Praveena Somoo: Achieving milestones with self-discipline and honesty
Having been only with ASW for a few years, Team Leader Praveena has made excellent achievements, which she owes to her work ethic and values. We sat down for a quick chat with Praveena to learn the secret of her successes at work.
Hi, Praveena! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Can you give us a quick introduction?
Hi, I’m Praveena, I have a diploma in architecture, a degree in business administration – two vastly different courses. What happened is, after getting my diploma, I was jobless for about a year because I just couldn’t find a suitable job in architecture. So I grabbed whatever opportunity that came by my path, and my first job was a call centre officer in Citibank. From there I worked and then went on to AIG Shared Services. I had a very entry-level job, but about a year later, I was promoted to be the Quality Analyst for that team. I then decided to further my studies into something that will be suitable with the job, hence, my decision to pursue business administration.
I was in AIG for about four and a half years, majority of which were spent as Quality Analyst. Then I got an opportunity in ASW as a Quality Specialist for a starter team doing call audits for the case managers in Australia. When I joined, it was only myself and another colleague in the team. So I’m quite proud of that because right now the team has grown to more than ten and is very stable. And then about nine months after that, I was actually promoted to be the Team Leader for the operations side of it.
Congratulations! How was that change like for you being a team leader now?
For the longest time in my career I had been an individual contributor. I’ve had certain experiences overseeing teams, but not that of a team leader. So when I first got into this role in the first two months, it was challenging thing for me because I was no longer concerned about just my individual work – I had 15 subordinates reporting to me. I was dealing with and managing 15 different personalities on a daily basis, so it was a rollercoaster ride at the start! But then I guess, somehow I found my footing, and right now I’m a happy team leader.
What I really like about this change is that I see how ASW really values and appreciates the employees and gives us opportunities to grow in different ways.
What do you usually do as a team leader?
As a team leader I make sure that whatever queues, whatever documents given to us are being worked on within the agreed service-level agreement with our client. I help maintain the agents’ productivity, quality, their attendance, and if they have any escalations. I also deal with the clients directly, whenever they have some urgent requests or escalations. Apart from that, I make sure that the entire team in Kuala Lumpur is sharing good practices with each other; I coach my agents, assistant team leaders, and things like that. So it’s been pretty busy and also fulfilling, I would say.
What are the usual challenges that you experience as a team leader in terms of managing people and also managing clients?
So when it comes to managing people, my biggest challenge is getting them onboard with me because individuals usually have their own understanding of things. From my experience, some agents don’t see the bigger picture of what we do and why we do them, whereas I am able to look at it from a bigger perspective. Whilst it can be challenging, I’ve learnt that when you are upfront and honest with them about expectations, they would eventually get onboard.
With the clients, I don’t see any major challenges. There can be frequent changes here and there with regards to the process, but I guess I’m able to adapt to these changes very easily, so it’s not a big deal for me.
In terms of working in the industry of insurance and workers’ compensation, what do you enjoy most about your job and your role as the team leader?
The one huge thing that gives a sense of fulfillment is that whenever I and the team do something right, someone else is actually benefitting from our good work. For example, we deal with new claims and medical certificates, so whenever a new claim is being lodged, my team has to go in and immediately review it, do the necessary coding, so that the case manager back in Australia can continue with their initial contact.
I believe that whatever that we are doing right now, it actually brings in a positive change or a positive impact to the injured or inconvenienced person. And that makes me happy because at the end of the day, I know for sure that someone else is actually benefitting from that.
Did you have any experience working for an Australian company before joining ASW?
Yes, I did. When I was working in AIG Shared Services, I had the privilege to work with clients from Australia, New Zealand, United States, and also the Philippines. So that kind of gave me a vast experience on how to deal with different clients of different nationalities. I even had opportunities to deal with Middle Eastern companies in Dubai and Europe.
Can you tell us about one of the most important things that you’ve learnt in your years of customer service?
The most important thing that I’ve learned personally is self-discipline and honesty go a long way. In whatever task or job assigned to you, you should give your 100% and be very honest in ensuring that you deliver it within the right time because your job it doesn’t only revolve around you – it also revolves around the lives of other people. I always try to think about what it would be like to be in our customers’ situation. Imagine being injured or sick, and you have a claim, and people you’re asking help from are just dilly-dallying and delaying the process, causing a lot of inconvenience for you. So I always try to make sure that my actions do not impact anyone else negatively.
Jumping off that point, how do you make sure that you improve in your job after all these years being in this industry?
My main key is self-discipline. Back when I was in another company, I was working multiple shifts – morning shifts, afternoon shifts, midnight shifts, evening shifts, so it was a real jumble, right? But I was happy doing it for a number of reasons.
When I joined ASW, it’s a standard morning shift, and I really like the fixed work hours. And I enjoy the early work hours! I live about 40km away from the office, I love traveling early because I can avoid the traffic jam. I love to start my day early. I wake up at 4 am, get ready, and I’m always the first person to arrive in the office. And I like to plan out my day as soon as I get to work and I make sure that I complete them before going home. So this self-discipline has been the backbone of everything I do, and it’s something that I’ve been practising since the early days of my career. And it has actually brought me a very long way.
So how do you see yourself in the next five years? What do you imagine yourself doing?
OK, in the next five years, my plan is to be in a managerial position handling a bigger portfolio. I would be happy to stay in the service industry as well because I feel that that’s where my passion lies, so definitely in the next five years I want to be in a bigger role with bigger responsibilities that will make a significant impact and change to the people around me.