Women in Resilience (WiR) Spotlight: Nicolene Olivier

  • 09 Mar 2023
  • Nicolene

Nicolene is an experienced Business Continuity Management (BCM) Specialist with more than four years’ experience in developing, maintaining and auditing BCM programmes for clients and within her organization. She strives to ensure that plans add value to a client’s environment and are not just a static paper-based programme.

Nicolene originally started her career in 2001 as a short-term insurance consultant. “Not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I followed my father’s advice and learned all the areas of insurance, i.e. claims, sales, underwriting and such. Learning about underwriting sparked an interest in risk management”. Nicolene’s interest in BCM was piqued when she came across the term during a short course in Risk Management.

She adds that, “as with everything that is worthwhile”, Nicolene reached her current position through hard work, determination, and by not giving up on her goals (helped by repeating one of her favourite quotes from the Galaxy Quest movie: “Never give up, never surrender”).

“I was also lucky to have a phenomenal mentor who, at the time, was the manager of the risk consulting team”. Nicolene notes that this mentor helped her to seamlessly transition from the personal lines department to the risk consulting team, helping her to translate what she learned into practical experience. “Funny enough, he was the person who advised me to focus on BCM as he predicted it would be a necessity for organizations in the future”.

Along the way, some of the biggest challenges that Nicolene faced in this journey included:

  • Transitioning from a career she had been doing for more than 10 years to one where she had no practical experience. “It was scary to move out of my comfort zone after such a long period of time”.
  • Finding opportunities without any actual experience.

Although, starting this career just before COVID taught Nicolene not to be afraid to ask questions or to question how things are done. “If history has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t rely on how things have been done in the past. We need to keep evolving and adapting to current circumstances to remain resilient”.

Nicolene also adds that the following two skills have proved to be particularly important in her career:

  • Communication – being able to explain things to a wider audience. “If you don’t have buy-in from all areas of business then it becomes difficult to create a risk culture within an organization”.
  • Adaptability – being able to adapt during or after an incident that an organization never thought could happen, or even happen again.

When considering the future, she adds that she “would like to see those in the resilience profession develop a broader, holistic view of resilience”. At the moment, silo mentality is still prevalent in many organizations, where each department has their responsibility - whether it’s BC, crisis management, risk management or disaster recovery - without any integration. “A resilient professional, today, needs to have the knowledge to speak to all the disciplines, which provides opportunities to create a more integrated approach to becoming operationally resilient”.

This is especially important as, due to the impact of COVID-19 and the increase in the complexity, scope, frequency and magnitude of uncertainties that organizations are faced with, an effective response and preparedness has become critical to create organizational resilience. However, “joining the resilience community helps professionals discuss and collaborate to find new ways to do things better,” says Nicolene.

To conclude, Nicolene comments on the influence of the BCI Women in Resilience initiative, saying that it aims to connect, empower and support within the industry by creating a platform to bring new ideas to the table, “showing that you are not alone and what can be achieved if you put your mind to it”.

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Nicolene Olivier

Risk Consultant