RISING…AND SHINING: An Interview with Joyce Trimuel
We’re finally able to catch up with Joyce Trimuel, Vice President and Branch Manager of Chubb & Son’s Kansas City branch.
UMM: Joyce, thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to give our readers a snapshot on who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re headed.
Joyce: Stella, huge congratulations are in order for the launch of your online magazine. I’m incredibly excited for you! And, I am grateful for the opportunity to share a bit of my journey with you and your readers. I am always humbled when special opportunities are presented to me and this is definitely one of them.
UMM: Tell me a little bit about your childhood. Where are you originally from and when you were a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up and why?
Joyce: I am from the South Side of Chicago, 79th & Damen to be exact and my parents (my Dad passed in 2013) have been in the same house since 1968. I am also a PROUD product of the Chicago Public School system. I share that because there is often a misconception that our public school system isn’t effective. I, along with many others are living proof that you can live in the inner City and get a good education.
Growing up, my Dad was a small business owner and truck driver and my Mom assisted him with the family business. While I did not have a lot of exposure to corporate America, I knew that I was going to college as it was expected in our household. My Mom often reminded my sister and me, that our only job was to go to school and get good grades. My Mama didn’t play when it came to grades and exceptional behavior in the classroom!
As a child, I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician. My thought process was that I loved children, so this would be an ideal career. However, I quickly changed my mind when I fully understood the amount of math and science that was required. I then decided on doing something in business. I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but I knew I had options.
UMM: You currently work for Chubb & Son, one of the nation’s premier Property & Casualty insurance companies, as Vice President and Branch Manager of their Kansas City branch. Walk our readers through the path that led you to Chubb and the journey that ultimately not only landed you in the Branch Manager’s role but also made history by making you the first female African-American branch manager in the US.
Joyce: My career at Chubb began 18 years ago. I always jokingly tell people that I started when I was 10 years old. Ha! But, I’ll be honest; I just kind of landed at Chubb. I was headed into my junior year of college and sought out internship opportunities for the summer through a program called INROADS. INROADS was a blessing to me because again, I had no “connections” in corporate America. As a finance major and INROADS intern, I was given introductions to Chubb and several other corporations. Truth be told, Chubb was at the bottom of my list. As a 19 year old, nothing about insurance seemed exciting! I went through the interview process with Chubb and three other companies and received an offer from Chubb and a pharmaceutical firm. My decision to join Chubb that summer was based solely on the location of the office. I didn’t have a car and I knew I could easily make it downtown each day. Also, the thought of working in what was then the “Sears Tower” had major appeal. I wish I had a more pronounced thought process in choosing Chubb, but 18 years later, several promotions, and a couple of moves, it’s been a win- win for everyone.
The first 10 years of my career was spent in various underwriting functions. I was eager to learn and do an exceptional job, so I was always raising my hand for the stretch assignments and special projects. The fact that I was and remain mobile also gave me a competitive edge as I am willing to move to just about anywhere for the right opportunity. Case and point, in 2007, I moved to Washington, DC and became the regional marketing manager for that region. Talk about the time of my life! In DC, I not only learned another side of the business, but this is where I really understood the importance of building and maintaining my personal brand and I experienced advocacy firsthand. I could go on and on about the relationships I’ve developed during my time in DC. I am externally grateful for my “board of directors” there.
I sometimes refer to my time in DC as, the “scrimmage” game and my promotion to Kansas City in 2012 as “game time”. You are correct, I am the first and only woman of color in Chubb’s 130+ year history to manage a branch operation, but please know, I will not be the last. Having experienced advocacy and people being a champion of me, I am exhilarated to be in a position to use my seat at the table to do the same for others.
UMM: What are some of the causes you’re passionate about and what organizations, if any, are you actively involved in?
Joyce: Since my dreams of becoming a pediatrician were short lived, I still very much love children and am a champion of education, especially students who reside in the urban core.
While in DC, I became a licensed foster parent where I provided weekend respite support for children in foster care. For me, this was the next best thing to becoming a pediatrician as I was able to take care of children in transition.
Since moving to KC, I have been elected to serve on the board of KIPP Endeavor Academy, a chapter middle school in KC. Additionally, in my role as branch manager, for the last two years, my team and I have hosted more than 100 high school seniors in our office for career day. This is a daylong program where we take these students through interviewing best practices, resume writing, dressing for success, and dining etiquette. I believe it is extremely important that our children see people like you and me in a professional setting. If anything, I hope it is aspirational and that they can see themselves differently.
