As one of three sisters in a family that also had six boys, Maxine Walker
learned to hold her
own in a male-dominated arena at a very young age -- a skill that has served her
well during a stunning 31 years with property insurance and engineering specialist FM Global
family had no electricity and no indoor plumbing at home till Walker
The family's primary source of income was cotton.
The family raised cucumbers as well, and Walker
eight siblings were each given five rows of the crop to tend on their own.
Initially, that seemed like too much work, so "I'd take some of the vines, cut them up and bury them," Walker
But Walker's parents and grandparents arranged it so she
siblings got 100 percent of the revenue on the cucumbers they'd raised.
Sure enough, burying the vines meant fewer cucumbers at harvest, and less income.
"What happened was after the end of the first year, the yield was less than it would have been," said Walker
That ended the shenanigans.
"It taught me not to take shortcuts," she
Walker modeled with the Mississippi State University Fashion Board during her college years, and her friends assumed she would pursue a career in fashion or merchandising, but fields like engineering or computer science were more to her liking.
"I knew I would do something not very girly," she
"I wanted to take my life in a direction where I could immediately make a living for myself and take care of myself."
Today, Walker is vice president and division claims manager for FM Global's Western Division in Plano, Texas, covering Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as Latin America.
She sits on the board of directors of the Loss Executives Association and is a registered professional adjuster.
She has been with FM Global since the Highly Protected Risk property insurer recruited her back in 1981, when the company was simply known as "Factory Mutual."
Interestingly enough, Walker did not begin working in the claims department.
She first joined the company as a loss prevention engineering consultant, spending nine years there before deciding she was ready for a change and could learn more about the business by moving from engineering to the loss adjustment side.
FM Global's claims management and loss adjustment department had been pursuing Walker for some time.
"John Southall, the adjustment manager in Atlanta at the time, thought I'd be a really good fit so one day I decided to talk to John," Walker said.
"After a loss like Katrina," for instance, "you're with the client immediately following the event and work with them until their business is fully restored, and you're building relationships in the process," Walker
Her supervisor, Gerry Alonso, senior vice president of claims at the firm, said that maybe due to her humble beginnings, Walker has incredible drive as well as "an innate ability to be able to do her duties and outperform while at the same time have people look up to her.
That is slowly changing," said Walker, who served on FM Global's Diversity Advisory Group from 2009 till 2011.
Because businesses have become so global, any company operating "in a multicultural environment" worldwide has to become more diverse, if you ask Walker
writes coverage for one out of every three companies in the Fortune 1000.
A company like hers with offices or affiliates serving clients in more than 110 countries, has got to hire people who "are culturally representative" of those countries, she said.
said that the reason she's
hung in there at FM Global
for over three decades is because of the ways the firm has set itself apart from other insurers, and "the manner in which we partner with our clients to restore business and mitigate their loss.
"We hold their hands, we talk with them to understand the impact of the loss on their business, and help guide them through the process of recovery to restore them to business as usual as quickly as we can.
e also have in-house adjustors who handle the losses and engineers who assist with the process, which is hardly typical.
notes too that this past summer, Greenwich Associates
ranked FM Global
No. 1 among insurance companies for its "underwriting expertise," "customer service" and "claims processing responsiveness," for the second year in a row, based on a survey of U.S. corporate risk managers.
For other aspiring minority employees eager to excel in any business, Walker
offers the mantra she
siblings were given by her
parents and grandparents -- "we could be anything we wanted."
"From a professional standpoint I'd say to any young person out there, especially minorities, do not be constrained if you look at an organization and don't see a lot of people who look like you.
Don't let that stand in your way.
"Look at me," said Walker
I couldn't have accomplished what I have today if I looked around that building the first time I interviewed at FM Global
in Atlanta and didn't see other people of color and did not take a chance on the opportunity to work there."
"I think there was one other female consulting engineer in the Atlanta operation at the time I joined," she