The Interview: Leana Nakielski

Leana Nakielski

Madison-based American Family Insurance announced earlier this year plans to open a downtown Milwaukee office that will house positions related to data analytics and business innovation, agent recruitment and development, along with areas focused on community issues and investment. The announcement coincided with the insurance company’s new 15-year naming rights agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers to rename Miller Park after the 2020 season. Leana Nakielski, American Family’s new strategic partnerships director, recently spoke with BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Lauren Anderson about how she is helping lay groundwork for the new Milwaukee operation.

How have your background and experiences brought you here?

“After graduating from UW-Madison, I came to Milwaukee for what I thought would be a summer internship in 2003, but 10 years later I was still with that amazing organization, which was Growing Power. I ended up leaving Growing Power in 2012 to launch the development program at Highland Community School, where my three children attend. I went on to work for the Hispanic Chamber for a short time and then the Greater Milwaukee Committee (as their first development director) prior to my role now with American Family. I’ve been in the nonprofit sector for the last 16 years, doing very community-based and grassroots level, relationship-driven work. So this transition to American Family, with the strategic partnerships focus, the community impact focus, and bringing together a lot of different players in the community around what we’re trying to achieve – it’s a natural evolution for me.”

What is your role?

“It’s a new role in a new division, Inclusive Excellence, our diversity and inclusion strategy, so it’s a lot of building and creating as we go. I’m charged with two main priorities. The first is helping shepherd forward the launch of an expanded corporate workplace in downtown Milwaukee, which was announced earlier this year. The other major aspect of my work is forming strategic partnerships for talent pipeline development and community impact. We’ll partner with community organizations, universities, K-12 schools and other business partners to help support, or possibly create, programs, events and activities that benefit youth, young adults, and people seeking to skill up or switch careers.”

What kinds of jobs will the new Milwaukee office house?

“Our new building in Milwaukee is really about creating a thriving urban workplace and hub that supports our vision for the future of work, creating meaningful organizational and community impact for our employees, our community and our customers. The claims, legal and sales departments from our Pewaukee office will move to this office. We’ll look to add corporate roles such as marketing or data science or finance – that’s a little bit to be determined. But it’s certainly meant to be high tech and other roles we see being able to fill with talent pools in Milwaukee.”

What do you envision Am Fam’s connection to the startup community being?

“We recently announced sponsorship of the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center with UWM, which is a great resource for the university, campus and Wisconsin. Last fall we launched the Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, which functions like a VC firm aiming to invest in scalable companies with a double bottom line of social and financial return. Our Milwaukee building will also have a Dream Bank, similar to the Spark building in Madison, where people can gain access to resources, tools, programs and events to help them achieve their dreams, and if becoming an entrepreneur is one of them, we’re happy to help support that.” ν

Leana Nakielski   

Strategic partnerships director, American Family Insurance

6000 American Parkway, Madison

Employees: 8,100

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