Amy chats with Dr. Lee Nunery, the founder and principal of PlūsUltré LLC, in this wide-ranging interview centered around the insurance industry. Check the links in the show notes to connect with Dr. Nunery and find out more about his company!
Struggling with your Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) work? Kanarys—a Black-founded company—has your back. Regardless of where you are on your DEI journey, we arm you with the insights you need now to take action now. From audits to assessments to data-informed strategy, we’d love to be the partner you have been looking for. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or learn more at https://www.kanarys.com/employer.
Dr. Nunery’s on LinkedIn – connect with him.
Check out Gamma Iota Sigma, the insurance industry’s premiere collegiate talent pipeline.
Click here to learn about PlūsUltré LLC, a consulting practice that provides services for educators, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits with innovative cost-effective and customized solutions.
Zach: What’s up, y’all? This is Zach with Living Corporate, and you know what we’re doing–or maybe you don’t know what we’re doing because maybe it’s your first time listening to Living Corporate or it might be your first time listening to the See It to Be It series. That’s right. Living Corporate has two distinct series on one podcast because we’re just, you know, just shifting the paradigm like that, you know? We’re shaking the table, whatever other, you know, turn of phrase you’d like to use to indicate that we’re innovating and building different things out here. So I am not the host of See It to Be It, right? I’m a B-mic, but Living Corporate is a media network that’s centered and focused on centering and amplifying Black voices at work, so to add emotional credence to this I’m doing a little bit of an intro and kind of offering my support and social capital to the real host of the show, Amy C. Waninger. And I’m gonna stop right there so Amy can tell us a little bit about herself and a little bit more about See It to Be It.
Amy: Sure thing, Zach. Thank you so much, and I appreciate you lending me your credibility because you’ve got a lot of it. And a little extra credibility never hurts out here, so thank you for that. So my name is Amy Waninger. I’m actually the CEO of Lead at Any Level, and one of the things that struck me when Zach and I started working together, we started talking about, you know, “What can we do together?” I said, you know, “I would really like to delve into what people’s jobs are.” Because here I am 45 years old and I still don’t know what people do when they grow up, right? I grew up in southern Indiana in the middle of nowhere, and the people I knew didn’t go to college. You know, their jobs were on a on a factory line or, you know, at the grocery store. Like, it wasn’t–you know, it wasn’t real jobs. You know, we didn’t have take your daughter to work day because, you know, you had to wear a hard hat, right? So I wanted to get, you know, down into like, “What is it people do all day when they graduate from college,” because that’s not something I had insight into until I graduated from college. And so I gotta tell you, though, this interview with Dr. Nunery, I’m so excited, because I met Dr. Nunery at an insurance event. You know, my background’s in insurance, right? And well, really in tech, but I spent 12 years in insurance. And I met Dr. Nunery at a diversity and insurance conference where he was speaking and I was speaking, and he spoke first, and he stole all my thunder, because everything he said was about, you know, it matters who you’re networked with because that’s how you get exposure, and that’s how you find out about people, you know, what they do, and it’s how you get opportunities, and if you don’t have a network, you don’t have a career. And I’m sitting there nodding so much that my neck was starting to hurt and I thought, “Man, I got to work with this guy.” So, you know, he and I started talking. We became fast friends, but Dr. Nunery, actually, you know, his background is not in insurance. He’s sort of the strategic advisor guy, right, that just goes in and talks to people in education and nonprofit and business all over the place. But he was commissioned to actually do a study about the history of African-Americans relative to risk pooling, which is what insurance is, right? Risk pooling. And this goes all the way back to the plantations, from the first steps that enslaved peoples took steps onto this continent, and it was absolutely fascinating to listen to and learn from him about the deep roots of African-Americans in the insurance industry, you know, going back 400 years.
