What I Wish I Knew: a series of conversations around first jobs
Welcome to another installment of our “What I Wish I Knew” series, which taps MetLife colleagues whose unique post-graduate experience might inspire recent grads as they forge their own professional paths. Next up, we have Nico Eggert, Digital Strategy Director with MetLife Group Benefits, who has been with MetLife for four years.
What is your current role?
Nico Eggert: I am a Digital Strategy Director with MetLife Group Benefits. I represent our business in a large transformation program that aims to overhaul the online experience for employers, employees, brokers and healthcare providers. My day-to-day tasks range from providing my manager with insights and recommendations to training our market-facing teams and attending meetings as a subject matter expert.
What is your background?
I grew up in Germany and I got an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Computer Science from the University of Rostock in Germany. After five years of banking in Europe, I went to business school at the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology. I interned with MetLife in Australia and joined the innovation center in Singapore.
What did you picture yourself doing after college?
Before going to college, I thought about studying graphic design because I really enjoyed creating visuals for websites in my spare time. Luckily, military service gave me some time to reflect and realize that I was better suited for something a bit more technical.
What was your first job?
By accident, I landed at the Investment Banking Division (IBD) and capital markets business of a large German bank at the height of the financial crisis. Initially, my role was to automate sales reporting but as time passed, I was put in charge of business intelligence capabilities for our division.
What do you wish you knew about career development when you started out?
I wish I had started thinking about my career in a structured way a bit earlier. Even though I was fortunate to go from an airline internship to a banking job that allowed me to operate fairly autonomously, I realized much later how important it is to think about the path you’re on and where different jobs might lead in the long run.
What qualities do you most admire in leadership?
I admire leaders that have a true interest in developing people. I’ve been lucky that almost all my managers have taken an interest in my career – it’s great to work with someone who is willing to listen to your personal goals and tries to put you in a position to achieve them.
How do you approach networking and career growth?
- Networking is about relationship building – if you go around asking people for referrals, you are doing yourself a disservice. First look for ways to help people with what they’re trying to achieve and you’ll find that they’ll be more than happy to help you too.
- In terms of career growth, it’s important to understand at a basic level what you like or dislike about certain roles. For example, I enjoy getting out of the office, meeting new people and being part of new projects and departments that will give me a certain amount of autonomy but I also hate being micromanaged — knowing these things has helped shape the career path I want. If you have an understanding of what makes you jump out of bed in the morning versus what makes you dread the day ahead, you’ll be more likely to choose a more fulfilling career path.
- The other thing you need to be clear about is whether you want to be a generalist or a specialist. While I don’t think one is better than the other, I do know that people make better career choices once they’ve made a conscious decision between the two.
How do you manage up?
When I start working for someone new, I ask them about their work style and their objectives. Knowing these two things puts me in a position to better communicate my point of view and help them achieve our team’s goals.
How do you ensure you continue to learn and grow professionally?
I struggle to do this consistently, particularly when I get busy, but it does help to set aside a specific time, every week to learn about a new topic. At some point I realized that I learn best through conversations with industry “veterans”. More recently I’ve read a few books on behavioral science and habit formation, and I am currently taking a class on Coursera.
What are some critical dos and don’ts for starting a career on the right track?
Ask all the stupid questions (once) and never stop asking questions throughout your career. Once you give your team the impression that you know everything, it becomes harder to ask the questions you really need to understand and do your job well — don’t fall into that trap!
Do you have a mentor or a champion? If so, how has this relationship helped you progress in your career?
There are several people I consider mentors but I’ve developed a more formal mentor through MetLife’s Global Leadership Development Program (GLDP). It has been tremendously helpful, whether I need another perspective on a work-related issue or exploring a viable career path, the mentoring has been the number one GLDP perk to me.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Hungry for more career advice? Click here for more from our What I Wish I Knew series.