Isabel Velasquez is Vice President of Insurance Operations at Lenox Advisors. She has carved out a unique career in business operations that has bridged the gap between problems and opportunities. Throughout her career, Isabel has concentrated on team building, strategic planning, project management, quality assurance and customer service, while continuously thinking outside the box to maximize operational efficiencies and increase revenue generation.
Here is what Isabel had to say when we asked her about skill development and self-motivation:
GenHERation®: What skill do you utilize the most in your current role, and what actions can students take today to start developing that skill?
Isabel Velasquez: It is important to think about your natural skill set. As a kid, I was a people person, a problem solver, and always at least 15 minutes early to everything. This translated into someone who enjoys collaborating with others and excels at meeting deadlines. These foundational skills are important when building relationships and carving out a career in operations. As a leader, I help to develop individuals. I strive to close the gap, which makes my customer service skills and ability to help others very important. I work to effectively change team dynamics and drive change management, which all stems from being a people person, problem solver, and strategic thinker. I use these skills to fix small problems and put band-aids on problems to keep the bus moving. Being 15 minutes early, as silly as it is, highlights discipline and effective time management.
GenHERation®: How can you take inventory of your strengths?
Velasquez: Early in my career, I completed a SWOT analysis, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. I now take inventory and create a SWOT analysis every year, where I assess where I am at that moment. Something I was weak at four years ago may be a strength now. I am also a planner. I have plans for the next six to 12 months and the next five to 10 years, so I can look forward and backward. This process helps me manage my goals and maintain a consistent drive to keep trying for more.
GenHERation®: What steps can you take to be a lifelong learner?
Velasquez: Maintaining a mentality of learning and growing is key. I keep that at the forefront of my mind—be a student and sponge every day I show up. Accepting feedback, no matter the form, from friends, family, peers, and my company’s leadership is key. I must be open to asking others for feedback and be comfortable hearing what they have to say. I recognize that I can learn and grow from the people around me by offering and accepting feedback.
GenHERation®: What are three ways you can cultivate internal drive and motivation?
Velasquez: The number one thing is to stay organized. Staying organized and focused has personally helped me overcome burnout and procrastination. Number two is mentorship. I seek mentorship from leaders and people I have admired. My primary focus during mentorship is to ask them questions and pick their brains depending on where I am in my life. Recently, I’ve been learning how to balance being a leader, mom, wife, and newbie entrepreneur. Using their advice helps me make tough decisions and learn how to stay balanced while juggling a lot. Three, take time to develop accountability partnerships. These keep me on track and give me some tough love or encouragement when I need it.
GenHERation®: How can you effectively set and achieve goals as a group?
Velasquez: Communication and transparency. I think overcommunicating is super important. Open communication helps to establish an understanding of what people are juggling. Specifically, if deadlines need to be moved and what needs to be reassessed to keep everyone on track. It sounds simple, but it can be hard when you get caught up in the routine of completing your daily tasks. It also takes confidence to admit you may be behind or need help, but being open and transparent with your group will only make everyone stronger and achieve more.
GenHERation®: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Velasquez: The best advice I have been given is to keep being my authentic self and understand we all have differences. Ask yourself, “What do I bring to the table?” Stop looking at everyone else because you are special in your own way. It is important to stop trying to mirror others because we all have unique qualities that make us special. I think about when I started my career years ago and how there weren’t many people who looked like me. Embrace your uniqueness. Especially as a plus-size Hispanic woman, I believe it is important to celebrate our differences and diversity. I feel like sometimes women see each other as competition, but we really should work toward accepting each other’s differences and lifting each other up.
Isabel Velasquez is from Washington Heights in New York City. She is a wife, a mom, an animal lover, and a world traveler. She learned from an early age the value of hustling, which translated into an internal drive and self-motivation. She has carved out a unique career in business operations that bridges the gap between problems and opportunities. Along the way, she has become highly skilled and effective in tactical and strategic business operations. Isabel holds a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from Manhattan College. She is the co-founder of Misfits Unplugged, a digital career strategy platform helping students and career builders navigate the job jungle with clarity, confidence, and purpose.