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Employee Spotlight: Heather Mears

Employee Spotlight: Heather Mears

How would you describe your role at PS&F?

Even though I’ve been in the benefits world for a long time, my role at Parker, Smith & Feek is a bit different than what I’m used to. Everything is so team-oriented here that it’s my job to be the point person and take final responsibility for my clients and their needs. Even though there’s so many people working on various aspects of the program, the buck stops with me. Ultimately, it’s my job to make sure that my clients are happy.   

What inspired you to start a career in employee benefits?

I majored in biology for pre-med, and after college I was preparing to take my MCAT. I needed a few more physics credits, so I was looking for a job while I finished up those classes. I was offered two jobs – one as a receptionist at a really fancy office, and the other in insurance at a tiny place in north Seattle. Though the reception job seemed much more fun, I knew I would use my brain more in the insurance gig, so I went with that.

I was engaged at the time and putting a lot of thought into the question of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I realized that I didn’t want to go back to school for seven years while settling down and thinking about having kids. Luckily, my boss was an incredible mentor, took me under her wing, and showed me the benefits of being a woman in the business world. I stayed with that small company for a couple of years before going to work for a larger broker, Sedgwick, that was eventually bought by Marsh. I spent about 16 years working for large brokers before going to the carrier side.

For me it was the perfect decision – it was much easier to have a family and flexibility in a rewarding career than it would have been if I’d become a doctor.

Heather Mears and her family

How was the mentor at your first insurance job influential on your career?

She inspired me with the way that she carried herself. She was such a strong person; she was an Asian-American woman running a business in the mid-90s when it was very much a man’s world. She held her own and never let herself be intimidated or distracted from her goals. Because of her, I was confident throughout my career that I could make my mark in a male-dominated industry.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I love to travel; I’ve taken a little breather because my schedule has been a bit crazy, but I’m looking forward to getting out more. I’m also a huge NBA fan and follow the Clippers pretty closely, since the Sonics are gone now. I watch a lot of football too. I’m a big exerciser and passionate about fitness, but I never enjoyed playing organized sports myself.

I’m in a book club so I read a lot. It’s a hardcore group that’s been together for 20 years now, and I’ve been a member for 10. They’re all really neat women and I love participating.

I also love food – I do a lot of baking and could talk about food all day long. I could talk about what I’m going to have next while eating my current meal (laughs).

We talk a lot about the PS&F difference. How do you make a difference?

I’m a fixer; I love the challenge of finding the right path to the intended solution, even if it involves some detours. If I hit a roadblock, I’ll go and workout for a bit to clear my head, and then come back with fresh ideas to tackle it.

The people are also a game changer. When I worked for a carrier, Parker, Smith & Feek was my client for almost 10 years, and I always loved everyone here. I wouldn’t have returned to the broker side of the industry with any other company.

Heather Mears and her family

Tell me about your family?

I have two girls, one’s 16 and a junior in the same high school I attended, and the other is 21 and a senior at the University of Washington. They’re by far my biggest accomplishment; they’re both such amazing and strong women and as feisty, if not more so, than their mother.

You’re a Seattle native but went to college in Virginia. What drew you so far from home?

I went to Western Washington University for two years and changed my major a couple of times before deciding that I needed a bigger change.

I started looking for transfer options (in a hard cover book nonetheless – we didn’t have the internet then), and my best friend’s mom kept telling me about how beautiful Virginia is. I found a program in commercial fitness at Radford University that caught my eye. So I packed everything up and drove across the country with my mom to this tiny little town in Southwest Virginia. After being a city girl in Seattle all my life, it was like an entirely different country. On top of that, I didn’t know anyone at all and had to live in the dorms as a junior. Coming from WWU, I wasn’t part of the Greek system, but I decided to rush just to make some connections. I met a woman whose brother played football for UW, so we totally glommed onto each other. I stayed for three years, graduated, came back, and now I live on the same street where I grew up.


Where are you from? Ballard in Seattle, Washington

Family? Daughter, Hailey (21); daughter, Lola (16); dog, Buddy (14)

Favorite vacation spot? Paris

Favorite food? Pizza

Seattle favorites? Summer on the water

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