Women in the Workplace | Jenny Desroches

Featuring Jenny Desroches—Senior Director of Operations, Tanner Insurance

Please tell us about yourself, your company and your career in insurance.

I’ve lived and worked in Ottawa my whole life. I currently work for Tanner Insurance Service Ltd, a brokerage celebrating 100 years of service and 50 years as an IBAO member this year. I first started as a Personal Lines Customer Representative in 2003 when there were 14 employees—now there are almost 50. 

Along with working as an insurance broker at Tanner Insurance, I am the current President for the Ottawa Insurance Brokers Association (OIBA) of which I have been a Director since 2014. I have acquired a level II RIBO license, CAIB and FCIP designations, and I’ve also taught the various modules of the CAIB designation. Being involved with the OIBA and IBAO have been a wonderful part of my career. 

I‘m also a proud mom of a 20-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old son who keep me grounded and who are my greatest achievements.

How did your career path begin and what advice has helped you along the way?

Like many people in our industry, I fell into insurance. After graduating from the University of Ottawa with a B.A. with honours in Geography, I struggled to land on a career in my field. In 1999, I applied to an agency and was hired to work in a call centre for Belair Direct while also beginning down the CIP path. After my maternity leave in 2003, my former team leader from Belair Direct told me that Tanner was looking for a Personal Lines CSR, and the rest is history! Since then I have climbed through various positions and am now their Senior Director of Operations. 

In the early days, I just followed what my parents had taught me—to work hard and do the best I could do. After having kids, going through a divorce and becoming a single Mom, I developed resiliency and just kept plowing through. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone helped me grow into a leadership role and search for the next thing. Rolling with the constant evolution of the brokerage kept me challenged.

What are three pieces of advice you would give to women in the workplace

Be your own advocate. No one is going to do it for you. If you don’t ask, you may not grab the opportunities that present themselves.

Find great mentors and confidantes. Having strong support within and out of the industry is immensely important.

Invest in yourself and never stop learning! Find what fuels you and increase your knowledge.

Looking back, what has been the most rewarding part of your career? 

Beyond acquiring the designations—especially the FCIP—it’s the great people that I’ve met along the way. The staff I have helped grow into leadership roles, the friends I’ve made, and those who supported me along this journey through an ever-changing industry. The decision to jump into the broker world allowed me to be part of a network that not only takes care of its customers, but also of each other. 

What keeps you excited about going to work every day?

I like the variety in my position. No two days are exactly the same, and that’s kept me locked in and engaged. I enjoy the dynamic nature of our industry. Even dealing with complicated situations, the investigation and research that’s required to solve a problem or improve a process is something I thrive on. 

What is the most challenging aspect of your business?

Just one? Ha! A loaded question! Although being a broker is hugely rewarding, the role is the challenge. We are at the centre of it all. Riding the line between providing great service to our clients while complying with regulatory requirements, representing multiple insurers and keeping it all together. Without the challenge though what would be the point? If it’s too easy, it’s not worth doing.

How do you stay on top of the ever-changing world of insurance?

Admittedly, I’m not always on top of it all. There I’ve said it out loud. You have to be wiling to be vulnerable sometimes. I may live and breathe my career, but it’s important for me to pursue other interests as well. My love of geography is never far away, especially while travelling. Volcanoes and natural disasters are at the top of my list—this knowledge has come in handy and I often say my two worlds have collided in my career. It’s important to step away and not work 24/7, something I’ve had to remind myself to do sometimes. 

What habit did you develop that was most helpful to you throughout your career?

To keep my funny bone and keep an open mind. Humour is important and you can’t take yourself too seriously all the time. When you carry a smile, give someone a kind word and allow yourself to be approachable, it can make a huge difference.

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