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2015 Women to Watch: Kristen Bessette

2015 Women to Watch: Kristen Bessette

Kristen Bessette

Senior vice president and chief actuary of commercial insurance

Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.


Age: 44

Kristen Bessette's co-workers at Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. say strong technical skills and a passion for developing talent make her an engaging leader.

The Boston-based senior vice president and chief actuary of commercial insurance for Liberty “is very savvy about being able to assess what people need at the appropriate time,” said Kathleen Conlin, senior vice president and chief talent officer for the company. Ms. Bessette spends “time coaching people (and) making sure they're being thoughtful about what their assignments should look like,” she said.

That coaching includes helping people make smart career moves and encouraging them to take on new roles — “even if it's a little scary, because you'll be thankful that you had that different experience,” Ms. Conlin said.

Through her mentoring relationships, Ms. Bessette said she's found that some women lack “the confidence to look for a newer, bigger role because they're not sure they have the exact skill set” required. By encouraging women to explore different options, she said she hopes they'll realize that not having the perfect background for a job doesn't mean they can't do it. “That's an important challenge for us,” she added.

“I've always, after a couple years, started looking up and looking around and saying, "What else do I want to do? What can I do that's interesting to me? What can I learn?'” Ms. Bessette said. “We're trying to build more of that culture in so people can maintain career satisfaction by moving around the company.”

Those who don't have what Ms. Bessette calls “that restlessness” might need more encouragement, she said.

During regular meetings with her team and other employees, Ms. Bessette said she likes to “give them an idea of how they can make a difference in the bigger picture, even though their role might seem very specific ... You have to engage them in what they're doing, empower them to make decisions, teach them and develop them to be better.”

Ms. Bessette has been in her current role for about three years, which means it's time to think about what else she wants to do.

Right now, she's “more focused on the learning and the impact that I can have on the organization” than “on a specific role.”

When she looks back on her career, Ms. Bessette said she'll likely be most proud of the talent pipeline she has helped build.

“Having the best talent is the most enabling thing you can do for your operation,” she said.

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