Midlands Business Journal November 5, 2021

Page 20



TRAILBLAZING entrepreneur PAM ALFREY HERNANDEZ COACHES OTHERS TO PERSONAL SUCCESS When Pam Alfrey Hernandez was named chief operating officer of Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society (now marketed as WoodmenLife) in 2008, she would represent the first woman to serve at the executive level in the industry grandaddy’s then-125-plus-year history. Though, she certainly didn’t set out to blaze trails in the industry, Hernandez did take the words of her father to heart throughout her career. “My father gave me excellent advice: ‘Make yourself indispensable,’” she recalled. This advice was first applied when starting out as a teacher at Burke High School in Omaha. “It’s a lot harder to get rid of an English teacher who is also a coach, a club sponsor [and so on]. So, I coached volleyball, sponsored cheerleaders, was assistant athletic director …” A few years later, Hernandez would have the opportunity to make herself indispensable yet again in a completely different role and industry. “A parent of one my students offered me a job as a sales trainer at Woodmen Life,” she explained. “Normally, they hired sales agents to train other sales agents. But he took a chance on me.”

In fact, Hernandez had never sold anything. She didn’t know anything about insurance. Yet here she was: the first female instructor for an overwhelmingly male salesforce. “There was no career path I could envision for myself,” she said. “What’s the saying? ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.’ In my case, I couldn’t even see anyone who looked like me in my current position, let alone up the ladder. But I pursued my father’s advice.” Hernandez would find a problem that needed a solution. Or something that needed “doing.” “I’d figure it out, start doing it, and my superiors would realize that whatever ‘it’ was, they needed someone to do it,” she said. Most telling, Hernandez’s only positions that existed before she “inhabited” them were bookends of her 30-year Woodmen career: the first sales instructor role and the last COO position. “Every other position was created because a problem needed solving and I was the one to do it,” she summed up.

Page 20 • November 5, 2021­

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