As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Jocelyn Getson.
Jocelyn Getson is the Chief Growth Officer of Bindable, the insurtech leader for digital property and casualty distribution. Jocelyn’s career encompasses identifying, building, and implementing new distribution channels, revenue streams, and customer solutions for risk-based programs. Prior to her role as Chief Growth Officer for Bindable, Jocelyn held various leadership positions in the insurtech industry including Head of SMB Strategy at Slice Labs and VP of Enterprise at Corvus Insurance.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I’ve always considered myself somewhat of a challenge-seeker, which has driven most (if not all) of my career choices. I tend to follow projects and problems that I enjoy solving, and I prefer a Rubix cube that’s mixed up to one that’s almost complete. I think this is what ultimately led me to the insurance industry — with all the rapid change and growth there is always a new problem to solve.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading at your company?
Since starting at Bindable, what I’ve found most interesting is working for a CEO who empowers me, and everyone else, to think differently, encourages us all to open a few cans of worms, and values different opinions and perspectives. The impact of a CEO who takes this approach cannot be underestimated, especially in a dynamic industry, and I’ve been very fortunate to join an organization where I am encouraged to push the envelope.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Maybe not a funny mistake, but one that I think is quite common, is seeing everything as a fire. Oftentimes when you’re new, it feels as though even the smallest mistakes are the end of the world. Because of this, early on in my career, I found myself getting too many people involved in a problem. I’ve since learned to trust my instincts more and manage my reaction so that I can contain and control a problem before creating a company-wide fire drill.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband, Steve Getson. He has been phenomenal taking care of our boys, home, dental appointments, and all of the day to day and that frees me up to focus on work. He pushes me when I look for an excuse to not take on a new challenge. You can’t do it all, and if you are lucky enough to have a supportive partner or family member, it can push you to grab the next rung in the ladder.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high-stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
Yoga has always been a go-to when I’m trying to destress — I even have a travel mat that I take with me when I am on the road. I use mindfulness as my starting point before I even dive into the task at hand. Then, after I gain some clarity and focus, I am a big note-taker. I take my old-school notebook, put pen to paper, and map out my thoughts and summarize the goal or outcome I need to achieve. Additionally, I try to lessen the chance of creating a stressful situation by prepping way ahead of time. For example, if I have an upcoming meeting or speaking engagement that is a couple of weeks out, I start the deck or speech right away. I create an outline and then just start to fill it in over time so it feels more fluid and less rushed.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
It astounds me that in this day and age so many companies still lack diversity in their executive team. Everyone at your company should feel represented in some capacity by the executive team and every one of your customers should be represented when making strategic decisions about your product or service. To take your thinking to the next level you should be challenged, enlightened, and informed by your colleagues. When you look around and everyone is the same sex, race, age, et cetera as you, then I think you are limiting your personal growth and your brand’s reach.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
The first step to creating an inclusive, representative, and equitable society is for everyone to get outside of their own bubble or comfort zone in any way that they can. For me, this means traveling, especially internationally. I believe that when you place yourself in a situation where you are the fish out of water, so to speak — and take the opportunity to truly walk in the shoes of someone else, throwing aside any preconceived notions or presumptions — you open yourself up to expand your worldview and gain a whole new perspective. Only then can you truly understand how and why we should seek out ways to be more inclusive, representative, and equitable to people around you.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
The executive team drives the company culture and their actions will always speak louder than words. The culture component falls on them because of the people they choose to hire and promote, how they go to market, and how they talk about the brand. You’re setting a tone — you need to be tuned in and make sure it resonates. I think executives should be more outwardly focused: what is happening in the market, what are competitors doing, how are consumer preferences and styles changing, how is the brand being perceived, etc. This is going to inform you on what you need to be doing to be in business 3 years from now and ways you can leapfrog from a growth perspective.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
One of the biggest misconceptions about being an executive is that we have some secret motive, or that we’re working on strategic goals unbeknownst to our team. But in reality, assuming that the strategic vision and measurable goals are openly shared and discussed throughout the organization, we’re all on the same team. Yes, there is confidential information that might be held by the executives of an organization, but any projects that are under wraps should all boil down to the same strategy and goals that every employee at the company is working towards.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
There is an assumption put on women that if we have a family that we should “naturally” be the primary caretaker. I have been in meetings surrounded by men, many of whom were fathers, where I was singled out when it came to comments like “It must be hard on your kids that you travel so much.” Even though many of my colleagues also had kids at home, I was the only one being shown this “compassionate concern” like I should feel guiltier than the men in the room. Unfortunately, this has only been amplified in the time of COVID, with so many women leaving the workforce to take care of their families, even though men are equally capable of staying at home. Being the family caretaker is hopefully a decision and not a default.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
While I don’t find it all that surprising seeing how much I love a challenge, I think many people are surprised to learn that my job is really fun. I consider work a hobby, and if I spend a couple of hours on the weekend working it is because I want to, not because I have to. I try to be a good example of a work/life balance but I probably fall short on that front.
Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
I honestly think you need to be inherently competitive. So, anyone who was an athlete in high school, or is really into video games (which are so challenging!), played an instrument, did theatre, and is motivated to give something their all can pretty much do whatever they want in life. They always say being involved in sports doesn’t build character, it reveals it, and I think that is the same at work; how do you respond to pressure? To criticism? To a bad manager? If you lose confidence or let the challenge knock you off your path, you are really only hurting yourself — and you are also the only one who can muster the confidence to get back up and try again. Don’t be afraid to lose, be pissed when you do, and channel that into trying again.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
As I mentioned earlier, working women — and especially working mothers — often face a lot of pressure from society to sacrifice their careers to raise a family. In my experience, due to unconscious bias, people can inadvertently make women feel guilty, as though a career is a selfish choice. My advice for women leaders is to actively work to not internalize this mindset, and find ways to kindly but firmly stand up for yourself and reframe the mindsets of those around you. This attitude will not only help you thrive as a leader but also set the stage for future female leaders in your organization. Aside from that, however, I am not sure I would differentiate between female and male leaders; I think everyone could use advice on helping their team thrive and I don’t think your sex plays into it unless you let it. The advice I would have is to read about, listen to, or better yet work for some really impressive leaders and incorporate a little of what they do that resonates with you. If you are always learning and adapting your own style then it should be aligned with your team. If you are managing exactly the same way you did 3 years ago or even 1 year ago, then you should probably grab lunch with a peer and get some inspiration.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
My initial reaction to this question is to say not enough, and I think that will always be my answer, because there is always more to be done. As for how I’ve contributed so far, I’ve found great value in volunteering with organizations that align with what I do. For example, I served on the Board of Directors for Cherry Street Health Services, an independent, non-profit Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) with a primary focus of providing high-quality health services to those who have little or no access to health care, regardless of income or insurance status. I also believe that I have chosen an industry, insurance, which I feel very strongly helps people at some of their hardest and most stressful times, but that really has nothing to do with my success.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- There is no secret, it is just hard work and dedication that will continue to take you to the next level. I spent a few years thinking everyone who had a big title was on a whole other level, and they were not. They are humans, who make mistakes, are not always right, and sometimes cling to bad ideas for too long. It made me trust my gut more than someone else’s title.
- Don’t over-apologize. I had a tendency to over-apologize — “Sorry I’m late,” “Sorry if this is confusing,” “Sorry to get hung up on this” — and have made an effort to reframe it to “Thank you for your patience,” or “Let me help clarify this,” because you start resolving the situation and fixing it. Also, don’t apologize for your tenacity!
- Organize yourself in whatever fashion works for you. Your company might have 12 different platforms but if you like tracking some other way, then do that and just update or link as needed. I have fallen victim to trying to use all the platforms and could never find what I needed, which is incredibly stressful and time-consuming.
- See something, say something, but build your business case first. Whether it is an idea, a new platform you think the company should be using, or an approach on how to win a piece of business; instead of throwing it out casually, take some time to think it through and summarize it in writing first. Taking the time to present ideas thoughtfully and explain my case has helped me a ton because it can help gain consensus faster and shorten the implementation or get the change you are striving for.
- Be accountable: to yourself and your team. Own your mistakes and work together to fix them — it’ll save you a lot of stress and save everyone a lot of time.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
No pressure on this question! Mine would be creating more education in high school (or even earlier) around managing finances, credit scores, interest rates when financing, rent vs. own, cost of living, understanding of career ladders, reading a contract, options on how to pay for college, the variety of industries you can work in, etc. Some of us are fortunate enough to have parents or mentors who teach us this early on, but many people figure things out the hard way, which leads to making a lot of short-sighted decisions because there is a lack of long-term perspective. The goal should be to hit the ground running after college, hopefully as close to debt-free as possible. This movement could consist of executives, industry leaders, financial planners, etc., donating time or replacing home economics with life economics. This will also help our workforce be more prepared for their roles.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The quote “Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can” has always resonated with me. I have never assumed things would be given to me and that someone would point the way, and I like that. Everything you need you already have — so just start doing.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would have to say Bethenny Frankel, because I admire her ability to be real, transparent, and approachable while remaining unapologetic in the pursuit of her goals. Plus, I am a big fan of Bravo TV, where I was first introduced to her!