Lisa Osman from Zurich talks about her working life and how she has been able to accelerate her career in her 50s.
Lisa Osman put her career on hold when her children were young, but continued to keep her hand in, moving across different departments in the insurance company Zurich. Since turning 50 she has decided that the time is right to put her foot down and accelerate and was recently promoted to UK Risk Operations and Policy Oversight Manager, a role she works flexibly, giving her time for her teenage daughter and her mum.
Lisa came to Zurich 22 years ago through a circuitous route. At school she had wanted to be a dental nurse, but it was hard to secure the training she needed. Not wanting to go to college, she took a job in a school photography company where she stayed for 10 years, working her way up to a management position.
When the job became increasingly pressured and she wasn’t enjoying it she left and took a series of temporary jobs, including for Zurich in the payroll team. Soon after a permanent role came up in the cash section, doing jobs such as the cheque runs and filling up the cash machines.
Lisa did that job for a while until one day she was talking to a Zurich colleague in another team who told her there was a job going in the mortgages reporting team. She was working in that team when she got pregnant with her first daughter in 2004. She came back on reduced hours, which was not common for that type of job in those days. “I was very lucky that Zurich made it work for me,” she says. She worked three days a week and was willing to come in additional days if needed. At the time her husband was able to do a compressed week and have a day off midweek to be with his daughter and to do the school run.
Lisa says she was keen to keep on working as she knew it would be a struggle to get back to work if she took time out, especially since she hadn’t been to university. She had also built lifelong friendships. She had a second daughter and returned to work after maternity leave. Around seven years ago there was a restructure and parts of her work were outsourced. Lisa was put at risk of redundancy. Fortunately, she met someone in Zurich who said there was a job coming up in the risk department. Lisa didn’t even know what that was, but she got the job, working as a research assistant and found she really enjoyed it. Due to a reorganisation, a job as a risk analyst came up working on a particular risk assessment analytics system. As more people left, Lisa became the expert in it.
Just before last Christmas, having been working at home during the pandemic, she realised she was missing being in the office and catching up with others. She talked to the chief risk officer who asked whether she wanted to go back to full-time working. Lisa had just turned 50. She felt she was at a crossroad. “I felt I could just drift along or I could put my foot to the floor,” she says. Her daughters were 18 and nearly 15.
She decided she needed a 10-year plan to focus on her career and increase her pensions contributions. She asked if she could work compressed hours so she could be around for her youngest daughter and for her mum who is in her 80s.
In January her boss announced that he was leaving to work on another team. Lisa thought she could take over his role. She reasoned that she would have to train the replacement in any event. She applied and got the job and has since been building her team. “I don’t think I would have been able to do it if Zurich had not been so flexible,” she says, adding that Covid helped normalise remote working. “They say in their job adverts that they offer flexible or part-time roles and they do follow through.”
She works 50% from home and 50% in the office and Zurich has offices in different places that she can travel to. She also has access to a good healthcare package. “I’d recommend Zurich to anyone,” she states, mentioning the company’s parental leave and sabbaticals. She adds that the company listens to its staff and feels Zurich ‘played a blinder’ during Covid. “Everyone was treated on a case by case basis and it brought us closer together,” she states. Trust was implicit, she adds, and there were opportunities to socialise through online coffee breaks, xmas parties, afternoon tea [delivered to people’s houses].
For her personally, she says Covid taught her the importance of family time. “Before I was always on the go. Now I really appreciate sitting down and watching a film together,” she says. She also supported her daughters’ school work while working. She says her youngest suffered most from the lack of social interaction. Her oldest recently won a coaching apprenticeship on Swindon Town football club’s women’s team. Lisa herself started an apprenticeship in data analytics before she took up her new role and says Zurich’s apprenticeships have no age barrier. Hers is now on hold – her own decision – and she says she will come back to it in due course.
She is very happy in her new role and continuing to learn, taking things day by day. “There are so many opportunities at Zurich,” she says.
She doesn’t know what will happen next, but she and her husband have a loose plan for their 60s to travel, move to Weymouth with their best friends and work part time on the seafront.
The flexibility she has at Zurich has also given her time to devote to her hobby – swimming. She is secretary of the local swimming club where her daughter used to go. She has also been a school governor whilst at Zurich and the company gives employees time off for voluntary work and has donated money to the school. Her team is now working on a Christmas challenge to fund and organise a Christmas party for the organisation STEPS Clubs, which works with disadvantaged teenagers, and Lisa says the work brings everyone together and means they get to work with people they don’t normally work with.
“Zurich is a really good place to work. It doesn’t just pay lip service to things like flexible working and community engagement. People are held to account for it,” she says. “A lot of companies advertise these things, but they don’t happen in reality. Zurich does and I am proof of that. I have been able to pick up my career when I wanted to and move it on without any judgement. It’s an amazing thing.”