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Willis of Wisconsin, an international insurance broker with a local presence in Brookfield, Wisconsin may be the world’s oldest insurance broker; established in 1828. With an increasing globalization of business, the team remains focused on solving risk and insurance coverage needs for their clients locally, nationally and throughout the world; yet remains closely connected to the local community. 

Giving back and providing value in partnerships are core values for Willis of Wisconsin. Dale Thoma, Managing Partner, along with his dedicated team, proudly support various organizations and causes throughout the state. Opportunities, Inc., a vocational rehabilitation program that specializes in training and employment for a diverse workforce, is one example of this long standing community commitment. Willis team members regularly attend Opportunities, Inc.’s fundraising events and promote their vocational scholarship program. They truly understand the mission and continue to pursue ways to positively impact it. 

Therefore, when Opportunities, Inc. Mission Advancement team approached Thoma recently to discuss future projects, he eagerly agreed to meet. However, he wanted to do something different; something local yet with potential to expand to other businesses here and abroad.

The teams planned a brainstorm meeting to be held at the Willis office in Brookfield. The Opportunities, Inc. team; Employment Specialist, Cindy Larkin and Vice President of Mission Advancement, Robin Kennedy, had never visited before and were instantly welcomed by the bright lobby and the impressive board room located left of the reception desk. It was in that moment, the “idea” appeared. 

Although a board room is a typical environment for many professionals, it isn’t common for young job seekers, especially young job seekers with diverse abilities. They may see them on television, or in movies, however actually meeting in them would be very unlikely. Therefore, it became the perfect setting for what would be called the Board Room Sessions.  Next, the team needed to determine the platform. Job seekers regardless of skills and knowledge, all must pass through one door to employment and that is the interview. Furthermore, practice is the key to this successful passage. Therefore, the program solidified as a professional mentoring opportunity. 

The first Board Room Session was held on September 11, 2015. Opportunities, Inc. selected four candidates to attend, including two local high school students and two young adults participating in their community employment program. Willis provided four executive level advisors for the event; Dale Thoma, Managing Partner; John Stieve, Senior Vice President; Christine Steeno, Senior Vice President Operations and Client Services, and Kim Allen, Senior Client Manager. 

The Willis team prepared a memorable day for their guests; creating a real life international board room environment. A full agenda, along with name plates and a catered luncheon made the day extra special for the four participants. The program included formal introductions, a general session on interviewing techniques, followed by participant interviews with each of the executives to practice and sharpen their presentation skills. Each participant received a feedback report with suggested techniques and tools for future interviews. It was both informative and impactful for all involved. Participant, Mackenzie Kylmanen expressed, “This was a wonderful experience for me to be a part of and gave me many ideas to improve upon as I continue my job search.” 

Willis team members were equally inspired by the event. Senior Vice President John Stieve stated, “I was prepared to share my expertise and experience to a group of energetic students during the Board Room sessions.  However, when contemplating the final results of the day, these amazing students positively impacted me in ways that I could not have expected.  Their enthusiasm and motivation to succeed was contagious.  I was thoroughly impressed and am looking forward to future sessions.”  The other executives were equally enthusiastic in their thoughts, as Senior Client Advocate Kim Allen shared, “I wasn’t sure what to expect; and was pleasantly surprised by the interaction I experienced with the students I interviewed.  I found them to be very engaging, bright and curious to the interview process.  It was very rewarding to take part in this productive program.” 

The Board Room Sessions are part of Opportunities, Inc.’s Professional Career Mentoring Sessions and are open to all industries. If your business is interested in sharing expertise and inspiring job seekers with diverse abilities, contact Opportunities, Inc. Mission Advancement division at 1.920.563.2437. 


Willis Session