Celebrating Women’s History Month: Q&A With Women in Leadership

women's history month

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we interviewed five inspirational women in leadership roles at Matic to hear their stories. Read about their career paths, challenges they’ve overcome, perspectives on challenges facing women in the workplace, and more about the unique paths they’ve taken.

1. Maria Taft

maria taftWhat’s your job at Matic? What’s your favorite part of your day-to-day?

I am the Director of Strategy for our Business Development team, which means I shape and guide targeting and acquiring new strategic partnerships for Matic. I love helping partners solve business problems that then have a positive impact on their customer base. I get to help partners make money while helping customers save and simplify their world of insurance.

Can you tell us about your career path so far? How have you gotten to where you are today?

My career path has been a winding one! I started my career in retail leadership and operations with Target.  I spent over a decade leading large teams to achieve sales and operational goals.  I made a big leap into the payment solutions industry with Alliance Data in 2012. The first half of my tenure with them was spent driving acquisition efforts in the retail credit card issuance space, working with retail operations to instill best practices that positively impacted results.  Then I made a shift into supporting enterprise sales efforts and gaining new partnerships. I was part of a SWAT team that would respond to RFPs, attend sales pitches, and then transition those who signed into permanent members of the partnership roster.  That leads me to where I am today at Matic. I’ve been able to take the processes that helped us find success in my previous role and build a solid foundation to scale an enterprise sales/business development org at Matic.

What do you think the biggest challenge facing women in the workplace is today?

There are so many challenges for women in the workplace. Fighting for equal pay, showing up/playing big to achieve leadership positions, and unwinding centuries of inequity all come to mind. But I think the biggest challenge for most women is being able to balance achievement in their careers with still pretty unrealistic expectations around being the primary caregiver in the home, especially when children are involved. I saw a quote recently that said “We expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children like they don’t work.” It leads to burnout both at home and at work. I’ve had to really get in tune with my personal balance as a single mother who desires and values a rewarding, long career.

What’s been the biggest challenge of your career so far? And how did you overcome it?

See above — the balancing act between career woman and mother is so challenging. Mom guilt is real! I miss things. I’m not the mom who volunteers in the classroom, I don’t often have enough steam in the engine to volunteer my time for set builds for the school play or chaperoning dances. I donate money, food, beverages, prizes, etc. because I feel that’s a way to support my kids. When I do get to be present, I shut off my phone and make sure I’m really all in for them.  

Who inspires you?

Sharon McMahon – she’s a history teacher and government guru who has found a following of “governerds” on Instagram.  I love her messages — facts do not require your approval, think twice before you fight on the internet with a stranger, it’s ok (in fact, it’s ethical) to say “I don’t know enough about that to comment.” She has dedicated her life to teaching children, and now she’s educating adults on the US government, our laws, and how to apply reason and logic to the news headlines. She’s also just very wholesome, intelligent, and fun to follow.  She’s made me think about being more open to the opinions of others, recognizing and reserving my own judgment, and really looking into things before retelling a story that may not be exactly accurate.  She does this by just unemotionally telling it like it is (better to be too honest than too polite, one of our core values at Matic).

What’s the best piece of advice you have for other women in their careers?

You don’t have to compromise. You don’t have to conform to “standards” set for you by generations before you.  When someone asks you “don’t you wish you were staying home to raise your kids?” it’s okay to say “no.” What you want is just as important as what everyone else wants, so make sure you are on your priority list!

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?

Pay off my house, buy a vacation home somewhere sunny, buy an RS5, set up some trusts for my kiddos and their kiddos, and then I would get my PhD in Organizational Psychology and freelance as a professional coach!

 

2. Tanya Taul

tanya taulWhat’s your job at Matic? What’s your favorite part of your day to day?

I’m the Senior Email Marketing Manager, responsible for the production and optimization of all email campaigns, from acquiring new customers to retention marketing. My favorite part of my day to day is designing and developing complex automated workflows.

Can you tell us about your career path so far? How have you gotten to where you are today?

My first job was as a Mortgage Servicing Rep for a bank in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After about a year, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where I started my marketing career with a large tech company, working on everything from trade shows to global print campaigns and the department budget. After 3 years, I relocated to Columbus to work for Lane Bryant in direct mail and localized marketing. It was an exciting time at Lane Bryant with two annual fashion shows in NYC, which the entire marketing team was involved in (the experience was amazing)! I eventually switched roles to manage their new email marketing program. After 10 years at Lane Bryant, I went to Victoria’s Secret Direct to develop marketing strategies for some of their well-known rewards programs. Five years later, I left to pursue a real estate career, but eventually decided to go back to the corporate world. I landed an Email Marketing Manager role for a small publishing company and really enjoyed working on their email program. It was certainly a challenge — we sent hundreds of thousands emails every day, so I learned to be smart with deliverability and segmentation. Unfortunately, I was laid off two years later. During my job search, I saw the posting for my current position at Matic. I thought, “WOW!” This role sounded like the perfect mash-up of all of my experiences — mortgage servicing, email marketing, homeownership, and real estate. It just felt like the perfect fit for me, and here we are! 

How did you figure out what you wanted to pursue in your career?

I majored in broadcasting, but never pursued that field. I fell into marketing primarily because I knew how to use Excel, which wasn’t a core skill back then. Once I entered the marketing realm, it felt right because I’m a creative person by nature. Marketing has allowed me to have amazing experiences, work with phenomenally passionate people, and have a positive impact on millions of people around the world.

