Meet Kajal Vakas, Senior Vertical Market Manager of Claims at LexisNexis Risk Solutions

Kajal Vakas

Meet Kajal Vakas, senior vertical market manager of claims at LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Insurance who recommends taking off the blinkers and loving lifelong learning for a successful tech career.

Do you think it is important to have a career plan?

Everyone works smarter when they have a target to work towards and your career is no different. I’ve learned however, that it’s really important to stay open minded and flexible with your career goals.  Take the blinkers off. Until you head down a career path, you might not understand what opportunities are out there for the taking.  While plan A was your dream when you graduated, suddenly plan B seems like a better fit.

What challenges have you faced in your career?  How have you overcome them?

I came into the technology and data world without a technology or data background, so that was a massive hurdle to overcome!

I started out as a claims handler in the insurance industry becoming really familiar with the operational aspects of handling claims.  After working on some implementation project I ‘fell into’ working in technology and data. What I lacked in tech know-how at the time, I made up for in operational experience and brought that perspective to thinking about how to design technology for the claims industry.

Naturally, moving into a tech-based career was tricky but some valuable advice I was given at the time was to look around me.  Learning is a constant, no-one has all the skill-sets, so I looked at the people with the skills I didn’t have and worked with them to improve my technology and data analysis skills.  In turn, I helped some of the technologists with their operational knowledge.  As well as learning on the job, I took on formal training, taking a Practitioner in Agile course, so I could gain a deeper understanding of the methodology and practices needed to do my job.

Forging a career path in technology for me meant being flexible, learning from those around me while being prepared to put the effort in to learn and improve my skills and qualifications when needed.

What is your greatest career achievement?

Many people suffer from imposter syndrome from time to time.  I once wrote a paper on an idea for a technology solution to address a challenge in the insurance claims industry.  Although I hadn’t been able to develop the idea into a working product,  I later learned an InsurTech start-up had developed that solution and won an innovation award for it.  Rather than feel disappointed that I hadn’t been involved, it was a big lightbulb moment when I really started to believe in myself.  That moment of self-validation has remained with me and really helped to boost my confidence.

What has helped elevate your success?

Feel the fear and do it anyway. When my last employer approached me to work with them I was delighted and apprehensive in equal measure.  No-one really likes the unknown and despite my trepidations I took the job.  I think being a bit of a risk taker and not being afraid to take opportunities has really helped progress my career.

Also, I would say always ask for feedback from someone you look up to.  While we all love praise for good work, it’s learning from development points that have got me where I am today.

What career development tips would you give someone in the tech industry?

Don’t limit yourself based on your current skill-sets.  I have moved through my career so far, from a starting point of zero tech experience. If you have the passion, ability and want to learn, together with the time and effort to put that learning in, you will soon close those knowledge gaps and move in the career direction you want.

How can women overcome obstacles in a tech career?

There are many leading women in technology who command a presence and rightly so.  Many of us, however, have been in that situation where we make a point and it’s not taken seriously, but when a male colleague says the same thing people sit up and take note.  I think we need to be more confident in how we express ourselves, more commanding.

Also, many women go through phases in their career.  It amazes me that certain companies don’t support women coming back from maternity or adoption leave with more suitable flexible working options.  Often returners are on a high potential career trajectory that they could meet and excel in, if they were just given better flexibility to balance career and family life. However, changes in working practices due to the pandemic may have helped as it has let people demonstrate that a successful career and family life can go hand-in-hand.

If you waved a magic wand to accelerate the pace of change for women in tech what would you wish for?

It’s got to be more male ally-ship.  Male or female, we all work together for common corporate goals.  Since starting at LexisNexis Risk Solutions I’ve noticed the male:female ratio is higher than anywhere in my tech career so it’s fantastic to see that we are moving in the right direction.