Saturday, October 29, 2011

Open Enrollment

Whether or not you work there, they call it the pink palace. It's the company's corporate headquarters. The sales offices have a very different feeling and today I experienced the exact opposite of the pink palace, the front line. January 1 is an insurance carriers busiest time of year. Approximately half of your business is made January 1. If that day is not successful, it's next to impossible to recover. 

\With a combination of luck and skill, the Illinois market has been rocking and rolling for January 1. However, there are a finite number of people in the sales department, so I was asked to help with a handful of benefit fairs. This is the place where potential members learn about their options. While I focus on insurance, others may focus on banking, 401Ks, and even Sams Club memberships. A little rusty when I started, by the end I felt like I was back in business school, working on my 30 second pitch. With each encounter, there's a finite number of seconds where someone will listen to you. In those seconds, you need to peak their interest so that they consider the product you're proposing. To a certain extent, the product sold itself. Yet, every so often, I'd get a few tough questions and would have to tell someone directly that the product may not be right for them.

My conversations with the potential members reinforced my thoughts that most people don't understand their healthcare benefits. I don't blame the individuals, I blame the system. The system is quite complicated. Even I, who has a producer's license in life and health insurance, occasionally have difficulty understanding benefits. While I was not happy to be so far from home, it was great to know that I could answer the many questions I received and help people understand the benefits that they are going to be offered this year. The experience gives me even more prospective on the business. Humana Resources and senior leaders may decide which benefits an employee group receives, but then the employees need to understand what benefits fit them. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Remote Working

Over the weekend of Sept 23rd, yet another friend got married. This time in Connecticut and on a Friday. While I understand the reason people choose Friday weddings, I will be the first one to say that they do bother me. I had asked for the day off, but given that my fiancé was working, I told my boss I could do some work too. What an experience!?!

On one hand, going downstairs to grab breakfast while not feeling that I needed to look overly presentable was quite nice. On the other hand, my computer, which is slow enough on the corporate network, was moving like a sloth while I worked with shared drives via VPN. Definitely painful. Not to mention that my VPN software was having problems so I spent a solid 2 hours in the morning simply trying to get my computer to work. Thank goodness one of my colleagues is also a friend. Otherwise, I surely would have missed my 7:30a central meeting even though I had been up for at least 1.5 hours.

I do think the remote working gets +2 for the amazing Lebanese lunch that my fiancé and I had. Thank you Yelp and Google! It is funny how I rely on these sites so much and rarely contribute to their content. I need to get better! However, a big -5 for the time it took to do anything remotely productive. I can't imagine if I had to use SAS or SQL to pull data. I might as well give up.

The wedding was a blast and the day after I got to experience New Haven's Big Green Pizza Truck. It was delicious and I'd like to export their business plan to Chicago.. and maybe San Francisco.

Oh, Rankings

We all say rankings don’t matter. However, when your school shoots up a couple spaces, there’s a sense of pride. Top 10, top 15, even top 25, they’re all fantastic educations and incredible experiences. We learn a lot about various subject areas, but we also learn a lot about ourselves. We build relationships and networks that will last a lifetime. We also find a number of people with similar interests that are highly driven to be successful. Each person may have a different definition of success, though that does not mean any one person’s definition is better than another. There are so many different rankings these days and there is no shortage of those joining the bandwagon. Your most well-known are US News and Reports, Princeton Review, Financial Times and The Economist. While each methodology is different, I say evaluate rankings with a grain of salt and try to understand what they are actually communicating via their methodology. One ranking may focus on criteria that is mute to you.

That said, I feel the need to give Darden a big shout for its newest ranking (as I said, they may not matter, but we still feel pride).

Darden #4 on the Economist list!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Moments Like This

So many times I start posts in my head, only to have them fade as memories. I craft the first two to three lines that would then develop into a whole post. However, lately, I can't seem to take the moment to write. Half the time, I'm on the bus and can't be bothered with the small keyboard on my phone. The other half the time, I'm at work, which of course means everything is blocked. I understand the philosophy of why sites are blocked including privacy and security risks, but personally I have found that I don't get the release I need to refocus on work.

At Darden, I spent hours studying. Every so often I would hit a brick wall, take ten minutes to write a post and quickly return to studying, feeling refreshed. I don't typically classify myself as a stressed person. Recently, I've been feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders. It is a very exciting time in my life as I plan a wedding. Yet, my family life is crumbing before my eyes and I don't know what to make of it. I feel helpless on so many levels. It's awkward. It's frustrating. Everything I have known for the last 30 years (almost) has been turned on its head. Wedding planning, which should be exciting, adds to the frustration. I contemplate a wedding planner. Granted,  a wedding planner doesn't pick your gown and bridesmaids dresses, which seems to be the real struggle these days.

This past weekend we headed back to San Francisco for our engagement party. Slowly, we tried to curtail the questions by mentally preparing people. Of course, that doesn't ensure that sensitive topics don't arise. It's inevitable that someone mentions something. I'm hoping going forward that we can focus on the happiness of the moment. (And in exciting news, I think we found photographer!) We'll see.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

I cheated on Elle!

One thing guys may never understand about the fairer sex is our attachment to our hairdressers. I left the San Francisco area three years ago and since then, have not replaced nor cheated on Elle. Instead, I pay the price of a plane ticket, approximately every three months, just to get to the proximity of my beloved hairdresser. This does not include the price of a cut or color.

In the world of finance, it makes little sense. And I understand this as I do indeed still balance my checkbook (and did harass Bank of America when then accidentally shorted me $5 - it was the principle). However, Elle is not just anyone. I've known her since I was 17 years old and we've been good friends since. She's done hair for over 10 years and seeing I'm one of those people that seems to like drastic changes on a consistent basis (only when it comes to my hair - odd, yes), she has yet to steer me wrong. That said, every time I try a new stylist, I receive a new point of view on what I should do and sometimes that too is fun. I am fortunate to say that I have yet to have a "bad do."

When Elle said that she could not bestow her fabulousness on me prior to my engagement party on Saturday. I thought the hair could wait. Then I looked in the mirror (yes, we're all vain occasionally) and decided, it was time to try someone in Chicago. Groupon steered me towards J Gordon Designs. The irony, I didn't actually purchase the Groupon, I simply reviewed the salon on Yelp and called to see if they could put me. Plus, the salon is a measly block from my apartment. My stylist and I had a lot in common. My hair is darker than I anticipated, but it looks great. Not to mention, the checkbook is a little more full. We'll see if this becomes a habit.