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Insurance training grad makes investment in herself to break into a satisfying new career

Insurance training grad makes investment in herself to break into a satisfying new career

No matter the industry, and no matter what it took to break into a new field, Shamika Lyte has always had the drive and work ethic synonymous with success.

The 34-year-old Dorchester, MA, native and current Johnston, RI, resident has found new life – again – as a Personal Lines Account Manager for Thompson Insurance Group, where she works on customer claims, applications, quotes, inquiries, and all insurance-related matters.

While it’s a far cry from her first job in construction – she did everything from kitchen remodels to drywalling – Lyte’s career arc is proof it’s never too late to learn something new or pursue your true passion.

“All things are possible,” Lyte said, “and this is only the beginning.”

Lyte’s first full dive into the insurance industry was made possible by the Community College of Rhode Island’s free Property and Casualty Insurance certification program, a 60-hour synchronous hybrid training course that includes a six-week paid internship with an insurance agency and prepares students to take the Rhode Island Property and Casualty exam upon completion.

When she lost interest in her previous career in banking – her second career after construction – and her construction opportunities dried up amidst the pandemic, Lyte took a stab at insurance, which had piqued her interest while working in the banking industry. After searching online for available programs, she discovered CCRI’s newly-launched Property and Casualty Insurance training, an opportunity that seemed too good to be true.

“They were going to train me, give me the necessary study materials, and place me in an internship at no cost?” Lyte said. “That’s all I needed.”

Shortly after finishing her internship at World Insurance Associates LLC, Lyte earned her certification from CCRI in October and immediately landed her first job in insurance at Thompson thanks to an assist from CCRI program instructor Kim Cabral, who is also one of Thompson's Insurance Managers.

What seems like the end to a successful career change is really just the beginning, said Lyte. She also plans to continue her education and earn a second associate degree – she already has one in Paralegal Studies – in Insurance Services and even pursue an adjuster’s license so can expand her horizons within the industry. 

“This has been a life-changing experience,” Lyte said. “Once you’re in insurance, there’s so much you can do. I’ll never get bored.”

Raised in a house with four siblings, Lyte learned the value of hard work at an early age. Her father installed flooring and she recalls working on an ice cream truck during summers as a youth making $20 a day. A curious builder by nature, Lyte used to take apart appliances, such as radios, and put them back together for fun. She also enjoyed her middle school Woodworking class – particularly "the smell of the workshop."

Aiming toward a career in carpentry, Lyte learned the tools of the trade at Madison Park Vocational High School in Boston, which included an apprenticeship with the LearningWorks YouthBuild program. She also worked for the non-profit The Food Project in Dorchester, where she met a fellow apprentice named Tucker who was saving his money to buy a car.

“They would take children from the inner city and suburbs and bring us together and work on farms,” Lyte recalled. “This kid Tucker, his father would match whatever he saved, and I remember him saying he was going to bring his lunch to work each day instead of buying lunch because it was cheaper. 

“That always stuck with me. The other kids in this program, they lived a different lifestyle than us, and they paid attention to how they spent their money.”

Though her high school counselors encouraged her to continue her education and take advantage of available scholarships opportunities by pursuing a degree at the Wentworth Institute of Technology, Lyte decided to enter the workforce instead.

“I was in my element,” she said. “I wanted to make money. Why would I go back to school?”

She earned her first job with AlliedCook Construction in 2008, where she leaned everything from replacing sinks and laying foundations to electrical work and building staircases. When the economy crashed a year later, Lyte got laid off, leaving her with no other choice but to go back to school.

After earning her associate degree in Paralegal Studies from Kaplan University, Lyte spend three more years at Cambridge College and earned her bachelor’s in Management Studies, which included an internship at Harvard Business School of Executive Education handling desktop and data support. The next five years were spent in the banking industry working as a Loan Servicing Specialist; there, she began working with third-party companies on insurance claims and learned some of the nuances of the industry.

Having grown weary of the “corporate experience” – “I needed to do something else for my mental health,” she said – Lyte left banking and relaunched her construction career as an independent contractor in 2018. When COVID surfaced, many construction companies laid off their workers, and those workers began flooding the independent contractor market. 

“My competition wasn’t the next licensed contractor,” Lyte said. “My competition was the guy who wasn’t licensed. They’re not paying taxes. They’re not paying for licenses. They could underbid me on any job.”

Stuck at home amidst the pandemic with limited options in a now-overcrowded industry, Lyte began applying for insurance jobs, but lacked the certification to get her foot in the door. After thumbing through a number of options for training – many of which cost more than she wanted to spend – CCRI’s free program was the smart choice.

“I absolutely loved it. The instructors were great,” Lyte said. “The thing about this program is you have to be committed to it and you really have to want to do it. The instructors here want you to succeed.”

CCRI gave her the opportunity to put her years of experience to use and transition to the career of her choice in a lucrative, in-demand industry with room for growth. In addition to her goals beyond working for Thompson, Lyte hopes to share her success with others who’ve enrolled in the Property and Casualty Insurance certification program.

“This is an investment and you have to be all in,” Lyte said. “I took a full week off from work before I took the test just so I could be as prepared as possible, but if you’re willing to make the investment in yourself, CCRI will put you on the right track.” 

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