[Transcript] Bonus Episode - InsurTalk Host Laura Drabik Featured InsurTech Radio

March 2, 2021

Carrie Burns   Welcome to InsurTalk, I am not your host Laura Drabik, I am Carrie Burns, Senior Manager of Content Marketing at Guidewire, and I normally work in the background of the podcast. We're flipping the script in this special episode of InsurTalk. When we began planning this podcast series, we wanted to focus on making innovation happen in the P&C insurance industry. Laura was the obvious choice for hosting. She is a recognized thought leader and trusted advisor to insurers and is truly an innovation driver. We at Guidewire aren't the only ones who recognize this. Laura recently was a guest on the Insurtech Radio podcast, so we're handing off this episode to host Conor Sweetman. With his permission, we're re-playing the episode featuring Laura. You can find all of the Insurtech Radio podcast episodes at insurtechradio.com.

Conor Sweetman   Hello, I'm Conor Sweetman and welcome to Insurtech Radio, the podcast about insurance, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. This week I'm delighted to welcome Laura Drabik, the chief evangelist at Guidewire. Guidewire of course are one of the largest software providers to the insurance industry, over 400 P&C carriers use Guidewire's platform to engage, innovate and grow their business efficiently. Laura has been at Guidewire since 2006, first as Director of Business Transformation and now working as Chief Evangelist. In 2019, Laura was named to the Insurance Business America's Elite Women, 2019 list. She's also one of the winners of the Silicon Valley Business Journal Women of influence award for 2019. So without further ado, please enjoy this conversation with Laura Drabik. Laura, you're very welcome to Insurtech Radio. How's it going?

Laura Drabik   Oh, very well. Thank you for having me today.

Conor Sweetman   My pleasure. I've never interviewed a chief evangelist before.

Laura Drabik   Well, it'll be a treat, won't it?

Conor Sweetman   It will. So what does a chief evangelist do exactly?

Laura Drabik:  Yeah. So a chief evangelist is a brand ambassador, if you will. What I do is I start first with the customer and their strategic aspirations and goals and their business desires, and then I work back to the technology.

Conor Sweetman   That's great. Cool. Are we good? We might touch on that a little bit more as we talk about Guidewire and the journey that you guys have taken over the last couple of years, but I was hoping we could start the conversation with a bit of a deep dive into the whole topic of women in tech, because I know you've done a lot of great presentations and advocacy in this area. And it's not that I'm not really familiar with the issues at all, so I thought I'd just dive straight into my own ignorance and ask what I hope are actually kind of silly questions, I can clarify some things that maybe other people have been afraid to ask. So let me just start off very simply, what are some of the issues facing women in tech at the moment?

Laura Drabik   Well, Conor, right now what's top of mind is actually the collapse of the childcare sector and also drastic reductions in school supervision hours as a result of COVID-19.

Conor Sweetman   Right.

Laura Drabik   Yes. So this could drive millions of working mothers out of the paid workforce. And keep in mind that women are still the primary caregivers, so it has an effect on their career progression and ability to generate income. Also, women currently remain under-represented in software engineering, we comprise only 14% of the total workforce and it's worse for women of color. When we call out that females aren't fairly represented in tech management roles, it really starts with getting women in at the entry level roles. And then lastly, there's what Forbes Magazine has called the confidence gender gap, study after study shows that men overestimate their abilities and performance, not you Conor, other men.

Well, women underestimate their own, even when they're just as good as men at what they do. And it costs women valuable opportunities, not for lack of competency but from lack of confidence. So women need to get over that confidence gender gap to move upwards.

Conor Sweetman   Yeah. And that's actually something I've noticed anecdotally in my own career in the various teams I've worked in and either overconfidence or lack of confidence, you see among certain men and women. For yourself, is that something that you were always aware of throughout your career or did it just creep into your consciousness over time?

Laura Drabik   I think it crept into my consciousness over time. I didn't realize that other women didn't feel the way I felt or had those insecurities as well. I think it's just through women groups and education coming together to understand and shine a light on that issue, then allows you to understand it and then address it and overcome it.

Conor Sweetman   So what are some of the things that you... So you mentioned women's groups as an example, but what are the other things have been achieved so far?

