5 Questions with Donavan Tildesley, 4 Time Paralympic Swimmer – Shifting Gears to Focus on Career in Insurance
Four-time Canadian Paralympian (and Canadian flag bearer for the 2008 Paralympic Games) swimmer Donovan Tildesley announced today he is retiring from the sport to focus on his insurance career.
Tildesley, who was born blind, has been working with Buntain Insurance in Vancouver since 2008.
“I started on November 3, 2008 after passing my Fundamentals exam. The first couple of years were not easy,” Tildesley explained. “Not only was I learning a new business, but I was also learning what office tasks I could and couldn’t do.
“Being totally blind, I utilize a computer with a speech software called JAWS (Job access with speech), as well as a refreshable braille Display. I soon realized that not everything in the office was 100% accessible to my software. But over time, I learned to utilize the strong team around me to provide support on tasks I couldn’t perform. In turn, I’m happy to step up and provide support on the phones. I also came to develop a real passion for sales. I’m now in the process of developing a book of business of namely high-value clients.”
The statistics for blind Canadians being unemployed or underemployed are staggeringly high. According to the Canadian Federation of the Blind, the unemployment rate is about 90% for blind Canadians. Even with a degree from the University of BC, Tildesley knew he would face challenges in the business world.
Tildesley, 29, says he is grateful for the opportunity given to him by a long-time acquaintance, although admits, at first, insurance didn’t match his long term goals.
“I was initially reticent,” he says. “The idea of selling insurance seemed rather dry, and my first love has always been radio broadcasting. But, here was someone essentially handing me a job. I figured that it would be stupid not to take it!”
Sports can teach great life lessons, and Tildesley sites many things learned over a successful career as an international athlete that will help him in his insurance career.
“My Paralympic experiences have taught me a great deal about goal setting, teamwork, and knowing how to work under pressure, he said. “All of these skills have been assets to me in the insurance world.”
As well, he says, being known as a Paralympic athlete has “allowed me to develop a unique personal brand.”
“Sometimes in sales you need a “wow” factor. I like to think that people look at me, and see this reasonably successful blind guy, who’s also just happened to compete for Canada. On the basis of that knowledge I feel they’re more likely to give me a chance.”
ILScorp is pleased to have been Tildesley’s chosen insurance trainer.
“I’ve done my Fundamentals exam, and CAIBs 1-4 with ILS Learning Corporation – (www.ilscorp.com.) They’ve gone out of their way to make any materials and exams accessible to me!” he explained. “A highlight was taking the CAIB IV class with the effervescent and always entertaining Todd Hochban (ILScorp’s training partner at West Coast Training). I had failed the CAIB IV twice when I only studied using the ILS videos, so I figured I needed more of a hands-on approach. If anybody can make insurance fun, it’s Todd!”
And while retired from competitive swimming, Tildesley will still be in the pool on a regular basis, now using his time in the water to relax.
“I still love the sport. If I’m not in the pool at least 2-3 times per week I have more trouble handling stress,” he explained.
Clearly never one to be held back (he’s also an avid skier, and co-founder of two Whistler radio stations), Tildesley is making the most of his new role.
“I feel incredibly humbled and blessed to be where I’m at today. I work for a great company with a strong team and a keen vision for the future. I owe a great deal to Gordon Buntain. He’s a visionary, who doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘can’t’,” Bailey told ILStv.
“There are challenges, but equally as many opportunities. I’ve come to realize that there’s always a way to make things work. Now that I won’t be competing, I intend to focus my attention on three main areas: building my book of insurance business, building my brand and reputation as a keynote speaker, and finding more ways to give back to the community. Who knows, I may even write a book!”
Learn more about Donovan Tildesley at limitlessvision.ca.
By Mia Heitland, ILScorp Blog
Stay tuned to the latest in Insurance news by subscribing to ILStv’s daily or weekly newsletters.