What’s been the biggest challenge of your career so far? And how did you overcome it?

I would say making the transition back into digital marketing after being out of the space for nearly nine years. A lot changed within that time — the expectation was for marketers to deliver more personalized experiences for each consumer, which required a solid technical background. I had to “embrace the uncomfortable” (one of Matic’s core values) and start to learn the technical aspects of marketing to become a better marketer. That’s really why I love what I do at Matic.

If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Nachos. They never get old.

 

3. Shari Wheeler

shari wheelerWhat’s your job at Matic? What’s your favorite part of your day to day?

I’m the VP of Insurance. My favorite part of my day is helping develop future leaders and working together to win as a team.

Can you tell us about your career path so far? How have you gotten to where you are today?

I have followed what some might say is a crooked path. I have led several different functional areas within different industries. I remember thinking at one point, “I feel like a Jill of all trades, master of none” — and at the time thought that was a bad thing. Ultimately, I learned to embrace my crooked path. Try something new and outside your comfort zone that feeds into your strengths and adds value to the organization. Something amazing might just happen!

What do you think the biggest challenge facing women in the workplace is today?

One would think women would naturally lift each other up. I have not always experienced that to be true. Women can be hard on other women, especially strong women leaders. Think every day about one thing you can do to support the women in your network.

Can you tell us about your experience being a woman in insurance, an industry that is typically male-dominated?

My experience has been to earn respect by doing what you say you will do, approach challenges with confidence and data to support, hit your numbers, and care for others along the way. It’s a pretty solid recipe regardless of industry.

What’s the best piece of career advice you have for other women?

I spent time early in my career identifying my personal core values. For me they are passion, courage, grace, integrity, and faith. Any time things don’t feel quite right in my career, I ask myself if I am being true to my core values and how I can use them to get back on track. It has always worked for me. Take the time — it’s worth it.

What do you do to stay grounded? 

I spend each morning reflecting on what I’m grateful for. No matter what is going on and how challenging things may be, I ?can find something to be thankful for — it changes my perspective and sets the tone for the day.

 

4. Bernadette Caron

bernadette caronWhat’s your job at Matic? What’s your favorite part of your day to day?

I’m a Sales Manager of the best team at Matic, The Killer Bees! My favorite part of the day is watching my agents work hard at something specific, and reaching their goals as a result.

Can you tell us about your career path so far? How have you gotten to where you are today?

I started as an Insurance Advisor in June of 2020. I knew that becoming a manager was something I eventually wanted, so I worked hard to make sure I was exceeding agent goals to stand out with my performance first. I became Team Lead in June 2021. In this role, I was able to build relationships with peers and come up with creative ways to keep the team engaged and motivated. I did some peer coaching during this time as well, which made me realize how much I enjoyed helping people reach their goals. This actually made me happier than reaching my own personal goals, which is why I applied for the manager position a few months later, and here I am!

What’s your biggest motivator?

My biggest motivator is my four-year-old daughter — she inspires me to be better in every aspect of my life.

What’s been the biggest challenge of your career so far? And how did you overcome it?

Being a fully remote manager is a challenge, and I’m constantly working on ways to improve. Making sure to keep in constant communication with my team and being available for them throughout the day, while encouraging them to rely on each other has helped build a really positive team morale.

What’s one thing you’ve learned as a leader of a large team?

People come first, then metrics second. Getting to know people and truly caring about their success, then coming up with a plan that works for them individually will lead to sustainable results.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, what three items would you choose to bring?

I’d bring chapstick, sunblock, and my phone (to call for help after taking a week off and making a vacation out of it)!

 

5. Sarah Berg

sarah bergWhat’s your job at Matic? What’s your favorite part of your day to day?

I lead the marketing org at Matic! Marketing is responsible for brand, product marketing, and digital growth. My favorite part of the day is collaborating across the organization. Nothing makes me happier than bouncing ideas around and fully understanding problems that will ultimately help our customers, partners, and internal teams.

What are some defining moments that helped you progress to your current role?

The most defining moments involve me raising my hand for every possible opportunity. A couple examples… many years ago, we needed someone to manage a new “trend” called social media – I raised my hand. Our email manager moved into a new role and we needed help – I raised my hand. This meant more work but it also provided me with exposure to new channels and skills. Additionally, it created a case to hire a direct report, then another, etc. Without the managerial experience it would have been difficult to move into additional leadership roles.

What’s your best piece of advice for women who want to be in executive leadership positions?

Two things come to mind. 1. Similar to what I mentioned above, raise your hand for ownership. If you need help, proactively propose a new team structure. If there’s alignment, a supportive manager will help you figure it out. 2. Have people you can turn to who have been there. This could be an official mentor, but I’m a bigger fan of building relationships and creating a group of unofficial mentors. I have unofficial mentors I reach out to weekly (whether they like it or not!) and others I may only talk to every five years but if the foundational relationship is there they happily find time to talk.

Do you have a mantra you live by?

Take your work seriously but not yourself too seriously. I always try to inject humor and a little self depreciation into the workplace due to my midwestern roots and also because it usually puts others at ease and creates psychological safety to be yourself. Ultimately that creates more successful teams.

If you could have dinner with anyone — living or dead — who would it be and why?

Three strong women — my sister, mom, and deceased grandmother. We always had the best dinners and I would attempt to relive a crazy night that occurred in the summer of 1999. That might prove to be challenging since I don’t remember much of it — so you know it was a good time — but I can safely say it ended with my grandmother jitterbugging at a random bar on the west side of Cincinnati.