Myrna Estrada, vice president and regional general manager for Liberty Mutual’s Safeco Insurance Central Region, has truly climbed the corporate ladder. Her career with the company began when she was just 19 years old as the personal assistant to the vice president of the underwriting department. She later went on to be a personal lines underwriter. She has also worked in the technology services department and has been in the sales and distribution department since the latter part of the ‘90s.
Myrna now manages the distribution of products to more than one million customers, partnering with more than 6,000 agents in a six-state area. She feels blessed and thankful for her long career with Liberty Mutual and the opportunities it has provided her.
Myrna is also one of the featured speakers at Plano Profile’s 17th annual Women in Business Summit on Friday, September 28 at the Hilton Dallas/Plano Granite Park Hotel. Click here for tickets.
Follow along as Myrna reveals how to be young and successful – as a mother.
Growing up, I really didn’t have dreams of what I would be; the focus was on survival. I was one of eight children born into a pretty rough part of Chicago and my family struggled financially. I set the bar pretty low for myself as a child. It wasn’t until I married and had children that I began to dream of doing well and raising a family I could provide for. Ultimately what got me here is my competitive spirit and an incredibly strong work ethic that my parents instilled in me from an early age.
What has surprised me the most about my promotion to vice president is how many people look to me for coaching and mentoring, not only from members of my team but even beyond that. It’s very humbling. When looking for a mentor, it is important to find someone who is a good listener, willing to be honest and direct with you, and able to provide tactical advice versus only strategic advice. I find that often people go directly to strategic vision coaching when the tactical work has not been done. Both are important.
Fostering Positive Change
Often times people want to hear a quick solution to the diversity problem in corporate America. The reality of it is that we need diversity in the pipeline in order to have diversity in our workplaces, and the pipeline needs to be filled at all levels in order to see advancement. That is something we should all be talking about—what is it going to take to get a diverse pipeline? It is only then that we will have the ability to take advantage of a diverse candidate pool for future leaders.
“That is something we should all be talking about – what is it going to take to get a diverse pipeline?”
I don’t have a college degree. After high school, my older siblings and I worked to contribute to the family household and we ultimately sent my younger siblings to college. I did start taking college classes at night after work, but found that I preferred investing my time in my career. Normally my advice for young people is to not take my path; if I had an education, I probably would have been promoted much sooner. But if you don’t have a degree, don’t be discouraged. If you work hard and focus on being the absolute best at everything you do, your talent will be hard to overlook.
I have two sons, and I have struggled with juggling my duty as a mother and my duty as a professional their entire lives. The key is to have supportive people in your corner. When my kids were teenagers, I was traveling for work a lot, and my husband and ex-husband were so incredibly supportive. My boys were very understanding too; it was tough for them when I was gone, but at the same time they witnessed how I was so fulfilled internally because of my career, and they are proud of me for my accomplishments.
What is it like to work for the same company for more than three decades?
It’s been amazing. There have been two acquisitions since I started, and I always felt like each new company was the absolute right fit for me, which is unique. Every time we were acquired, I felt like it was a better company than the previous one. When you combine that with the promotions the company has given me, I just feel so blessed.
What advice do you have for young women trying to advance in their careers?
I have always worked very hard and did my absolute best in everything I was involved in, and that has led to the promotions for me. I helped grow the business—for example, back when I started, our name was almost completely unheard of in Texas and we had maybe $180 million in premium, and now we have more than $1 billion.
The best job you have is the one you have right now. I am a firm believer in that you do the very best in what you are doing in the moment and that will open opportunities for you in the future. Right out of high school I joined a small software company with just 10 employees creating software for accountants, and I was the office administrative employee that did everything from shipping to copying software, etc. I loved it, but the company didn’t succeed after a couple of years of business. So when I started working for the insurance company, they found themselves using computers for the first time and they didn’t really know what to do with them, but I did! All of the experiences from my administrative role really opened the door for me to ultimately manage a team that worked on the technology for Liberty Mutual. That wouldn’t have happened unless I embraced that first role.
