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Caroline McKeon Creates Digital Experiences for Liberty Mutual’s Asia Customers

Based in Boston, this Kellogg JD/MBA is doing something she never thought she would: working in insurance. Growing up in a family of insurance agents, Caroline McKeon never thought she would follow the same path and also work in the industry until she landed at Liberty Mutual six years ago. She now embraces her role leading digital experiences for the company’s Asia retail operations, building on the consumer marketing skills and cultural insights she has honed over the years.

Current role: Relationships are the foundation for everything

Describe your current role as Digital and Customer Experience Leader — Asia retail operations.

Liberty Mutual sells insurance across the world. Liberty has two broad user groups —  individuals who are buying insurance directly and our network of agents.

People’s needs are changing, especially during COVID. Without the option to do business face-to-face, our users need to do things digitally. My role is to figure out what they value and how to create digital experiences that quickly meet their needs.

For example: For direct customers, we create a web experience that allows them to easily pay a bill, file a claim, or buy insurance. For agents and partners, we develop portals to help them manage their customers.

I oversee digital experiences for our Asia region, which comprises seven countries, each with its own customers. My job is to help the people in our country operations do their jobs more effectively.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

When we are able to make things easier for our customers or provide tools to our agents so they can better serve their clients.

Working across different geographies, you need to be able to connect with people, understand their needs and unique cultural backgrounds, and be open to different perspectives

What characteristics does someone need to be successful in a role like yours?

Relationships are the foundation for everything. Working across different geographies, you need to be able to connect with people, understand their needs and unique cultural backgrounds, and be open to different perspectives.

What is most challenging?

Time zones and languages are the realities I face on a daily basis. The bigger challenge is to oversee seven countries, but not be part of the operations. I don’t have direct authority over what people do so I rely on influence to make changes.

Career path: From grunt work to leading strategy and teams 

Did you ever dream about a career at a young age (other than insurance and/or law)?

My grandfather started an insurance agency, and many members of my immediate and extended family all worked there, but growing up, I always planned on a different path. I did not want to go into the family business, but I have greatly enjoyed my experience in the insurance industry over the last six years. My sister just joined Liberty Mutual as well!

What was your very first job, and what did you learn from it?

I worked in retail clothing. It’s all about customer service, understanding what they need and making recommendations, in addition to learning to properly fold clothes and organize closets.

What were some of your work experiences prior to Liberty Mutual? Have they been useful in your current position?

I will have been at Liberty Mutual six years this summer – my first post-graduate school job. Prior to grad school, I worked at two marketing firms, where I focused on personality-based marketing and creating customized marketing plans, as well as digital strategy and analytics – all super relevant to my current role. The difference between my pre- and post-grad school roles was that before I was “in the weeds” doing a lot of grunt work, and now I focus on strategy and leading teams.

What roles have you held at Liberty Mutual?

For the first two years, I was in the Corporate Development Program, which comprised four rotations of six months each. After that, I led a strategic initiative, which was launching direct-to-consumer sales across international operations for two years. We launched in India, Colombia, China and expanded our capabilities in Vietnam. When Liberty Mutual recognized a need for broader digital leadership internationally, my current role was created.

I encourage people to live in another country – it leads to a lot of professional and personal growth.

I noted in your bio that you spent some time in Hong Kong during one of your rotations at Liberty Mutual. How did that impact you personally and/or professionally?

I was in Hong Kong for six months. I had been there before with other school programs, and my prior experiences prepared me for the cultural and professional differences I now experience in leading digital operations in Asia. I encourage people to live in another country – it leads to a lot of professional and personal growth.

Is there someone who influenced your career path?  

I was matched with a mentor when I first joined Liberty Mutual. When I was looking for my first post-Corporate Development Program position, she encouraged me to take a role leading direct-to-consumer sales expansion. She said, “It may sound scary because it’s never been done before, but working on one of the company’s strategic initiatives increases your exposure to senior leaders.”

What advice do you have a for a young woman just starting out in her career in business?

My favorite slogan that I learned in a negotiations course: it is not a one-shot world. You don’t want to burn bridges in a negotiation because you may encounter that person again. Invest in relationships, be respectful, and build connections to help each other move your careers forward.

Educational choices: Combining the tactical with a new way of thinking 

What inspired you to pursue an MBA at Kellogg?

I was intrigued by doing a joint JD/MBA, and Kellogg was the first school to launch an accelerated program in three years. The dean of the Stern School of Business when I was at NYU for undergrad later became the dean of Kellogg, and was the first female dean of a top business school, so I was excited to study under her leadership twice.

What did it mean for your career in the immediate and long-term to get graduate education?

The education you get with a JD is different than an MBA, which is very tactical. In law school, you learn a way of thinking and how to work through multiple sides of an argument. It is a great complement to the tactical skills and knowledge from an MBA, and I use both sets of skills daily. Beyond the education aspect, the network I gained while in school has been immensely helpful, and will be for years to come. I love meeting up with fellow alumni wherever I travel around the globe, and calling on my network for advice.

Personal passions: Supporting women, seeing the Wonders of the World, and providing pro bono legal services

What is about Forté’s mission that makes you want to support our efforts?

I love Forté’s mission: More women leading. Companies benefit from having more women leaders and women on boards.

Tell me about your involvement with Liberty’s women and allies Employee Resource Group, “WE @Liberty,” where you lead an Operations team to execute national programming focused on elevating women?

Our mission is to elevate women within the organization, which is especially critical within Asia, a primarily male-dominated business culture. A big part of my role is to think about how to expand the mission of WE@Liberty globally. We also use data to track our progress of women in leadership, and we provide mentoring, coaching, and development opportunities.

I understand you also support Liberty’s pro bono law practice.

Although I am a licensed attorney, I do not practice in my job, but Liberty has an active pro bono practice. I enjoy providing advice to low-income people who are facing eviction.

Is there anything on your “bucket list” you’d be willing to share?

I am trying to hit all the Wonders of the World. I’ve been to Petra, the Great Wall, Machu Picchu, The Coliseum, Christ the Redeemer, and I still need to see Chichen Itza and the Taj Mahal.

How do you spend your time when you are not working?

Pre-COVID, I took cooking classes every time I traveled. Recently I took a class with my team over Zoom to learn how to make hand-pulled, Chinese noodles before Lunar New Year. Right now, I am living in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, where I am hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing.

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