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Director of Enterprise Risk Management
Deborah M. Luthi's professional career has taken her from art teacher to risk manager. She is director of enterprise risk management for Matheson Inc., a Sacramento, Calif.-based diversified transportation company. Fitting for a former educator before joining Matheson, Ms. Luthi served as director-risk management services for the University of California at Davis for more than two decades. She took that post after serving as risk manager for the Sacramento Regional Transit Authority, where she'd gone after holding risk management positions at two diversified private corporations in the San Francisco area. Ms. Luthi has been active in the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. since launching her risk management career in the early 1980s. She co-founded the RIMS Sacramento Valley chapter in 1991 and is director-external affairs on RIMS' national board of directors.
Your professional role model: Truth be told, Nancy Drew was my very first professional role model possessing qualities that have served me well in my career: confident, competent, independent, possessed with a feisty spirit, a solver of mysteries (i.e. problems) in which she collaboratively involves her friends. And she had a roadster of her own. I guess you could say that to young women growing up in the '50s and '60s, she was an icon that represented another way of being a woman in the world.
Best professional advice you've received: To play to my strengths, trust my intuition, but also draw upon and value the collective wisdom of others. Always remembering we are not here alone.
Advice for women entering the field: On a professional level and a personal level, I think I'd share Maya Angelou's quote, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Professionally, enterprise risk management serves to enable executive management and risk owners to carry out their respective responsibilities, contributing not only to the success of the organization but also to their personal sense of achievement. To be on the contributing to or the receiving end of the feeling, you've done the best that is within you—that's a satisfying place to be.
What you wanted to be professionally while growing up: I wanted to be a teacher, an educator, which I think is great grounding for a career in risk management. Ultimately, a risk professional must employ their communication, persuasion and influence to energize their technical knowledge, their ideas, to inspire others to act. My association with RIMS has provided numerous opportunities to develop and keep current my risk management knowledge and to polish my communication skills.
Best book you've read recently: Coincidentally, the best book I've recently read was shared with me by another Business Insurance Women to Watch honoree, my RIMS board colleague Carolyn Snow. "Live First, Work Second: Getting Inside the Head of the Next Generation\" by Rebecca Ryan is a great and irreverent read for leaders wanting to engage and retain the talents of the next generation—our next leaders.
Phone or e-mail and why: My real preference is an in-person, look-in-your-eyes meeting. However, time and distance often make that difficult, if not impossible. I have to confess I like the immediacy of e-mail, plus I must be a closet writer since I enjoy the challenge and creativity of crafting clear communication in that medium.
Business Insurance’s 2009 Women to Watch feature is our annual attempt to identify women who are doing outstanding work in commercial insurance, risk management, employee benefits and related fields.