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Karen Ann Tompson

Karen Ann Tompson

Introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us who you are and what you are currently focused on.

I am Karen Tompson, I work for Guardian Life Insurance as a Disability & Absence Process Owner in our claims operation. I am focused on peresonal & professional growth, Ellevating my career and taking on what comes next in my career journey.

Tell us about your favorite Ellevate Network memory or success story. Why are you a member?

I was lucky enough to be selected through my Employer as a Ellevate member this year through a scholarship program. I am looking forward to learning, sharing and becoming the best leader I can be for my team; as well as challenging myself in different ways. I am really looking forward to networking & engaging through Ellevate

How would you define your professional mission?

My professional mission is to have a positive impact on those that I work with, and to see my team grow & succeed. I feel the most successful when those that I lead are successful, I think it all ties back to my earlier career years working in education. That passion for helping, developing and being supportive tie into the work I do as a leader.

Along with that, it's about creating an exceptional claim process for those that use our products, and ensuring those on the front line feel engaged, empowered as well as supported. In turn our customers feel supported and at ease about the challenge they are faced with being out of work.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

In the world of Disability & Absence management you need to have the ability to work & think in the grey area. Nothing is ever really black & white in this field, so being able to think outside the box is really critical. Understanding scenarios from different perspectives & being able to make a decision that is the best for the client & the employer.

What is one of your most memorable career accomplishments?

For me, it's really just getting where I am today with a background in Education. If you had told me 20 years ago, I would be working in corporate America, leading a team and would be knowledgeable in Disability, Absence & State Paid Leave Benefits, I would not have believed you.

Stepping back to see the challenges I have overcome, the time and energy put into my work and the success I have achieved to get where I am today is somewhat humbling. Some call it luck but it's not luck, its putting in the work, not giving up, staying focused, and pushing yourself to do more even when you don't feel like you can. It's a reminder to me in my personal and professional life that you can do what you set your mind to.

What are some career challenges on your radar?

Determining what's next for me and finding my way to the next level in my career. I had a vision, then shifted to a new company which has been a great personal & professional move for me. Now it's about gaining more confidence in the work I am doing, building those core relationships with business partners and digging in to see what my next steps are and how I need to work to get there.

We’d love to hear more about your career path. What led you to where you are today?

I went to college to pursue my passion for Child & Family Studies & Early Childhood Education. I spent several years working for Head Start and transitioned to teaching at special needs preschool where all of our students were non-verbal. Although that work is where my true passions land, as I started to transition to building a family I realized that the burnout of working with children all day while coming home to my own children was challenging, emotionally and physically. I also had ( and still have) goals for myself that were going to be harder to acheive on a preschool teacher salary. A family friend talked to me about opportunities at an Insurance company working in Disability & Absence management. I stepped out of my comfort zone and applied. From there I landed an entry level role at the company, from there I built a 14 year career working in various roles including Management and Consulting. Early last year, I took on the challenge of transitioning to a new Insurance carrier using my prior skills and experience to help them grown their Disability & Absence operations.

It's been a lot of years pushing myself outside of comfort zone, learning new things constantly and challenging myself along the way, coupled with support from Mentors and peers throughout my journey.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I recently took on creating a new role for our operation & taking on leading the 4 individuals in the role. When I look at just the leadership piece of my role, the most rewarding aspect is the success of my team. I have a drive, maybe even a passion for helping others grow into roles that challenge them, lead them to success and allow them to demonstrate their talents. The most rewarding thing to me as a leader is the success of my team.

What legacy do you hope to leave through your work?

Legacy feels like a really big word that carries a lot of weight but in the work I have done I hope I can leave empowerment to other woman in the workforce with the ability to be their authentic self at all times.

I have had times in my career where I have felt I had to pull back or really me because it's to much for someone else, or the majority in the room is uncomfortable with challenging the norm. Therefore, it's encouraged to be less, have less ideas or simply stay in the lane even though the operation could flourish or gain more success by seeing things from a different perspective.

I hope that I can demonstrate in a professional, graceful way that you can be your true self in the workplace whilst achieving your goals, being respected and building trust.

What is it about your job that makes you feel it’s the right fit for you?

I feel like my role is a 'right' for me right now as it challenges me, it gives me the opportunity to engage in a number of different projects, network and work through complex issues. It's also role that I am creating as I go, as its new to my operation so I have the ability to shape it into what works for me in a way that highlights my skills but drives success. It's also a lot of independent work that I feel like allows me to be creative, take on things that others might not have thought of all while engaging with co-workers across the organization.

Who are your role models?

My primary role models are my parents. Since a young age I learned so much from them. Stretching from core values that translate outside the walls of our home, hard work, determination and patience.

My dad grew a home business into something that was extremely successful and afforded a job & partnership to my brother for many years. I learned from him to never give up, challenge the norm and don't allow anyone to make you feel less than you are.

What is your morning ritual?

Mornings are always a bit hectic even with working at home. The daily grind includes getting the 2 boys out the door to school with a full stomach, a positive mindset and a grateful heart. In the midde of all that is getting the 2 four legged friends out for a walk and some morning fresh air.

Then it's time for some tea, hopefully a few chapters in a good book and healthy breakfast to help lead me through the morning meetings & emails.

When it's not winter in New England, the morning also consists of a good 2ish mile walk to get some Vitamin D and move the body.

What is your favorite social media site? Why?

I really have been conscious this year about limiting social media in my day-to-day life. It becomes a bit of a trap and at times draws me away from feeling present with my family or with myself. At this moment no social media is fitting in to my lifestyle, outside of LinkedIn for professional networking and knowledge sharing.

What would you say your personal superpower is?

My ability to manage time through the workday and to just do the things that need to be done. A number of managers I have had the opportunity to work with always recognize that I can see what needs to be done and I take action to ensure those things are tackled, timely and effectively.

Time management has always been one of my strong suits; I try to share tips with others to help them gain success or feel more accomplished in their day.

What does success look like to you?

Happiness is always something I look for in success as well as contentment. Society is in a state of always going to what's next, as opposed to being the here & now. Feeling good about where I am, focused on my progress and enjoying what I am doing now is success to me.

Is work-life balance a problem for you? What is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

Being a mom of two I try to focus on work life balance, especially in a fully remote role. Having your office in your home can make it challenging to find balance.

I make time with them a priority, so laptop closed at 5 p.m. so we can work on cooking dinner together, talking about the day or getting on the road to a practice. I also ensure I take 5-10 minutes each day to check in when they arrive home from school. A quick how was your day, anything I can do to support them and what is on the plate for the night.

I think ensuring to step away during the day for a true break, take a walk, read, grab some Vitamin D or just take a breath to prepare for the rest of what the day brings.

What advice would you offer future leading ladies wishing to break into your industry?

Keep pushing yourself. It takes time to get where you want to go, so remember to be patient with yourself as well as the process. Give yourself the grace to have challenges that don't have the outcome you want, recognize your successes and be willing to pivot at any time when your direction. changes.

There were several times I had to pivot to say take a lateral move that ended up bringing me more that if I had moved "up" the invisible ladder. Often times just shifting to a different manager or working in a different part of the organization will help you get to where you really want to be.

What is one piece of advice you’d offer working moms?

It's hard - the whole thing is hard but that doesn't mean you shouldn't follow your dreams & achieve your goals. Your children are going to love to you & be your biggest supporter no matter what you do in your career.

Most importantly - no one has the secret sauce - whether it's working moms, stay at home moms, the social media moms. We are all doing our best to do it all and feel fulfilled; we are all having good and bad days.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.