I’m a proud first generation Korean American. Growing up, I never had a particular dream job. My immigrant parents didn’t know much about all the different career paths that existed in America, so discussions around unique career options didn’t happen in my childhood. All I really knew was that in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields were top choices.
An Unexpected Career Path
I happened to go the STEM route in college, not because I’m Asian, but because I love being analytical and working with numbers. I majored in Statistics and minored in Math. When I started looking for internships, I remember thinking Progressive, a big insurance company, made sense with my major. I became their first New Jersey Claims intern during my junior year of college.
Once I graduated college, I moved into a full-time position with Progressive in their Claims department. I may not have been working with numbers every day, but I found myself needing to use my analytical skills when working with claims. Along with having to recognize patterns in policies, I was solving complex claims coverage problems, determining who was at fault in accidents, and identifying potential fraud. In a Claims role I was applying critical thinking and drawing conclusions. It was an unexpected choice, and I didn’t know how things would pan out, but I found myself busy. Before long, I was growing into new roles such as Bodily Injury Claims Adjuster, Multiline Representative handling claims with specialized vehicles like boats and RVs, and Claims Supervisor. I’ve been with Progressive for almost nine years, and I’ve held eight different job titles—all in Claims.
A Supportive Community at Work
I never thought I would stay with one company after graduating college. When I look back on my nine-year career with Progressive, I realize that along with fulfilling work, I’ve also stayed because of our company’s culture.
That feeling was only reaffirmed over the last few years as many social injustices were given a bigger spotlight. Since the pandemic, there is an uptick of Asian hate crimes. Many people who look like me are getting attacked—some even killed. I’ve watched a friend lose an uncle to a violent attack, and I live in the vicinity of Manhattan where many attacks are taking place. It’s impossible not to be afraid for myself and my Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) friends. We talked about avoiding the subway and traveling at night; we bought pepper spray for our parents and told them to not travel alone. I even chose to wear my Muay Thai (Thai boxing) sweater often, thinking it would deter potential attackers.
I couldn’t sleep. I was upset and angry, but I still had to go to work every day. Instead of keeping my feelings inside, I talked about what was happening with my peers and our Asian American Network Employee Resource Group. I wrote a newsletter for employees within my state, and I presented to employees across the country during an AAPI month event about what it means to be AAPI in America today. Soon after, I was asked by a leader to present to our Chief Human Resource Officer and her direct reporting group.
I was awed by the support from my peers and leaders. People were reaching out to me and other AAPI employees to check in on how we were feeling, and the conversation hasn’t stopped. As social injustices continue, so do the conversations in our workplace. I continue to see more allies and advocates speaking out.
Progressive isn’t just a job for me. I didn’t just grow my career here, I grew up at Progressive. I was able to gain skillsets and viewpoints that made me a better person overall.
If you’ve never thought about a career in Claims—or at Progressive—don’t dismiss it because your background isn’t insurance. Explore a path you’ve never thought of before and seek out mentors outside your home to start those discussions around what you want in a company.