The Value of Mentorship Across the Career Lifecycle

Sponsored by The Hanover Insurance Group

Emily Sarkisian and Laurie Webb

Photos courtesy of The Hanover Insurance Group.

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“I have spent my entire 30-year insurance career at The Hanover Insurance Group,” says Laurie Webb, Regional Vice President of Commercial Lines.

Webb is currently responsible for the growth and profitability of the company’s commercial business for the Maine branch — a role she’s held for three years since transitioning from middle market underwriting director, a position she held for eight years.

Her colleague, Emily Sarkisian is a Statistical Reporting Analyst II and is responsible for preparing state surcharge reports, initiating payments of surcharges and preparing monthly account reconciliations. Sarkisian began her career at The Hanover as an intern, and noted, “The Hanover does a great job of providing interns with the tools to network with just about anyone.” In fact, “my internship along with the connections I was able to make ultimately helped me land my current role.”

What do Webb and Sarkisian have in common? Webb is Sarkisian’s mentor as part of a pilot for The Hanover’s mentorship program. Through employee feedback, The Hanover recognized that mentorship was needed and this was a goal across all of the BRGs. A workstream of members of our BRGs was put together to help ideate and design the pilot, and the enterprise is continuing to work with the BRGs to officially launch the program. “A tremendous amount of thought was put into our current program, with the team taking close to a year to stage a  pilot,” shares Webb. “The purpose of the pilot was to be sure we were providing the appropriate resources and support to make the program a success for all participants.”

Reflecting on their time together, both Webb and Sarkisian feel that they have been positively impacted by the program. Webb notes that “the opportunity to be Emily’s mentor,” is one of her favorite perks at the company.

To learn more about how mentorship benefited Sarkisian and Webb, why they love The Hanover and more, we reached out to both of them. Here’s what they had to say.

How has having or being a mentor enriched your own work experience?

Sarkisian: I started to work full time in my first corporate role in June 2020, the start of COVID-19, in a remote capacity. This made meeting people and networking very challenging as a new employee. This mentorship program has truly enriched my work experience because I have been able to make connections with people who I may not have met otherwise.

Laurie is the perfect example — she works out of an office in Maine and is the RVP of Commercial Lines. We work in two completely different states and departments, so the odds of our paths crossing organically were lower.

With Laurie as a mentor, I not only have gained a new connection at The Hanover, but I have also a friend. Through this experience, Laurie has taught me about hard work, standing up for yourself, connecting with people, etc., and how to balance a leadership role with your personal life. Sometimes, people think that in order to be in these leadership roles, your personal life gets thrown on the back burner. Laurie has shown me that you can do both.

Laurie has shared experiences about obstacles she has encountered throughout her journey, and ultimately how she overcame them. She highlights the importance of how you handle yourself in these moments when times get tough. As a leader, your team looks to you for guidance when obstacles occur, so making sure to always be transparent with your team, embracing all emotions, and practicing positive projection are just some of the ways Laurie has taught me to deal with such obstacles. I’ve now learned to allow myself to feel whatever emotions I have initially, but then I channel these emotions to strategically and transparently discuss the situation with my manager and work to resolve it. This mentorship truly has provided me with the tools and connections to be successful in the workplace.

Webb: The opportunity to be a mentor has helped me become a better leader. I have been in commercial lines my entire career, and most of my informal mentoring came in the form of technical or sales skills. Our new program provides unbiased pairings based on a variety of preferences and personality assessments completed by both the mentor and mentee.

The opportunity to mentor someone outside of my business unit gave me a chance to meet someone, early in their career, in an area I did not normally interact with — so I had to stretch my leadership skills and tap into resources beyond technical and sales skills.

I started my insurance career while I was in my early 20s and still working on my bachelor’s degree. Though I have had a number of informal mentors along the way, I would have loved this program early in my career. Mentorship provides a great opportunity to learn about the business and network beyond your own business unit.

Our program really strives to intersect our various business units, generations and underrepresented talent.

Do you feel like your mentorship experience has been reflective of the overall culture at The Hanover?

Sarkisian: I absolutely feel like the mentorship experience reflects the overall culture at The Hanover. As Laurie says, our core values include Collaboration, Accountability, Respect and Empowerment. All of these values are on display through our program.

Webb: Absolutely. All of our core values are evident in every aspect of this mentorship opportunity.

Collaboration and accountability seem relatively obvious, as would respect. Respect, including trust and confidentiality, are integral to our program. Emily and I were fortunate to quickly establish a high level of trust. As a leader, I believe that showing vulnerability and sharing my struggles along the way is so helpful in connecting on a personal level. I also believe that the nature of our program matching individuals outside of one’s business unit is a means to establish trust in the relationship.

I also want to mention empowerment. One of the many aspects of our program that I enjoy is that it is mentee-driven. The mentee is empowered to set their goals, create an agenda for their monthly meetings and identify areas of focus. Mentees are in the driver’s seat of our program.

Beyond mentorship, who is the most influential person in your professional life and why?

Sarkisian: Patti Norton-Gatto, the VP Assistant Corporate Controller, is the most influential person in my professional life. I have worked under Patti for the majority of my time at The Hanover, and she continues to work with me and provide me with the resources to set me up for success. Patti is such a great example of a leader and has taught me so much over the years.

Webb: Tracy Wells. Tracy served as our regional chief underwriting officer for many years prior to her retirement in 2020. She was both a sponsor and a mentor to me during the years we worked together.

Tracy challenged me to reach beyond my comfort level and, I have to say, she recognized leadership potential in me before I was ready to see it in myself. In addition to honing my underwriting and sales skills, she provided me with opportunities to participate in and lead projects, as well as to present at meetings.. She always made time for me, regardless of the demands of her own job, and was always fair and supportive.

Why have you stayed at The Hanover?

Sarkisian: The Hanover sets themselves apart from other companies. They truly care about the total well-being of their employees and understand that this is a forever changing environment. By listening to their employees' needs, they create a happier and more productive work environment for all.

Webb: I have always felt supported at The Hanover regardless of my role. I was also given the opportunity for advancement when the time was right for me, when I had built the network and tools to succeed.

In addition, more recently, I am very proud to work for a company that continues to evolve. The work that the company has done to establish successful Business Resource Groups and focus on inclusion, diversity and equity is crucial in attracting and retaining top talent. The learning opportunities provided by these groups are invaluable to becoming a better coworker, leader, ally and just an overall better person.

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