that their transition to civilian life is really happening. I put myself in their shoes and do a lot of listening. The greatest barrier they learn to work through is adapting to a civilian world that can be ambiguous and full of uncertainty. Their military careers were more ‘black and white’ and involved receiving and following orders. Once they figure that part out, the rest is easier.
I focus on building trust and a personal connection before progressing to giving advice or developing action plans. There’s no better opportunity to give back to the military. It’s very meaningful and provides
opportunities for me to learn something from them.”
Al, Associate Group General Counsel, Hartford CT
“I never served, so this provides me an opportunity to give back to the military. I’ve mentored three protégés so far. I bring them plenty of luck, with two out of the three securing jobs within months. The ACP pairs me with veterans who are interested in attending law school or seeking legal careers. I help with their resumes, letters of intent, how to study in law school, career options and preparing for the bar exam.
I’ve learned it’s helpful to research before meeting with my protégés to understand what they’ve done in the military that can contribute to a successful transition. Helping a military member transition is very satisfying; you’re doing a good deed for someone who has sacrificed so much for our country. Given veterans’ discipline and attributes, you know they’re likely to succeed in whatever career they choose.”
Rob, CAT Team Unit Manager, Denver, CO; U.S. Army & Army National Guard Veteran
“When I got out of the military, I had to assimilate how I acted and how I led others and I also needed to learn a whole new vernacular. It took me a while to adjust to civilian work, so I understand how to help vets, which allows me to continue my contribution to the military.
One of my protégés was a Command Sergeant Major. He had multiple Bronze Stars, but he was fearful about getting out of the military. I helped him build confidence and understand how his resourcefulness, knowledge and experience would serve him. He ended up getting a job in his hometown as the head of recreational tourism.
I invite each of my protégés to be a part of the process, which helps them gain a broader perspective about their own development while transitioning. ACP has been a great way for me to help veterans and to be a part of something bigger.”
Chris, BI Middle Market Business Architect, Hartford, CT; U.S. Air Force Veteran
“ACP’s ‘secret sauce’ is their hands-on engagement; they stay engaged, so that
mentors get as much, or more, out of the experience than protégés do. I’ve mentored at least ten protégés, who have had a wide range of skills and needs. One protégé was an Air Force Academy graduate who was attending the University of Chicago School of Business. I helped him evaluate several offers for summer internships, including one at a large retail chain. I helped him to think about the company behind the scenes, that any large corporation is about data and analytics. It opened his eyes to how many possibilities exist behind the company and job title.
Mentoring has also helped me grow in my career. As I’ve learned more about how large organizations work, I’ve become more confident in understanding what other companies might be looking for in candidates.”
Lisa, Senior Paralegal, Law Office of William J. Ferren & Assoc., Blue Bell, PA
“I’ve mentored eight ACP protégés since 2013. My most memorable was in the military for eight years. She had ‘Ivy League intelligence,’ but still needed encouragement to learn not to settle, to stop doubting herself and to understand her first job didn’t have to be her last. She took that advice and has succeeded in many ways. She earned a scholarship and went on to work on her doctorate. Another protégé had 20 years in the Navy but had never experienced civilian work. She was used to being given and acting on orders. Through mentoring, she learned an enormous amount about herself and how to find a setting that fit her mindset and task-orientation. As a mentor, I listen first and speak second. I try to understand where they are coming from, then guide them into the civilian world in a way that makes sense to them.”
Eric, PI Cloud Architect, Hartford, CT; U.S. Navy Veteran
“I wish ACP had been available when I got out of the military in 1998. I’m currently engaged in my fourth mentorship. My first protégé was a fascinating guy. He came out of the Army and was working on a Ph.D. in computer science. I was able to help him out personally and professionally.
My second protégé needed more help when he got out of the Navy. We did a lot of mock interviews, and I threw him curveball questions. He moved along to a position in computer science support. As a mentor, I’ve also learned things, like the importance of setting ground rules during the initial meeting. ACP is a fantastic program and lets me give back. It’s a good feeling. I’d advise anyone interested in mentoring to go for it.”
I am a trans woman, and I am transitioning while working at Travelers. I can’t say enough about how pivotal Travelers has been in my ability to transition safely and how supported I’ve felt by all levels of our organization.
As a child, my sexual and gender identity was dangerous; like too many others, I was beaten up, called names and ostracized unless I hid who I was and conformed to the binary norms of the time and place.
Today, I’m an executive at a company that makes me feel supported with standard guidelines and practices for transitioning employees, access to full health benefits and the full-throated backing for LGBTQ communities from senior leadership.
The moment I reached out to a few leaders at Travelers about my intentions, I felt validated and empowered. At 8:30 a.m. on a Monday, I had a meeting with my manager and HR representative, who had already ordered new nameplates for my office and were ready to get things moving for me.
I share all of this because “visibility” and “acceptance” are only the first steps to true inclusion. Travelers continues to work with LGBTQ employees to foster an inclusive environment in myriad ways, like adding “legal” and “preferred” name fields in employee records and supporting robust Diversity Networks to help employees find community and advocacy, being thoughtful and tuned in to the real-world needs of LGBTQ employees every step of the way.
I’m happy to say I’m doing the best work of my life! As VP of Software Engineering, I’m helping a community of thousands of engineers do their best work. As a leader, I’m also paying my privilege forward by joining in the effort to fulfill the Travelers Promise to “take care of our customers, our communities and our employees.” I hope you will join us.