Zach: You know, I found that really interesting because, you know, people, we roll our eyes–well, because of white supremacy, folks roll their eyes when you talk about the origins of a lot of our systems and how they do date back to and were created by chattel slavery in America. I’ll never forget the conversation we had with Dr. Caitlin Rosenthal, and we talked about her book Accounting for Slavery, and we were talking about just how a lot of these management consulting and accounting systems were birthed from chattel slavery, and I hope–I always have been curious about insurance, and how it relates back to, like, just the ownership and regulation of Black bodies in America, so I find this very intriguing. I’m excited that our communities are able to, or will be able to, listen into or tap into the discussion you had with Dr. Nunery, but before we get there, let’s make sure we TAP in with Tristan for his latest career advice.
Tristan: What’s going on, Living Corporate? It’s Tristan, and I want to thank you for tapping back in with me as I provide some tips and advice for professionals. This week let’s talk about performance improvement plans. For those of you who aren’t aware of what a performance improvement plan, or a PIP, is it is a formal document stating any recurring performance issues along with goals that an employee needs to achieve in order to regain good standing at the company within a specific timeframe. Typically your manager and someone from Human Resources reviews this with you, goes over any questions you may have, and you’ll more than likely have to sign the document. Essentially, you’re going to be watched closely during this period. It supposed to be a method to help you turn around your performance and if you don’t, you can lose your job. I want to tell you a quick story about performance improvement plans. Recently, I was working with a client who was put on a PIP. We discuss what performance issues they were having and we established an action plan on how they can make some quick changes in their performance. They completed the project tied to the PIP, rebuilt solid relationships with some of their peers, and eventually completed the PIP but still ended up being let go shortly after the PIP expired. Though PIPs are supposed to be plans to help you meet your goals and maintain your employment, I’ve increasingly seen them as tools that are implemented with intentions to manage you out of the company or put you in a position where you voluntarily quit. So there are few tips I have when you find yourself in a position where you’re on a PIP: 1. Make sure you fully understand where your manager believes your performance is slipping and ensure it is spelled out in writing even if you need to send a follow up email. This is not the place to rest in ambiguity. 2. If you want to keep your job, give as much effort as your can to completing the PIP successfully. Be sure to communicate regularly with your manager and/or HR. And make sure to document any action you take towards improving your performance. 3. If you feel like your boss is just trying to get rid of you, still do everything I stated before but make sure to protect yourself by getting a jump on your job search so you can be prepared for the worst. Get clear on what you may want to do next, update your resume and LinkedIn, and begin reaching out to your network. The reality is, I’ve seen far too many people go into a PIP thinking they were going to turn everything around only to be burned by their employer on the backend. So make sure you’re looking out for yourself so you aren’t caught off guard. Thanks for tapping in with me this week. I look forward to talking to you next week! This tip was brought to you by Tristan of Layfield Resume Consulting. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @LayfieldResume or connect with me, Tristan Layfield, on LinkedIn.
Amy: Hi, Lee, how are you today?
Dr. Nunery: I’m fine, Amy, how are you?
Amy: I’m doing well. I am so happy to have you with me today on the See It to Be It series, and I was wondering if you could tell the audience just a little about, you know, what you do in the world and how you got into that kind of work?
Dr. Nunery: Oh, good. Well, again, it’s been a pleasure to join you. I started my career, my professional career I guess, well over 40 years ago as the son of a electrical contractor. So I owe everything I’ve done to my old man, Leroy the–we call him the first, the original. But 40 years ago, coming out of business school, I started my career in corporate finance and capital markets work doing banking. Since then, I’ve worked in higher education, professional sports. I actually worked for the National Basketball Association for a while, and then some years ago I started a consulting practice focused largely on education, although I’m also delving into–in the last three years–the insurance business around talent and leadership development. So I’ve got kind of a strange, crazy mix in terms of background, all of which seems to have led to developing some expertise around how to develop talent, and particularly working with insurance companies, agencies and brokers.
Amy: What about the insurance industry attracted you? Because I’m imagining, not just from my own perspective, although I’m wondering this myself, but I’m imagining from the perspective of, you know, some young people who are listening, and they hear “Well, you worked with the NBA, and now you’re working in insurance?” What was the driver for you to explore the insurance space, which does not have the same cachet as professional sports?
