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Special Edition Employee Spotlight: Ann Heitkemper

What’s your role at PS&F?

I’m a risk management partner for large construction companies to help them conduct their business.

You just won the Parker, Smith & Feek Jean Smith Recognition of Excellence Award – making you the 2019 Employee of the Year. Was it a surprise to win?

I knew that I had been nominated, but I was operating under the assumption that, because there were so many other really amazing people who were in the running, I wasn’t going to win. When they started the announcement speech and said, “This person started in 2015…” my heart just started thumping. I thought, “Oh no.”

And then they went on to say, “…as a Senior Account Administrator…” I thought, “Oh dear.”

Then finally when they said, “…and then was promoted to an Account Manager,” I immediately started looking for an exit. I was thinking, “Can I get under the table? Can I run out without anyone noticing?”

From there it was sort of an out-of-body experience. I couldn’t believe that it was really happening. I was shaking when I went up to accept the award.

It was hard for me though. For one, I don’t really like attention or being in the spotlight. For another, I feel like the other people who were nominated did just as much for the firm as I did. And even further, I consider everything that I did last year a team effort – I didn’t do anything on my own. I had success in the Tacoma office opening because the team wanted us to succeed. None of my accomplishments happened in a vacuum; it was never just me. We achieved great things as a group.

My husband was very proud of me, though. When I came home with the award, he wasn’t sure what it was until I made him open the box. My cats were entirely unimpressed, however.

Tell me a bit about you journey here at Parker, Smith & Feek – what role did you start in five years ago?

Well, I started as a Senior Account Administrator in the Construction Practice Group. It was a newly created position without an established book of clients, which was a bit challenging for me. But it afforded me the opportunity to dig into some new areas and grow as a professional. I was promoted to Account Manager a year and a half or two later and just kept plugging along with my client work.

In January 2018, I started as a supervisor for the Construction Practice Group administrative staff, and did that for a year before I was approached about a leadership role in Tacoma. It was a big change, and lots of other people were established in their locations with families. The company knew that my husband and I were planning to buy a house, so it kind of clicked. But I was still unsure if I really wanted to take it all on.

opens in a new windowCliff Rudolph, who was running the office at the time, drove me down, showed me around the office, and shared his vision with me. That was the tipping point for me; I was so overwhelmed and impressed that I immediately jumped on board. It was all so exciting and his enthusiasm was infectious.

I’m still working with most of the same clients that I was before the move, so that’s been a nice constant at least with all of the change over the past couple of years.

What’s something exciting going on in the construction industry right now?

Oh my gosh, so many things! The construction industry is booming – it’s not just that there’s new and exciting projects everywhere, but there’s new and exciting ways of doing the work. That’s so much fun with clients – looking at what they’re proposing or planning to do, and then helping put together a fresh program to cover it.

What’s made you so passionate about the insurance industry?

I’m a huge insurance nerd, so it’s honestly contract review. I thoroughly enjoy helping my clients understand and negotiate the insurance requirements in their contracts. Particularly with situations where my general contractor clients are hiring subcontractors, or vice versa; it’s extremely important that there’s proper risk transfer in place for both parties.

I was an English major in college, and this role lets me use that skillset. It takes a lot of critical reading and interpretation to understand the contracts. I get to answer questions like, how does the language or endorsements work for or against the requirements? How do we make sure that everything ties in properly together to best protect our clients? Digging into these problems is what really gets my juices flowing!

Tell me about your family. You and your husband have quite the love story, right?

My family is made up of me, my husband, and our two cats, Charlotte Brontë and Leo Tolstoy. I love literature obviously, so they’re both named after authors. At first I thought that Leo was kind of a deep thinker, so I figured the name was appropriate and the personalities would match…except he’s not really an intellectual. He’s sweet, but he’s not really good at thinking (laughs).

Charlotte’s namesake is my favorite author and a goddess. Both feline and human Charlottes have this wild, independent, creative, intelligent spirit about them. She’s a joy.

My husband is Ray, we’ve been married for just over four years now.

Our whole story is definitely a bit unconventional. We originally met when I was 17 and he was 19, and we were working together in retail. We were young, in love, and a little stupid, so we had a lot of drama in our relationship. We dated on and off for about four years, then one time we broke up and it stuck.

We both went about our lives and down separate paths, until 20 years or so later. Ray was on LinkedIn, and my profile popped up as someone he may know. It didn’t make any sense because we have absolutely nothing in common career-wise, no shared connections…nothing. Regardless, my profile popped up, and he knew me by my picture. He tracked me down, and we started talking again. The second time we went out, he admitted to me that I was the love of his life and he’d been looking for me to reconnect for years…but had always been spelling my name wrong when typing it online.

We moved in a week later, got engaged two days after that, and now we’re living happily ever after.

What’s one thing your coworkers would be surprised to learn about you?

Before I was married, I called myself a crazy cat lady spinster. I was very proud of being over 40, unmarried, childless, and independent.  It was my moniker; I totally owned the identity of, “I’m not ever getting married. I’m happy being single. I have a great life. I don’t need a man. I’ve got my cats, and I’m good!”

I’m still very much independent and proud of that fact! But I’m also married and talk about how much I love my husband all the time.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A veterinarian. I have a deep and abiding passion for animals, and being connected to them has always been something that’s super important to me.

But then the reality of the understanding that being a vet doesn’t mean you get to play with kittens and puppies all day…that sometimes you need to deal with the ugly side. And my empathy level is far too high to cope with that reality on a day-to-day basis. It would have destroyed my soul.

Have you had a mentor who was particularly influential on your career?

There were two primary people for me. One was a man I worked with for twelve years at my last job. He built up my confidence and showed me what it means to really take care of a client. Contractors especially; he taught me how to understand, work with, talk to, and interact with them.

The other was a woman who really imparted on me how to take a client-centric approach. She taught me not only how important details are, but the importance of being thorough with those details and what to look for from a technical standpoint. She was also a little nit-picky, which led me to sometimes think, “That didn’t feel great when she treated me that way. When I’m in that position, I want to approach that a little differently.” I learned a lot of fantastic things from her, both behaviors that I wanted to mirror, and those that I didn’t. 

What’s your favorite part of the transition from Seattle to the new Tacoma office?

The people. We have such an amazing team down in Tacoma; it is an absolute delight to go to work with them. Every day I am so elated that I raised my hand for the position in Tacoma.

We have this wonderful opportunity to create an environment and dedicate ourselves to what we want that to look like. Every single person is so engaged in that process, and that makes it enjoyable and exciting. I have been given all the room that I need to work with our team, and have received nothing but support while we work on creating and executing a vision for the space and group.

PROFILE:

Where are you from? North Bend, Washington

Favorite vacation spot? Paris, France. Or Scotland.

Favorite author? Charlotte and Anne Brontë.

Favorite restaurant? Café Flora in Madison Park

Favorites quote? “A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day.” Emily Dickinson

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