A Promise to Revolutionize and Influence P&C Insurance
Sure, many people’s accomplishments can look good on paper. Then there are those people who, after talking to them, excite you, motivate you, and just get you pumped to take on your challenges. Laura Drabik, Group Vice President of Business Innovation at Guidewire, is one of those people for me. Laura was recently named to the Silicon Valley Business Journal's annual Women of Influence list for her contributions to her community and success in her career. It was my honor to ask Laura a few questions about her accomplishments, goals, and more. Here’s some of what she said:
Q: Many people in P&C insurance didn’t necessarily seek out the industry when they started their careers. Were you one of those people?
A: I was. I graduated in the height of the recession, and started working as a claims adjuster at State Farm. I can’t say, at the time, that insurance was a passion or dream for me. I was 21 years old; I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And, I didn’t realize at the time what a blessing it was. It ended up being the very best opportunity for me and ignited new passions and dreams for me.
Q: What are some of your dreams, passions, and achievements that are influenced by your past?
A: When I worked catastrophes at State Farm, it was pretty shocking.* There was a huge opportunity to take advantage of technology to assist in that work. I promised my colleagues that I was going to revolutionize the insurance industry and transform the claims handling process to provide faster, more effective support to customers and communities in need.
This set the course for my career. I took some change management consulting opportunities and ultimately landed at Guidewire in 2006 as a sales consultant, and we had 10 customers at the time.
I still had that passion to solve complex industry problems and humanize technology. I brought my boots-on-the-ground experience to develop five Guidewire InsuranceSuite™product features and tech experiments including a field adjuster solution and chatbot that enables on-demand claims processes. Since I’ve started at Guidewire, I’ve touched every part of a sales opportunity, and Guidewire now has more than 350 customers. Instead about making it about a sales opportunity, we make it a consulting opportunity. Contributing as a strategy lead for one of our largest sales opportunities, I ran it like a consulting engagement, created a three-month-long plan to bring in people from Guidewire and people from the now-customer.
Now, having worked in the industry for 26 years, one of the things that excites me the most is insurtech. It’s making the insurance industry bold and we can stop doing things the way we’ve done them for 30 years. They weren’t working, and they’re not working for this new generation. If in five years, we’re selling and servicing insurers the way we’re doing it today, I’ve failed. I work with and advise many insurtechs, and I’m navigating and leading them through Guidewire based on their value propositions.
Q: Obviously your insurtech leadership work is one of the reasons the Silicon Valley Business Journal named you to its annual Women of Influence list. How has being a woman affected your leadership style and ability to influence?
A: I’ve learned that I can’t only mimic male leadership behaviors and expect to be successful. I can’t compete with a man by behaving like a man. I need be true to who I am—female leader who can see the bigger picture and be assertive in my own way. Unfortunately, I may not get there as fast as a man; that’s been proven time and time again. But, I’m going to get there, and if other women stay persistent, our daughters will get there faster.
In the industry that Guidewire and I serve and in technology as a whole, I’ve seen the influence that is needed. I’ve participated in some recent hackathons, involving high schoolers. I was shocked to see one of the hackathons consisted of 99% teenage boys. The teenager leading it was a female, which made me feel a little better. I like to tell girls I come into contact with, there’s more to tech than just coding. It’s a great base, but there is so much you can do in technology. Get involved girls.
Q: Who has influenced you?
A: Well, Anne-Marie Slaughter is my hero. Her article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” greatly influenced my personal and professional life. There have been times in my life when I’ve had to dramatically shift focus. When my husband and I adopted our daughter, she was an emergency pickup. We didn’t have any of the things you need when you bring home a baby—bottles, carrier, a stroller. And, with an emergency pickup, there’s an 18-month waiting period before you can finalize the adoption. It was wonderful chaos! I made Claire my top priority to ensure bonding and took myself completely out of work to make this happen. I then started to layer in work and travel after my leave ended. What was key for me was a supportive partner. No working mother will succeed without a good support system.
There are a number of women at Guidewire—Priscilla Hung, COO, and Eileen Maier, who have carved a path. I’m grateful for having women leaders at Guidewire.
I’ve had an executive coach for 13 years. It’s only been recently that I’ve started reporting to him. Steve Sherry, Chief Sales Officer at Guidewire, has been a tremendous part of my career. He’s given me coaching and showed me other perspectives of how I can grow. I can say now that when it comes to my career and dreams: Insurance software—it was meant to be.
*Be sure to watch Laura’s TEDx talk, “Technology’s Bold Contribution to Insurance”.