Dr. Nunery: Well, you know, it all depends. I mean, it’s clear that you know, professional sports, you know, it’s so attractive, it’s in your face all the time. It’s every day all day. But what people forget is that, beyond those who were superstars who could play the game well, there are hundreds of thousands of people who provide merchandising licensing, public relations, television, broadcasting, event management, ticket sales, on and on. And so I, as Vice President of Human and Information Resources for the National Basketball Association, would get resumes from all over the place, particularly from young people who would say, “Oh, I love the game. I know the game. I follow the sport. I studied sports management. I need a job.” But what we hired for were people who are more than just the major that they had, and I would tell people that all the time. It’s really important to round yourself out, have a series of experiences that are different than your major or different than what you expect that employer to have, because they want folks who can think on their feet who can react well. So it takes multiplicity of skills. Insurance by far seems more mundane, but the exact same corollary applies there. There are incredible number of jobs, and some of which we don’t even know about yet, because of technology, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics. And so it’s important that folks don’t typecast or stereotype a job based on what they think they know. They should really explore it, and particularly young people need to go in that direction.
Amy: That’s fantastic. I love hearing when people say, “Well, you can do just about any job you want to do in the insurance industry,” right? Because there are–t’s a whole ecosystem unto itself, and if there’s not a job specific in the industry to what you want to do, you can get a job serving someone who’s doing something that you’re interested in. So I know people who have aviation backgrounds who now are aviation underwriters, for example. So it doesn’t necessarily take somebody who’s been sitting behind the desk their whole career to come and work in insurance. Tell me a little bit about your approach to leadership and talent development. Because, as you know, that’s a an area of passion for me as well.
Dr. Nunery: Yeah, I know, and I’ve seen you do your thing, present your work, and I really applaud you for the approach that you’re taking and giving not only individuals but companies room to discuss some pretty challenging issues around diversity, inclusion, bias, corporate culture. When I was commissioned to write this study on the journey of African-American insurance professionals by Marsh, [?] I took a blank piece of paper and started writing from my strength, which was being a history major. What was the historical trajectory of those people of color who had been in insurance? Was there one? Well, what I found out was that not only have African Americans been involved in the insurance business since the late 1600s, but all throughout this country’s history, insurance, in one way, shape, or form, burial societies or just caring for segregated communities, has been a mainstay. So from that perspective, and then interviewing and analyzing what’s happened to African Americans, or any person, any minority group, and you start to see some parallels. Talent is clearly there, but upside potential gets limited, sometimes because of race, sometimes because of gender, but predominantly three things emerged. It was because an individual did not have exposure to the business. That is they didn’t have someone ahead of them who said, “You know, this industry is really phenomenal.” They didn’t have the networks within the industry, because you’re often hired as a one off, and you don’t have a team of people coming in with you. And then lastly, it was the lack of experience, real work experience, maybe a summer internship or co-op. So the learnings from that have informed the work I’ve been doing since writing at least version one of this study, consulting with companies about how they can turn that around, and how they can start to address the issues of not only attracting talent into the industry, but developing the talent that they have.
Amy: I want to make sure that that we put a finer point on this. So Marsh is one of the major brokers, probably the largest brokerage in the country, possibly in the world. And this is an important enough issue to them, wanting to understand where African American talent in the industry is getting lost or how they’re maybe falling down on retaining or promoting good talent in the industry. This is a big enough deal to the biggest brokerage in the world that they commissioned a study on it specifically. Is that correct?
