Best's Review



Next Wave
Year in Review

Lessons learned in 2019 will be useful to take into the new year.
  • Carly Burnham
  • December 2019
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Just the other day, I was reflecting on the fact that I have been writing this column for about three years now. Last year, I spent more time on insurtech and technological trends.

Those topics are interesting, but they're not my passion. This year, I was able to focus on career development in each month's column, and I'm glad I did.

It was a reminder that even as technological change continues to speed up, people are what make the insurance ecosystem the interesting place that it is.

People and the choices they make drive the direction of our industry. We can easily be distracted by the shiny new things that come our way. But, at the end of the day, we all must remember that any shiny thing we purchase should meet the goal of facilitating the transfer of risk so that our customers are protected when they need it most. To understand which shiny things we ought to invest in, we must understand that end goal, and the mechanisms by which we can achieve it. In order to best understand, we must invest first in ourselves and the teams of people around us.

As I prepare for 2020, I am thinking of what I have learned in 2019 and how I can use those lessons best next year.

Here are three key takeaways from my professional year:

Resilience is key. My career took turns this year that I never would have expected. I went through challenges in my day job that were surprising and left me wondering where I had made a wrong turn.

However, I looked at every unplanned incident as an opportunity to learn and choose my next step. I've not traditionally been a glass half-full kind of person, but I tried it on this year, and it's been refreshing. I will actively try to engage that optimism in 2020.

Vulnerability can open doors. Some of the surprises led to having candid conversations with my managers and colleagues that I would not have had in the past.

But, asking for help when I needed it and expressing where I thought I was weak enabled my manager to assist me in ways he would not have been able to if I had kept quiet.

I still think it's important to know if your vulnerability will be respected, but if you're in an environment where you can be candid, I say try it out. Start with something small and if the risk is rewarded, you can grow trust within your team and begin to help each other overcome your weaknesses.

As I move in to 2020, I will strive to be the type of professional who assists those when they share their vulnerabilities and who doesn't hide behind a facade of strength.

Value yourself at least as much as you value others. We've all experienced Imposter Syndrome. When it is at its worst, for me, it can lead to second guessing myself and taking advice or opinions that I would otherwise disregard. This has led to me doing things like designing presentations in styles that don't suit my personality or re-doing work that was perfectly well done because one person objected to a single element. In either case, I ended up having to adjust to fit what I knew was best after wasting time.

While these are small examples, they are the type of things that I will look to avoid in 2020. If I remember my worth, I will perform better and engage with my strengths.

I've learned a lot this year. These three takeaways are the ones that I hope I can hold on to, and if you have had similar experiences this year, I hope that you bring that growth into 2020.

Carly Burnham, CPCU, MBA, has been in the insurance industry since 2004. She blogs at and can be reached at

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