The Profession

Le Andra Holly

"Every experience — good, bad or indifferent — led me here and has put me in a position to make a real difference in our organization both personally and professionally."
By: | March 3, 2017 • 4 min read

 
R&I What was your first job?

I had a two-week stint at McDonald’s my freshman year of high school; so that probably doesn’t count. After that I worked as a server at a local restaurant.

R&I How did you come to work in risk management?

I began as a multiline claims adjuster right out of college for three years. I then branched out and worked for a broker as a claims analyst and account executive for six and a half years before moving over to the employer side, first as the insurance and claims manager of a third party logistics’ risk management department and now as the risk manager of Staples.

R&I What is the risk management community doing right?

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We are finally recognizing the value in going back to basics in the training and management of claims; as well as the importance of educating a corporation, from the executive level to the associate level, that risk management is more than just the department that secures insurance and manages workers’ compensation. We are now seen as the department that can actually improve the profitability of the organization.

R&I What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Risk managers have to think outside the box to determine how we can pay for the programs and tools necessary to effectively manage the organization’s total cost of risk. We need to take the time to figure out what tools or programs truly make sense and will mesh into our company’s culture. Throughout my career I have seen many programs and initiatives quickly crash and burn because they were not properly vetted. When deciding what tool, program or initiative we want to pursue, we have to realize we have one shot to sell the message to make it a reality.

R&I What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

The focus on big data and data analytics. It was a long time coming and I am glad it is here, but we do have to ensure the data we are relying upon is accurate, which I believe is the next evolution in data analytics. I think we are all seeing there are many inaccuracies, various perspectives and gaps in the data we are relying upon.

R&I What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

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I think the evolution of cyber risk will always concern me. I always say, “if only they would use their powers for good, they could cure cancer!”

However, with the fast-paced nature of change, [the challenge of staying] relevant is right up there with cyber. Our brand is so important. At the end of the day, it is the reputation of our company at stake. We have to ensure that each associate, no matter what position they hold in our organization, understands their importance. Every one of our actions and decisions individually and collectively impact our brand every day in some way.

R&I Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

I look at the direction Staples is headed and I cannot help but be excited and optimistic. Other companies are in our position and their associates are just as dedicated to the success of their respective organizations as we are.

R&I Who is your mentor and why?

My father is my mentor. He worked hard all his life and learned to make a way out of no way. I feel blessed and take pride in everything I do because of the lessons he taught me and continues to teach me every day.

R&I What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I would say the evolution of my career to bring me where I am today. Every experience — good, bad or indifferent — led me here and has put me in a position to make a real difference in our organization both personally and professionally.

R&I How many emails do you get in a day?

Is this a trick question? In this day and age, I think all we can do is prioritize and manage email. My team is in the process of utilizing RMIS to automate a lot of processes in our department to cut down on the email traffic.

R&I What is your favorite book or movie?

“The Godfather,” hands down, is my favorite movie. If it is on, I have to watch it.

R&I What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Rabot 1745 in London. All meals have a cocoa-based theme … yum!

R&I What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

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I love the Caribbean and love St. Martin (Dutch), Curacao and Puerto Rico. The landscapes and cultures throughout the Caribbean are very interesting to me.

R&I What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

Driving down to a local beach in Mexico at the age of 18 with two friends, and not turning back when we came upon Mexican military [stopping visitors at the entrance] to the beach. We then proceeded to camp out on the beach with strangers. I look back and realize how incredibly lucky we were that nothing happened to us!

R&I What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I can make a positive difference to Staples and to our individual associates.

R&I What do your friends and family think you do?

A majority of my friends and family know my job has something to do with insurance and claims but they don’t firmly grasp all that I am responsible for as a risk manager.




Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

For This Pharmaceutical Risk Director, Managing Risk Means Being Part of the Mission to Save Lives

Meet Eric Dobkin, director, insurance and risk management, for Merck & Co. Inc.
By: | September 28, 2018 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?
My first job out of undergrad was as an actuarial trainee at Chubb.I was a math major in school, and I think the options for a math major coming out are either a teacher or an actuary, right? Anyway, I was really happy when the opportunity at Chubb presented itself. Fantastic company. I learned a lot there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
After I went back to get my MBA, I decided I wanted to work in corporate finance. When I was interviewing, one of the opportunities was with Merck. I really liked their mission, and things worked out. Given my background, they thought a good starting job would be in Merck’s risk management group. I started there, rotated through other areas within Merck finance but ultimately came back to the Insurance & Risk Management group. I guess I’m just one of those people who enjoy this type of work.

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R&I: What is risk management doing right?
I think the community is doing a good job of promoting education, sharing ideas and advancing knowledge. Opportunities like this help make us all better business partners. We can take these ideas and translate them into actionable solutions to help our companies.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think we have made good advancements in articulating the value proposition of investing in risk management, but much more can be done. Sometimes there is such a focus on delivering immediate value, such as cost savings, that risk management does not get appropriate attention (until something happens). We need to develop better tools that can reinforce that risk management is value-creating and good for operational efficiency, customers and shareholders.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’d actually say there hasn’t been as much change as I would have hoped. I think the industry speaks about innovation more often than it does it. To be fair, at Merck we do have key partners that are innovators, but some in the industry are less enthusiastic to consider new approaches. I think there is a real need to find new and relevant solutions for large, complex risks.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber risk. While it’s not emerging anymore, it’s evolving, dynamic and deserves the attention it gets. Merck was an early adopter of risk transfer solutions for cyber risk, and we continue to see insurance as an important component of the overall cyber risk management framework. From my perspective, this risk, more than any other, demands continuous forward-thinking to ensure we evolve solutions.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Sticking with the cyber theme, I’d say navigating through a cyber incident is right up there. In June 2017, Merck experienced a network cyber attack that led to a disruption of its worldwide operations, including manufacturing, research and sales. It was a very challenging environment. And managing the insurance claim that resulted has been extremely complex. But at the same time, I have learned a tremendous amount in terms of how to think about the risk, enterprise resiliency and how to manage through a cyber incident.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?
Have strong intellectual curiosity. Always be willing to listen and learn. Ask “why?” We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our business, and the more you seek to understand, the better you will be able to apply those learnings toward developing solutions that meet the evolving risk landscape and needs of the business.

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R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?
We’re continuing to look for ways to apply technology. For example, being able to extract and leverage data that resides in our systems to evaluate risk, drive efficiencies and make things like property-value reporting easier. We’re also looking to utilize data visualization tools to help gain insights into our risks.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?
I think, at this time, I would like to continue to learn and grow in the type of work I do and broaden my scope of responsibilities. There are many opportunities to deliver value. I want to continue to focus on becoming a stronger business partner and help enable growth.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
I’d say right now Star Wars is top on my list. It has been magical re-watching and re-living the series I watched as a kid through the eyes of my children.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in? When I was about 15, I went to a New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I wore my Rangers jersey. I would not do that again.

Eric Dobkin, director, insurance & risk management, Merck & Co. Inc

R&I: What is it about this work you find most fulfilling or rewarding?
I am passionate about Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives. “Inventing for Life” is Merck’s tagline. It’s funny, but most people don’t associate “inventing” with medicine. But Merck has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases for a long time. It’s amazing to think the products we make can help people fight terrible diseases like cancer. Whatever little bit I can do to help advance that mission is very fulfilling and rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?
Ha! My kids think I make medicine. I guess they think that because I work for Merck. I suppose if even in a small way I can contribute to Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives, I am good with that. &




Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]