Dr. Nunery: Yeah, and let’s put a finer point on that finer point, right? It wasn’t just an intellectual exercise to say, “Well, you know, let’s study the issue.” The fact is that the industry proclaims it’s going to have 400,000 open positions next year, and that’s just going to continue with retirements and changes in the industry. And then openings that, again, we don’t even know about yet, because of technology, the globalization of those businesses, means you’ve got to have talent for people who can represent country segments across the globe. So Marsh was smart to say, “Let’s study this, and also gender issues and other issues that surround the workplace, but we don’t know enough about whether or not this diversity thing has any legs.” Well, by the time we wrote this study and published it in 2018, I had been on the road consistently, almost every other week if not more than that, talking to people about not only what the findings were, but how those align with the interest of the companies to find talent. So for the young folks who are listening today and are trying to figure out where they should send their resume, please don’t overlook going into the insurance industry. I wish I had done it. I wish I had looked at it, because there’s a way to not only do well for yourself but do well for others. But you can’t do anything without insurance. You just can’t. So it’s an essential part, whether or not there’s growth in the economy or recession. So there’s opportunity to excel, but you’re constantly hearing that we can’t find X. I think those folks are out there, they just don’t know it due to lack of exposure, and I think sometimes younger people get attracted by what is shiny, like the NBA. They’re having no real understanding of how the business works. So I think there are some mismatches, and the industry has some problems with identifying talent. Everywhere I go, I ask “How many of you knew you wanted to be in the insurance industry in high school, and very few people ever raise their hand. Same thing with college, very few, which says that the industry, while it has these huge needs, 400,000 open jobs, it doesn’t know how to connect with the talent, and that’s part of the work that I’m doing and part of the work you’re doing, trying to make that supply and demand match work [?] and come out balanced.
Amy: Absolutely. I think that the insurance industry tends to be–and I’ve spent a lot of time in my career there, and so I try not to give preferential treatment or overwhelming treatment to the insurance industry in this series, but that’s where most of my network is, right? So for the last 12 years–and it’s funny because nobody, very few people when they were five years old and Grandma said, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You know, they said they wanted to be an underwriter or an actuary, or–and, you know, the jobs in the insurance industry are somewhat invisible. Right? You don’t see people front and center doing that, and to the extent that they are visible, those are typically agency roles. And now I was reading a study that 90 something percent of people, when they’re shopping for insurance, start online, and only half will close through an agent, will actually buy their policy through an agent. So now even agents are becoming invisible because of e-commerce. That’s good, but the work doesn’t go away. So, you know, I think it’s great that there are people working on this problem, again, not just from the how do we prepare an industry for different talent, but how do we get different talent to consider the industry. And most of us don’t get there unless someone taps us on the shoulder and says, “Come apply for this job.”
Dr. Nunery: That’s right.
Amy: And, you know, the work that I do is around networking, and if we only network with people who look just like us and we keep tapping people who look just like us on the shoulder, we’re never going to solve this problem. So I’m so excited that you’re out there doing this work and that companies are starting to recognize that they need to be very intentional and very thoughtful about how they approach solving this problem and that they have their own work to do beyond just throwing job postings up on Monster, you know, and hoping that people find them.
Dr. Nunery: You know, you said the key word, and I’m gonna hope your audience really takes this to heed, intention. And one of the reasons I wrote this study, not just in current terms but literally clawing back as far as I could, to 1693 as the earliest date, and talking about how folks who were enslaved as a community pooled whatever resources they had to create communal systems so that they could bury their own because, unfortunately, their masters weren’t going to bury them. So somebody had to do it and protect the tradition, and the reason why the historical route is because intentionally people have created systems of support, like insurance, so that they can grow and they can emerge. In 1930 there were 50 African-American-owned insurance companies, and most people when I tell them that, even folks who had been in the business never knew that. And so it’s important if the industry really wants to attract people to say, “Look, you may not know anybody in your family who’s been in the business, but there was somebody who looked like you who was in the business and even owned a part of the business.” And that is inclusion. Inclusion means not just “Hey, I’ll let you in my house, or you can have dinner with me,” but “Do you realize that you are a part of this industry? In some pretty extreme circumstances, no doubt.” So I think part of it is to inform people, to get them in the tent, to make their own decision about whether or not to come or go within a particular job or company, but to not know it at all means you’re missing an opportunity that really should be yours. That’s why I’ve approached it the way I have.
Amy: I love that. What you’re describing almost sounds like claiming your birthright.
Dr. Nunery: Exactly. Exactly, my friend. That’s right.
Amy: And I think that’s a beautiful way to put it. Yeah.
