Episode 44: On Aon’s Spotlight on Inclusion and Diversity with Jamal Evans and Austin Raymond
Together We Can Be The Dream. Welcome to a new podcast series, brought to you by Aon and Liberty Mutual. On Aon brings you the first in this podcast series, centering on the inclusion and diversity perceptions, promises and practices in corporate America. This week’s host, Insurance Business’ recent America’s 2022 Rising Star Award recipient and Director of External Engagement at Spencer Educational Foundation Tandeka Nomvete, welcomes Jamal Evans, Temple University senior majoring in Risk Management and Insurance and Austin Raymond, senior at the Honors College at Towson University majoring in mathematics with an emphasis in Actuarial Science and Risk Management. Together, they discuss some of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous quotes as they apply in the setting of preparing for the interview, internship and employment process in the risk management industry.
Find more episodes of Together We Can Be The Dream here.
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Voiceover: Welcome to “On Aon,” a now award winning podcast featuring conversations between colleagues and special guests on, well, Aon. This week’s special edition episode is brought to you by Aon’s newest podcast series, “Together, We can be the Dream,” presented by Aon and Liberty Mutual, which centers on Inclusion and Diversity perceptions, promises and practices in corporate America. Today, we hear from Jamal Evans and Austin Raymond, sharing their personal views on this topic. And now, this week’s host, Tandeka Nomvete.
Teni Adeyemi: Hi. I'm Teni Adeyemi and I want to welcome you to a new podcast series, Together We Can be the Dream, presented by Aon and Liberty Mutual, which centers on inclusion and diversity perceptions, promises and practices in corporate America. With MLK Day and Black History Month around the corner, we thought it appropriate to begin a series dedicated to raising awareness and advocacy for Black and other often overlooked employees.
In this series, we'll be featuring speakers at different stages of their careers, ranging from new hires to middle management and up to senior leadership. Each featured speaker will be asked a series of provocative questions highlighting their personal views on corporate inclusion and diversity perceptions, promises and practices. While we hope the anecdotes shared are relatable, comforting, and aspirational, we know that progress can be slow.
We are lucky to have Tandeka Nomvete here today to host this episode. Tandeka is the Director of External Engagement at Spencer Education Foundation, the industry's premier nonprofit organization that funds the education of tomorrow's risk management and insurance leaders. And Tandeka recently received Insurance Business', America's 2022 Rising Star Award. We are so lucky to have you here, Tandeka. Over to you.
Tandeka Nomvete: Fantastic. Thank you so much for having us here. Today's featured guest speakers are Jamal Evans and Austin Raymond. Jamal Evans is a senior at Temple University where he's majoring in risk management and insurance. His interest in insurance began during his senior year of high school where he was introduced to the insurance industry through a family member. Following his interest in insurance, he was very active in Temple's risk management and insurance academic fraternity, Gamma Iota Sigma, and has held a leadership position since the spring of his first year of college.
Jamal is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Spencer Educational Foundation Scholarship Award. In the summer of 2021, Jamal interned as a business insurance intern, and this past summer Jamal interned with Marsh as a summer track associate where he will be returning to work full-time in August, 2023. Congratulations to you.
Jamal Aspires to help clients find insurance programs that best fit their needs and to create positive change within the insurance industry. Welcome, Jamal, and do you have any fun facts that you'd like to share with our audience today?
Jamal Evans: Thank you for the lovely introduction. I'm very excited to be on the podcast today with you and Austin. And a quick fun fact about me is that I grew up in York County, Pennsylvania, and my go-to is that that is always where the Peppermint Patty was invented. So, lovely chocolate from York County.
Tandeka Nomvete: Fantastic. I love those chocolates. So thank you for that history. Thank you for the background on that. Also with us here today is Austin Raymond. Austin is a senior at the Honors College at Towson University where he's majoring in mathematics with the concentration in actuarial science and risk management and minoring in computer science. My goodness. With a keen interest in property casualty insurance, Austin has held PNC actuarial internships with Travelers, Arch, Verisk Analytics, and is an incoming actuarial summer scholar at Deloitte Consulting.
