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Women in Leadership

Learn how Eileen takes a unique approach to her work and how she strives to keep a good work/life balance.

Meet Eileen

To what do you attribute your success as a leader for Optum Workers’ Comp and Auto No-fault?

I attribute my success to having a mindset that is always trying to better understand the markets we serve and how our programs, products and services help address the issues our clients face. At times, we are more interested in working on things we find interesting, but if they do not address our clients’ business needs – our contributions won’t be valued.

What are the main challenges for female leaders?

As a female leader, I know it is critical to resonate with colleagues both male and female. So I use my voice and my choice of words to connect across all genders. At times, female leaders use words that depict feelings versus thoughts or ideas. While both emotions and ideas are important, they are two very different ways to express ourselves. At times, the feelings can out shadow the actual idea so it gets lost and missed. I try to speak in a way that highlights the thought and idea and is clearly understood by everyone in the room. 

How do you balance work and life responsibilities?

Balancing work and life responsibilities is a challenge faced by all leaders. I set my priorities for both work and life on a daily basis and look for ways to meet all required.

One way that I do this is by focusing my energy on being “Here and Now” for both family and work responsibilities. By choosing where to keep my focus, I can keep my work and personal life balance scales in check.

I have also learned to ask for help - either with my responsibilities at home or with my priorities at work. Keeping the two scales balanced is critical to effectively co-exist with the demands we all have around work and family. 

What has been the most significant barrier in your career?

The most significant barrier in my career has been whether or not I have been up and ready for the challenge at hand. I believe I am the master of my destiny based on the choices I make and the energy I direct to any project, initiative, or task. It is easy to point in other directions when things don't go as we want, but the question always remains: "did I do all that was necessary to meet the objective". If the answer is yes and still I didn’t achieve the intended goal, I go back to the drawing board to review the tapes and see if I missed something.

What is your “Why?”

The power of my purpose or my "why" is to look for opportunities to deliver value to our clients through our products and services. Simply being a vendor or supplier is  not reason enough to want to go the extra mile for me. I always ask myself "If I have a choice in accessing these products, would I choose these services and why"? These are the same questions I ask myself as a consumer. I want each of our clients and prospective clients to understand the value, benefit and potential positive outcomes from using our solutions as they answer their challenges. The personal satisfaction I get from knowing that our solution is leaner, meaner, cooler and easier to use are the things that keep me focused and motivated.

What is your “Secret Sauce” i.e what are the 3 – 5 principles that you have discovered and executed that have contributed to your success?

  1. Finish what I start
  2. How does "this" fit into the bigger picture?
  3. Show up every day and do your very best
  4. Failure is not an option - figure out how to make it work!

Was there one individual who opened doors for you?

I have been blessed with amazing mentors in my career from whom I have learned a great deal. They also inspire me to be an active mentor with our newer leaders.

I started working in a P&C insurance company  in the late 1980s with a management team that was nearly all men. My boss however, was a seasoned female executive classically trained as a nurse. She showed me how to think broadly and to look for the two to three key things to address as part of whatever it was I was doing. She was strong but sensitive in her approach; direct, but not disrespectful in her communication style; and she had the tough conversations as needed - with me and others - to make sure we addressed blockers or obstacles.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

My greatest accomplishment is having understood early on that getting a great education and graduate degree was critical for me in breaking my "immigrant" mindset. Although I was born in the USA, my parents emigrated from Cuba and did not have the skills or financial means to provide an education that would give me a fighting chance to break the poverty cycle. I was resourceful in high school and focused on getting exceptional grades to place me in a scholarship  eligible position. Although I do not actively use my graduate training as a core part of my job, I use it every day to understand how to better communicate with colleagues and others needed to meet the objectives of my position.

What is your superpower?

My super power(s) are resilience and perseverance. Staying the course and correcting as needed, following through, continuing to fight the fight and never giving up is at the core of who I am. There will always be other competing priorities, changes in market dynamics, shifts in head and tail winds. Managing through those dynamics in a manner that is focused on a positive outcome vs. a stubborn ideal is something that I have developed as a skill set over the years

What are your favorite questions to ask those you lead?

  1. If you were CEO for a day, what changes would you make to              ?
  2. What makes you want to get up and go to work in the mornings?
  3. When you aren't working, how do you recharge yourself to allow your creativity and energy to flow?

What are you outside interests?

I am an avid boater and lover of the ocean. I try to spend as much time as possible, in, on, or around the ocean. I also love to read a great book and enjoy all genres of movies and music.

I also enjoy and like to cultivate great friendships. Spending time with loved ones and folks that are meaningful to my life is a treasure that I do not take for granted and that I seek out as often as possible

What goal do you have for the company?

My goal for our company is to be a place where female employees can develop leadership skills as part of their career development trajectory. This would occur as a function of how the organization encourages and supports advancement of women in leadership positions through training, seminars, executive development programs, and how positions are posted and sourced to attract diversity in these key roles.

What advice would you give other women interested in advancing to a leadership position?

I would say set your goals and put a timeline on when you plan on arriving at each milestone. As with any good project, you need a beginning, a middle and an end. I would also encourage other women to be brave and courageous in stretching their thinking and aspirations to be leaders.

Diversity and Inclusion initiatives require our willingness as female leaders to personally put ourselves out there to be part of the fabric of our organization. Throwing your hat in the ring is sometimes necessary to let our leadership know you are interested and willing to do what is needed to prepare for your own career development.

EILEEN FUENTES RAMALLO

Ancillary Product Development