Hannah Dixon shares her career story and tips for development

How I started
I guess it’s only natural to ask myself why I’ve stayed at NFU Mutual so long. The truth is, I can’t imagine working anywhere else. I joined in 1998 as a graduate trainee underwriter in one of our regional offices, where I gained a good understanding of insurance. I hadn’t thought about changing roles until I saw that Group Learning and Development wanted people with underwriting or claims knowledge to join their team. I took the opportunity to move into a different role where the skills I’d learned could be used while I continued to develop.

From there I moved into Management Development Training, and I remember feeling that in order to train others in leadership skills I really needed to be a manager myself. This led me into a more leadership focused role, and I started managing a small team in Learning and Development. I was then very lucky to quickly move into an operational management role with a much larger team of around 50 people.

My role today
I’m now Manager of Avon & Mutual Direct (Stratford). Avon is a wholly owned subsidiary of NFU Mutual which has just over 500,000 customers to service and manage. Mutual Direct (Stratford) handles the distribution of customer documentation and customer accounts for Mutual Direct.

The path to my current role was interesting as it took in several other parts of the business. During my first operational management role I took a maternity break and returned to a role in the Strategy team where I worked on a range of strategic programmes; one of which was to set up the customer support centre in Glasgow. This project put me back at the forefront of an operational role, which I really enjoyed, so I moved into Financial Services as an Operations Manager in a busy customer service environment. That position led me into my current role which has all the challenges of NFU Mutual but is effectively like running my own small insurance company with all the development that brings.

The support of great managers
I’m naturally a driven person but one thing that’s continually helped my development is the encouragement I’ve received from my line managers. My manager in Learning and Development had a real skill in developing people to help them progress; that help led to my first team management role. Having such a strong manager who supported me to take my first step into a leadership role was key. It was the same in the Strategy team, my manager saw my potential and sponsored me for development and structured career development activities. It’s part of the culture of the organisation to be supportive. Even today my current manager is a great mentor, who’s hugely inspiring herself.

Career breaks and flexibility
Although I’m in a full-time role now, there was a time when I asked to work four days a week so I could spend more time with my young son. My request was granted without any hesitation and I enjoyed a better work life balance at a time when I needed it. I went on to have my second child whilst in Strategy and a couple of years later, when I was ready to pick up a full-time role, I moved back into an operational management position. I feel lucky to have been able to do this, but in honesty I don't think it was just luck. It’s all been down to the support I had and the type of company I work for that has made managing my career breaks so achievable.

Values I really relate to
It’s not just the support and encouragement I’ve had that’s made my career at NFU Mutual so rewarding, it’s also about having values that I can really relate to. As a business our focus is on the customer, it’s all about building trust and doing the right thing. Our values flow also through how we work together and how we treat each other. I often hear about other organisations that just don’t seem to find the time for development or are missing the sense of purpose we have here. I’ve seen a lot of change during my time here but everything we’ve done has been for the better and we’ve still stayed true to our values.

Tips for developing your career with NFU Mutual
To develop your career, I’d recommend that you build your connections across the business, so you gain a perspective outside of your immediate team. Look for opportunities where you can go on training courses - there’s a lot of virtual training available now which makes it easier than ever to build up an awareness broader than just your own team. Find out about different roles through speaking to people and networking. Speak to your manager to understand what your strengths are and where you need to develop. Create a Personal Development Plan that not only helps you in your current role but develops the skills you'll need for the next step in your career. I’d also suggest asking you manager for the support you need to get involved in projects outside your immediate circle. And lastly, it's important that you don't just go for any promotion. It’s important to understand what you enjoy doing and to think about whether that next move is really the right one for you.

Hannah Dixon - Avon & Mutual Direct (Stratford) Manager

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