You talk to people within your network day in, day out – but how well do you really know them? Introducing InsideBravo, a series of conversations with people across Bravo Networks to find out a little more about them and their motivations.
Discussing all things diversity, inclusion, attracting talent and practicing self-care, in the first segment of InsideBravo, we talk to Rachel Longbottom, Bravo Networks Head of Service Performance and Innovation.
Rachel, you’ve been at Bravo for three years – tell us about your current role in the network.
In the past three years, I’ve moved from learning and development into working on the proposition and then took on the role of Head of Service Performance and Innovation. This role includes what the proposition looks like for members, how we stay current, how we deliver the proposition, how we make sure the services are delivering the right SLAs and ensuring they’re offering meaningful solutions for our members. In a nutshell, anything to do with the proposition and services.
Talk to us about your journey with your career in insurance
My journey in insurance has been a bit random. I made a conscious effort not to go to university as I wanted to jump straight into the world of work. My first role was as an office assistant supporting the post rooms and sales at exhibitions and, of course, learning how to make the perfect cup of tea. I have continued the art of knowing when it was the right time to do the office tea run throughout my career.
After that, I moved into various roles in sales and clothing, telecommunications and offering training in learning and development. I later got the opportunity to build up the Bravo Learning and Development team from nothing to the success it is today.
It was at that point I consciously made the switch to a role looking at the proposition and how we can develop and enable this to offer a smoother member experience, and that’s where I’ve landed now.
What or who has helped you on your career path to date?
It goes right the way back to when I was a child. My family history is steeped in running businesses, including grocery and electrical shops. All my family have been self-employed on the Longbottom side and on the other side they’ve worked their way through various roles.
This career-driven mentality has given me a passion for wanting to move forward in my own career and I have been actively encouraged from a young age to do that. From a professional basis, I’ve been lucky to have some very strong leaders and managers throughout my career and some great mentors who have pulled me in and given me some great structure; helping me to identify what I’m good at and to work on those strengths.
Who has mentored you in your career path to date?
A lot of people say they have a mentor, but I have a few – so I’m greedy! I’ve had some formal mentoring and some ad hoc mentors as well as a great support network that I can rely on. These help me in different capacities depending on what I need.
I’m also a big advocate of reverse mentoring, frequently touching base with trusted junior colleagues. This helps to remind me what it’s like on the shop floor and guides my decision-making process. I would really recommend reverse mentoring as a reality check.
As a female leader in quite a male-dominated industry, what have you found are your blocks or barriers to career progression?
A lot of people say this but it’s true; it’s my own imposter syndrome. Have I got a space at the table? Have I got the ability to operate at this level and move through these roles? Other than that, I think it’s important to have the right support network around you. I like to think I have people who catch me when I need them, and this helps to get rid of that roadblock in my mind.
What mistakes have you made along the way (if any!) and what advice would you give to others?
I’ve made quite a few, who hasn’t? We’re only human. The first thing I think when I make a mistake is that I’ve failed but a failure is only a first attempt at learning.
Own your mistakes. That’s really key. Have the guts to own it and you will have that respect. Fail fast and grow from it. If you stay in your comfort zone you probably won’t mistakes but if you push yourself out of it, you will probably make quite a few. Make the mistake, learn from it and move on.
Make sure you have the right people around you who will support you and act as your safety net. If something goes wrong, these people will have your back. When you’re in the growth zone, the magic happens.
What are some of the challenges we have in attracting talent to the insurance industry?
As an industry, we’re doing a lot to help in the space surrounding talent and diversity, but we could be doing more. One of the challenges is thinking about insurance as a career choice. We hear time and time again that people fell into insurance or joined it through a family business, but we need to think about how to attract junior and diverse talent outside of this space.
I like to think of it from a consumer perspective. Think about when you buy your car insurance at 17-18 years old. It’s probably the second biggest expense you’ve had to date after buying the car. You know you need it because it makes you legal on the road, but you don’t know what else is involved or why it’s so expensive. But if we educated people on a junior level and made insurance a career of choice, showing people all the wonderful things you can do within it, that really starts to become exciting.
We currently recruit on experience and technical knowledge; both these things can be taught but behaviour cant. We need to recruit more on behaviour and potential over technical knowledge. We need to look for companies that mirror our own values. The reason I’m in Bravo is that the culture sits well with my personal values, it’s a great match.
Where does self-care come in?
I’m not perfect. My self-care is quite literally binge-watching a series with a takeaway and doing nothing. I get a lot of energy from people and operating in a no energy space, so I make sure to take time to recharge, spending the day to myself doing nothing. I also like being outdoors, hiking, paddleboarding, being by the seaside… I also find I get energy through simple things like getting a morning coffee or walking through town as it’s just waking up – that’s really quite exciting for me. It’s incredibly important to practice self-care to avoid burnout.
What advice would you give to someone else on their career journey?
Don’t be afraid. There’s space for you at the table. Be brave, be bold and be you.
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