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Vice President of Risk Management
Advanced Disposal Services Inc.
Ponte Vedra, Fla.
Around Advanced Disposal Services Inc., one of the things Marti Dickman is known for is Trash Talk. Ms. Dickman, who became the Ponte Vedra, Fla.-based company's vice president of risk management in 2006, created the Trash Talk newsletter in 2008 as an initiative aimed at changing the company's risk culture. Before joining ADS, Ms. Dickman was an assistant vice president, account executive at Hilb, Rogal & Hobbs Co. in Norfolk, Va. She also spent five years as risk manager of Chesapeake, Va.-based Dollar Tree Inc. Before Dollar Tree, she was a commercial lines manager at Kellam-Eaton-Huey Insurance Agency Inc. She started her career at The Ware Co., where she began as a commercial account manager and account executive and later became the firm's bond manager. Ms. Dickman has a degree in computer science from the University of Maryland and Certified Insurance Counselor and Certified Risk Manager designations.
What's your advice for women entering this field?
Always approach tasks with enthusiasm and energy, and remember that each time it may present an opportunity which opens a new door; to stay focused and never stop learning and to always trust your instincts.
What attracted you to this industry?
I kind of fell into risk management and insurance. My degree is in computer science, and when I first entered the industry it was on the (information technology) side. I had an opportunity to start to understand and learn and mentor under a really wonderful individual at an insurance brokerage, and took the opportunity because he really made the industry seem exciting and so global in all of the areas that it touches, whether it's on the carrier side or the broker side or the insured side. And you had the opportunity to be involved in so many things, whether it was finance and accounting, legal, claims management, insurance underwriting — just so many different arenas that you were able to touch and be a part of.
What aspects of your job give you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
I think where I get the greatest sense of accomplishment is when I see the folks who work for me or report to me succeed and continue to advance and develop. I have a personal philosophy that I have done my job and done it well if I can be absent from the picture and things continue to flow and to function as if I'm still there. Then I know that the team that works for me has had the opportunity to learn and to understand and to really perfect the skills that they need to do a good job and really they don't need to have me there. That lets me know that I have done a good job and taken care of my people, as well as our company.
What's the most important lesson you've learned in your career?
Trust but verify. I can tell you that there are many opportunities as I think back through the years — and it's been quite a few — where taking information that was presented and using this information to move forward with some sort of a decision or action and not necessarily verifying the source has never been the wisest choice. That being given information — no matter what side of the industry you're on — that it is important to take a moment, evaluate the information, trust what someone is telling you, but always verify that the facts and make sure the picture is complete.
Outside family, what woman has been your role model?
On a professional level, it's someone whom I worked with years ago. She was the treasurer for a company that I worked for, and she just really taught me the nuances of looking at things in many different ways, and making sure that you look at the global picture and that you evaluate and assess, and making sure that when a decision is made at the end of the day that it's a decision that benefits your company and your employer as best as it possibly can.
What's at the top of your bucket list and why?
When my husband and I retire — and hopefully that's not a huge time in the future — when we retire we want to have a nonprofit for animal rescue. That's really at the top of my bucket list, to actually be able to see that dream come to fruition and to do something that still takes a lot of passion and a lot of work, to be able to use the animals that we rescue and provide training for them so that they can either be placed in homes with elderly for companionship or for children with special needs — and even to work with other nonprofits such as Wounded Warrior, to be able to provide animals there. We actually purchased a home in South Carolina with a bunch of acres that we hope to retire to. And that's our goal … to be able to use some of the property that we purchased for this animal rescue.
What's your secret vice?
Anybody who knows me is going to tell you chocolate. I'm serious. I have found that when I get stressed or if I just am at a moment where I need to stand still for a few seconds, chocolate just seems to bring it all back together for me.
Business Insurance's annual Women to Watch feature recognizes women who are doing outstanding work in commercial insurance, risk and benefits management, and related fields, including consulting and law.