Since joining the team this past summer, IVANS chief revenue officer Saima Shaukat has been working hard behind the scenes to create the most customer-centric culture at IVANS. I wanted to take a few minutes to introduce you to her and give you a glimpse of the value she brings to both the IVANS team and customers.
Can you tell us about your career and how your past experiences will influence your work here?
My journey started with Salesforce. I spent most of my career there in various leadership roles running new teams in the U.S. and Canada.
My last experience was heading up financial services for Canada. A large part of that was insurance and carrier related. That’s how I got to know Reid Holzworth. I partnered up with Reid in Canada specifically to go after the broker market with TechCanary and got exposure to the agency side. I recognized what Reid was doing across North America with TechCanary and saw the huge value proposition there and an untapped market.
From there, I joined Reid at TechCanary to take the company to the next level. I focused on sales, marketing, professional services, customer success, and business development. We grew the company four times in revenue during my tenure. It was based on bringing new talent, implementing processes and procedures, and putting the infrastructure of technology in place.
As part of the journey at TechCanary, I got more intimate knowledge of the insurance industry and the friction that exists related to information flowing back and forth between carriers and agencies. It became very apparent as I went through the sales cycles and began to understand the customer very well, but more from an agency level. That gave me the perspective to step into the shoes of the real customer in that case.
I eventually left and went to another organization called ATP, where I was the CRO. Operationally, I learned a lot of things about private equity, board-level presentations, sales strategy, and go-to-market strategy.
What made you decide to join IVANS?
While I was at ATP, Reid became IVANS CEO and we continued to stay in touch. I thought what he was doing at IVANS was super exciting. I realized there was this ultimate problem of communication between the carrier and agency and downstream that hadn’t been successfully solved in the past.
Being IVANS and already having those pipes available, we had access to both the data and the connections required between carriers and agencies. This was gold in my opinion. Reid was taking it to the next level and that made it super exciting to me. It could revolutionize the industry. That’s what drew me back to Applied and IVANS.
This is an opportunity to make waves and change something, very similar to what we did at TechCanary. IVANS represents that unique opportunity to really serve our customer base, both agencies and carriers, becoming the glue.
What have your first couple of months at IVANS been like?
My focus at IVANS is specifically on the go-to-market side (sales and service). I work collaboratively with the marketing and customer success teams. Those are the areas that I feel are the building blocks of good companies – great products and service. We’re doubling down on the service side to create a seamless, perfect journey for our customers. That’s the focal point – our customer.
The first area I plan to delve into is focusing very much on improving our time-to-value for our customers. We have a large portion of the market, but we need to serve them better. The second area is enabling the talent we have in tandem with bringing in new talent with a fresh set of eyes, just like we did on the executive team. The third area, which I’m very passionate about, is truly creating a data-driven organization. This takes a change in culture, process, and sometimes people. In areas that I thought I would have gotten resistance [from the team], people have been welcoming of the change. They’re almost hungry for it. That’s been refreshing.
What excites you most about your role?
We have started to create some amazing product lines that could change the world. That’s what excites me the most.
The second most exciting thing to me is the people we work with at IVANS. The executive team is a powerhouse. With good people who all are rowing in the same direction, it doesn’t feel like work. We have challenging things to solve, but it doesn’t feel like we’re alone in the journey. It feels like we’re in it together. That makes it much easier.
What do you hope to bring to the team and our customers?
As a team, I want us to hold ourselves accountable to a different standard, creating the infrastructure to hold ourselves accountable to those standards and expect better of ourselves. I want to focus on reinvigorating the team and leading the way. A lot of times, people want to make changes. They want to do different things in their careers, but they don’t have the guidance or infrastructure to do that.
For our customers, we want to bring back the back-to-basics messaging of why IVANS is a good partner and why they should pay attention. Because we can help them in their biggest business needs. I think somewhere along the way, we lost our path. We forgot to talk about why we exist and why it’s important to the customers. I want us to have that value-driven conversation and for them to know that we’re in it with them.
Do you have any closing thoughts you want to add?
The major point is that every area internally at IVANS is shifting to continue to be more customer focused, whether it’s products we’re bringing to the market, how we serve customers, or how we are partnering with them. It’s all about our customers – that is the center of our universe. Everything we’re doing is to make sure we’re deliberately serving our customers.
Another closing thought I have is about Reid’s management style. He sees me as a partner and someone he can rely on to have his back. He didn’t hire me because he was trying to check a box on diversity. He lives those values. Ironically, there are three women on the management team and that wasn’t by design. He just found the best people for the job without bias, and that shows.