In January 2023, my journey at Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Company began as an Underwriting Assistant. My 8-month experience at Wawanesa gave me insights into working effectively in an online team. This period was a watershed in my growth as a university student, inspiring me to think about the difference between working from home and studying from home. I find that there are similarities for both, but working from home requires more on time management and communication to finish the tasks, which are also beneficial towards our academic pursuits.
Like studying at home, remote work also includes large quantities of work with assigned deadlines. A crucial part of us Co-op students’ responsibilities was the monthly task called program entry, where we entered the clients’ policy information into Wawanesa’s database within around one week. The quantity of data entries each program varies according to the situations and clients within, but you might be assigned 200 entries for one program, which was a large amount. In such case, tactics in Excel were helpful in increasing efficiency and reducing the length of time on the program.
However, working on programs at home was different than working on assignments from professors, because you only had 7.5 hours per weekday to handle, while you could rush assignments at 3 am and hand it in at 5 am. This urged me to improve my efficiency at work and to achieve work-life balance so that I could be fully recharged by the beginning of the next day.
In remote learning, it is common for instructors to interact with students whose camera and microphone are off, raising the concern on how the students absorb the knowledge. But in remote working at Wawanesa, interaction between supervisors and team members frequently occurred. Organized by my supervisor, our team had a huddle meeting every Monday to discuss important announcement and updates on ongoing tasks. During the round table session, we would share what we did during the previous week as well as any confusions or suggestions for improvement arising. There was also a fun fact part at the end of the huddle meeting, where one of the team shared an interesting truth within about 2 minutes.
Even though it was a remote position, our team scheduled an in-office day every month. During these days, I got the chance to sit inside the office, have lunch with team members in the dining room, and enjoyed quick breaks from work. Occasional in-person moments built the bridge between us, which increased integration and efficiency at work.
Other than in-person activities within the teams, Wawanesa also had events open to the staff. There were several interesting events like barbecues at weekends (unfortunately I was too busy to participate in any of them). Every quarter of a year, Wawanesa held a Moment That Matters for every staff member working at Vancouver office, when we Underwriting Assistant could meet the Underwriters and got to know each other further. With these meaningful activities, we felt closer to each other and were more energized at work.
Thanks to Wawanesa, I have learnt tips that can improve the efficiency of studying at home. Notetaking and summarizing are essential habits to improve the quality of work done. The Underwriting Assistant team had a OneNote that recorded every steps for each task, and it would be updated quickly whenever the leader of the department made a change. The OneNote guideline precisely listed each step with important details highlighted, which helped me a to recap the process when a series of program entries were assigned to me – sometimes you might forget about some tiny details after two weeks of “vacation” from last program entries. I find this will be helpful in studying as well: first, your understanding of the contents in lecture is refined when reviewing them; in addition, this is a handy tool to check any details you are not familiar with when preparing exams.
On the other hand, peer power also supported me a lot during these 8 months. The small group of 4 students from different universities helped each other. To reduce other Underwriting Assistants’ unnecessary workload in answering questions, we would go through the questions in student’s private group chat first and then shared them to the general group chat if we could not resolve them on our own. This is also applicable to studying, where we can enhance our understanding towards the class materials with the help of peer support. Communicative skills, what we know as an important ability set for career, will also be improved during the interaction with peers.
I hope this helps!