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.
Youn-Mi joined National Life in 2018 as an English/Korean bilingual Internal Sales Associate and was promoted to a Key Account Associate in April 2021.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from University of London in England, and upon graduation, worked in the UK financial market for 10 years as a certified international mortgage planning advisor. Youn-Mi was born in South Korea, but left at the age of five and grew up in Surrey, a small town outside of London. She moved to Texas for her husband’s career, and now their weekends are spent attending play dates with their 5 year old daughter.
What’s your career pathway been like? How did you get to where you are now?
Despite having graduated with a degree in French & Linguistics and having taught English in Paris in college, my first real job was working for an international mortgage company with 50 competitive brokers. I was the first woman broker they had ever hired – and the youngest. I was responsible for bringing in my own clients. The pressure to succeed was overwhelming, and the odds were stacked against me in a male-dominated market and in a city where I had no professional connections. But, I persevered, and within 2 years I became the highest-ranking broker associate for the company – a position I held until I left the company. Although I was on track to become a partner, my newfound courage to carve my own path led me to start my own mortgage company in London where I was dealing with clients and banks internationally. The stage was set for world domination, nothing would get in my way… but then I met my cowboy-boot-wearing Texan husband who somehow swindled me into moving to Texas. I guess we all have our moments of weaknesses.
However, moving to Texas presented an opportunity for me to start a new adventure. I wanted to find a job that would allow me to utilize my Korean and English fluency, while still being engaged and working with people. NLG had an online posting for a Korean/English bilingual speaker and after researching about the company, I applied immediately. I was drawn to the NLG culture, its history, and everyone’s enthusiasm for the company was encouraging – an enthusiasm I now share. At that time, my daughter’s health needed more attention than usual, and I was assured that NLG understood the importance of family and was supportive in the challenges women sometimes face in advancing their careers. And, this was absolutely my experience. I have been with National Life for over four years and I have never regretted my decision to join.
What did you want to be when you “grew up”?
I wanted to be a primary teacher because of the impact my first English teacher, Mrs. Watkins, had on me. At school in England, I was a foreign student, unable to speak any English and unfamiliar with the English culture, yet Mrs. Watkins helped me brave my new world. Her impact on me, made me want to do the same for others. Although my career took a different path than teaching, I am still committed to looking for ways to have a lasting effect on others, and to help people wherever I can. At National Life I have been able to continue that commitment by helping agents that are new to our products or that are new to our industry in general. I truly enjoy what I do, and I am grateful I get to do something I love.
What do you like most about what you do at National Life?
I enjoy interacting and helping others by presenting webinars, training agents, and thinking strategically with colleagues on how to solve issues. I especially like to contribute to agent’s objectives in achieving their goals and working together with them to help them succeed.
Has the industry landscape changed during your career? What have you seen?
Covid-19! Individuals are more concerned with their future and more risk-adverse. Because of Covid, people are more interested in life insurance, living benefits, and other financial products to hedge against future unknowns.
Is there a particular woman who has inspired you in life?
My mom! She’s relentless and has pursued growth in every area of her life — her marriage, her career, her health, and beyond. Her perseverance and positive attitude when facing any adversity has shaped the way I view my life and approach challenges. What I admire the most about her is her enthusiasm for life, her love for her family, and her ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.
I also admire Marie LeMieux and Jennifer Warfield. Marie interviewed me for my role here at National Life, and she has been my mentor ever since then. She is a true team leader and brilliant at her job. I supported Jennifer Warfield at the sales desk. I admire how dedicated she is to her career and I admire her success at inspiring everyone around her. She is thoughtful, sharp, and always offers sage advice.
What advice would you give to young women who are just beginning their careers?
If you do not go after what you want, you’ll never have it.
If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place.
Find a mentor who will help you grow, and never be afraid to ask for help.
What leadership quality do you most admire and aspire to?
Inspiration and vision — in equal parts. Because true leadership is created by inspiring others to succeed in a unified vision that everyone believes in and adopts as their own.
What attracted you to National Life and what would you tell someone who is considering an opportunity with us?
Our culture! We have a very friendly work environment where people support each other and share a commitment to help each other succeed. I would also tell them about the endless career opportunities.
Any other words of wisdom you’d like to share?
I have had amazing female mentors throughout my life and career who helped me grow and succeed. Find yourself a mentor who will inspire you and help you with your journey.