Please Meet: Lori Powers
This week, we’re revealing our panelists one by one for the 3rd Annual Little Black Dress Night. We want you to get to know our panelists ahead of the event. Today’s reveal is Lori Powers, the Vice President of IT Operations and Service Management at CNA Insurance.
ChiTech: What led you into the tech field?
Lori Powers: I was in Human Resources for about 5 years during the merger and acquisition period at the bank I was working at in the late ‘80s. Every time we did a merger or were acquired, I was the one who had to figure out how to convert our payroll and benefits over. I thought there had to be an easier way than re-typing everything. So I started getting interested in computer science and data processing. When the bank was bought again, and I was tired of being the one who had to do all the work without getting to drive the way things were happening, I went back to school to get a computer science degree.
Why are you in the position you’re in today?
Because I like to fix things. I don’t like when things break but I like to help people. Being in operations means I get to make sure CNA can open its doors in the morning and conduct business. If I don’t need to fix anything, it’s a good day. But if I get to help somebody by fixing a problem, it’s also a good day.
How do you see yourself making an impact on the company in the next two years?
Really driving improvements in the way we do things. Making sure that unlike in years past we’re keeping our technology up to date and up with the advancements that are happening in the insurance business.
You spoke about this a bit already, but what’s the most rewarding part of your job?
When there is a problem, which is inevitable, my business partners understand that I have their backs, and my teams are doing everything they can to fix their problems. The most rewarding thing is when I see an email to someone on my team that says ‘we couldn’t have gotten this $2 million policy without you guys.’
Can you give me three words you would use to describe yourself?
I know, most people have trouble with this.
(Laughs) Stubborn…wow, maybe you should ask my husband this.
What do you think he would say?
I think he would say optimistic, he definitely would have stubborn on there, and I hope people say nice. My favorite sign my mom had on her wall said ‘Just Be Nice.’
What are some of your goals, professional or personal?
I’d like to retire at some point (laughs). I want to, when I retire, be closer to my children who are in Washington D.C. or Michigan, so it’s hard to see them sometimes. And knit a lot. I knit. My professional goal when I retire is I’d like to have someone say to me ‘Lori had a part in the success of CNA’.
What do you see as your biggest accomplishment so far?
Professionally, it would be joining the ranks of top technology leadership at CNA. From a personal perspective, raising three very successful happy children who are out on their own and not clamoring for mom’s checkbook anymore.
Who are your heros?
My father and my son. My father because he came out of the military at the end of the Vietnam War era, became a police officer, made the rank of Chief of Police and instilled in all his kids a sense of duty. My youngest son is my hero because he followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and is a Michigan State Police Trooper posted in St. Clair County, Michigan.
How long has been serving?
He graduated from the Academy two years ago on Halloween so it’s coming up on three years.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A veterinarian. I actually started at Michigan State as a pre-vet major.
I ran out of money and couldn’t afford to stay in school away from home. I moved back home, quit school, lived at home, and got a job. Then I went and finished my degree in business at Eastern Michigan University.
When you were in school, who was your favorite teacher and why?
My Spanish teacher in high school. I had her for three out of four years of Spanish, and she would invite the senior class to her house and let us do plays in Spanish. But now I don’t remember a single word.
Do you wish you kept up with it?
Yeah, now I live in Albany Park, which has a strong Spanish-speaking population. It’s coming back, but it’s been 30 years since I spoke Spanish, so it’s a lot to bring back (laughs).
When you were in high school, what was your favorite album?
Anything by Rod Stewart.
What is something not a lot of people know about you or you wish people knew about you?
I knit socks to relax.
Do you have any words of wisdom for the young ladies of ChiTech?
Just be nice, have a goal, focus on it, and call on people who can help you.
About Lori Powers:
Lori Powers is currently Vice President – IT Operations & Service Management at CNA Insurance where she leads a team that supports and maintains the Information Technology environment. Her focus is to help CNA meet its objectives of cost effective and efficient support of production systems in order to ensure continued growth and success in the industry, while also providing timely and accurate analysis and reporting used to facilitate decisions regarding Information Technology investments. She reports directly to the CIO as part of the IT Leadership Team.
She joined CNA in 2009 after holding multiple Technology leadership positions at LaSalle Bank. She also spent part of her career in Human Resources where she discovered a love of technology, ultimately leading her to transition to a role in Application Development back when IT was called Data Processing.
Lori chairs the IT Career Development Steering Committee and works closely with CNA’s IT Internship and Rotational Programs and is very involved in mentoring Women in Technology. She participates regularly in ARA (Attracting, Retaining, and Advancing Women in Technology) events and Chicago Executive Women’s’ Networking Group.
Lori is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and Marshall University. She is a native of Dearborn, Michigan, and currently lives in Chicago with her husband and two very needy cats.