As chief technology officer for his agency La Familia Insurance in Dallas, Texas, Aly Manji came to the insurance industry from a technology and consulting background. In 2010, he and his high school best friend decided to quit their consulting jobs.
They tried a few start-up ideas that failed before they eventually landed in the insurance industry with two other successful young professionals. And now, six years later, La Familia has grown from a start-up agency to a growing agency with 39 locations in the Dallas and San Antonio areas.
He may not have been in the industry for as long as some of his peers, but Aly has just as much passion for it. 'What's not to like about an industry in which you help your clients be better prepared for the future? Helping your clients remain financially prepared and make sure they have the peace of mind to face unforeseen obstacles is a great feeling!'
I talked with Aly about how he handles the challenges of managing the technology needs of a growing, successful insurance agency. This is the way Aly Manji works.
Chief Technology Officer
One word that describes how you like to work.
Current mobile device:
Dell XPS - Win 10
Project(s) you're currently working on:
- Expanding La Familia Insurance and focusing on a data driven approach to the workings of our agency.
- Serving as a tech consultant to an amazing start-up to bring a better way to complete those dreaded continuing education credits through insuranceclassroom.com.
Accomplishments you're proud of:
- Growing our agency from one door in November 2010 to a regional presence with 36 doors and more on the way!
- Raising $1.1 million dollars from local businesses, individuals, and foundations for the Aga Khan Foundation to help break the cycle of poverty in the poorest parts of the world.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
- Grow my agency to 50 locations so I can better serve our customers.
- Raise $1.5 million in Dallas for the Aga Khan Foundation.
Aside from your phone and computer, what gadget or app can't you live without and why?
- Todoist - A task manager app that helps me manage my day and gives me points as incentives to grow my rank and level up.
- Evernote - One of the few apps that translates pen and paper notes seamlessly to digital and even performs decent optical character recognition so you can find what you're looking for as long as your handwriting is slightly legible. I end up taking notes everywhere from sticky notes to a proper notebook, but Evernote helps me keep them all in one place.
- Forest - This one can be classified as an anti-app. The premise of this app is to turn it on, set a timer, and plant a virtual tree. Every time you then close the app to check your phone, check social media, etc. it kills the tree (or on some settings give you only a 50% reward because you need to take calls). At the completion of your goal of 30 minutes, for example, it would plant said virtual tree in a forest to visually show progress and in doing so breaks the habit of incessantly checking your phone. The more you focus on work and not on your phone the bigger your forest grows. Ultimately with enough rewards you can donate your coins to plant real trees in endangered forests!
Describe your workspace.
Simple and sufficient. My personal office is usually piled high to the ceiling with tech supplies for my offices. I even put in a tech bench in addition to my small desk where I can repair old computers manually.
How do you manage your to-do list?
What are your biggest challenges?
Managing the communications and tech infrastructure for more than 100 employees eats up a lot of time during business hours, which means all other goals for work must follow after hours.
When you finish a project do you immediately jump to the next one? Or, do you take time to revel in what you accomplished and let your mind wander without worrying about what's next?
Don't know if I necessarily bask in the glow of a completed project, but I do believe in coffee breaks. Lots of coffee breaks.
What's your best time-saving tip or hack?
I wish I had one! I'm reading other This is the Way posts to get ideas for myself!
What is your best everyday habit?
Depending on who you ask this is either my best or worst habit. In my opinion though, I believe it's best to never take any business challenge or bad news too seriously. I'm extremely goofy around the office and do my best to make light of most adverse situations.
How do you recharge?
Playing some Madden, FIFA or Call of Duty does wonders.
What's your sleep routine like?
What's that? I think modernity has made sleep deprivation a badge of courage for individuals. Though I don't agree with that sentiment, I still find sleep is a precious commodity.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Breakfast with coffee. I envy the people who say their competitive spirit or their business goals, etc. get them out of bed in the morning. I wake up starving and the thought of food and coffee is a great incentive to leave my bed.
Who are your business idols and why?
Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Not because of how successful they are as businessmen, but they are also the biggest philanthropists in the world. An individual's motivation to be successful should always be grounded in serving his community and shared humanity. Succeed so that you may become an instrument of success for those in need.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
'There are those... who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their lot. Unless these unfortunates can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink back into renewed apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.' ~ Aga Khan IV
What would you be doing if you weren't working at La Familia Insurance?
I would most likely be in the consulting world working with the asset intelligence trend that was just sprouting back when I was at Deloitte. I had the privilege to be on the research team that delved into some of the first applications of asset intelligence on the fringe and wanted to grow further with that practice.
What is your motto or personal mantra?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
What's your favorite blog?
Not big on blogs, but my favorite podcast is 99% Invisible.
What do you listen to while working?
Music sometimes, but mostly keep my ears open to what is going on down the hall. It's always fun to interject loudly from my office and catch everyone off-guard.
What are you currently reading?
Scaling Up by Verne Harnish
What are you watching on Netflix right now?
House of Cards and American Dad
Who would you like to see in a future This is the Way post?
Becky Schroeder. I think there will be a ton of sagacious advice on productivity in that edition!
The This is the Way blog series asks ITC employees, agents, carriers and other people in the industry how they work and to share their tips. Is there someone you want to see featured or questions we should ask? Tweet us or leave it in the comments below.
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