For Women’s History Month, we recently met with our Chief Accounting Officer, Lindsay Alexovich, for her thoughts on leadership, mentorship, and how she helps to create a collaborative and inclusive environment for her team members and all Metromilers.
How did you get started in the finance space?
My mom was the first person who suggested I take my love for math and use it to get involved in accounting. So, in college, I studied business with specializations in accounting while also pursuing a mathematics degree and constantly debated whether I wanted to become an actuary, statistician, or accountant. I realized I enjoyed the business side of things and working with people in corporate strategy so I chose business and accounting though, to this day, I still have a great love for math.
The Accounting field isn’t known for topping diversity lists. Can you talk about any barriers you have faced as a woman in the finance industry?
Before Metromile, I worked at one of the largest accounting firms in the country and while they did emphasize gender equality and the value of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I still experienced unintended and blind gender biases. Overwhelmingly, I felt fairly treated and very supported by the organization, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that this is continuously a work in progress no matter the company – the firm’s values and commitment to continual progress and improvement were some of the main reasons I chose that firm.
For example, early in my career, female team members were often assumed to take the lead in organizing social events. Instead of simply following the course, I took the opportunity to do a few things differently: I planned the heck out of an event that I was passionate about and went beyond the norm by pulling together a presentation for that event. I created an opportunity for myself that increased my visibility and showed my business prowess. The best part was that I presented my project to a very prominent partner who wouldn’t have otherwise been available. That partner ended up becoming a significant promoter, mentor, and sponsor of me in the years ahead, for which I’ll always be grateful.
Your team is almost 90% women, how have you been able to champion a space and career path for them and build your team?
When it comes to building a team, a big focus should be on paying attention to who you’re hiring and making sure that they’re coming in with shared values. For us, that means being very focused on high-quality teamwork, embodying the highest integrity, and, as cliche as it sounds, putting your ego aside.
After hiring, it’s my desire as a leader to learn about our team members. What interests them? What are their strengths? What do they love to do? Hate to do? What motivates them? How do they like to be recognized? A team is a sum of all its parts and you can’t expect one person to be able to do everything, so as a leader I want to let everybody work on and excel at what they’re good at, while also challenging themselves in new areas. I encourage my team members to boost their skills and knowledge by leaning on their peers, stepping out of their comfort zones, and curating a space where it is safe to “fail” or make mistakes and try again.
I don’t actually like using the term “fail” but it’s important to create an environment that enables people to try new things and cultivate learnings without putting the company in an unfavorable position if and when things don’t go quite as planned. As a leader, one of the biggest things you can do is just offer that space and exposure to people on your team, and I’m constantly encouraging my managers to think the same way and pass along that mindset. After all, we don’t grow by doing the same things that we already know we’re good at; we grow by putting ourselves out there and having a willingness to try, knowing it likely won’t go perfectly.
Even as a leader, I am continuously learning from my teams and am beyond grateful I get to experience them grow, show up, and push for themselves and each other every day.
As a member of Metromile’s executive team, your leadership is valuable to all women at the company. What are some of the ways you’ve been able to show up and be supportive of your fellow female colleagues?
Whether within my team or not, it’s important to create an environment that encourages women to speak up and to ask probing questions that can lead to increased visibility and recognition. Even for those who are more introverted, it’s key to shine the spotlight on and advocate for a team member’s accomplishments both behind the scenes and publicly, whatever is most appropriate for that individual and circumstance. Connecting your colleagues and mentees to your personal networks can also help a great deal in furthering their exposure, resources, and career.
Promoting and pushing for gender equality and diversity beyond just internal teams is huge especially when thinking about vendor selection and board composition. As a leader, there are many areas where you have a louder voice and it’s important to use that power to advocate for change.
Who are some of your female mentors that have had an impact on your own career?
I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors in my career, personally and professionally. One example that stands out is a woman who helped me navigate a decision in which those worlds collided.
I had been offered a promotion, and this woman helped me to boil down the difficult decision of whether or not I should accept it to its essence.
Earlier in my career, I might have quickly jumped at the promotion. It’s easy to get swept up in social norms about achieving as much as possible as quickly as possible. In other words, value is based on what you achieve and produce vs who you are as a person.
