Women in Leadership: Finding Your Path as A Female Leader in the Insurance Industry

November 29, 2021 0 Comments

Historically, women across both Insurance and Construction industries have been underrepresented. In a recent sit down with Heather O'Neill, Assistant Vice President of Construction Specialty Products at Arch Insurance Group, we gain insights on supporting women in finding their path as a leaders in their industry. Heather's three takeaways that can help anyone find a path as a leader, especially women, include: 

1. Find Trusted Mentors 

2. Don't Be Afraid to Take Risks 

3. Call Someone You Trust and Ask them for Honest Feedback 

Find Trusted Mentors

Finding a trustworthy mentor can help with both professional and personal growth. As Heather states, the best mentors are those "who will give you open and honest feedback and who also have a vested interest in you and your development." When seeking a mentor, Heather recommends searching for those who want to see you succeed and give you the advice to help you reach your goals. Trusted mentors are crucial to your professional development because they will point out your strengths and weaknesses, guiding you to effectively utilize these characteristics. Once you find your mentor, formulate your goals and look for 360 feedback, all in order to help you feel both energized and challenged. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

Actor Will Smith once said that "the best things in life are on the other side of fear." With risk comes fear, and with fear comes restraint. Many professionals hesitate to take risks in their work environment because they fear failure. However, it may just be that taking a calculated risk that ultimately leads to being noticed or obtaining that promotion for career advancement. In our interview with Heather, she states that, "When you have some purpose, it takes away that fear of failure and allows you to learn, which is what life is about." So, do not be afraid to create opportunities for visibility as it can be a driving factor towards a leadership position. Even if you are fearful, advocating for yourself and participating in areas where you think you will add value will only help further your career. 

Call Someone You Trust and Ask them for Honest Feedback

 As you find those trusted mentors, consider calling someone and ask them for honest feedback. Heather advises that, "It's important to have a safe space to receive not only positive feedback but those opportunities for improvement feedback." There are many feedback channels, and consider which would be most effective, whether you are the seeker, receiver, or giver. These include[1]:

• Attributed vs. anonymous 

• 1-on-1 vs. 360 feedback

• Individual vs. group

• Face-to-face vs. written

On the podcast, Heather shares her experience working with strong leaders that have shaped her professional journey. Most notable was someone close to home- her maternal Grandfather. "No one can make you think, act, feel, or believe in any way you don't want to" was a powerful phrase that continues to resonate and drive Heather today. It's the ultimate personal responsibility mantra. Heather shares, "It's so empowering to take responsibility for your choices because it means you can make different ones."


To learn more about Heather's career journey and her takeaways aforementioned, listen to our podcast with, Growing Into a Leadership Role as a Female in the Insurance Industry. 

[1] https://www.quantumworkplace.com/future-of-work/10-tips-for-building-a-feedback-culture


Connect with Heather on LinkedIn
Follow Arch Insurance on LinkedIn
Visit Arch Insurance on the web here 
Email Heather at honeill@archinsurance.com
Connect with Valerie Bono
Connect with Peter Duggan


Class 111: Update Schedules

November 19, 2021 0 Comments


What happens when project events occur that were not accounted for in the baseline schedule? Construction projects are complex and changes are common. Therefore, project schedules are updated on a regular basis, typically monthly, to account for project progress and update plans for future work. AACEI states a project schedule update is “a statused, dynamic version of the baseline schedule that reflects the most current information on the project.”1

Example of an Update Schedule:

The example above shows a typical construction schedule for a high-end mixed-used skyscraper. The construction schedule has been updated to reflect the current status of the project. In the gantt chart, the blue bars identify activities that are complete. The green bars represent forecasted activities that are not on the critical path, while the red bars identify forecasted activities on the critical path. Yellow bars identify the baseline schedule activities.  Without updates to the construction schedules, project stakeholders would not have a concise understanding of the current project status as compared to the original plan. Thus, update schedules provide the ability to adjust deliveries, resources, and finances to account for project events impacting the schedule.  

Why are Update Schedules important?

On very large construction projects, changes occur frequently.  Project owners can issue change orders, subcontractors can fall behind schedule on their work and weather events can impact a project. Regularly updated schedules document the events that occur during the life of a project and allow quick assessment of its impact. This creates an opportunity to mitigate potential future issues. 