Dr. Nunery: Because I think we often are taught–I know how I was taught again, 40 years ago, coming out of business school, that, you know, you join a big company–I went to work for a bank–and, you know, that’s when your life begins. And in that bank, there was only one–no, maybe there were two African-American bankers, not folks who work in security, [?], who were tellers, but people were actually customer-facing. Only two, and both of them I kind of saw it out to say, “Look, I don’t know what being a banker is,” and they kind of gave me some pointers, but I had to learn a lot on my own. And 40 years later, you don’t quite have to do that. You’ve got the internet, you’ve got LinkedIn. But what I’m finding is there is still an incredible gap of knowledge about how the business works, who’s in it. Even seasoned senior people don’t know each other. So that’s part of the lament of being underrepresented, there’s so few of you that it’s hard–you almost feel like everybody is starting from scratch. But if enough of us are out there saying “No, no, you need to know that person,” or “You need to know that history,” it helps I think, at least to some degree, give them grounding and a reason for moving forward.
Amy: And I want to be clear to with the folks that are listening that are not as familiar with this industry. Not only is there a talent shortage, you know, 400,000 jobs next year, there are also fewer risk management programs in colleges than there used to be. So not only are we facing this cliff of retirees where a vast percentage, probably more than some other industries, of our people, of our employees are getting ready to retire, but we also have a much smaller pipeline than we used to have coming in from college. And so we really need to be, you know, looking at people with more transferable skills, and people who may be, you know, haven’t already decided that this is the industry for them to, you know, to get engaged and to bring them in.
Dr. Nunery: Yeah. I think, you know, you raised a really good point there. And if anybody’s ever interested, particularly those folks who are just starting their careers or beginning to think about where they may go, go to Gamma Iota Sigma, which is the insurance I guess you’d call it fraternity that specializes in being on college campuses. They do a phenomenal job of bringing folks into that world by exposing them through the chapters on campus, but they’ve also done a couple of recruitment surveys where they survey young folks and undergrads who are going into the business. Almost a full third of the folks who are now entering the business are not risk management or insurance majors. They are history majors like me, or sociology majors like my son, or biology majors like one of my daughters. And the point is the industry is diverse and deep enough that you can bend that experience you have, because there’s a job there that needs your analytical, social, cultural skills. So too many times I think people say, “Well, if I only had taken micro-economics and an insurance class I’d be qualified.” Quite frankly, the companies are looking for folks away from those majors, because they need more flexibility, collaboration, et cetera, all those 21st century learning skills that have been presented to us as necessary. So you raise a great point.
Amy: Thank you. And I want to talk a little bit more about the future of the talent needs too, because you’ve mentioned a couple times that some of the jobs that we’ll be hiring for don’t exist yet, and one of the jobs that comes to mind is the role of the data scientist. Data scientist is probably one of the fastest growing roles in the insurance industry. This is a job title that did not exist 10 years ago. 5 years ago you couldn’t go to school for data science, right? It didn’t exist. The data didn’t exist. The technology to mine the data didn’t exist, and so there was absolutely no reason anyone would study it or become it, and now this is one of the highest trending job titles in our industry. And so I think I know where you’re going to go with this, and I’m getting excited just because I’m getting ready for what you’re gonna say, what I think you’re gonna say, but, you know, how do you tell someone, so someone who’s maybe 21 years old, getting ready to finish college, and you say, “You need to prepare for a job that doesn’t exist yet?”
Dr. Nunery: Right, right.
Amy: Right? How does a person go about doing that?
Dr. Nunery: Well, you know, the thing is you’re probably not going to be able to prepare, per se, but you can be aware. In other words, all the studies that are out there on the future of work, the fact that we are now more atomized–you and I are collaborating, and yet we’re hundreds of miles away from each other, and yet we can see each other in real time. Well, you know, what’s that going to be like in probably 10 to 15 years? You know, I think the key is–what you want is looking at what these some of these studies, some of your professors, some of your alumni say. They are exceeding or experiencing, you know, again, collaboration, the ability to think forward, the ability to write, even if we have spellcheck and all these other devices, you still have to be able to communicate in some way, shape or form. The ability to form teams and be part of a team and having the capability to understand that a lot of decisions are not linear. They are circuitous in terms of decision making routes. But also, we’re learning more about human motivation and emotional intelligence. So no, we don’t know what’s going to happen with our climate. We have no idea. A good friend of mine is a PhD in oceanography, and yet she’s doing modeling disaster catastrophic insurance modeling for a major company. She’s taking her ability to analyze trends in warming oceans and applying that to the insurance company as they decide to go out and figure out which which ships they should underwrite. The insurance for whether or not that [?] as it operates is insurable. So I actually think young folks who are listening, millennials and others, are going to be benefited based on the fact that they’ve got everything at their fingertips. But it also sometimes means that they fall into these lines of thinking that are a little lower than the world really is, and so I would encourage them to–you can’t, as I said, prepare specifically for that, but what you can do is present yourself as an able, cross-referencing, interdependent type who knows how to lead and how to follow, knows how to write and how to speak, etc, etc.
