One of the things Kristy Galecka loves about the property/casualty insurance industry is that there’s always an opportunity to learn something new.
Like many others, Galecka “fell into” the insurance business when a friend who worked at the wholesale broker and managing general agency, J.M. Wilson, in Portage, Mich., suggested she try it out. Her job at J.M. Wilson as a policy processor in the transportation department was Galecka’s first right out of college. Seven years later, Galecka is now senior property/casualty underwriter and garage specialist at the firm.
Galecka said she loves how the wholesale side of the business “is always challenging and is always changing. Every single day is different. … On this side of the industry we rarely see the easy risks and if we do, we certainly question why we’re getting them. I’m constantly doing research on products, learning about new things that customers are coming up with.”
Achieving the position of garage specialist has been one the highlights of her career so far. “I am the go-to for garage liability in our corporation, so I am constantly talking to our underwriters, asking questions, doing training to keep them up to date with changes with our carriers and in the marketplace.”
Having gained expertise in garage liability through her work experience, Galecka now shares her knowledge of the specialty with others. “I love learning about new things and training other people. … I do a lot of training videos and I’m in the process of writing a blog post right now. I really enjoy learning about the product and training others on it,” she said.
Galecka said other aspects she appreciates about “the insurance industry is that it is built on solid relationships,” and that she has been able to develop relationships with “amazing people across all platforms of this industry.”
Those relationships are the foundation of the path to success, according to Galecka. “On our side of the business, we’ve got customers in our carriers, in our agents, even our co-workers and indirectly with our insureds. So, the value of the relationships you are creating with the people you meet, you’re creating opportunities for yourself down the road.”
Galecka also believes that developing a strong personal brand is important to furthering one’s career. “If you can figure out who you want to be in this industry, and the values and the morals that you want to portray to your customers and those that you talk to, if you can figure that out early on, who you want to be, and do it with purpose, then you will be successful and go a long way in this industry,” she said.
Follow-through is an essential building block in the creation of that strong personal brand, Galecka said. One of the best pieces of advice she received early in her career was: “‘If you tell someone you’re going to call them back in 20 minutes, then you’d better call them back in 20 minutes.’ … They were saying to me, if you tell someone you’re going to do something, then do it,” she said. That’s a principle she strongly believes in and has stuck with throughout her career, she added.
To others who may be thinking about the insurance industry as a career possibility, Galecka would say: Just do it. Create a strong personal brand and value the relationships you develop. “Jump in. Because after you have a few years of experience under your belt and you start making important relationships … the sky is the limit. The great thing about this industry is that it is so diverse. And it’s sustainable. There’s always opportunities for change, growth and advancement,” she said.
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