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.
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.”
“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.
The Travelers Companies, Inc. (NYSE: TRV) recently announced it has once again been named a Best for Vets Employer by Military Times, as well as a Military Friendly® Employer and Military Friendly® Spouse Employer by VIQTORY.
“These recognitions demonstrate our steadfast commitment to creating a welcoming environment for the military community,” said Diane Kurtzman, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at Travelers. “Service members and their families add incredible value to our workforce, and we’re proud to support them.”
Travelers offers a robust suite of military-friendly programs and benefits, including:
The company has also signed the Statement of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve at both state and national levels and is part of the Department of Defense Military Spouse Employment Partnership. In addition, Travelers was named a 2021 Employer for Outstanding Support by the U.S. Navy Reserve.
Amber Abernathy, Account Executive at Travelers, has been awarded with the inaugural ‘Alumni Spirit Award’ by Girl Talk, a nonprofit organization focused on peer-to-peer mentoring with teen girls.
The ‘Alumni Spirit Award’ is the first ever award given by Girl Talk. According to the organization, it is given to a Girl Talk alumna for inspiring confident leaders through the work they have done with the organization.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Amber said. “I got the phone call and was very surprised. I feel so grateful to be honored by an organization that I love and have grown so much with.”
Amber has been involved with Girl Talk since she was in sixth grade, when she worked with a high school mentor. She loved the program and became a mentor when she reached high school. From there, Amber has stayed active with Girl Talk, speaking at their Girl Talk Camp during the summer, working to build out the organization’s alumni network and contributing to other Girl Talk programming.
“Girl Talk is all about leadership, confidence and learning how to be the best version of yourself,” Amber said. “I honestly used to be so shy, I wouldn’t talk to people. I have always been a quiet person, but Girl Talk taught me how to be a quiet leader in the workplace and build confidence in that type of leadership.”
Amber joined Travelers as a Posse Scholar intern in 2017 through the company’s Posse Foundation partnership. After the internship, she was hired full-time as an Underwriting Professional Development Program participant and now serves as an Account Executive. She says Travelers is a workplace that feels like home.
“Travelers has provided me the flexibility and work-life balance to be able to volunteer with organizations like Girl Talk and give back to my community in ways that I am passionate about,” Amber said. “It’s truly an amazing feeling to be celebrated at work for things I do outside of work. The company celebrates me in all parts of my life.”
Travelers is committed to promoting career opportunities to a diverse range of talent in the actuary community. One of the ways where this commitment is apparent is through our partnership with the International Association of Black Actuaries (IABA).
Travelers’ strong presence at the recent IABA annual conference demonstrated the company’s commitment to investing in development opportunities for Black actuaries. One attendee was Whittney LeBruce, who was introduced to Travelers when she attended the conference in 2017.
Whittney participated in a pre-conference bootcamp for aspiring actuaries. The bootcamp included a mock interview with Travelers, where she made a connection. Whittney met with five Travelers attendees that year and become convinced the company would be a great fit.
Fast forward five years: Whittney, who is now a recruiting lead for entry-level talent, joined four other Travelers colleagues to share knowledge and lessons through a “cooking show” for this year’s conference attendees. The “chefs” used cooking analogies to demonstrate how building a predictive model is achieved with each “ingredient.”
“I really value promoting diverse talent into this career,” Whittney said. “Maintaining a connection to IABA has been paramount to me. Through my participation, I can help build a pipeline for Black actuaries, celebrate them and help us learn from each other.”
This year, Travelers sent 15 actuaries to the IABA meeting, triple the number Whittney saw when she attended four years ago.
Loren Danielson, VP of Actuarial and Analytics, attended the conference as well and was honored as IABA Mentor of the Year.
“I got comments from multiple people from other companies on how many people Travelers sent to the conference,” Danielson said. “It was definitely recognized that Travelers is a leader, both in the content they presented and the value Travelers sees in sending people to the conference.”
In addition to being a recruiting opportunity, the conference is also viewed as an opportunity to retain talent who attend and return re-energized about their careers in this field.
“I’m very glad that Travelers continues to invest in me,” Whittney said. “And I’m honored that I can now help invest in others.”
When a talent recruiter from Travelers contacted Allison K. about a role on the Strategy, Planning & Programs team in Digital Enablement (DE), she was a marketing manager at a financial services company and not quite sure about making the leap.
“Given my background in marketing, I felt like I was a long-shot for this role, but during the interview process it was clear that Travelers values the different skillsets and experience people bring to the table, so I was very intrigued,” Allison said.
Allison accepted the position as a Strategic Initiatives Manager in January 2022, where she leads a variety of strategic initiatives focused on portfolio management, operational excellence and organizational engagement.
“Something’s that really stood out to me is how positive the culture is here and how we’re given flexibility when it comes to different ways of working. I love the hybrid model in that I’m able to interact with colleagues virtually or in person and build strong relationships across the team.”
“I’m making the most of the different learning opportunities afforded to me. I’ve enjoyed contributing to multiple ongoing projects while meeting new people along the way. It’s been an adventure!”
Allison is a great example of how your unique skill set can lead you to a career that’s more than you imagined.
Outside of work, Allison loves to cook, play golf and listen to music with her family. Growing up, one of her passions was diving.
Thanks for sharing your hiring story with us, Allison!
In the first six months of 2022, Travelers Europe planted over 2,000 trees thanks to employees volunteering hours through a partnership with onHand.
onHand is a volunteering platform designed to connect its users with local volunteer opportunities called “missions.” Employee participants earn one tree for their first mission and for every ten missions completed, with the opportunity to earn extra trees by participating in competitions.
Common missions in the app include calling an isolated individual to say hello, running errands for those in need, and making sustainable swaps like choosing reusable coffee cups or opting to air-dry clothes. Each activity completed via the app contributes to trees in the ever-expanding “Travelers Europe forests” – located in regions around the world severely impacted by deforestation including Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Madagascar, as well as reforestation projects in Scotland.
During the past year, Travelers Europe has also purchased additional saplings to boost environmental sustainability efforts, including offsetting carbon produced by several internal events and planting trees on behalf of customers and brokers in gratitude for their continued partnership.
“Working with onHand forms a key part of our sustainability activity,” says Matthew Wilson, CEO of Travelers Europe. “Planting 2,000 trees is a gratifying milestone, and I’m thankful to all of the employees who helped us reach it”.
Over the next six months and beyond, through the continued generosity of our Europe employees, we look forward to larger forests and smaller carbon footprints.