Laura Drabik   The fact that we're having this conversation on diversity right now really speaks volumes and well to communities globally trying to understand this, so that's a step in the right direction. Also, corporate diversity initiatives and roles like chief diversity officer, I mean you think chief evangelist is a new title, that's a wonderful role and it indicates that companies are acknowledging their lack of diversity and the importance of hiring and retaining a diverse workforce. So really great step forward or achievement. Also very positively, women's earnings are outpacing those of men when it comes to high skill jobs. We talked about the women's groups popping up globally. I'm on the board of girls in fact, we are empowering women through all stages of their life and there are many groups like that.

We also have initiatives, Conor, like parental leave, so that's a great step forward. And there's been a 24% increase of representation of women in the C-suite. So all very positive achievements, thanks to the efforts of generations of women and supportive men that never stopped advocating for women in the workplace.

Conor Sweetman   What are some of the examples from your own career like we mentioned that hearing into your consciousness gradually, but what were some of those things that illuminated add issues for you?

Laura Drabik   So I have spent almost 16 years working in tech sales and as you probably know, it's traditionally a very male dominated space. So one of I think, what enlightened me perhaps some of the infractions that I noticed throughout my career, and one of them is not being recognized as a senior leader by male senior leaders. So this could include not directing questions to me and studies show that 88% of women have had clients and colleagues direct questions to male peers that should have been addressed to them. I'm also more interrupted or I'm interrupted more often than men in meetings. I have my opinion discounted more often than male leaders. I had a company take my name off my claim blog series and replace it with the name of a fellow in upper management and Conor, to be clear, they took my ideas and they put them under his name. So these are all examples. Yeah. So it wasn't cool, it wasn't the right thing to do but at the time I didn't say anything because I didn't feel confident and I didn't want to disrupt or be seen as a complainer.

Conor Sweetman   And what are the tactics could you recommend like leaders, but maybe not just leaders but also like people at every part of the hierarchy of an organization, what kind of tactics can they employ to increase diversity and inclusivity as well?

Laura Drabik   I think if you want to build a stronger culture, managers, co-workers and executives, exactly what you said, the whole gamut or spectrum of people in roles, you have to start and you have to do this consistently but call-out instances where a woman's hard work is going unnoticed. An easy way is to show praise and bring unnoticed work to light, is to send out emails, do it frequently, internal messaging to your company, highlight ideas and projects brought about by women. Conor, I just did this yesterday afternoon and I use Slack, which is a channel that we have on there as global, it's for the global employees. And I called up two women that are working diligently behind the scenes to bring our product keynote to our user conference. And I wanted to make sure that people understood the women behind the scenes.

And they actually reached out to me individually to thank me for doing that, but do it often and do it across the gamut. I would also say that one of the issues that we're finding in tech is that we're growing so quickly. That diversity is sometimes overlooked when it comes to hiring, instead of gathering a high-quality pool of diverse candidates, some companies are rushing to hire the first candidate that they can find to fill their need. And this unfortunately is going to be a dangerous outcome for the future of the company. You're not getting the right people in potentially. So it's to answer your question, another recommendation or tactic is that companies need to take time and build a diverse talent pool. And the same goes for bringing on new board members.

We actually just added two very strong women on our board, and I cannot tell you how joyful I felt when it happened last year. It reflects well on a company when they walk the talk. The last thing I'd mentioned is, and it's related to the tactic I just talked about, which is hire for potential. There is some great, less experienced diverse talent out there. They may not have exactly the experience that you're looking for today, so start a mentorship program where you can grow with them into what you're looking for.

Conor Sweetman   Well, maybe we could shift the story more to the business side and Guidewire itself. Clearly you have a great culture of learning and diversity. How long has Guidewire gone? When did you guys start?

Laura Drabik   We started back in 2001, and the mandate was to revolutionize how insurance companies serve their customers. So to revolutionize insurance, we actually started at the core of the issue, which were legacy systems of record. So these are these disparate disconnected systems that prevented insurers from delivering a connected, more streamlined service to their consumers. So we started initially with claims, that's where the market or industry need was. Then we evolved into policy and then we layered in billing, after that we then followed the market or I should say drove some of the market here because we layered on digital to achieve omni-channel servicing and then also data so we could create a smart core if you will. So what was really important here is that we were always designing and weaving processes into the core. So it's delivered as one connected solution to insurers so that they can then deliver connected intelligent processing to the end consumer.

