Picture of three BCBSNE women-leaders featured in article

Pictured from left to right: Derong Duckett, Dawna Hall and Angel Pacana

In recognition of Women’s History Month, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) recognized three outstanding women in leadership throughout March. We asked each leader to share a bit about their career journeys, how they overcome challenges and what they do to prioritize themselves. 

Dawna Hall, manager of financial operations service

Q: What’s a favorite quote that reflects your leadership style?

Dawna: I have two favorite quotes about leadership:

  • “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”– Jim Rohn
  • “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you.” – Zig Ziglar

Q: What is a challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

Dawna: I am a doer at heart, so delegating has always been hard for me. When I transitioned into a managerial role, I had to become more comfortable playing a supporting role. I have great employees, which makes it easier to delegate. It is rewarding to see each of them grow and take ownership of different processes.

Derong Duckett, director of actuarial reserves and forecasting

Q: What is a challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

Derong: I came to the United States to pursue my Ph.D. in biology at the University of Arizona (U of A). I was working on gene mutation of bacteria and enjoying the work I was doing. However, it required me to check samples early in the morning, late at night and on weekends, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing that. After a lot of thought and planning, I decided to give up pursuing a Ph.D in biology and become an actuary.

Although there wasn’t an actuarial science program at U of A, the agricultural and resource economics program had classes that would teach me transferable skills (mathematics, statistics and business). It took a lot of work, and I had to relearn mathematical topics I learned a long time ago. I also had to take a math course over the summer before I was able to start my master’s program. I passed two of my actuarial exams before graduation and shortly after that was offered a job at BCBSNE as an actuary.

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Derong: I would probably pat her shoulder and tell her, “Way to go!” I wouldn’t change anything about my life. The good and the bad, successes and failures, it’s all a part of me. I prefer looking forward.

Angel Pacana, supervisor of customer service

Q: Share a pivotal moment in your career journey.

Angel: Before coming to BCBSNE, I was in retail. I worked my way from sales associate to assistant manager.

As an associate in a customer-facing job, customer service was always at the forefront. In cosmetics, knowing the products through training and experience meant I could help my clients and repeat customers make the best decisions for their needs. The job I did then and the work I do now truly mirror each other. The “product” at BCBSNE is the customer’s experience they have with us as we help them with their insurance needs. The training we receive at BCBSNE sets us up for success by providing us with the knowledge we need to help resolve any issues our customers may have.

Being of service to people makes me really happy, and I realized a long time ago that everything I do ultimately touches the customer.

Q: Women do it all. How do you prioritize yourself?

Angel: I learned I have to prioritize myself. How can I take care of or help others if I am running on fumes?


We are proud to call Angel, Dawna and Derong our colleagues, and we thank them for their contributions at BCBSNE.

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