Additionally, schedule updates are often used as the backbone for forensic delay analysis when analysts work to determine the root cause and quantification of project events. When regularly updated, schedule updates can be a useful archive of a project’s execution.

Schedule Update Summary:

1. Schedule updates can provide the status of a project.

2. Schedule updates can incorporate progress delays, change orders, and other events impacting the project.

3. In forensic delay analysis, schedule updates provide a history of project events.

Key Terms:

Construction Schedule comprehensive and realistic plan that represents the specific activities, reasonable duration for the activities, and the planned sequence of work for the project

Baseline Schedule static project schedule that reflects all formally authorized scope and schedule changes against which the project performance is measured

Gantt Chart a type of bar chart that provides a graphical representation of a schedule that includes the activities that make up a project  




1.      AACE International Recommended Practice.  91R-16 Schedule Development. https://web.aacei.org/docs/default-source/vl-papers/22776.pdf

2.      AACE International Recommended Practice.  10S-90: Cost Engineering Terminology. https://web.aacei.org/docs/default-source/rps/10s-90.pdf?sfvrsn=58


Women in Leadership: Claim Your Space

November 15, 2021 0 Comments

    According to a recent study published by McKinsey, despite women making up 56% of entry-level positions, only 30% of the vice-presidents and 18% of the C-suite are female. What holds women back? Even though gender equality has improved significantly over the years, females still face an unconscious bias in the workplace. In a recent interview with Kristen Hoskinson, Vice-President and leader of the Master Builders Risk Business at AXA XL, we gain insights on how women can claim their space both personally and professionally, helping them excel in their careers. By following these three life-learned lessons, Kristen was able to claim her space at the table and obtain the respected position she is in today:

1.      Be intelligent, not just smart. Be beautiful, not just pretty. Be bold, not just strong.  Be compassionate, not just kind.

2.      Teach somebody something. Learn something. And make someone’s day brighter.

3.      Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Be intelligent, not just smart. Be beautiful, not just pretty. Be bold, not just strong. Be compassionate, not just kind.

              What is the difference between intelligent and smart? According to Kristen, there is a big difference between the two as “being intelligent is so much more comprehensive than just being book smart or knowing a fact – it’s knowing your situation.” When a person is intelligent, he or she knows their audience in any given situation. An intelligent person thinks with their IQ as well as their EQ (emotional quotient). Understanding the emotional factor of both you and your peers will help you personally and professionally because it will allow you to empathize, leading to stronger relationships with yourself and others.

              Another tip that will help you establish strong working relationships is to be beautiful, not just pretty. What does this mean? Being pretty is external; it is what people see on the outside. However, being beautiful is both external and internal. It is being compassionate, loving, and genuine; qualities that will benefit you as an individual.

              Kristen also suggests that a person should be bold, not just strong. She states that “being bold means that you have to admit your strengths and your weaknesses and sometimes there is a lot of power in that.” Having the courage to admit your weaknesses can be seen as a strength and important for your professional career. Being bold serves as a catalyst to helping you stand out, which will help you claim your space at the table.

              Another strong characteristic seen in many female leaders is the ability to be compassionate and not just kind. This means that you genuinely take the time to understand where someone is coming from and try to give them honest advice – not just a pat on the back. Not only will this help your peers grow, but this will also help you grow as both an individual and a leader.

              Kristen’s advice for females is to remember to be intelligent, beautiful, bold, and compassionate. These qualities help you stand out and establish strong relationships that will also benefit your leadership skills This is what ultimately helps guide you to your seat at the table.

Teach somebody something. Learn something. And make someone’s day brighter.

              When Kristen was growing up, her grandfather ingrained a critical life lesson into her head. He taught her that a person had a successful day if he or she taught somebody something, learned something, and made someone’s day brighter by being in it. You are bound to become a brighter individual if you apply this lesson to your daily life. These are three things that a successful leader would want to get out of his or her day. By teaching somebody something, learning something, and making a person’s day brighter daily, you will prosper in your personal and professional career.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

              While you are finding your space at the table of life, do not forget that happiness is a journey and not a destination. You are not going to wake up every day and feel 100%. However, Kristen states that “some days, if 1% is all you’ve got and all you can get, you’re going to scrap to get every little bit of that 1%.” If you keep your career moving forward and continue to create personal and professional relationships, you will see your space at the table starting to expand. Every day is a new day, so keep moving forward.