To recognize his academic achievement and industry involvement, Austin has received scholarship awards from numerous organizations, including the Spencer Educational Foundation, the International Association of Black Actuaries, WSIA, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, the Actuarial Foundation, just to name a few.
At Towson University, Austin serves as the public relations officer for both the Actuarial Science and Risk Management Club, as well as the Data and Analytics and Visualization Club. Austin strives to live up to the Jesuit motto of being a man for others through his passion project called the Banneker Theorem, where he aims to spread awareness to the history and legacy of Blacks in the mathematical sciences and inspire young people to pursue a mathematical and actuarial careers. Welcome Austin, and do you have any fun facts that you'd like to share with us?
Austin Raymond: Thank you Tandeka for the awesome introduction. I'm honored to be here today with you and Jamal. A fun fact about me, I've been to 20 states in the US and I've been to five countries outside of the US. I love traveling. I love seeing new places, and I'm looking to travel more in 2023.
Tandeka Nomvete: Nice. I love that. I love traveling as well, so thank you for sharing that fun fact. We are delighted to have you both on the show today.
In the spirit of Martin Luther King Day, we thought it appropriate to center our discussions around some of Dr. King's famous quotes. Jumping into it, we've identified a powerful line from MLK's 1962 speech at the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City. "Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase." I love that quote.
So Jamal, Austin, let's talk a little bit about the interview process within this industry, risk management, insurance, actuarial science, and specifically your experiences as you've both gone through that process of seeking internships and entry level job opportunities. So, if you would share with us how have you prepared yourself for interviewing for different companies? What steps have you taken to assure that you stand out from other applicants? And could you elaborate on any differences in your approach to interviews, either based on the job description or on the company itself? Jamal, let's start with you.
Jamal Evans: Sure. So in terms of preparation, my philosophy for interviews are that they're a two way process. So I spend a lot of my time actually learning about the company, what they do, what stands out above them. And one of the most important things is actually getting testimonials from the employees that work there. So, I try to reach out through either the connections I already know or through professors that previously worked there or through my mentors to find somebody who works for that company and just have a one-on-one conversation about what do they like about the job, what's kept them there, what are some things they don't like, and also learn a little bit more about their early career programs because that is what I would be going into.
Tandeka Nomvete: I love that you're getting the lay of the land, right? You're learning the good, the bad, the ugly from people that work there because it's one thing to read a job description in black and white on paper, and it's something else to hear it from someone who works at the company. So that's fantastic. What else are you doing to prepare yourself?
Jamal Evans: Definitely, and I think that's a good way to transition into how I stand out from other applicants, and that would be through networking. So, in going to Temple University, I've had the luxury to attend various conferences and insurance galas and social events. So from that I've been able to grow my insurance network of professionals, of mentors, and that's a great tool to leverage when you're in the interview process because you're likely to grow a span of employees and professionals that work for a vast amount of companies. So likely the company you're interested in working for or interviewing with, you can find a professional in your network. So I utilize that to get the insiders perspective and advice and recommendations for navigating the interview process.
Tandeka Nomvete: Fantastic. And are there certain features within a company that you consider when you're going through that interview process or when you're thinking about which companies to apply for? Are there certain aspects of the companies that you take into consideration?
Jamal Evans: Definitely. So aside from work-life balance, I look at diversity, equity, inclusion. As a minority, I want to see how are they treating the people that look like me? Are they a company that you can be proud of, that can gladly say that you work for them? And do they treat all their employees right? So I look at that as well as their early career program. Being a graduate into, if I'm interviewing, I'm looking into a full-time job in their early careers program. So looking at how they develop young talent. Are they just pushed aside and seen as just assistants or are they actually nurtured and given the resources to grow? Those things are very important to me.
