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Director of Risk Management
Tishman Construction Corp.
Mildred Claire worked to place herself on a fast track in Tishman Construction Corp.’s risk management department. After joining the department as an administrative assistant, four years later she had worked and educated her way into her current position of director of risk management and transformed herself into the “go-to” risk management and insurance person in the Tishman organization.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO WOMEN ENTERING THIS FIELD?
What worked for me certainly was trying to expand my knowledge, because I started out in this industry knowing absolutely nothing about insurance. I started out as the administrative assistant to the risk management department and … I went out on my own, I took the New York state insurance brokers course, I started doing the ARM courses, and I really tried to grow my knowledge outside of the organization, as well as obviously within the organization. And that gave me many of the tools I needed and I was able to apply those to my day-to-day activities. So that’s probably what I would recommend to anyone that’s starting in this field.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED IN YOUR LIFE?
When you’re frustrated, take a deep breath and walk away from your desk, compose yourself and everything will always kind of work its way out. I’ve been in situations that have been extremely stressful and nothing good comes out of the fact that you’re crying at your desk. So, learning to check your emotions is probably the best piece of advice. And not to always take everything so personally, because some things are just out of your control.
WHAT’S THE BEST-KEPT SECRET ABOUT WORKING IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY?
There are misconceptions about working in insurance. Number one, that it’s boring. Working in this industry, I feel like it’s kind of a big deal and people don’t realize how important insurance is. I certainly see it from the construction perspective because you see something happen, for example, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York and there was that construction crane dangling over 57th Street. People were saying, “Oh my goodness,” but I’m thinking about who’s the owner, who’s the insurance company, we have a job site right across the street, what if it falls, who’s going to pick up coverage. So I think there’s a misconception that it’s boring. It’s actually really exciting and there’s so much to learn.
WHAT’S THE NEXT MAJOR CHALLENGE IN YOUR BUSINESS SECTOR?
In the construction area, the biggest challenge for us is writing construction coverage in New York, as far as pricing, and just the capacity of coverage that’s available. I see that as a challenge but I also see it as an opportunity for growth maybe from other insurers that are starting to write coverage in New York. So for us, that’s probably our biggest challenge: placing construction coverage in New York City.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELIEVE STRESS?
I practice yoga. I run. I work out. I’m pretty creative. And I read a lot.
WHAT’S YOUR SECRET VICE?
I don’t keep a lot of secrets.
WHAT SKILL HAS BEEN AN UNEXPECTED AID TO YOUR CAREER?
I’ve always said that if I knew that I would end up here, in insurance, that I would have gone to a school of risk management through undergrad and graduate school. But a few years ago, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I majored in communications and took a lot of courses on public speaking. And that has helped me in so many ways when I give presentations to clients or presentations to our executive teams that I really feel that that has helped me so much. There’s one thing knowing all this information, but being able to communicate it clearly so that people understand it, that has been something I’ve been able to develop that’s been very helpful.
WHAT’S AT THE TOP OF YOUR BUCKET LIST?
Probably just international travel. I’m not one to jump out of planes or anything like that.
Business Insurance's annual Women to Watch feature recognizes women doing outstanding work in insurance, risk management, employee benefits and related fields.