              Over the years, we have seen more and more females reach higher and higher positions in the workplace. However, reaching these high positions is no easy challenge. But, as Kristen says, “with challenge, comes change.” If you are a female who is looking to advance in your career, do not forget to speak up and claim your space. By applying these life lessons to your daily life, you will have an easier time claiming that space and becoming the leader you aspire to be. If you are interested in learning more about women in leadership, listen to our podcast, Women in Leadership: Claim Your Space, with Kristen Hoskinson. 


Connect with Kristen on LinkedIn
Follow AXA XL on LinkedIn
Visit AXA XL on the web here 
Email Kristen at kristen.hoskinson@axaxl.com
Connect with Valerie Bono
Connect with Peter Duggan


Building a Successful Insurance Business

November 01, 2021 0 Comments

    Have you ever thought about building your own business? Did you stray away from the idea because you did not know where to start? It is no secret that building a business is a challenging endeavor. However, with the right attitude and ample motivation, you can accomplish this daunting venture. In a recent interview with Gary Kaplan, President of Construction at AXA XL, he shares insights on how he helped grow the insurance business essentially from scratch into the 100+-person team it is today – achieving an unprecedented 40% YOY growth. Gary touches on three important steps to building a successful business:

·         Setting the Vision

·         Assembling a High-Caliber Team

·         Implementing Rapid Results Initiatives (RRI)

Setting the Vision

            The first step a person should take when creating a business is setting the vision; what does the enterprise aim to accomplish? Think about what your business wants out of its customers and what the customers want out of your business. Training your employees to ask the right questions can help you and your business truly understand the customers' needs. This also allows your team to build relationships with its clients, putting your business at a competitive advantage. Setting a goal for your enterprise creates a foundation for the endeavor and fuels motivation among team members. Once you create an elaborate work plan with a valuable vision, the next step you should focus on is hiring teammates.

Assembling a High-Caliber Team

            Assembling a high-caliber team takes strategic diligence. Gary Kaplan suggests using resources such as LinkedIn and conference attendee lists to create a database of the top talent in the industry. In his case, Gary created and continues to create a spreadsheet of everyone he knows in the construction and insurance industries. By creating this database, you will pick out knowledgeable and motivated individuals who make for great employees. When hiring an employee, evaluate the individual's roots – where did the person learn the business? You want teammates who genuinely understand the trick of the trade as they will help push the enterprise forward. Gary also advises employers to analyze if a potential hire will fit in with the rest of the team as "a core part of the vertical is to get the teams to work together and [work] holistically instead of separately." By creating a high-caliber team full of people with the proper knowledge and attitude, you will have the ability to grow your business rapidly.

Implementing Rapid Results Initiatives (RRI)

            Once you have taken the time to establish a valuable vision and assemble a high-caliber team, you need to think of ways to allow your business to grow. Gary Kaplan suggests using Rapid Results Initiatives (RRI). This process is goal-oriented and revolves around projects that take 90 to 100 days to work out. With Rapid Results Initiatives, you must establish a goal, set out a challenge, and empower coworkers to help solve the problem. Through implementation across your enterprise, you can push individuals to think innovatively, creatively, and collaboratively. The process also allows for more inclusive and diverse teams, opening employees to new perspectives, opinions, and experiences. RRI drives continuous improvement as it challenges an enterprise to develop through various growth opportunities positively. 

            Gary shares that a person must take risks to move up the career ladder and hold more responsibilities. He states that "the more risk you take, the more success you can have, and you get recognized for it." Nevertheless, many younger workers hold back from taking risks as they fear the potential for negative ramifications. The Rapid Results Initiative process is a great space for taking risks because it gives employees the chance to think innovatively with a sense of freedom. Through this process, a company can implement change in a very low-risk way.

You can grow a successful business by putting extensive thought into decision-making. More importantly, thinking about the people involved in your enterprise. When establishing the construction business unit at AXA XL, Gary thought about the type of people he wanted to hire and how he would provide opportunities to grow. He realized the criticality of collaboration and the importance of seeing problems from various perspectives. You can do the same if you set your mind to it. To learn more about Gary's leadership legacy and starting a business, listen to our podcast, Building a Successful Insurance Business.


Connect with Gary on LinkedIn
Follow AXA XL on LinkedIn
Visit AXA XL on the web here 
Email Gary at gary.kaplan@axaxl.com
Connect with Peter Duggan 
Connect with Mike Diercksen