“The best job you have is the one you have right now.”
What tips do you have for fellow moms who also work full-time?
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When I decided to have children and decided to work full time, I went through the mom-shaming from stay-at-home moms and it was really difficult. I used to make excuses to them that I had to work for financial reasons, even though I really didn’t. I knew in my heart that I could never be a stay at home mom, because I was way too driven and needed more. There is nothing wrong with that. If you feel the same way, do not be ashamed.
It is really important to have a job that is flexible and that your employer understands your situation. I can remember my kids being in their teenage years and I would get up for a business trip and find myself in tears because I didn’t want to leave them. If this is you, know that you are not alone. But at the same time, my boys, who are now in their early 20s, are the most grateful and supportive kids. They don’t resent me for the time I was away. They see how hard I work, and that drives them to do the same.
How can companies foster diversity?
There used to be a lack of awareness and just a general lack of understanding the concept of diversity. I am so impressed with where we are today. Liberty Mutual encourages all employees to get involved in the six Employee Resource Groups they offer, and I am very involved in the diversity and inclusion efforts of our company.
The outlook on diversity needs to transition from doing it because it is the right thing to do, to doing it because it will make our organizations better. When we made that transition years ago is when we really changed the makeup of our company and we experienced measurable success.
“Often times in an environment that is predominantly male, you need a male ally.”
What advice do you have for fellow women in business?
An “ah-ha” moment for me happened in the last couple of years when I was really looking at my allies at work. Often times in an environment that is predominately male, you need a male ally. You need them to help you in the moments when you are not being heard. Find those men and trust in them, because they are very likely already noticing the problems you are facing and would be willing to come to your aid. Just don’t be afraid to say that you need their help.
My entire career I would look around a room and would find that I was the youngest, or the oldest, or the only woman, or the only Latina. It could be that you think you are the only one with children or the only one that doesn’t have a master’s degree. I call these “the onlys” and they can feel lonely. Do not dwell in the onlys—they do not define you. All you can do is put it behind you and focus on being the absolute best at what you do. Quality work transcends everything!
“Do not dwell in the onlys – they do not define you.”
Join us at Plano Profile’s 17th annual Women in Business Summit to hear more from Myrna! Click here for tickets.
PLANO PROFILE’S 17TH ANNUAL WOMEN IN BUSINESS SUMMIT
Learn how North Texas’ Wonder Women have been a driving force in their industries and what it takes to go above and beyond what is expected.
Bringing together over 400 of the most respected women from global enterprises, non-profits, government and SMB businesses of the North Texas community—Plano Profile’s Women in Business conference celebrates, unites and empowers DFW’s leading ladies.
This one-of-a-kind learning and business event features special guest speakers, panel discussions and ample networking opportunities. This is your chance to learn from the best and share your best.
It’s time to play a bigger game.
MEET OUR SPEAKERS
Merrilee Kick, CEO/Founder of BuzzBallz/Southern Champion
Jana Etheridge, Managing VP, Chief of Staff and Customer Office, Financial Services, Capital One
Myrna Estrada, Vice President and Regional General Manager for Safeco Insurance
Dana Beckman, Director of Corporate Affairs at Alliance Data
Praveena Nathawat, Talent Management and Diversity at Ericsson
Maxie McCoy, author and writer obsessed with giving women the tools they need to believe in themselves
Lauren Przybyl, Fox 4 Good Day Anchor
Jasmin Brand, CEO of Launch DFW and President at Darby James
10:30 am – 11:30 am Registration and Networking
11:30 am – 4:00 pm
- Keynote Speaker
- Networking / Break-out Sessions
- Panel Discussion
- Networking / Break-out Sessions
4:00 pm – 6:00 pm Cocktail Party
While the event proudly celebrates the progress and success of women in business, gentlemen are welcome to attend and learn from our powerful female leaders.