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Women’s Leadership Series: Desiree Day

This article is part of a series of posts from National Life’s Women’s Inclusion Network. WIN is a concentration of bright and forward-thinking women (and men!) who collaborate on the leadership development, diversification, and empowerment of National Life’s female field affiliates and home office employees.

Desiree Day joined National Life Group in April 2013 as an internal sales associate (ISA). While on the Sales Desk she pursued her J.D. from Texas A&M University School of Law. Upon completion of law school, she joined the Advanced Markets team in February of 2019. Desiree is dedicated to educating agents on advanced planning concepts including but not limited to business succession planning, tax planning/ strategy, and estate planning. She specializes in affluent and emerging affluent markets of Premium Finance. In her free time, she loves to cook and has a long-time dream of releasing a cookbook with some of her favorite recipes she’s invented over the years.

It’s been almost a year of working remote within the COVID-19 Pandemic… How are you doing? 

Some days are better than others, but looking back and reflecting over the past year, I am definitely doing better than I was at this time last year when everything was just beginning with the pandemic.  The transition was difficult as I have a very active toddler and balancing work and home life was a challenge. But as with everything we adjusted and made it work!  

The pandemic has been effecting us all in unique ways, what would you say was your “Rose” and the “Thorn” of this past year?  

My rose has been spending time with my husband and 3-year-old baby girl, Skylar. My husband is in the fitness industry so his whole world turned upside down when the pandemic started. To see him rise above all the challenges and be an awesome provider  made me fall even more in love with him. Simultaneously, watching my daughter grow has been bittersweet this past year. It made me realize just how much I was missing out by not being with her for nearly 10 hours of the day. Having the opportunity to spend that time together is something I will forever cherish and never take for granted.  

My thorn was work life balance. I am the type to go all in on everything I do and while I may not say much, my actions are everything to me. So, with the transition to remote work, it took me a little while to establish balance between working and non-working boundaries.  

What did you want to be when you “grew up”?  

I’ve always imagined myself in the legal field, but it was not until I graduated from college that I began to explore various aspects of different industries.  Now I can say I have the best of both worlds with being an attorney and working in the financial services industry, which I ABSOLUTELY love! 

What was your education and career pathway that brought you to where you are now?  

Brace yourself because this is a long one! Prior to joining NLG in April of 2013, I worked for a small boutique financial planning firm in Las Colinas/ Irving, TX. I was fresh out of college and responsible for managing what was then titled “A and B” clients as the “Point of Sales” individual. Basically, the owner and CEO of the firm would sit down with the clients, go over their financials and make recommendations accordingly. My job was to get them to sign the physical paperwork to make the transactions come to life. It was a lot of pressure; here I am, fresh out of college, a young woman re-explaining to these older and high net worth individuals what we were planning to do with the funds they have worked hard all their lives to accumulate. Needless to say, if the deal fell through it would fall on my shoulders. This experience was a wake-up call for me. It taught me a deeper level of discipline and set the stage for my transition to National Life Group. Two years later, I had an interview with National Life and secured my role as an Internal Sales Associate (ISA) on the Sales Desk.  

Simultaneously, I knew I wanted to do something in the legal field, so I applied to several law schools and was ecstatic when my acceptance letters began to arrive. I was thankful to have some time to decide on my law school decision as I had just begun my new role with National Life. After a month into working for National Life I knew that it was a company I needed and wanted to remain a part of. I came to a crossroads, “Do I stop pursuing my lifelong dream of going to law school or should I settle into my sales career with National Life?”. After careful consideration, I decided to follow my heart and do both!  

I enrolled part-time with Texas A&M School of Law, balancing night classes while also working as an ISA during the day for 3.5 years. During this time, I began to explore how my law degree could translate to a role within National Life without working specifically in the Law Department. My colleague, Susan Jennings, encouraged me to meet with other National Life employees who held Juris Doctorates across its various departments. This is when I was first introduced to Ellen Lehmert and the Advanced Markets team at National Life. It was at this time when I knew in my heart and mind that I needed to join this team once I had graduated. My journey towards solidifying my role within the Advanced Markets department did not come without obstacles, but I knew deep down that was where I was supposed to be, and it would all fall into place. I just needed to stay the course, stay persistent, and continue to work as hard as I could. Now the rest is history and I have been with Advanced Markets for three years now. 

What do you like most about what you do at National Life?  

There are so many aspects of National Life that I absolutely love and appreciate so it is hard for me to just choose one! However, if I had to say one thing, it would be the true understanding and opportunity that if you work hard enough, the sky is really the limit here. I would say that is evidenced by my journey. I have truly grown up at National Life, starting when I was 24 years old… now 8 years later I feel that my personal and professional growth and overall experience is unmatched.  

Has the financial services / insurance industry landscape changed during your career? If so, what changes have you seen… 

I have been in the industry for almost ten years and have definitely seen changes. One of the biggest changes I have witnessed is how social media and other mediums are used to spread awareness and knowledge about financial services.  

In honor of women’s history month, is there a woman who has inspired you in your life? 

Absolutely! Hands down, my mother. She gave me life and continues to give me life through her wisdom. She is also an attorney and the one who inspired me in my own journey towards the legal field. Her demonstration of resilience, compassion and loyalty continues to empower me.  

In September of 2012, she had a stroke that left her in a medically induced coma for 5 days. The doctors told us that she would recover but most likely be paralyzed without being able to function on her own. Thankfully, she came out of it 100% recovered and although she does have some short-term memory issues, physically she is just as she was before her stroke. She walks just about 4-5 miles per day and is probably in better physical shape than me! A pivotal moment for the both of us was her ability to see me walk down the aisle on my wedding day in August 2014. We both did not think we would have that shared moment together after her stroke. 

What advice would you give to young women who are just beginning their careers? 

  1. Always be open to opportunities,  
  1. Learn to lean into productive and constructive feedback,  
  1. Be curious in all that you do and NEVER stop learning  
  1. Most importantly find a mentor- everyone needs wise counsel! 

What leadership quality do you most admire and aspire to? 

Transparency. I think most people might say honesty, integrity, loyalty. but I feel if a leader is willing to be transparent that it encompasses all the other pertinent leadership qualities. To be transparent means you are honest and trustworthy because you can be open.  

Do you have a cause or a favorite “Do good” passion? 

My motto is “blessed to be a blessing.” I am very involved in my church community and we serve multiple avenues in assisting less fortunate individuals. Any cause that I can use my position and privilege in life with the resources I have been blessed with continues to be my passion. 

What attracted you to National Life and what would you tell someone who is considering an opportunity with us? 

The opportunities. At National Life I have had the opportunity to chart my own path and not be condemned for expressing my passion and dreams. I would say as someone who has grown up at the company, I feel it has given me the bandwidth to truly explore and expand into the person I am today. If you are looking for a company that is amenable to that growth and they have the work ethic to prove it, then National Life is the right place for you! 

Any other words of wisdom that you’d like to share? 

I want to emphasize, STAY CURIOUS! It is easy to get wrapped up in your day-to-day and be laser focused on doing your job. But it is an important life skill to always ask “why?” and engage in the work you are doing. Doing this will always lead to innovation and growth. 

Thank you, Des! 

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