Our Black in Tech series features the career path & advice from Black professionals in the tech industry. In this Q&A, April Cowan, Customer Service Manager at Duck Creek Technologies shares her story.
Where did you grow up and what were you like as a child? What did your parents do for work?
I grew up mainly in Des Moines, IA. However, due to my father’s job, we did move quite a bit. As a child, I was a sports fanatic. My parents tell the story of me trying to dribble a basketball before I could walk. I would even sit and watch the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears with my dad at a very young age.
Professionally, my father was a Regional Executive for GTE (General Telephone and Electronics which is now Verizon). My mother was a Hospital Administrator. Both are retired.
Where did you go to college? What did you study and what did you do after graduating?
I went to Northwest Missouri State University. I started off majoring in Art History however later changed to Business Administration. After graduation, I moved to St. Louis where I worked as an Assistant Manager at a bookstore. I loved to read and what better place for free books.
What inspired you to get into the tech industry?
My inspiration came from a project I was assigned to lead by my former manager (and current mentor) that involved providing business requirements for a new claims application that was being developed internally at the insurance company where I was working. I became intrigued with understanding the behind the scenes / development work being performed to make the business requirement ‘come to life'. Ultimately that role evolved with me becoming the liaison between the technical and business teams.
What has your career path looked like in tech and the various positions you’ve held before joining Duck Creek Technologies?
While working on the aforementioned claims adjusting, I moved from a claims handling role to a Project Manager role. I left that company and joined another insurance company resuming a similar Project Management position, and later moving to a National Claims Director - System Administration and then AVP of Claims IT. During that tenure, I also led a team implementing new claims adjusting and first notice of loss tool. Over the last 10 years, I’ve been in roles that support insurance providers in the capacity of Consultant and to most recently, Customer Service Manager.
Can you share the high-level responsibilities of your current position as Customer Service Manager at Duck Creek Technologies?
As a Customer Service Manager, I’m responsible for managing multiple major, medium to large accounts. I am the primary contact between clients and our internal operations team. My main focus is customer satisfaction which may include being responsive to their needs from an infrastructure perspective, making suggestions on improvements and/or other Duck Creek product offerings, and providing metrics and other key performance reporting. I also provide mentorship/training to more junior or new Customer Service Managers.
What has attributed to your success thus far and what types of obstacles have you had to overcome along the way as a Black professional?
My ability to adapt to my surroundings and still be my authentic self has mainly contributed to my success navigating through corporate America as a black woman/professional. I refuse to lose the essence of what makes me a good employee but I’m open to growth, critiques, and change that will continue to enhance my ability to be a valuable asset at any company. I’ve been lucky to have a mentor who is well respected within the insurance-technology industry and has provided some guidance along the way. Finally, watching my parent's work ethics at an early age has also definitely helped.
What types of programs and initiatives does Duck Creek Technologies have that support diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Over the recent year, Duck Creek Technologies has established a Diversity and Inclusion group, a Women’s Employee Resource Group (WRG), and a Black Employee Resource Group (BRG). I’m a member of all of them and a founding member of the BRG. I believe Duck Creek Technologies has done an amazing job supporting and speaking out on diversity, equity and inclusion internally and externally.
What advice would you give to other Black professionals who are interested in joining the tech industry?
My main advice would be to ‘stay true to yourself,’ the world is evolving and while you need to keep up from an educational and knowledge perspective, don’t be fooled into losing who you are, ‘unless’ it brings you continued growth and success in pursuing your career goals and aspirations.