The 2009 AWIB Corporate Leadership Award Winner
Sonya Gong Jent
Vice President of Operations
State Farm Insurance
State Farm Insurance is a group of insurance and financial services companies offering a variety of products and services, including automobile, homeowners, health and life insurance. Since its creation in 1922, State Farm is a mutual company and has become one of the most well known auto insurance companies today insuring one of every five cars on the road, and is one of the largest financial institutions in the world. Headquartered in Bloomington, Illinois, State Farm has offices throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Sonya was born and raised in Mississippi. She grew up working at her father’s grocery store and learned at an early age to be social, responsible and to value the importance of customer service skills which she would later put to good use in her professional life.
Sonya graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1986 and accepted a position at State Farm Insurance Companies in 1987. She started in auto claims and was promoted to supervisor and then superintendent, and after six years, relocated to a new position, which continued every two years. Sonya moved eight times during her tenure, and embraced each challenge, working her way up the ranks in different functional areas. Identified by the company for leadership roles, in 2002, she became Division Manager for Health Operations; in 2004 was appointed Executive Assistant to the President; in 2006, named Vice President of Operations in the Southern Zone; and earlier this year, became Vice President of Operations, Multicultural Business Development. Sonya never felt the need to go to another organization since State Farm offered her opportunities for growth in different functions and in a supportive environment.
Sonya has had many mentors and when she was in management, realized fully how important these mentors were to her career growth. When she rose to front line management, she became mentors to countless employees, and feels it is a privilege to have mentees.
A 22 year veteran of the firm, Sonya is poised to assume even greater responsibilities. Her advice to women climbing the corporate ladder is “Remain true to yourself, keep your integrity, know your environment and be strategic in every move of your career”.
Sonya credits her father for ingraining in her the importance of giving back to the community and where ever she went for the company, she participated in good causes. While in Columbus, Ohio, she started a mentoring program for young girls – adopted from China and brought up in non-Asian families. While in Birmingham, Alabama, she was on the board of the Birmingham Urban League. Some of her activities include involvements with Habitat for Humanity, the American Heart Association, Safe Harbor Shelter, Easter Seals, Special Olympics, American Cancer Society, the Organization of Chinese Americans and the list goes on and on. Sonya is currently the Executive Sponsor of AsiaNet (an employee resource group) and Senior Advisor to the National Association of Asian American Professionals. She is a recipient of numerous awards, including the OCA Corporate Achievement Award.
Sonya and her husband, Shane, live in Bloomington, Illinois.