In the final part of a three-part series, Kara Harris-Crowell shares how her experience as an independent agent led her to a career of helping agencies evaluate technology.
Senior Vice President - Sales Enablement and Solution Consulting
University Park, IL
Kara Harris-Crowell first joined a Kentucky insurance agency as an operations manager after serving as an enterprise risk operations manager with Deloitte. With her master's degree in public administration and background in operations and risk management, she easily transitioned to the insurance industry.
Later joining Applied Systems, Harris-Crowell was able to bring her risk management and insurance experience to the technology field. “Coming in as a former agent, I was able to share ideas about what the technology needed to do to take agency operations and processes to the next level," Harris-Crowell says. “I got actively involved in the Applied Epic beta agency program and, with other participating insurance agencies, helped inform the design and development of Applied Epic."
“Now with over 27 years of experience in insurance, risk management and sales, I currently lead an amazingly talented team of consultants from the insurance industry who help agencies evaluate how technology can change the way they do business," she says.
How did you get into insurance?
Unless insurance is a family business, I think very few individuals set out on their career path focused on insurance. In fact, many folks in the industry often joke about “falling into insurance," and that is definitely my story. I was going down a very different path in my career. With my studies focused in criminal justice and government, I thought I was headed to law school. Instead, I fell into risk management and insurance.
What were some of the key takeaways from your time at the insurance agency?
What I found most interesting was my agency already had Applied technology in place when I joined; however, they really were not tapping into the full power of what they had. It's one of the challenges many agencies face today – either not having the right technology in place or not maximizing it to drive revenue. One of the things I challenged myself and the team I was working with was to start uncovering what we had. I got engaged heavily with the Applied Client Network to start learning more about the technology.
I also got very involved with the Big “I," Trusted Choice® and Young Agents because I wanted to learn more about the challenges of the industry from other agents. I really immersed myself in all things insurance, put myself out there for committee chair roles and took every chance I got to raise my hand to learn as much as I could.
What drew you to Applied Systems?
Being an Applied Systems client and getting involved in the Applied Client Network, I began to learn more about the company and team. In 2007, our agency was selected to be an Applied EpicTM beta agency as Applied was actively building a new agency management system from the ground up.
I was really excited and motivated after working with the Applied team and hearing about the vision and direction they were going with the new technology. Ultimately, I made the decision to join the team and it has been an incredible journey.
How has your experience been as a woman in the technology world?
Although diversity in the insurance and tech industries has lagged, I've been fortunate to have had some really strong women leaders along the way. While at Deloitte, I worked with a “tough as nails" partner who helped me understand how to define success on my own terms. Being able to carve my own path has been very rewarding but I recognize not everyone is afforded that chance.
So my goal is to be able to pay forward to other women who are working hard to develop their career. I try to instill that same “define it on your own terms" approach. As women in leadership, if we take the time to coach and mentor others, then I believe that brings greater opportunity for the next generation of women leaders.
What's the value of mentorship for women in the industry?
Mentorship is invaluable. I'm incredibly passionate about mentorship as it has been so instrumental in getting me to where I am today. I have had such great mentors along the way, but those relationships did not happen by accident. You have to seek mentorship out. You have to find someone you trust, respect, and want to emulate as a leader, so that you can continue to grow and challenge yourself. Currently, I chair the Elevate Program at Team Applied and stay active in mentoring partnerships.
If you could change one thing for women in the industry, what would it be?
I feel like every woman, regardless of industry or role, faces imposter syndrome at some point in their career. I wish we could absolutely demolish it because, as women, we have so much value to bring. Whether in individual contribution or leadership, we have to tap into ourselves and believe in our unique skills and talents. Be confident and own your greatness.
What's your biggest piece of advice for other women in the insurance industry?
This is my advice to everyone really – you have to “tap into your why." Leaning in on Simon Sinek's “Start With Why," you have to determine what really motivates you and gets you up every morning – understanding that will shape how you want to approach your life and career. My personal “why" is to serve others and I focus on how I want to show up every day for those around me.
What's your favorite hobby?
Growing up in an incredibly talented family, I inherited a deep love of music. I am a singer, songwriter and play acoustic guitar. I have been in bands on and off since I was 15, playing a wide array of country, southern rock, rock, and gospel music. So if I am not playing music, I am definitely listening to music, or attending a live concert.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
My father was a great influence in my life, and he taught me that your name is the one thing no one can ever take from you, so always make it mean something. While my name has certainly seen some bumps and bruises along the way, my father's counsel has been a guiding principle in my journey. It ever reminds me to deliver on a promise, mean what I say and own it when I make a mistake.
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.