Tandeka Nomvete: Yep, absolutely. And I remember being there myself when I started my career within this industry. Arriving on site, one of the first things I was doing was looking up to see people that look like me. I was looking at the leadership, management levels to see if their representation was there, but ultimately what that was doing is just sending that subconscious message. If I see someone that looks like me at higher levels, what the company is telling me without telling me is that there's space for me there, that I could grow into that leadership position. So, fantastic. Thank you for sharing that and also for sharing your thoughts on work-life balance, company culture. I think it's super important for us to know this, that these are some of the things that your generation, Gen Z, is taking into consideration when applying to companies and through the interview process.
So Austin, let's pivot over to you. What are some of your thoughts about the interview process and techniques that you've gone through?
Austin Raymond: Sure. Yeah. So the first step that I take in approaching the interview is to thoroughly research the company. You want to have a firm understanding of the company's position in the industry, what their core mission and values are, what types of products do they sell, and you want to have a basic understanding of how is the company structured, because that'll let the interviewer and the company know that you did your homework prior to the interview.
You also want to fully understand the role that you're applying for, read the job description so that you can prepare relevant and focused questions, bring those type of questions in with you into the interview. In my experience, most of my internship interviews have been mostly behavioral questions, along with some also having a technical aspect. To prepare for the behavioral interviews, I like to make a big Google document with 50 plus common questions where I brainstorm detailed notes under each one using the star method, which is basically an interview framework to structure responses based on situation, task, action, and results.
If there's a certain question that stumps me or that I was asked that challenged me, I'll add it to my document. To prepare for the more technical aspect, I like to review insurance terms and actuarial concepts like rate making, reserving, as well as making sure that I can clearly break down and explain past technical projects that I've worked on.
I've also definitely feel like I've been able to stand out from other applicants in terms of my industry experience and exposure, which has been made possible due to organizations like Spencer and BIABA among others. And through my membership in these organizations, I've been able to take advantage of exclusive opportunities like conferences, symposiums, different professional development programs, as well as scholarship awards that support high achieving students like me and Jamal.
In addition, I've also created my own passion project to promote awareness to the field of actuarial science. And while all of my interviews have been for the role of property casualty actuarial intern, I feel like I've been able to, I've had to prepare for each of them a little differently based on the type of company that it was or whether I had knowledge of which team I'd be interviewing for. So I've interviewed with Travelers Insurance, a traditional insurance company, as well as Arch Insurance, which is also a traditional insurance company. With Arch, I knew that I'd be interviewing with their healthcare team, which allowed me to focus my prep and questions towards healthcare and the life sciences. Verisk is a non-traditional insure tech that provides analytics for major insurance industry players. So I centered a lot of my prep and questions around the role of innovation in the industry and how their actuaries help outside insurance companies in working for a non-carrier versus a carrier. As well as my most recent interview was with Deloitte Consulting. So I prepared by practicing mock case interviews and learning common consulting frameworks.
Tandeka Nomvete: Fantastic. Thank you for sharing all of that and all of the legwork that goes into the interview process. That's fantastic. And thank you for breaking it down as well between the behavioral interviews versus technical interviews. So thank you both for your insights and your interview preparation techniques. I'm certain that this is going to be super helpful for a lot of job seekers.
So, let's switch gears a little bit. As we know, unfortunately, sometimes even when we have prepared for the interview, there are moments where it just may not be enough. MLK once said in his 1963, I Have a Dream speech...
Martin Luther K...: I say to you today, my friend. So, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.
Tandeka Nomvete: So, let's talk a little bit about the downside, the potential downside. Have either of you participated in interviews where you felt you were at a disadvantage? And if so, what did you do to get past that and continue with the interview? And if you did experience that, how did that experience inform your approach for follow up interviews and future interviews with other companies? Jamal, let's start with you.
Jamal Evans: Yeah, perfect. So fortunately, I've never felt disadvantaged during an insurance interview while I've been in school, and that's really been due to the amount of support that's been around me from my professors, from going to a great university with a good risk management program, as well as the tremendous amount of support you have from foundations and organizations that support the insurance industry. So that has been very important to me and very influential throughout my time as a student and throughout my time navigating different internship and full-time opportunities.
