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Celebrating International Women’s Day and Women in Insurance

March 4, 2019  |  Posted by Julia Polaniecki  |  0 Views


Today, as we show our support for all women, MacNeill Group is especially proud to highlight our female colleagues and friends and their accomplishments in the Insurance Industry.

This year, a select few have offered to share their success stories and words of advice.


Andrea Kudlak, Director of Operations, Sutton Inspection

Andrea has been in the insurance business for nearly 40 years. She began her career with Lipton Tea, in their Corporate Insurance & Loss Control Department.  The majority of her career has been on the Agency side.  She left for two years when she left the insurance industry in 1989 to become a Catholic Youth Minister in Sarasota, FL.  After spending two years in Sarasota, she returned to NJ in 1991 to an Independent Insurance Agency, where she was a Partner and VP of the Commercial Division. She has been with Sutton Inspection since September, 2005 beginning as their Director of Marketing now as Director of Operations.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?

“Each day I do my best to “walk the talk” as my integrity is all that I have control of.  If I’ve made an error, I own it and move on.  Care about your customers and business partners both professionally and personally. The insurance industry is very small, not only in FL but around the world and I never burn a bridge. My personal motto: Participate don’t Anticipate.  There are times when you need to anticipate but knowing when is of utmost importance when working on projects and/or dealing with your coworkers, customers and/or other Associates.”


Patricia Ramsey, Vice President of Underwriting, Sutton Inspection

I started my insurance career while I was in high school.  Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company offered a work study program and I was selected to work in the claims department as a claims service representative.  I continued to work for Nationwide while I attended business school and after graduation I was placed in their legal department.  Management encouraged me to continue my studies with the Insurance Institute of America, become a member of the International Association of Insurance Professionals and seek opportunities in all facets of the insurance industry to become well rounded.  Because of this well-given advice, I earned the position of Vice President of Underwriting for a specialty homeowner carrier.

Q: What inspires you to improve yourself?

“What inspires me to continue to improve myself is to have a better quality of life.   The International Association of Insurance Professionals was instrumental in providing me with the insurance education, leadership development and networking opportunities to reach that goal.  Today I am on a new journey working for a risk management company.”


Sharon Cirillo, CEO/President, Alliance Insurance of Sarasota

I got started in the insurance business a year after my husband became an insurance agent for Allstate & needed help in our new agency. I was working for the county & quit my job to join my husband in the agency.  Instead of hiring someone from outside, we both felt, “who would be better suited to handle our business better than me?” A husband & wife team!  My current role as Agency Owner came in 2006 when we sold our Allstate agency & went independent. It was the best decision we ever made.

Q: Who is your biggest role model?

“My biggest role model was my late husband. He started in the insurance business back in the early 80’s. He achieved many awards & recognition because of the dedicated service he gave to his clients & the education he offered in making sure his clients understood what they were buying. Customer Service was his priority above the monetary value that he would receive. As I stood beside him in our business, I learned what was important in owning our own insurance agency. He taught me how to sell & how to overcome the objection.”


Terri Diephouse, Sr. Account Manager, Gulfshore Insurance

I am an accidental insurance agent.  I was working as a manager at a department store and one of our employees (the only one I hired) worked at Gulfshore Insurance. We were talking one day and she suggested I get her a copy of my resume because they were hiring. I didn’t think twice as the idea of weekends off was a dream.  I was fortunate enough that they took a chance on me and offered me a job.  Once I got the job it became clear pretty early into it that I needed to soak up all of the education I possibly could. I found IAIP and the value in the mentorship and education offered.  I recently completed the certified leadership courses and have begun teaching the courses at our monthly meetings. The teaching part is a bit outside of my comfort zone and certainly a work in progress.  

Q: What was the proudest moment of your career?

“I am the most proud to have earned an award from my Manager called the “Spirit of Tenacity Award.”  She made up the certificate after she heard me on the phone with a client who grilled me for an hour and a half about his policy. It was mentally exhausting, yet it was also the day I realized I did know a couple of things about insurance! It was an eye opening or “Aha” moment. After about an hour into my conversation with this client I said to him that I felt like I was taking an oral exam and he laughed and said, “It’s okay because you got an A++.” I felt relieved to get through that conversation. A couple of years later as the department was expanding and new hires came on, they were going to move the client to another servicer. When he received notice of this he called my boss and begged her not to move me. He said he could not imagine anyone else taking the time to discuss his policy in detail with him the way I did.  He still asks a ton of questions and I tell him I enjoy the questions because he is the client I learned the most from! I always look at the questions from clients as my greatest learning tool.”

Mari Messina, Director of the Managing General Agency, MacNeill Group, Inc.

I started in the insurance industry at the age of 15 as a fluke! My parents were purchasing me a vehicle and wanted to teach me responsibility and the importance of insurance.  I began as a file clerk at an insurance agency that later became a homeowners and commercial lines carrier in the state.  Management encouraged and supplied me with education opportunities and I worked through the agencies up into the company. I was afforded opportunities to work in several areas from underwriting auto, home and commercial general liability, to franchising of insurance agencies, studied and learned the intricacies of forming state filings for 15 states, and was part of writing, filing and growing a new product line from the ground up.  The most important thing that I have learned and apply daily is that knowledge is power, and with that, the possibilities are endless.

Q: What advice would you offer to women working in the insurance industry?

“The insurance industry is a plethora of opportunity! This industry is always evolving and presents new opportunity at every corner every day.  Take the initiatives and get involved in your area of expertise outside of the confines of the office! Network and develop your relationships in area chapters and encounter a new aspect of the industry daily.  I have learned the most important part of the insurance industry is to remain challenged daily with evolving market needs and growth and development. The opportunities are available and all waiting for us to seize! With passion and excitement, this industry has proven to be one that offers entrepreneurship and success!”

What is your success story? 

Share your story (or words of advice) with us throughout the day by email or facebook and we will feature you or your agency on social media.

Email us at, or send us a message on facebook.

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