Making soccer goals helped GEICO SVP Rick Hoagland achieve business goals
WOODBURY, N.Y., May 19, 2020 – GEICO Senior VP Rick Hoagland's trajectory toward success didn't start 26 years ago when he was hired as a telephone claims rep at GEICO's Fredericksburg, Virginia, office; it began years earlier on the soccer field, where both wins and losses offered lessons that have been blueprints for his life.
"I started playing when I was five and played competitively through high school," he said. "Playing soccer taught me you have to practice, you have to be willing to listen to your coach and you have to be a great teammate. All that fits perfectly with my GEICO career."
Soccer was also a family affair. Hoagland's older brother played; his dad was a coach, and even his mom played in a women's league. Though the Hoagland boys were among a very few Asian kids in their rural Virginia community, soccer helped kick down any barriers that may have existed.
"Playing sports was a big equalizer for me," said Hoagland, whose parents met on a blind date while his father was serving in the U.S. Air Force at a base in his mother's native Japan.
The road to GEICO: Hoagland could have continued to play soccer at the collegiate level but chose to study finance at prestigious William & Mary rather than at one of the lower division schools that offered him athletic scholarships. After graduation, he made another shrewd decision.
"After waiting tables for a few months—which I was terrible at—I knew I needed a professional job," Hoagland recalled. "I got two job offers a few days apart. I picked GEICO because it just sounded more interesting."
It didn't take long to realize he made the right choice. Working in claims allowed him to think strategically and make smart decisions-much like in soccer. Hoagland counts his first supervisor among the many GEICO coaches who would exemplify what it meant to be a leader.
"He was fair, consistent, and respectful of everyone," Hoagland said. "He was genuinely interested in our success and helped me see GEICO as a great place to work."
On the way up: Within a few years, Hoagland himself was leading other associates as a member of management. He left Fredericksburg for GEICO Corporate Headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland, for a training program that allowed him to work side-by-side with the company's most senior leaders.
That began a succession of leadership positions—director, assistant vice president, regional vice president—that would take Hoagland to GEICO offices across the country. He was named senior vice president in 2018, with oversight responsibilities for GEICO operations in New England, New York, New Jersey and Indiana. A year later, Hoagland was also named to the GEICO Board of Directors.
Hoagland admits the transient nature of his career wasn't easy, but he now views it as more of a blessing than a curse.
"I moved a lot, but I was able to learn a lot from working with different people and adopt the best parts of the leadership I observed," he said. "The challenge was restarting with a new team in a different role, but that is also rewarding because it offers new challenges to better yourself."
Hoagland doesn't have many regrets, but one is not learning more Japanese. The first time he ever experienced bias was when he was out with his mother and folks would falsely assume she did not speak English. His own Japanese is so-so; he leaves quite the impression when ordering at his favorite sushi restaurant, but he has to rely on technology when his aunts visit from Japan.
"We have to use Google Translate a lot, and it is not always 100% accurate, which usually leads to good laughs for all of us," he said.
GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company), the second-largest auto insurer in the U.S., was founded in 1936 and insures more than 28 million vehicles.
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