The final blog of our “back to work” series features Susan Sanchez from the US, speaking about her experience of AXA’s Start-In innovation platform. Discover how she adapted to innovating whilst working thanks to her passion, commitment and our collaborative culture.
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I'm Susan Sanchez and I first started with AXA US as an Advertising & Brand Management intern in 2010. In 2013, I transitioned to Retirement Plan Services (RPS) to manage government and small business marketing. Since 2015, I have supported Kevin Molloy, Head of RPS, as Chief of Staff. I'm also co-chair of AXA US Hispanic Employee Resource Organization (HERO) and a member of Team SCOACH, 2016 Start-In Innovation Competition Winner.
Why did you choose to participate in Start-in?
One of the Start-In challenges aligned with our retirement business, so RPS hosted a brainstorm session with 15 team members across various functions. I continued to develop one of the ideas with two colleagues because of the energy and passion of our small team. We were in it to win it and truly believed in the idea.
How did you manage to combine private and professional lives while working on your project?
It helped that I'm friends with SCOACH team members outside of the office. Our synergy and shared passions as both business colleagues and friends created a blurred line between personal aspirations/lives and the professional objective. Time management was also crucial as time-zone differences for the program activities sometimes meant weekend or extended hours at the office.
How do you perceive innovation in general and in particular at AXA?
Innovation is not only about a big, new idea. It’s also about making it happen. I appreciate the efforts that AXA has made to create a collaborative culture that encourages challenging the status quo. We’re the most innovative insurance company in the industry, and every day we empower people to lead better lives.
What have you learned from your experience that will be useful for the rest of your career?
I grew professionally and personally throughout this experience. It was my first time managing a project from ideation through its development and pitching for sponsorship to then build. I had the opportunity to learn from and work with thought-leaders and innovative colleagues from around the world. The cherry on top of it all was the cultural exposure with my first trip to Europe!
What would you do differently if you could do it all again?
Reflecting back on it all, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m proud of the decisions we made and the work that we produced as a team. We were either very successful or walked away with a lesson learned.
If you could offer one bit of advice to other innovators what would it be?
Prepare to dedicate a significant amount of time and bandwidth to your idea. For Start-In, we took part in a lot of training sessions and had quite a bit to deliver in addition to the pitch presentations. Also, if you have a winning idea, there is always the potential of on-going development to go live!
What key skills do you think are important when innovating?
Specific skills don’t come to mind, but mind-sets do. I think one must be open to new processes and perspectives to discover opportunities. And you really have to believe in the idea to stay committed to the development and engage others to believe in it too.
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