UMM: Out of all of your accomplishments, and I’m sure there are many, what are you most proud of and why?
Joyce: I am most proud of the work that I was able to achieve as the 2014 Chair of Chubb’s Multicultural Development Council (MDC). As an employee resource group, under my leadership, the MDC was able to rekindle our brand as a collective body that advocates for and provides career development opportunities for people of color preparing them for officer level leadership roles. What am I most proud of was the creation and implementation of Project Ignite. From the ground up, we built a cross functional program that gave 18 multicultural officers the opportunity to work on and solve an issue of strategic importance to the organization and present their recommendations to our most senior executives. Project Ignite was also a great way to showcase the talent of these individuals to key decision makers throughout the organization. Since the conclusion of the program, several of the Ignite participants have received promotions and/ or moved into expanded roles. Additionally, we are also now beginning to see their recommendations take shape in different parts of the company.
UMM: Who has been most influential in your life and what type of impact have they made?
Joyce: My parents both have been incredibly influential in much of my success. They taught me the importance of hard work, being a person of integrity and giving 110% of yourself all the time. I also admire my Mom because she is a true woman of faith and she has a real prayer life. All of my success is a direct result of having a Mama who intercedes for me DAILY. You have no idea how her prayers have helped me through some of my toughest moments and biggest let downs.
UMM: That’s enough about business. Give our readers a glimpse into Joyce’s personal life. Nothing too personal (lol). What do you like to do for fun?
Joyce: Outside of work, I enjoy being in the company of good friends. You can find me hosting intimate gatherings at my home among friends and I’ve even coined them- “Cocktails and conversation” and “Fireside Chat”. For me, great conversation is life giving and refreshing.
As mentioned previously, I also am very active in the community, so that keeps me busy as well.
I also believe that in order to operate at my best, I must take care of myself. So, at 4:40am each morning, I pry myself out of the bed and make my way to the gym for a good 60 minute workout. For me, it’s nothing like leaving the gym at 6:30am knowing that I’ve accomplished something important and that I’ve done something good for myself. It just makes me feel like a boss!
UMM: We’re almost done (smile). If given the opportunity to change any aspect of your journey, what would it be and what would you do differently?
Joyce: I can honestly say that I don’t want a do-over on any part(s) of my journey. Everything that has happened in my life up to this point has been what’s best for me. While in the midst of some of it, it was uncomfortable and challenging, but on the other side, things always worked out.
I will be honest (and vulnerable) and admit that I haven’t always managed my personal life with the same passion and rigor that I use in managing my professional life. In acknowledging this and saying it out loud, I’ve become more present in making the necessary adjustments.
UMM: Corporate America is slowly evolving from male-dominated industries such as insurance, and welcoming not only women but African-American women in roles such as yours. What words of encouragement can you give our readers who are on a similar path as yours but need that extra push to give them the confidence to continue to pursue those opportunities.
Joyce: Stella, you are correct, the face of the insurance industry is changing and it’s happening at a rapid pace. When you look at the % of people in the insurance industry that are set to retire in the next 5-10 years, a lot of opportunities will be available. My words of advice to those who can relate to me and my journey, is that effective networking is a must. And by networking, I am not talking about going to an event and handing out your business cards. Your network must consist of people who do not look like you, people who are in positions of power, and people who’ve experienced your work product and who will advocate for you. Don’t be mistaken, this type of protégé/ sponsor relationship is earned. You have to be so good at what you do that people are willing to do this for you.
Additionally, I have to sometimes remind myself to “not play small, ever!” Reality is, there will be discouragement along the way and some people will not be supportive of your aspirations. It’s in those moments that you settle in and focus on being your best self, with or without others cheering you along.
UMM: Finally, what’s next on the corporate ladder for you?
Joyce: Great question, but I am not particularly settled on what my next move and/ or position will be.
I am currently pursuing an Executive MBA at Washington University in St. Louis, so I am doing a bit of soul searching. I have a lot of years left in my career and I enjoy what I do, but I want to remain open to the possibilities. We shall see!
UMM: Joyce is definitely making major moved in the community as well as the corporate arena! We will keep in touch with Joyce to see what she’s up to and where her journey takes her. Not only is Joyce RISING…AND SHINING, she is also a BLACK GIRL THAT ROCKS!!!
Until next time…Love Self First…the rest will follow!