Amy: I think that’s wonderful. I think there’s something about, you know–when I coach people who are younger, who are just out of school or, you know, just graduated school, just getting ready to, I try to remind them that, you know, every semester in school, you’re starting from zero and working your way up.
Dr. Nunery: Right.
Amy: And I see younger people thriving in business environments that are rapidly changing, but then somewhere along the way, a few years out of school, it seems like we start to think that we know something about our environment and we stop being as willing to learn, and then we get more frustrated, and I think just keeping that sense of wonder and that sense of always learning is such a good way to remain flexible and to prepare yourself for whatever’s coming next.
Dr. Nunery: Mm-hmm. I mean, the reason why I’m doing what I’m now, working for myself, putting together teams of people when I need to work on one project or another, but even pushing into insurance, which is not something that I knew–I don’t have a certification or license–is because I believe as well as you do that the flexibility of mind, the application of work I’ve done before, applies to this circumstance. It’s a different industry, but I can see 80% of what I’m doing is work I’ve either done before or experiences I’ve had before. So I think what would benefit individuals greatly–and part of the problem is the way our educational system is set up. It forces you to choose a thing. Oh, you could have a minor or two, but it forces you to say, “Hey, you’re a history major.” But it doesn’t describe you as an individual. So the only way to get that out is to show what you can do. What is fortunately happening–I spent a lot of time in education–is a bent towards competency building skills and competencies, not just what you studied and happened to be good at reciting but what do you know about how those events happen? What would you do if you were in a similar circumstance? Etc, etc. So that kind of exposure and experience can make a world of difference. Is someone profiling themselves for a job interview? I would tell them never–I mean, okay, if you happen to be a history major you can talk about that, but what they really want to know is what do you think about those events as they evolve, and if you can’t get to that second and third order thinking, then all you’re doing is parroting back what somebody taught you in the first place, and that’s not going to get you very far.
Amy: Absolutely. We need critical thinking, more now than we ever have in the past, right? Our problems are bigger. They’re more complicated. The impacts of our decisions are bigger and affect more people than they ever have in the past because of the way we’re interconnected, and I think your point is right on. I think, you know, those are the kinds of things that we need to be thinking about. We need to make sure that our perspectives are broad enough, that we understand the implications of the decisions, the recommendations that we make. Yeah.
Dr. Nunery: I think the opportunities are huge. There are also some real challenges coming. As I said, if there’s a climate issue, it could affect all of us. Water supply, political risk, you know, wars that may break out. And so I think the other thing is to not get so close off that you are only talking to a group of people who have the same affinity and background, and that goes for folks of whatever stripe. You’ve got to break completely out of that, and that’s something I did without even knowing I was doing it. I just like to talk to people. So I’ve had–from early as a child to now–networks of people way beyond what I did professionally, and I cultivate that. And it’s one thing that social media does do, LinkedIn and other sources, allow you to talk to people and reach out to people beyond your normal sphere, and it’s gonna be really essential as you move forward career-wise, but particularly in this industry, which requires you to know more than just the price of a policy or a rate sheet. It’s going to inquire what’s the potential risk of underwriting this one customer? Well, you can’t gauge that just by looking at a balance sheet. You’ve got to know a whole lot more about how they do things and why they’re doing them. So again, I love this plan of attack that we’re trying to provide students with.
