Keeping an open mind to new opportunities
Abbie MacMillan started with Great-West Life in 1992 as a disability insurance specialist and rose through the ranks to be appointed to her current position of vice-president, sales, employee benefits in January 2013. What did it take to get there? MacMillan says keeping an open mind and a willingness to take on new challenges contributed to her career growth.
Right now, I still think there is a bit of an imbalance in very senior roles – I think that will evolve over time. Women bring different perspectives to the table...
“This meant I took on new roles that took me way outside of my comfort zone and I also moved around the country to pursue them.” She adds that what she is most proud of in her career are the relationships she has built. “Over the past 22 years, I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of really great people…I get the biggest sense of accomplishment from helping other people succeed so whether it was helping advisors solve problems or coaching and developing a team, I’d like to think that I have helped people move forward and be successful.”
The challenges she has faced during her career have changed over time, she says. Initially the challenge was to learn the business and build credibility. “To do so quickly, I made sure that I over delivered on my promises. I also pursued industry educational opportunities early on that helped give me the knowledge and the credentials that would help me be taken more seriously.”
At present, the ongoing challenge has been to maintain a work/life balance. “The business can become all consuming. When I realized that my life was becoming all about my career, I engaged a personal coach to help me redefine my priorities – this helped me immensely.”
Asked whether over her career she has seen women making significant progress in the industry, MacMillan observed that many more young women are in the business than when she started out.
Driven and smart
“They are driven and smart. I can see that they will work their way up to more senior roles within our industry over time. Right now, I still think there is a bit of an imbalance in very senior roles – I think that will evolve over time. Women bring different perspectives to the table and I think these perspectives are what will help our industry evolve.”
Her career advice for young women entering the industry: “Don’t second guess yourself – be confident in who you are and acknowledge your own strengths. I spent the first 10 years of my career trying to be what I thought was necessary to be successful in this business; once I felt confident enough to just be myself then things got a lot more fun!”
A native of St. Catharines, Ontario, MacMillan is a graduate of Brock University, (Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing Major). She became a Jack Canfield Certified Success Principles trainer in 2011.