But one thing that is very important, is that without these different resources that have been provided to me and given to me due to being in the school. I went to a very good school for risk management and insurance as well as having these various resources available. I can't say that without those resources I would have the same success. So very fortunate to have that around me and going forward in terms of advice for students who are interviewing and who are looking for full-time and internships is to just to be proactive in your research and do your due diligence and looking into the company and also making sure that it's a good personality fit for you, and that they would be able to fit your needs deeper than just somewhere to work or somewhere to intern for summer.
Tandeka Nomvete: Absolutely. And so all of the internships and jobs that you've applied for, they've all been within this industry, right?
Jamal Evans: Yes. Yeah. All the internships and jobs I have applied for have been within the insurance industry.
Tandeka Nomvete: Gotcha. Okay. And that's good to know since your major is risk management and insurance and all the jobs and internships you have applied for are within this industry, that's fantastic to hear that your university and other nonprofit organizations have been able to support you throughout this journey, and thank you for that advice as well, at the end. For anyone that might be listening to this podcast and perhaps has not majored in risk management and insurance and is having a little bit of a difficult time finding jobs within this industry, definitely research resources. There are tons of free resources that are out there that can help support job seekers throughout this journey. So research and then take advantage of them, right, once you've found these resources.
So Austin, let's switch over to you. Tell us a little bit if you've experienced any disadvantage in the interview process.
Austin Raymond: So in most of my interviews like Jamal, I've actually felt that I was at an advantage. I'm very grateful for organizations like Spencer and the IABA, which have built scholarship to internship pipelines that support students like myself that have equipped me with opportunities to gain industry exposure through professional development, as well as opportunities to build my network with like-minded peers and experienced professionals in the insurance industry.
I would say that one time where I felt that I was at a disadvantage was when I interviewed with Deloitte for the first time. It was my first actuarial consulting interview, and I didn't have any prior experience with case interviews or case archetypes, and I didn't really know how to prepare for the interview. So during the case interview, while I was never really at a loss for words or ideas, I struggled to effectively structure my ideas in a methodological way, and as a result, I ended up getting rejected.
However, from every adversity comes a seed of good. As a result of my continued interest in the firm, I was later invited to Deloitte's National Leadership Conference, which allowed me to network further and bolster my business and consulting fundamentals that I lacked in the interview. So when I applied again, I was ready. I had a clear grasp of how to prepare, and I spent a considerable amount of time up to the interview, practicing mock case interviews, navigating the appropriate consulting frameworks. So I ended up doing really well in the interview and I received the internship offer. So when something doesn't go well in an interview or a certain question gives you a challenge, I would take the time to reflect on your performance, identify what went wrong, and brainstorm what you would do differently the next time, and how you would improve upon your answers.
Tandeka Nomvete: That is such a success story. Kudos to you. Thank you for sharing that with us and never give up, right? That's the theme here. Never give up. So thank you both for sharing your experiences and your advice. As we close out this podcast, I'm reminded of when MLK spoke at Spelman College in 1960. He said...
Martin Luther K...: If you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.
Tandeka Nomvete: Hearing your experiences today, I think a common thread here is your ability to persevere and push forward. Thank you again for sharing your experiences and providing insights from an applicant's perspective.
Jada Cherry: Hi. I am Jada Cherry and I want to thank you for listening in. This has been the Aon Black Professional Network podcast in collaboration with Liberty Mutual, brought to you by On Aon. Please listen to the second episode in our series as we continue to dive into diversity and inclusion in corporate America and what recruiters are seeing with D and I initiative and practices. Until next time, continue to be curious to push boundaries and celebrate how far you've come.
Voiceover: This has been a conversation “On Aon” and Inclusion and Diversity perceptions, promises and practices in corporate America. Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this latest episode, tune in soon for our next edition. You can also check out past episodes on Simplecast. To learn more about Aon, its colleagues, solutions and news, check out our show notes, and visit our website at Aon.com.