Conor Sweetman   I'm assuming then that the important part there is the fact that it's one as opposed to many because I think with the many being that's already the problem with all the legacy stuff.

Laura Drabik   You got it. That's exactly it.

Conor Sweetman   Cool. And so what kind of business was Guidewire when you joined? You weren't listed at the time, I think, is that right?

Laura Drabik  That's correct. I joined pre-IPO. So when I joined 14 years ago, we had less than 100 employees. Now we have almost 3000.

Conor Sweetman   Wow!

Laura Drabik   Yeah, it's hard to get to know everyone's name now. It was easier back then. We had a handful of customers. Now we have almost 400. We were in the US, now we're serving customers in 34 different countries. And in the early days we focused on replacing like I said before, that legacy system of record with this modern core processing solution and this is really important, was designed and built from the ground up to address the P&C insurance market. And I had this amazing experience of being on the design team since I started with Guidewire, again, leveraging that boots on the ground insurance experience and our CEO always encouraged us to think big picture and not silos.

And thanks to his mandate, all of the modules like policy claims, billing, digital, they all integrated out of the box and they have these cross module capabilities that support the insurance life cycle and not siloed policy or claims life cycle. And that's really important because we're diverting from that legacy pass, we're pivoting from that, going from silos, going to solution. But what's different from when I started is that everything we implemented was on premise and now our journey is cloud-focused and it's because it's what's best for our customer. It allows them to innovate quicker in the cloud, they can scale almost immediately by adjusting infrastructure capacity and they can access leading edge infrastructure. So now it's still the solution, it's just the solution in the cloud.

Conor Sweetman   Cool. So obviously when you guys started back in 2001, the term Insurtech didn't exist, that's a relatively recent phenomenon. So what are some examples of some of the stuff that you've done with Insurtechs, whether that be in the last couple of years or over the last 20 years?

Laura Drabik   So I'll have know about three years ago, one of our wonderful SI partners introduced Guidewire as the original Insurtech at an industry event. And I thought to myself, it was an aha moment, we in fact were.

Conor Sweetman   Yeah, it makes sense.

Laura Drabik   It does. But my favorite stories that I'll share with you and I got to, if you don't mind, they actually all come from the pandemic, because what I'm noticing is the pandemic is dramatically accelerating innovation and Insurtech is a huge part of that. So another $2 billion standard lines carrier leveraged chat bot, it was integrated to Guidewire. They used it to handle FAQ's both on policies claims and COVID-19 questions and help them to dramatically reduce the number of live calls for brokers and call centers. So I thought that was a super cool story where Insurtech is accelerating innovation during a time when it's most critical, which is the pandemic. And then another one was a $4 billion carrier, they accelerated their digital portal with Guidewire and were able to go from processing two million pieces of paper a year down to zero in a matter of weeks, due to our integration with a digital document solution and an e-signature provider. Again, accelerated the pandemic but it's a great story that it's not going to go away. Once it's implemented, they can now continue to leverage this innovation.

Conor Sweetman   Great, Laura. Well, I think we're just about at a time. Do you have any parting words for our audience?

Laura Drabik   Yes, I do. When an insurance carrier is looking at innovating, when they're looking at collaborating or leveraging Insurtech, I would ask them to think about looking at the foundation or their platform, which is going to allow them to do that. And that's where we come in. We're the platform that connects our insurance carriers to an ecosystem as well as allows them to innovate in this new market and new normal.

Conor Sweetman   Well, thanks very much, Laura, where can people go to find out more about you and more about Guidewire?

Laura Drabik   You can go to guidewire.com to see and learn more about Guidewire. You can go to also evangelist.guidewire.com. I have a page where I keep a lot of thought leadership material, videos, presentations and you can find all of that on that page.

Conor Sweetman   Great. I'll make sure I link to that as well. And actually just quick shout out for your blog on there, I thought it was very insightful. So, I highly recommend people check that out. Well, Laura, thanks for being with us today.

Laura Drabik   Thank you for having me.

Conor Sweetman   Thank you for listening. Don't forget to subscribe on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcast. You can find us on LinkedIn and please visit our website, insurtechireland.org. See you next week.

Carrie Burns   And thanks for joining this special episode of InsurTalk. Be sure to subscribe to InsurTalk on Apple podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.