This woman reminded me that I am more than my career and that my view of myself, not others’ view, is what matters most. I didn’t need to default to advancing up the corporate ladder, even if I could do it, even if a man would take the same opportunity with far fewer qualifications and experience than I had, even if others might then view me as “more successful.”
She didn’t offer an opinion on whether or not I should take the promotion, but instead encouraged me to look inward, asking myself questions that would help me make the decision that was best for me.
- What are the core values that you personally live by?
- Beyond the decision at hand, what is important to you broadly in life?
- How are you fulfilled – personally and professionally?
Answering these questions made me realize that I didn’t want the promotion. At the time, accepting it might actually lead to less fulfillment. I’d risk my work-life balance falling out of balance, and not be able to bring my best self to the table each day either at work or at home. I wouldn’t be there fully for myself or my teams, family, and friends. The people in my life and those relationships are what is most important to me. It became clear to me that I didn’t want to risk that at that time in my life.
I ended up turning down the promotion and all it entailed – more responsibility, a bigger title, and increased compensation. As time has gone on, I’ve not once looked back and wished I’d made a different decision; instead, I’ve become even more confident that I made the right choice – it absolutely was the right decision for me. It didn’t close doors to further advancement; in fact, it opened new doors and led to opportunities I may not have otherwise thought about or encountered.
Can you talk about your views on mentorship versus sponsorship, how you yourself have benefited from both, and any advice for those looking to mentor or be mentored?
Both are important, but at different times and for different reasons. Mentorship is about individuals gaining experience and learning what kind of contributor, leader, and manager they want to be. Part of this is gaining insight from those who have a perspective and experiences that are different from their own as it helps us continually improve and evolve.
Sponsorship, on the other hand, can create opportunities for individuals that might not otherwise exist. It shows that the sponsor not only believes in the individual and recognizes them, but has such confidence in them and their work, their style, and their values that they eagerly put their name and reputation on the line to support them – what a gift it is to advocate for future leaders. Whether sponsoring or mentoring it all goes back to us helping one another to be and to do our best, not only as employees and leaders but as human beings.
I’ve certainly benefited from mentorship and sponsorship. Numerous new and challenging opportunities and experiences have been afforded to me because I built relationships with mentors and sponsors who then supported and advocated for me in an effort to advance my career and my skills as a leader and manager of people. From these relationships, I’ve gotten exposure to experience exciting international and high-profile assignments and lead new initiatives, departments, and Metromile going public – and I look forward to even more to come with Lemonade!
My advice: take mentorship and sponsorship seriously and appreciate it – the development of people is an awesome responsibility and a blessing. I believe it’s most successful when people can put down their defenses and egos and become vulnerable about what’s important and what’s challenging, this is what establishes deep connections and relationships. As Brene Brown says, “vulnerability is not a weakness, it’s our greatest measure of courage.” You’ll know when you’ve found that connection with someone, whether it’s a mentee, mentor, sponsee, or sponsor. And when you find it, give it your full attention because something great will surely come of it.
The 2022 theme of Women’s History Month is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” It’s easy to see how your work as a certified yoga instructor and your studies towards becoming a UC Master Gardener can play a role here – can you talk more about how these have helped promote your own well-being and others’ well-being, too?
I completed my yoga teacher training before the pandemic but as we stayed in our homes over the past two years, yoga and meditation became an even bigger part of my routine. I often turned to yoga during times of very high stress as it grounds me and helps me take a pause. I’ve even been able to incorporate some of my yoga learnings into my leadership style to make space for my teams to simply take a breath at times of high stress and emphasize the bigger picture. I’m constantly thinking and telling folks that there’s nothing that you can’t find a solution for and yoga and mindfulness practices are what helped me embrace that way of thinking.
Connecting with Mother Nature helps me incorporate wellness and hope for my teams, which is one of many reasons I am currently studying to get my Master Gardener certification. In times of stress, I like to go and play in the dirt to get calm – there’s just something about having your bare feet and hands connect with the Earth. Both being a yoga teacher and training to be a Master Gardener help me remember who I am inside and outside the workplace and – as corny as it sounds – spread love and kindness throughout.