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2020 HW Rising Star: Unikqua Shannon

Rising Star stands on the cutting edge of automation

Unikqua Shannon
Genworth Mortgage Insurance Mortgage Insurance Pricing Analyst, Age: 24

As a mortgage insurance pricing analyst at Genworth Mortgage Insurance, Unikqua Shannon says that starting her day includes getting a feel of what the market is like that morning, what competitors are doing and watching rate changes.

But rewinding to college – which for Shannon was only three years ago – Shannon had other plans. She started out her education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with aspirations to become a dentist, then thought about working in magazines before she switched to studying information science.

While she was in college, Shannon spent a lot of her time volunteering for the hungry, and establishing Carolina Cupboard, the UNC Chapel Hill food pantry. Shannon said food insecurity was something she felt like she needed to help combat, and it is now a passion of hers.

That carries over to Genworth, where she is leading its food bank as the food bank relationship manager for over two years.

“We have a lot of great volunteer initiatives, but people really get up for the food bank,” Shannon said. “That’s one thing that I’m really proud of just because it means a lot to me.”

In the nearly three years she has spent at Genworth, Shannon trained her teammates on how to use the robotic process automation system, created a user-friendly template for the team to use while testing and developed training materials with a live demo for her colleagues.

Via this product, Genworth can test thousands of test scenarios with little human interaction. Previously, the company was unable to validate all potential loan scenarios given the cost and effort required. Now, Genworth is able to detect issues with rates and guidelines prior to any customer interaction, resulting in a better customer service experience.

Shannon’s use and understanding of robotic process automation transformed her department at Genworth. Her department needed to understand the ins and outs of both the rates and guidelines testing process and the actual system that returns the rates and guidelines. Instead of taking hundreds of hours and the valuable time of many employees, she automated these testing efforts. As her first project using RPA, she taught herself the software to code it and strategically developed workflows to provide the correct results consistently.

One significant piece of advice that Shannon received was to not be afraid to fail. Now, she says that’s one piece of advice she would give, too. 

“Pretty early in my career, I had a mentor who told me: ‘I just want to make sure that you know it’s okay if everything’s not perfect all the time,’” Shannon said. “I know I can speak out more or raise my hand if someone asks me to code something I’ve never coded before or anything where a mistake could happen. Not letting that stop me from trying to be better – I think that was really great advice.”

Shannon said she loves where she’s at in her career now, but could see herself shifting to a more strategic role in the company as time goes on.

When she’s not at work or spending time at the Genworth food pantry, Shannon spends her free time with friends, playing Cribbage, exploring the Raleigh, North Carolina food scene and painting.

“In general, I’m just always trying to be better,” Shannon said. “It’s been a really cool few years working at Genworth and getting to know the industry from this side of things and I’m just really grateful for the opportunity.”

As for her own inspiration, Shannon said she looks to her mother, who works at the Pentagon. Shannon said her mother grew up with a lot of adversity and reminds her of herself.

“[My mother] is very successful in her career and I just always love hearing about how she didn’t stop, so she never saw her upbringing or her background as a liability,” Shannon said. “She went to school, went to grad school, and whatever she wanted to do, she made sure that happened for herself. She’s really happy and has such a great family and I just love listening to that and thinking ‘yeah, it doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you kind of got the drive to push where you want to be.’”

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