Ray Fortier knows logistics. Whether through his experience as a member of the Operations Leadership Development Program at Travelers or as a captain in the Connecticut National Guard, you will find Ray ready to take on new roles and new challenges.
In early April of 2020, Ray answered the call to support the Connecticut National Guard’s COVID-19 response plan.
He sat down with us to share his experience working on the front lines of the state’s response efforts and also what it is like to be a military employee at Travelers.
What is your role at Travelers?
I am in my fourth rotation in the Operations Leadership Development Program (OLDP). My current rotation is in Technology Business Support. I serve as a liaison between the Business Insurance Field and Technology organizations. I also oversee various projects and initiatives.
How long have you been with the company?
Five years. I started right after graduating from the University of Connecticut in 2015.
Tell us about your service in the Connecticut National Guard.
I’ve been serving as a logistics officer for over seven years. I spent my first two years with the 143rd Military Police Company then joined the 1048th Transportation Company, where I led a platoon of 55 soldiers focused on transporting and distributing commodities and equipment. I later moved to the role of Battalion Plans Officer (Future Operations), overseeing training and operations for a combat sustainment support battalion. In early 2020, I moved into the Plans Officer role at the 143rd Regional Support Group.
What is your current mission and role with the CTNG?
Since early April, my mission has involved overseeing Connecticut’s “Commodities Warehouse” as a part of its COVID-19 response plan. Our site is the central hub for all inbound shipments and outbound shipments for hospitals, state agencies, first responders and municipalities. I am the officer in charge of all warehouse operations, which includes inventory management, coordination of inbound and outbound shipments, transportation planning, site security and other capabilities required to make a military-run warehouse function successfully.
Why are your role and mission important to you and the community?
While stepping away from my role at Travelers was difficult, having the opportunity to assist the State of Connecticut in distributing greatly needed commodities has been one of the most fulfilling and satisfying moments of my career so far. Nurses, doctors, paramedics, firefighters, police officers and everyday citizens have needed supplies and equipment for months. Our mission is to get those supplies to these people as quickly as possible, so they can ensure the critical functions of our state are kept intact. There’s nothing more important than that.
What first-hand experiences can you share?
In the operation’s early stages, we were extremely low on a lot of requested critical personal protection equipment (PPE), like hand sanitizer, exam gloves and surgical masks. Incoming shipments were infrequent at best. Around the fourth week of our operation, I was doing my regular warehouse walks. I noticed tiny travel-sized hand sanitizers with Travelers’ logo across the side sitting in one of the aisles. As soon as I saw them, a feeling of pride swept over me and for a moment, I thought about how everyone was doing back at work. Within days they were distributed throughout Connecticut to folks who needed them. It’s funny how such a small item with our red umbrella made me feel connected to my company and coworkers after weeks of being away on this mission.
What’s it like to be a military employee at Travelers?
Working at Travelers while serving in the military has been extraordinary. Travelers has proven what it says about supporting those with military commitments. Whether it’s for normal monthly and yearly training or longer-term missions, support from the company and my leaders and fellow colleagues has been more than I could have expected. It gives me peace of mind that I can step away to serve my community and know my career will still be there when I return.
Former Travelers EDGE scholar, Kate McCollam, sat down with our team to discuss how the program affected her education, her career and ultimately her life here at Travelers.
Kate is an FMLDP participant currently supporting Corporate Audit in St. Paul, MN. She became a Travelers EDGE scholar during her second year in college and has now been working at Travelers for 2 years and 7 months. Read more below to learn about Kate’s EDGE journey.
How long have you been at Travelers?
Two years and seven months.
How did you get involved with Travelers EDGE?
In my second year at college, I became a Travelers EDGE scholar. At the time, I was looking for qualifying scholarships and being a first-generation college student in the U.S. presented the opportunity to apply and become an EDGE scholar.
How did Travelers EDGE affect your education?
I obtained an Accounting Degree in 3 years due to the support of Travelers EDGE.
When I began to pursue my accounting degree, I started at a community college. It was more affordable; I was able to work during the day and attend classes in the evening to ensure that I was making payments towards my education and would not have to address a big debt after college.
The moment I became a scholar, I was fortunate to receive financial support that gave me the freedom to take classes at the pace that I was able to address rather than at the pace I was able to afford.
How did Travelers EDGE affect your career?
Being an EDGE scholar and utilizing the internship experience and connections that I built, helped me obtain an amazing job here at Travelers. Travelers is a driving leader in the insurance industry and to be part of that is powerful.
Tell us about your current role.
I am a Financial Management Leadership Development Program (FMLDP) participant. The FMLDP is a 3-year rotational program that offers a diverse set of assignments in financial planning and analysis, internal auditing, international finance, and corporate accounting. For my current assignment, I am working within our internal auditing function where I have the chance to work with a dynamic team of talented professionals and learn about Travelers’ control environment, governance and risk management processes.
Is there anything else you wish to share?
It feels great to be part of such a vibrant community. Working at Travelers is not simply doing your job, but rather a continuous promise to be your best self and leverage the available resources to keep getting better. It is being continuously challenged, but always having a friendly resource to ensure you feel supported. It is a place where hard work, enthusiasm and professional ethic are the key drivers of the culture and I truly appreciate that.