Women in Technology Spotlight: Brandy Blum

Business Integration Lead, TPA Solutions

Tell me a little bit about where you attended school and your work history.

I attended St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I’ve always enjoyed working. Throughout high school and college, I held a variety of service positions. During my college years I worked at Fingerhut, an online retailer, as a trainer and call center lead.

How did you start your career at Ascensus, and how long have you worked here?

Shortly after college I moved up to Brainerd, MN, took a position with Ascensus, and have been here ever since! I started out in the Client Service call center and quickly transferred to an operations role where I helped with reconciliation and complex operational problems. From there, I continued to move within the company, working as a supervisor of our Participant Call Center and then onto managing our New Business/Transition Services Team. I enjoyed the challenging nature of this roll and appreciated that it involved both service and operations. After a number of years, I transitioned into a Business Development role, where I worked closely with our external sales team by assisting our top tier advisors. I was then asked to take the position of director of Strategic Partners. For the past few years, I have been the director of Digital Programs, primarily working on our plan website. Recently I have been promoted, and am excited to join TPA solutions as Business Integration Lead. At Ascensus, I have had the opportunity to work in service, operations, relationship management, and technology, all at one company.

What made you interested in pursuing a career in technology?

Technology found me. I used to be hesitant of anything technology-related, but I have found through my role, technology is not what it used to be. Technology is heavily intertwined with service and operations. In order to build websites and create self-service on the web, you need to be able to understand user needs. I bring a different aspect to our technology side of the business because I work with our customers to understand their needs and offer web solutions. I help design our website in a simple and easy way to provide our users with the information they need.

Another reason why I like the tech industry is that it’s very fast paced and things are constantly changing. I like to be busy and feel challenged.

What makes working on the IT team at Ascensus different or unique?

We have a very diverse group of individuals, which helps us understand our users better. We have different backgrounds and think about a user perspective differently, which allows us to build items with a more diverse group of people in mind. The culture at Ascensus is great, we all come together and act in the best interest of our clients.

Looking back five or ten years, what career advice would you give your younger self?

Take the chances, learn new things, and continue to learn. For me, I wish I wouldn’t have been so intimidated by technology years ago. I think you should put yourself in uncomfortable positions to learn and grow personally and professionally.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge women face in the technology industry?

I think many woman feel similar to how I felt, technology is intimidating. I had a different perception of what technology was, I think many females feel that same way. This perception that myself and many other females have is what technology used to be many years ago. Technology today has evolved, it’s about customer interaction, having empathy for our users, and being able to understand them and their needs.

It’s great to see the push in STEM and mathematics for girls and young women, it’s important that they are exposed to technology early on.

Are there any current technology trends that emerging technologists need to know about?

I think the trend is really listening to your users’ wants and need. Users want to be given information that they need, they don’t want to try and find it. Technology is no longer in the background and separated from the rest of the business, it’s now a front-end client service role.

Who is your biggest role model and how did they inspire you?

I have a number of role models for various reasons. Growing up, my mother was by far the most patient and open-minded person I have ever known, and my father is very driven, detailed, and organized. I feel like I was able to learn and grow from both of them for very different reasons. I’m very fortunate to have very supportive, driven, and wonderful people in my life. My husband and mother-in-law are two people that have inspired me to be the best person that I can be. They have given me the confidence to move into different aspects of the business, including technology.

Why do you like working for a company that helps people save for life’s most important events?

There are many reasons why I like working for Ascensus–the tools that we’re building are made to help educate and help individuals prepare for life’s most important things. We’re helping over 8 million Americans currently, and are growing that number all the time.