She’s been around for 45 of our 85 years

Pat PeirceI always smile when I’m referred to as a long-tenured employee. In fact, I’m the fourth longest-tenured employee at American Family Insurance right now.

Yes, 45 years is a long time to work at the same place, but I’ve loved every minute of it. And, that’s why I’ve stayed so long. I love my job, or my many jobs as you will see.

My actual start date with American Family was Dec. 12, 1967. I started on my daughter’s first birthday. However, right out of high school in 1965 I worked for American Family for six months. Then I left, went to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue to learn keypunch, and returned two years later.

As I write this blog, I’m wondering how many of you have any idea what the function of a keypunch operator was and how that responsibility fit into the evolution of computer technology. In short, my job was to enter specific data on a card by punching holes in it. Then, the cards were fed into an early, huge, noisy computer that knew how to read the data by the missing slots on the card.

In 1967, we only had one American Family building in Madison, Wis., at 3099 E. Washington Ave. I started in the Northwest Keypunch unit, and then a year later I moved to facilities in Office Administration. I remained an employee of the Office Administration Division for the next 44 years. Not many employees who have been with our company for 40 years or more completed all those years in the same division.

The records and fixed assets were always my first responsibility and I continued keypunching until CRTs – our first computers – were purchased.

I’ve had many responsibilities, however, especially during my early years. I thought you might find a few of them interesting. Remember, when I started doing them, personal computers or calculators did not exist. The term Information Services did not exist either – we manually completed every task.

  • I was the first and only archives clerk – I collected historical documents and memorabilia.
  • Maintained every safety film.
  • Worked in a male-dominated division. At that time, every employee was a man, except in support functions.
  • I updated the company phone book several times a year – until it was put online.
  • I processed all purchase orders and invoices for fixed assets.
  • I did physical inventories of furniture and equipment.
  • I ordered all telephones for the Madison complex until 1980.
  • I designed the records centers at Cottage Court and National Headquarters.
  • In 1987, I became records retention supervisor, and in 2002, I was promoted to records retention manager.

I’m going to officially retire at the end of this year, but my last day of work will be this month. American Family is special to me because of all the different jobs I have been involved in. There was always something new to learn, to embrace, and to challenge me. The technology changes in 45 years have been amazing. The move from paper records to electronic records was the biggest change to impact me.

One of my favorite people at American Family was Buzz Buchanan. He was my boss and so encouraging. He was a big believer in education and urged me to work for a two-year associate degree from Madison Area Technical College. American Family gave me the time to pursue education and supported my efforts financially.

I have great company memories. Like many, my favorite memories include the bowling sweeper, treat days – where treats ran from one end of the room to the other – and divisional outings. I loved the Christmas parties and birthday and anniversary celebrations.

I plan to keep learning after retirement. I love to read and keeping active and social is a big part of my personality. So, as American Family celebrates 85 great years, I will begin my new life with nothing but gratitude in my heart for my many years here. Happy birthday, American Family! I will miss you, and all the wonderful people. I will keep my eye on what new endeavors you are up to next.

Pat Peirce is a records retention manager for American Family Insurance. 

Posted by Tom Buchheim on Mon, Oct 08 2012 6:56 pm

Fighting hunger one ‘like’ at a time

My mom always told me – it’s better to give than to receive. She’s right. But it’s even better to support something you know will make a difference.

American Family recently began its support of the National FFA Organization’s Rally to Fight Hunger. This “social cause” lives on our company’s Facebook page and requires some action from you. For every new person who “likes” the page from now through Oct. 31, our company will donate $1 toward fighting hunger in the U.S. (up to $20,000). You can monitor this progress on Facebook or our website.

In working with the dedicated people of the National FFA Organization, I learned about the widening scope of hunger. In the coming year, nearly one in five U.S. children will face the risk of hunger.

That’s too many.

We can’t eliminate hunger with money alone. But by partnering with organizations like FFA – that understand hunger and food insecurity – American Family can make a bigger impact with our donation. It will fund as many as 50,000 prepackaged meals being assembled at the FFA’s Rally to Fight Hunger, part of the organization’s national convention in Indianapolis in October.

I’d encourage you to connect with us on Facebook where we’ve been sharing some of this information, to help educate our community about the prevalence and impact of hunger. We want to help feed more hungry families, but we also want to shine a stronger light on this issue.

You can help, too. Talk with your friends and family about this important cause. Share the information from our Facebook and Twitter pages. Watch and share our YouTube video, which goes into more detail about FFA’s program. Help us reach our goal – and in the process, educate more people on the issue of hunger.

As Oprah Winfrey once said, “I think [giving is] an ongoing process. And it's not just about being able to write a check. It's being able to touch somebody's life.”

Thanks for your willingness to give and touch lives in simple ways.

Posted by Tom Buchheim on Fri, Oct 05 2012 12:04 pm

Celebrating 85 years of customer service

Today is a day for celebration here at American Family … as we mark our 85th birthday! Eighty-five years in business, and you – our customers, agents and employees – made that happen. Thank you. 

You might not have known this, but American Family has been part of my family for almost as long as I can remember. I’ve actually celebrated 47 birthdays with American Family, starting back when my dad was an American Family agent in DeForest, Wis. in the '60s. I followed in my dad’s footsteps in 1985 and became an agent for our company, after working a couple years as a claims adjuster. Since then I’ve held a variety of leadership positions and today, I have the honor of serving as the CEO.

A milestone birthday like this gives us a chance to celebrate what we’ve accomplished. And it also gives us pause, to think about what’s ahead – including the opening of DreamBank in Madison, Wis., today. Across all our sites, our employees are giving back to their communities this week as a way to say thanks for your support over the past 85 years. We'll share some pictures in a few days.

As a company, we've seen a lot of changes – especially in the past few years.  But one thing that won’t change is our focus on taking care of our customers. I can tell you nothing makes me happier than hearing from a customer thanking our agents or our claims team for taking care of them.

Our birthday celebration gives us a chance to again say thanks – to our agents and employees for the great work they do, and to our customers who've been with us for many of these birthdays. We appreciate the trust you have in us. We know you depend on us to be there when you need us the most – just like family.

About the author:  Jack Salzwedel is the chief executive officer of American Family Insurance. You can follow him on Twitter @AmFamJack, where he shares his thoughts on the insurance industry, the economy and his favorite sports teams – in 140 characters or less.

Posted by Jack Salzwedel on Wed, Oct 03 2012 1:01 pm
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