The irony of being fearless about risk when you work in the risk management biz isn’t lost on Ang, who won’t let herself—or anyone else—get complacent about success or cower in the face of a problem. So she’s scrapped the old adage, “Fake it till you make it,” and adopted an axiom of her own: Face it till you ace it.
Angela Bolduc never expected to be a tech exec and corporate board member; she had every intention of becoming a kindergarten teacher. Growing up in rural New England, playing and coaching field hockey through college, and studying psychology and early childhood education seemed like a sure path to a career with five-year-olds. Two things help to explain her unexpected shift from classroom to boardroom: she embraced the friction between her nurturing nature and the cold, cutthroat world of business, and she listened to mentors who helped her see more in herself.
Today she holds an MBA, serves on the Milliman board of directors, and is a Principal and Managing Director at IntelliScript. Ang leads IntelliScript’s client relationships, data partnerships, recruiting and talent management, software development, and operations teams. That means that a key part of her job involves paying her mentors’ confidence forward by helping employees, partners, and customers see more—in themselves, in the company, and in all the new ways data can be harnessed—expressly by being uncomfortable.
You studied to be a kindergarten teacher and then joined an insurtech startup. Is there a story behind that course correction?
It wasn’t really that I changed my mind about what I wanted to do. Kindergarten may have been a safe bet, but I realized that I could infuse the same humanity into the business world and use my talents, teacher training, and coaching experience to understand people, solve problems, and reach goals.
What goal are you helping IntelliScript reach?
Protecting the health and financial wellbeing of people everywhere. We do our part by aggregating and interpreting electronic data for insurance risk assessment. Insurance is one way that people and families secure their futures. But it has to be sustainable, and that’s where we come in. We help insurers see risk more clearly and quickly, streamline workflows, and foster competition so they can control prices while maintaining the premiums and reserves they need to sustain the industry. And tools like our Risk Score predictive model also highlight unintuitively good risks, so some people who may otherwise be declined for insurance can now be accepted.
“Unintuitive” sounds a lot like “uncomfortable.”
Those unintuitive results are a great example of a why being uncomfortable leads to breakthroughs. It’s unsettling that you don’t necessarily understand a predictive model’s output, but you’re actually seeing more because you’re seeing the unseeable. When you really understand that, opportunities just open up. I love that part of what we do—that we use complex tech to disrupt and shake up the status quo and advance the industry.
In the broadest possible terms, how would you define your job?
It’s all about maximizing people and relationships in pursuit of useful innovation and better business outcomes. I love working with current and potential clients, partners, potential partners, and data sources—everyone from new hires to board members. My challenge is to understand all those people and their multiple gifts and perspectives, so that we can collaborate in ways that will sustain our growth and inventive tempo and introduce new tools to vital markets.
When you arrived at IntelliScript you were employee number six, so the company was still very much in the act of inventing itself. Now you have hundreds of employees and a lot of hungry competitors. How do you sustain your edge and reinvent amid growth and pressure?
It’s a bit ironic that we help our clients to assess and control risk, but as innovators we ourselves have to take risks and make big, bold bets that others would balk at. Our work is never done, and we can never rest on our laurels and be comfortable. The second we get comfortable, that’s a warning sign. So a key to preserving an innovative culture is living with the prospect of failure and dealing with fear of the unknown by just flat-out facing it.
That may sound like so much lip service, but we put our money where our mouth is and invest in potential failure. We also take risks with people—we put them in roles they never imagined. They dig deep and find the wherewithal to rise to the occasion, take on the challenge, and succeed. They absolutely mess up along the way; that’s just part of the deal. So we set the expectation that it’s OK to fail, but it’s not OK to hide from the facts or rough parts.
We’ve all heard the catchphrase, “Fake it till you make it,” but I prefer a different version: Face it till you ace it. Confronting your fears is hard, but we keep doing it because we relive that startup mentality with every new product that we launch and existing product that we perfect. That keeps us uncomfortable in the best, healthiest way so we can keep inventing, disrupting, and pushing the outer limits of what’s possible.