Jesse Hernandez is a senior benefits consultant at Namely’s San Francisco office. When he’s not answering clients’ benefits questions, Jesse loves fixing up old hot rods and cutting hair. Jesse recently co-founded Namely’s first Hispanic/Latinx employee resource group (ERG), H.A.C.E.R, or the Hispanic Alliance for Career and Employee Resources, and is excited to see the group grow.
We chatted with Jesse about his role and what it’s like to have a career in benefits.
How did you end up in your role at Namely?
I got into the benefits and insurance space thanks to a college job fair. I went to a job fair where I met some recruiters and the company owner at their booth. They took me out to lunch and gave me an office tour and I was sold. I started in an entry-level account management and sales position and worked my way up to full sales-cycle selling insurance. I spent a few years there and realized I liked the relationship-building aspect of sales more than the hunting and gathering.
From that point on, I looked for roles that were relationship-driven. I accepted an account management role at Aetna and spent a few years working with brokers and HR professionals until I made the transition to HR technology. I found a job with a software provider, where I worked with my current director at Namely. He ended up accepting a position at Namely and offered me a position on his team. He’s a great leader and mentor, so I didn’t hesitate to join the team!
What’s your favorite thing about your role?
I love how my role gives me the ability to foster and build great relationships with folks, while also having an impact on the whole company. While I discuss business needs with company leadership and decision makers, I also have to consider how our decisions trickle down to employees in the form of benefits.
What does your average workweek look like?
If I break out my workweek into percentages, about 30 percent of my week is spent answering client questions and performing day-to-day requests. I’ll spend anywhere from 40 to 50 percent of my week on client projects, like renewals. The other 20 percent of my week is spent fostering relationships and educating our clients to make them as successful as possible.
Is there something that would surprise people about your job?
I think it would be how much of an impact I have on the partners we work with. A lot of people think I just pick the cheapest benefits options for our clients, but I always have to think about how the policies trickle down to employees and their dependents.
I don’t think people consider the impact this role has at a personal and financial level for a company and an employee. If an employee has cancer and I don’t put in a plan with significant cancer coverage, I can drive them into bankruptcy if they can’t afford the treatment they need. It’s a high-stress job, but that’s why building relationships is so important. If a company tells me they have employees with certain conditions, we can up the plan and get them the coverage they need.
If you weren’t in this role, what would you be doing?
I love working on cars, especially hot rods. I’ve been working on cars with my father since I was able to walk. If I wasn’t at Namely, I’d have my own hot rod shop where I’d be beefing up classic and contemporary cars.
I have a four-year-old right now and I bought him an older Chevy pickup truck that needs to be restored. As he starts to grow, my plan is to get him a part for different milestones, like for a birthday or getting good grades. Eventually when he gets to high school and can drive, he’ll have a classic truck that he built with his dad.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Namely?
For me, it’s the opportunity we have to change this industry for the better. Integrating technology into the outdated HR space helps me help companies by implementing better processes and better benefits. I can do my job better by working cohesively with technology, not depending on it. That’s huge for this industry and the opportunity to drive that change and do it the right way is a great motivator.
What’s your favorite thing about working in benefits?
The ability to be the quarterback. I plan a company’s entire benefits package by working directly with the client, but I also interact with the Namely team and our insurance carriers. I’m the broker or middle-man between our client and the insurance carrier. Having the ability to do all that and foster relationships with everyone I interact with is my favorite part of being on the benefits team.
What’s your favorite office snack?
I don’t know if you’d consider it a snack, but I would have to say the cold brew we have on tap.
What's something your coworkers don't know about you?
I have been cutting hair since I was about 12 years old. I used to get haircuts pretty often when I was younger, I liked my hair short on the sides, so I ended up going once a week and paying $5 each time. It was pricey, so I watched what my barber did and I tried it myself. After a while, I started experimenting on my cousins and friends and developed my own business through word of mouth. During prom, I would have a line out of my garage. It was a great way for me to earn extra money when I was young. Now, I still cut my own hair and my son’s—he’s never been to a barber shop.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to do your job?
This is a role in which expertise and knowledge come with time. You can’t read a book and suddenly learn everything there is to know about benefits. Be patient, be an active listener, and be hands on. It takes time to pick up on things and the space is constantly changing. Be open to learn and to change.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I have a four-year-old son so we do a lot of family activities. I work on all our cars—it’s a huge stress reliever for me. I’m also interested in the stock market, so I’m always trading.
What was your best day at work?
As a senior consultant, I have consultants and analysts under me. Recently, one of my direct reports had a huge win for a client and she really came into her own to execute the project. Seeing her take off the training wheels and be so successful on her own was a huge “dad moment” for me. It’s really fulfilling to see our analysts and associates come to life and succeed.
Who has inspired you to get to this point in your career?
There’s been a lot mentors I’ve leaned on throughout my career, both in the industry and outside of it. My parents have also been a big inspiration, teaching me thatanything is attainable as long as you work hard.
Anything else you want to share about yourself or Namely?
I just recently founded the first ever Latinx employee resource group (ERG) at Namely, called H.A.C.E.R. It was a challenge because I’m located in our SF office and we are a small satellite office. It took a lot of planning to get the New York and Atlanta offices involved, but we recently launched the group and have tons of events planned across all the offices.
Creating H.A.C.E.R. was something that’s been important to me. I took it upon myself to create the group, recruit members, and start planning on ways to educate and connect Namely to the Latinx/Hispanic community and to promote the cultural diversity and professional development of its members. It’s been great so far and I’m excited to see where it goes in the future!
At Namely, our coworkers are one of the top reasons we love what we do. The Meet Namelyseries spotlights real Namely employees across the company. Stay tuned for more from the series to learn how we put HR for humans into practice.