Verisk Employee Spotlight

Verisk Employee Spotlight

I’m an author, but I also work full-time for Verisk Analytics (VRSK:NASDAQ). I was recently interviewed for an “Employee Spotlight,” the contents of which are below:

My job title is Customer Success Manager for BuildFax/ISO. BuildFax was acquired by ISO in October 2019, so I’m new to the Verisk tribe, but I’ve been with BuildFax since its inception on a bar napkin in 1998. I was working with a consulting firm as Capital Campaign Coordinator for the YWCA of Asheville, NC, when my husband asked me to help him with a start-up. I somewhat reluctantly agreed, but I’m glad I did. It’s been a challenging and rewarding 20+ years!

Under the leadership of Bill Ward, and then Holly Ward Tachovsky, we built our own data pipeline processes and technology from the ground up to create the first national construction history database. Through the dedication and passion of our outstanding employees (many of whom are still with us), BuildFax was able to create a unique data source and bring it to market. Now we’re all thrilled to be a part of Verisk!

What is the most important thing you have learned in your career?

In my various positions, I’ve learned to always be curious and ask for guidance when needed. As an example, when we created what later became BuildFax, we had to quickly learn how to launch a technology company from scratch. We sought guidance on how to attract accredited angel investors; how to find an “emerging law” corporate attorney; how to set up banking and QuickBooks; when to file corporate documents; how and where to market our developing product; how to recruit bright college graduates to reverse the brain drain in Asheville, NC; and, how to create an attractive culture. All of this was happening while raising four children, serving on non-profit boards, and being soccer parents.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned in life is to provide ourselves, our children (and grandchildren), and our staff with the tools needed to be successful. It can be as simple as a bottle of Elmer’s Glue to make slime.

If you weren’t doing this job, what else would you be doing?

I would probably spend my time researching and writing another book about a woman who made a difference in the lives of other women. Although my mother had an MA in Public Administration (unusual for 1938), out of necessity she later worked as a librarian wherever my father was stationed. I spent my summers hanging out at post libraries, generally reading biographies written for kids about famous people like Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart, so I guess it comes naturally.

​​​​​​​If you could have dinner with any two people, living or deceased, who would it be and why?​​​​​​​

Why not have a dinner party! I would love to be at the dining room table with Ralph Waldo Emerson and his wife, Lidian, with their guests Henry David Thoreau and Margaret Fuller. In 1845, Thoreau lived at Walden Pond on a piece of property owned by Emerson and was a frequent dinner guest. Henry and Waldo took turns being mentor/mentee. Margaret Fuller was a friend, war correspondent, editor, and feminist associated with the transcendentalism movement. She was also a frequent Emerson houseguest for extended periods, as Waldo was completely taken with her brilliance. There would have been fascinating conversations about a wide variety of topics, including the Underground Railroad, the Bhagavad Gita, reincarnation, and phrenology.

Why? These people have been a part of the Ward family for a long time, as our kids grew up with A Different Drummer (my husband’s award-winning 1990s screenplay), which he has recently revised with our daughter, Cayce Ward Young, as A Thoreau Life. They’re currently marketing the story as a three-part mini-series. All of this was before I read that my great-great-grandparents attended a few of Waldo’s lectures and had conversations with him over tea. It was a smaller world then.

What are some of the ways that you are staying healthy at home during this pandemic?

We have successfully worked from home for years, so our lifestyle hasn’t changed much, other than sheltering in place, physical distancing, and having groceries delivered. I have a sweet little sunroom as my office where I can watch birds at the feeder. In terms of health, I had the great fortune of learning Transcendental Meditation in 1975 and have continued my twice daily practice. I’m sure it has saved my life! Also, my husband introduced me to qigong (a centuries-old practice that coordinates body movements, breath, and calm mental focus, based on Chinese philosophy) about 10 years ago and we use our daily practice to maintain flexibility and balance, and improve our overall energetic health. Better to bring more life to your years than just years to your life! We also walk our granddog, Vanna White, daily in our neighborhood greenbelt just north of Austin, TX. We frequently see blue herons, white cranes, foxes, bunnies and squirrels – very exciting!

You recently released a book titled “Lifelines: The Bowen Love Letters” that you have been working on for 15 years. Can you tell us your experience with trying something new and stepping out of your comfort zone?

Some of my early job training was learning how to research donor prospects for a private prep school in Asheville. That’s when I realized that I love to do research! With Lifelines – The Bowen Love Letters, I delved into military forts and supplies on the southwestern frontier; read journals written by women who traveled on the Santa Fe Trail in the 1840s; read books about Spanish land grants and treaties, books about the beginning of the west, and read historical journals that helped me understand the era. All of that was out of my comfort zone!

When I finally had access to all of the surviving Bowen Love Letters (interesting story detailed in my Author’s Notes), I was able to finish transcribing them (spidery handwriting in pencil and pen, and sometimes cross-hatched due to writing paper shortages), organize the 700+ letters into an electronic document for copyright purposes, and then work with a publisher to format them into the Chicago Manual of Style for publication. In my final draft, I excluded letters that were too personal, and did some light editing for clarification purposes, while ensuring that I preserved unique syntaxes and colloquialisms.

The most fun I had was researching nearly every person, place, event, recipe, tonic (lots of laudanum to ward off cholera), mode of transportation, type of fabric, cost of goods, etc., mentioned in the letters to verify them. This was especially important to make sure that the names and ranks of soldiers were accurate. These were real people and they have descendants. Almost every detail mentioned in Lifelines – The Bowen Letters was verifiable with a Google search – our incredible Library of Alexandria!

Although fairly new to Verisk, what is one of your favorite things about working for us?

My favorite thing so far about Verisk is the culture! I love following the various Yammer groups and especially reading comments related to #makesyousmile, #mentalhealth, #physicalhealth, #needahand, and #veriskcolleaguescare.  I feel the intelligence, innovation, dedication and inclusiveness when reading The Daily Doses and Scott’s blogs, and attending town halls. I’m enjoying the opportunity to learn about people from all over the world!