Amy: That’s great. Thank you, Lee, so much. In the last couple of minutes that we have, I wanted to ask you, specifically, you know, and I know that you’re an entrepreneur so you’re not embedded in the industry necessarily, but what are some of the places that you found community in the work that you do? Because I think that’s something that’s on a lot of people’s minds, especially as they’re stepping into potentially an industry that maybe they don’t feel is–maybe they haven’t internalized yet, right? “This is my birthright,” and they’re looking for community. Where do you find that?
Dr. Nunery: Yeah. Clearly employee resource groups or councils inside companies are a good place to start. Once you join, a lot of times you’re in training mode. So even if you’re young and starting out, you’re just kind of getting your rotations, and you’re learning. I have found that some times younger individuals, I’ll just put it that way, are loath to reach up and not so much attach themselves as somebody senior, but just make contact and just say, you know, “I need to know. I’m learning about this industry. If you have five minutes, can we grab a cup of coffee?” Again, when I tried to do, particularly with being an African American who had no bankers in the family and there hasn’t been any sense, I realized I had to extend myself beyond a zone of comfort in order for me to succeed, because there wasn’t anybody else to go to, and by doing that, it helped to generate confidence. But also people got to know who I was, and I had to study. I didn’t know who they were, you know, all of that. So I think the counselors can help you do it, because they are comfortable settings, the reaching out beyond your shores to lands or people unknown. But the third thing, and I’ve heard this from a number of professionals, you won’t know it all unless you try to read it and study it. You got to really dig into it, particularly in this industry. It calls for a high degree of technical proficiency in order to be good at it. And, you know, I think if you’re not hungry enough to gather as much information as possible, on a Friday night, instead of running out the door, go hang out. Like, you know, sometimes I used to take a couple of hours and dig into the work. Not just stay late, but stay long in the work. And then the last thing is this. Often times it’s said, you know, the question’s posed, “Well, who do you know?” But I think the corollary is also “Who knows you?” What have you written? What have you published? What have you researched? What teams have you been on? So if somebody knows your work, you’re likely to get pulled into a network and your growth will accelerate.
Amy: That is great advice. Thank you so much. Lee, my last question is when do you feel included?
Dr. Nunery: Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy. That’s great. Amy, I grew up an African-American kid in a neighborhood that was at first predominantly white up in North Jersey in New Jersey. My friends were Italian, German, Jewish. I had a whole range of friends. And then as the neighborhood changed and more Black families came in, it was predominantly Black, but kind of middle class, I guess. Cars in the driveway, houses, you know, that were neat, lawns that were cut, all of that, but I ended up going to Catholic school, and so I was always a little bit on the outside of the kids went to public school, all the cool kids. We were wearing white shirts and ties to school and sometimes got pummeled for and bullied for that. And that kind of mode has been with me my whole life, feeling on the perimeter of something. So a couple of things I had to do. I, again, had to take the initiative and find my way in, either individuals, or sometimes it was sports like golf or basketball. I’ve tried to find my way in. But the other thing was, I decided that I wouldn’t let my aloneness become a disease, that I would use it instead to work on certain things, like my diction, like my presentation skills. I was a DJ in college, so I was always in front of a microphone, trying to work my craft, and it’s hung with me all those years. So when I feel included, it’s not even so much that other people accept me. It’s when I accept myself. When I say, “You know what? You’re okay.” You may be awkward in a setting, but find a way to be not awkward. Don’t stand up by yourself and then say bye. “They don’t talk to me.” Well, that’s on you. So there’s still time in my 60s where I don’t feel like I’m fully included, but I try to remedy that. Get rid of that feeling. And that’s another thing, again, I would just encourage listeners to do. This world will include you because you have a connection by Twitter, but that’s not inclusion. That’s just a line of communication. What are you saying in that communication? That’s really what people want to know. What do you have to bring to the table?
Amy: That’s beautiful. Lee, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you. And, you know, I look forward to working with you and learning more from you and, you know, following this amazing body of work that you’re creating.
Dr. Nunery: We’re gonna do good work together. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
Dr. Nunery: Thank you.
