Ambra Debernardi, Director of Multinational Business and Broker Development, Group Corporate Solutions, AIA shares with WiFA what inspired her to choose her career path, her experience with mentors and volunteerism, who she admires, and much more.
Tell us about your background and the journey to your current position and organization.
I am Italian and have an MBA from the University of Liverpool and a Masters in Chinese Studies from SOAS, University of London, hence I can speak Chinese Mandarin, a language my mother recommended that I to learn when I was 17 years old. Once I graduated, I moved to China for a year and then Milan to start my corporate career. I wanted however to find a job that would allow me to work closely with China and unexpectedly, I pursued an opportunity with Assicurazioni Generali and later, with Generali China Life. As of today, I have over 18 years’ experience in the insurance industry and highly specialised in the structuring and delivering of products and solutions pertaining to Employee Benefits for MNC clients across Asia-Pacific. I particularly enjoy the employee benefits sector as it allows me to contribute directly to the wellbeing of employees and their families and the financial negotiations remain B2B. In 2009 I was transferred to Hong Kong with my family. I joined AIA Group in 2016 and support AIA’s vision of helping people live healthier, longer, and better lives and support our commitment to the Asia Region.
Who or what inspired you to choose your career path?
An important role model has been my mother, a neurologist, whose self-discipline, leadership skills, and hard-working attitude led her to the top position in a field that was highly male dominated. She pushed me to challenge myself and build the confidence needed to pursue a career overseas.
Please tell us how you or someone in your life that you admire provided hope or healing to the family or community.
As I am the daughter of a neurologist and a sociologist, our family has always been involved in the activities of charitable organizations. Specifically, as a family, we devote a significant amount of time to the community affected by multiple sclerosis and children affected by autism and their families.
Describe a challenging or difficult time during your career where you overcame bias.
The biggest issue I always face is pay inequality. Women in corporates are paid significantly less and often provided with less opportunities to access the C-suite. What frustrates me is the passive approach that corporates take to identify, retain and invest in talent, irrespective of their background. I personally do not like taking anything for granted and when I see talent, I want to invest in their professional progression and reward them accordingly.
Mentors play an important role in the developments of many careers. If you have/had a mentor, what is the one take away message or inspiration that he/she passed on to you?
I had several mentors throughout my career, many were men given the industry I operate in, and they all taught me something valuable. An important piece of advice I received is to never be afraid to ask. Even more as a woman, we should not be afraid to ask for recognition and for opportunities to progress our careers.
The pandemic continues to bring new challenges into our homes and workplace. How are you adapting to these changes in terms of volunteering within your community or workplace?
Donation, participation to virtual challenges, education and training delivered via webinars, innovation in the services that we provide to customers such as digital wellness offerings, all of these are ongoing initiatives where I am highly involved.