21 things we learned in 2021

Inspiration, outlooks and finds from a year of perspective and growth

As we turn the page to a new year, many of us are excited to put 2021—a year that was challenging and imperfect for us all in so many ways—behind us. Yet as we look ahead, we can’t help but appreciate the year that was. At Berkley One, we built new capabilities, experimented often, expanded our team and footprint and saw our biggest growth yet. We left the year excited and encouraged—most especially by the resilience of our team, agents and clients.

We asked our Berkley One colleagues to share their favorite learnings from this year in work and beyond. From leadership ideas to technology projects to surprising hobbies, their answers share a fresh outlook on what is ahead. We hope you find in them as much optimism as we did.


On perspective


1. Go big with your thinking! It’s easy to pull an idea back, but harder to make a small idea bigger. – Sarah Mashek, Distribution, Chicago, IL

2. The concept of “ultra-prioritizing.” When I feel I have too much to do, I ask myself what’s THE most important right now and why. – Ruth Giannetti, Underwriting, Morristown, NJ

3. You grow into and adapt to whatever environment you need to operate in. – Marcus Maingot, Product Management, Orlando, FL

4. Trying something new that doesn’t work isn’t a failure. It’s part of the process! – David Boleslawski Jr., PriorityOneSM Service, Wilmington, DE


On insurance


5. I took a more in-depth look at market cycles in an educational/interactive webinar. It definitely helped me have a better understanding of my job, my company’s role, the needs of our clients and why we do things the way we do. – Janie Gittelson, Sales, Chicago, IL

6. Learning about NFTs and the impact on insurance has been a roller-coaster ride this year! I am constantly learning about this new product/technology. – Katja Zigerlig, Art, Wine and Collectibles Advisory, New York, NY

7. Whatever I learned, Katja Zigerlig taught me in her Art Insights webinars. – Chris Waller, Underwriting, Morristown, NJ (editor’s note: watch the latest one here!)


On teamwork


8. I learned to consider more than just underwriting experience in hiring and it has been an AWESOME change. It’s brought a fresh perspective and a focus on leadership for our team and our company. – Shane Avnet, Underwriting, Morristown, NJ

9. Part of good leadership is being vulnerable to telling the team you don’t have all the answers. – Frances Brodeur, Sales and Underwriting, Chicago, IL

10. You do not need to go it alone! We have a team here that is not only extremely talented, but extremely willing to help out. – Alex Horowitz, Growth Initiatives, New York, NY

11. Our bench strength is our strength. I always knew we had an amazing and very experienced team at Berkley One, but that was really evident when we were able to celebrate Peter Boccher’s retirement and make a seamless transition to Paul Cuzzola’s leadership of Claims. – Stacey Silipo, Marketing, Pittsburgh, PA


On technology


12. I learned how to use our Analytics platform more in depth and build my own dashboard. And I’ve been learning Adobe After Effects to make moving logo graphics! – Christi Bohnsack, Marketing, Houston, TX

13. I’m retraining myself to use in-office technologies again, after more than a year of managing my own technologies from home. I am still mastering it! – Alyssa Acosta, Customer Experience, Wilmington, DE

14. I’ve found great value in scheduling sessions with product owners. As our QA Manager, I’ve gotten bi-directional, real-time feedback and I’ve learned a lot from the business that helps our team! – Debbie Douthitt, Quality Assurance, Durham, NC

15. We set up new virtual sessions to offer training to large agent groups. It’s been very popular and successful! – Kathy Moore Stark, Berkley One Classics, Distribution, Luverne, MN


On innovation


16. Incremental change can lead to a true innovation; you can’t expect to change the game overnight. – Daniel Miller, Underwriting, Chicago, IL

17. We have strong leadership. We need to be able to make innovation work for all lines of business and have strong customer service to help support our agents. – Julie Nekali, Berkley One Classics, PriorityOneSM Service, Luverne, MN

18. Changing things up can spark creativity. We shouldn’t wait for pandemics to provoke working differently! – Christoph Ritterson, Marketing, Distribution and Sales, Chicago, IL


On our best discoveries


19. Soft cover Shinola notebooks were my big discovery. I feel like Indiana Jones when I scribble notes in one! – Kevin Hogan, Operations and Underwriting, Boston, MA

20. I discovered little lights, controlled by a remote, that can be mounted in closet walls to provide light. – Elaine Reyes, Compliance and Regulatory Counsel, Morristown, NJ

21. I’ve learned advanced carpentry! A few repairs have been needed on my home and it has been tough to get them completed with contractors. I went outside my normal comfort zone, with surprisingly great results! – Joel Corallo, Underwriting, Morristown, NJ



I can’t believe we are still fumbling with mute–especially me. – Susan Vella, Customer Experience, New York, NY


Kathleen Tierney is President at Berkley One (a Berkley Company).