Zach: You know what, Amy, off-mic you said you loved Dr. Nunery, and, like, you appreciate the work that they’re doing. I get it. Now I get it. Now, I really, really, really enjoyed that conversation. I found it to be one really engaging and pretty fun, but also just illuminating in a lot of different ways. Talk to me about, you know, the conversation that you had, what stuck out to you the most.
Amy: I think what stuck out to me the most was, you know, we know, in the insurance industry, those of us who have worked in it, we know that there’s some pretty dark history there, you know? Sinister history, right, in terms of having, you know, a lot of the companies that we’ve worked for–if we’ve been in insurance for any length of time–actually, you know, underwrote policies that protected slave owners. And what struck me about Dr. Nunery’s take is this was not the only legacy of slavery and insurance or of insurance and slavery, right, because when people were, you know, huddled together, literally, on these plantations, they were figuring out ways to pool their own risk, and they were taking it upon themselves to take care of each other, and they really created community around this idea of sharing each other’s pain and sharing each other’s loss, and that is as much a part of our legacy in the insurance industry and in our country as the evil side of this. And I think, you know, as we look in the insurance industry to try to get more young people and especially more young people of color into the industry, you know, I think this should be an extreme source of pride, right, that this looking out for each other goes back so far and is really at the heart of what insurance does and what it needs to do going forward.
Zach: No, you’re 100% right. I appreciate that, and what I continue to really love about Living Corporate as a whole and, like, See It to Be It specifically, is the interrogation of systems and the foundational nature of things, right? I think that it’s easy to kind of, like, talk about the surface, and you know, kind of piddle pat around the top and kind of just making up stuff or whatever. Like, you seem like you’re deep because you’re talking about–you’re looking at everything as if these things are, like, new phenomena, but, like, the reality is that there’s a deep root and history to the things that we’re seeing today, and it’s only in really, like, interrogating that and really, like, investigating, “Okay, where did this come from,” that we can really start identifying systemic transformational solutions to really, you know, to make a change, you know, for actual impact.
Amy: Absolutely. And if I may, it takes different perspectives to ask different questions to uncover these narratives.
Zach: No, you’re 100% right. You’re 100% right. I mean, I think this was dope. I want to thank everybody again. And you heard her, right? Like, this is Amy C. Waninger’s show See It to Be It. She’s the CEO of Lead at Any Level. And look, one way to help support Living Corporate is by telling a friend about us.
Amy: Tell two friends. All the friends.
Zach: You know what I’m saying? Tell your friends. Tell all your friends. You know, but another way is to head over to Apple Podcasts and give us a five star rating and a review, okay? And don’t give us a four star rating, right? You know what, let me just pause on this. Why is it that people–why would you go on Apple Podcasts… and this is for everybody. This is not just for–I’m gonna speak up for all the podcasts right now. Why go to Apple Podcasts and give a pod a four star rating? Like, that’s–you’re a hater. You’re a hater. Like, don’t do that and bring some love today. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Look, you took the time to scroll all the way down there. You see the little stars. Just go ahead and press five. Now look after you press five–
Amy: You know why they’re gonna give us five stars, right?
Zach: No, tell me why.
Amy: Because there’s not six.
Zach: Oh! You got me. That was pretty cute. That was good though. That’s funny, and I appreciate that. And you’re right. You’re 100% right. And to that end, don’t just give us five. Please take the time just to write a review, just something like, “Hey, this is great. Thank you,” you know?
Amy: That review, that’s the sixth star.
Zach: That review is the sixth star! Boom. Look at that. So, you know, just give us the review. And, like, I’ve seen folk that write a review and they’ll be like, you know, a couple sentences. I’ve seen folks write reviews and it’s like a small sonnet. That’s really nice, seeing folks write, you know, an Iliad, and that’s also great. Very, very long.
Amy: I’ll send a free book to anybody who–a free copy of my book to anybody who writes us a review in iambic pentameter and sends it to me.
Zach: Oh, my gosh. Y’all heard that, right?
Amy: We’re throwing down now.
Zach: We’re throwing down. This really helps us though. Not only does it help folks find our show, but it helps build this podcast community and just, like, what we’re continuing to build here. Until next time, y’all, this has been See It to Be It. You know what it is. Amy, thank you.
Amy: Thank you.