Belen Castellanos Tokarski ’95: Leading people forward

As chief operating officer of Mylo, a tech start-up in the insurance industry, Belen Castellanos Tokarski ’95 speaks with a quick intellect, clarity of thought, and with an assurance that demonstrates she leads her team from a place of confidence. 

Belen Castellanos Tokarski ’95Mylo’s parent company, Lockton, featured Tokarski in a Twitter series of quotes by women leaders: “I have embraced my ambition by having the courage to stand for what I believe is right and not being afraid to be the first to speak up in the face of uncertainty.”

You might credit her liberal arts degree in psychology from Cornell College as the foundation for her strong voice, or you might credit her grandfather who encouraged Tokarski to consider Cornell. It was her grandfather who said a liberal arts education is the foundation for whatever vocation she would eventually choose. In 2002 she earned a master’s in business administration in eCommerce from DePaul University.

Tokarski herself says that the block plan encourages students to be vocal and active participants in discussions encouraging critical thinking skills. 

“I speak up. I’m in the conversation. I’m helping people move things forward all the time,” she says. “The intensity of the block plan prepared me to be successful in all the things I’ve done—the critical thinking, the need to be super dependable, and to be in class, because if you missed a day of class, it was like missing two weeks of any normal coursework.”

Tokarski leads a team in identifying opportunities to redefine business processes that accelerate profitable growth for Mylo. The company develops technology to make the purchase of insurance across multiple product types simple, efficient, and intuitive for the end-users. It finds ways to leverage artificial information and machine learning to augment the sales process. This turns the insurance purchasing process into something less stressful. 

Mylo is located in Kansas City, Missouri, and Tokarski continues to live near Chicago, Illinois. When she accepted the chief operating officer role at Mylo, she knew it would be a challenge not just to build up the insur-tech start-up but to lead remotely from her home office while her staff worked in another state. She negotiated to work remotely so she could integrate her family life in Chicago with her career pursuits. Tokarski is married with three children.

She considers her greatest success to be her ability to pull people together so the team can achieve greater things. Tokarski says she’s been told people want to be on her team because she is not a micromanager, she doesn’t claim to be the smartest person in the room, and she truly cares what people on her team think. This has made it easy for her to rally people around her and the projects she leads. 

When Tokarski considers her future, she says she hopes “that I’m a good example for the next generation of leaders and also to my family. You can’t just be focused on individual success; the greater success is getting people to work together to want to do the same thing.” 

She advises students to heed her grandfather’s philosophy regarding a liberal arts education: Learn a little about as many things as possible and get a broader worldview about any industry you enter. 

“Anyone can demonstrate leadership. Leaders often start at the ground level,” Tokarski says. “The best chief executive officers did the job and rolled up their sleeves. Never be afraid to start at the bottom and, in fact, embrace it. Get to know the inner workings of the business you’re in. Be intellectually curious. And find alignment on what the problem is before you try to solve it.”