Top risk manager: Get a mentor, and network, network, network

Top risk manager: Get a mentor, and network, network, network | Corporate Risk & Insurance

Top risk manager: Get a mentor, and network, network, network

Finding mentors and networking are the top career tips for those in risk management, according to the risk and insurance manager at US-based Noble Energy.

David Gresko, who studied engineering as an undergraduate, describes himself as one of the few risk management professionals who directly sought out the career.

“A lot of people say you don’t get into risk management intentionally, it just kind of falls into your lap in some way, shape, or form. I actually asked to get into risk management,” he told Corporate Risk and Insurance.

Having started his career in project management working on the design and construction of oil, gas and petrochemical facilities, Gresko soon knew that engineering was not a “means to an end” for him. Heading to Dallas, he studied for an MBA and moved over to working in corporate finance.

From there, while providing support to the assistant treasurer of risk management at his firm, he was asked to attend a conference hosted by Deloitte – which changed the course of his career completely.

“The reason the seminar was a turning point for me is because that’s really what got me thinking about risk management as a career path… That actually introduced me to the concept of insurance and that’s what stoked the fire to get into risk management,” Gresko explained.

“Around two days later, I had a meeting with my boss in the finance group and he said – what do you want to do after working in finance? And I said – I’d like to move into risk management and insurance.”

As luck would have it, a member of the risk management team at the time was looking for a new role, and the two arranged to switch jobs.

“I got into risk management in the beginning of 2004 and have been there ever since,” Gresko said. “If I could go back in my career, I would have gone into the risk management field earlier.”

After more than a decade in the industry – as well as a varied portfolio of experience beforehand – Gresko has some revealing insights into where the role of a risk manager is heading.

“I foresee I’m going to be working a lot more with lawyers, simply because the contracts I deal with are getting more complicated, the counterparties are getting a lot smarter, and laws are changing – and not always for the better,” he said.

“Another thing I’m finding is that lots of people are looking for someone to blame when something bad happens. They immediately run to a lawyer. So, the first thing is, do we have insurance?” he added.

Unsurprisingly, technology has had a big impact too: “The onset of smart devices – now everybody has an iPhone or Samsung,” he said. “But what that means is that you’re now connected to your job 24/7. So even when I’m on vacation, I’m working. That’s how it impacts me personally.”

From an industry perspective, technology brings both good and bad, the latter in the form of cybersecurity concerns.

“We use smart technology in our production facilities because it improves safety, it speeds up the transmission of data, and we have the ability to have everything in real-time,” he said. “But the problem is, sometimes the technology outpaces our ability to contain it – that’s the bad part. That’s how you get the cyber issues, and I think a lot of companies will tell you that if cybersecurity isn’t their top priority in terms of risk exposure, it’s easily in the top three.”

Asked for his top career tips, Gresko advises risk management professionals to “get along with everybody,” to network, and to seek out mentors.

“I wish I’d have done this earlier in my career - and that would be to find mentors. Really go out of your way to interact with key leaders, because that’s how you identify career opportunities,” he said. “I used to set up lunches with the different business managers, just so I could talk to them and say – hey, I’m interested in doing this. Do you have any thoughts or recommendations?”

Seeking out opportunities to network with peers, such as at industry conferences, is a great way to access new ideas and ways of thinking, Gresko added.

“Even today, I look for opportunities to participate in stuff like RIMS, or other organizations,” he said. “To get together, talk about business and meet people. From meeting people, you learn things that maybe give you opportunities to do things you might not have thought of.”