Sama Hershey Davis of InterWest Insurance Services wins North Bay Women in Business award

Sama Hershey Davis

North Bay benefits practice leader

InterWest Insurance Services LLC

5401 Old Redwood Highway, Suite 105, Petaluma 94954

3645 Westwind Blvd., Suite A, Santa Rosa 95403


Sama Hershey Davis learned to fly and trust her gut. She is a 2020 North Bay Business Journal Women in Business Awards winner.

Professional background: I’ve been with InterWest Insurance Services, LLC since 2016. The running joke in insurance is none of us grew up saying, “I’m going to work in insurance” and my story is no different.

I began my career in human resources at Fireman’s Fund. I worked with and learned from a phenomenal group of women there including: Sarah Held, Elizabeth Sharpe, Dawn Greer, Tammy Ingrassia and Nancy Hoyer.

Over the course of several years, I developed a passion for employee benefits – I wanted to be an advocate for both employees and employers in the ever-changing landscape that intertwines employee benefit programs and the legislature that governs them.

In 2003, my career path shifted from human resources to employee benefits consulting. I was able to maintain my connections with the human resources community while pursuing my passion as an advocate for employee benefit programs and services. I started in the industry as an account manager. With hard work and dedication, I earned the leadership role that I hold today.

Education: Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management, California State University Sacramento

Staff: Locally, there are about 25 employees between our locations in Petaluma and Santa Rosa

Tell us about yourself and your company: I am a Sonoma County native, born and raised in Sonoma. My husband and I will have been married for 11 years in July and we have an inspiring 8-year-old daughter that challenges us every day to be the best version of ourselves. I am the North Bay Benefits Practice Leader with InterWest Insurance Services, LLC. We are a full service brokerage firm serving the communities in which we live and work.

My job is to lead and support our clients and local team through the ever-changing landscape of employee benefits. We are also dedicated to giving back to the community through numerous philanthropic endeavors.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

My colleagues and I joined InterWest in August of 2016 to launch our Petaluma location with the goal of providing quality, high touch, and community focused brokerage services to Sonoma County.

Our long-term goal was (and still is) to grow our presence in the North Bay with the hope of having offices in both the north and south ends of the county. Through natural growth and acquisition, we officially opened our new office in Santa Rosa in December 2019.

We now have two locations in Sonoma County that I’m immensely proud of. Our growth was a true team effort and we continue to look for new opportunities that fit our culture and expertise. I never thought I would be part of building a business locally and the experience has been challenging, but very rewarding.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

July 2, 2002 - I earned my private pilot’s license! It was a childhood dream that finally came to fruition after I graduated from college and landed my first “real” job. Every dollar that remained from my paycheck after paying rent, utilities, and student loan payments went towards flight lessons.

I was ecstatic when all the hard work paid off and I passed my exam. Flight is freeing and terrifying at the same time. That moment you are in the cockpit and realize you are responsible for maneuvering into the sky and returning to the ground safely is a defining moment.

I learned so much about myself - to trust my gut, get out of my own way, and conquer a dream. The experience has made me a better mother, friend, wife, colleague and mentor.

What is your biggest challenge today?

In recent months, what isn’t a challenge?

Honestly, I think being present and thoughtful is my biggest challenge currently. With the shift in taking both work and school to the home environment, we are all on sensory overload. The number of legislative changes that have occurred as a result of COVID-19 have brought new meaning to the phrase vertical learning curve in my profession.

How these regulations impact my clients, their work and their employees has changed by the day, hour and minute. I have had to pause and ask the question, which of these topics is most critical before I send yet another email or host another webinar?

There are times where we all need to stop, pick up the phone, and remember the value of a genuine conversation.

Words that best describe you: Dedicated, kind, loyal, compassionate, driven, creative, resourceful and resilient.

In what ways have the pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders changed who you are as a person that will be a part of you long after the pandemic has passed?

I think we are in a unique position here in Sonoma County. We experienced the Tubbs Fire in 2017 and the Kincaid Fire in 2019. We’ve learned so much through middle of the night evacuations, the challenges of rebuilding, and most importantly the character and strength of our community.

In these moments, I learned the value of thinking on your feet, trusting your gut, and not second-guessing yourself. I’ve applied every lesson learned from the fires to the new challenges we face with the pandemic and shelter in place. I will always remember to live in the moment, be thankful for my health, my job, my home and my family.

I will say ‘yes ‘ when my daughter asks to run the bases one more time after softball practice and I will read yet one more story at bedtime.

If an idea strikes me, I’m not going to put it off until tomorrow, next month or next year. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Our community will thrive. We are resilient.

Also, what ways do you think it will change the way you go about your career and your business?

I don’t think I will ever forget this time in our lives or the last three years for that matter. I’m going to be present in every moment, be open to change and creative solutions.

And when it comes to the COVID-19 issue, what are some the lessons learned for the business community?

We have to be more flexible and creative in how we approach work-flow and productivity. Now is our opportunity to think outside of the box.

I think we all knew a shift to a virtual working environment was coming, but talk about jumping into the deep end in one fell swoop. Exploring different ways to communicate, engage and embrace technology while maintaining the quality and importance of human interaction will be so important. I think we all have experienced WebEx/Zoom fatigue.

Can you imagine the stories we will tell future generations?

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

I’ve faced the common stereotypes from being the only female in the room, to being too young or the less seasoned person in the room.

Ironically, my time in the cockpit of an airplane taught me to have confidence, trust my gut and share my knowledge and experience with others. I’ve learned to let my work, dedication and compassion speak for itself.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?

Health care as we know it will continue to evolve and the role of consultants will be tested even more than we are today.

We need more transparency when it comes to health care. The insurance industry has been slower to embrace technology and while it’s improving it still needs to change. COVID 19 and future administrations will play a huge part in the next phase of the health care delivery system.

Who was your most important mentor?

I have two. My mentor in life is my grandfather. He was a passionate social worker and took his turn in the business world running a turkey ranch in Orland, CA.

He was a dedicated family man and served as both my father figure and grandfather for most of my life. He defied every stereotype of the elderly population. Between the ages of 85 and 90, he traveled the world and saw the pyramids of Egypt, went on safari in Africa twice, zip lined in Costa Rica, and stood on the Great Wall of China.

He is no longer with us physically, but his spirit is with me and inspires me daily.

The second title of mentor goes to my clients, many of whom I have and still work with since my early days in the brokerage world. They have taught me about all of the amazing industries and nuances we have in Sonoma County.

From them, I have learned what is important to CEO’s, CFO’s, HR Professionals and the individuals they employ. I am forever grateful they trust me to guide them through this crazy world of employee benefits.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

Be true to yourself, follow your passion, and it’s okay if your vision changes along the way. Remember ‘no’ is not defeat or the end of a dream, it’s a motivator and gentle reminder that there are many paths to success. Embrace the journey, you’re up for the challenge.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Steve Jobs and Elon Musk

Typical day at the office: There isn’t a typical day at the office – that’s why I love my job as much as I do.

Each day brings different challenges – one minute I’m negotiating a tough renewal or trying to find more savings to meet a magical budget number, the next I’m working with my team to revamp a presentation or solve a challenging claim issue, and somewhere along the way I’m researching how new legislation impacts employers and their employee benefit programs.

I call it 360 customer service. I’m learning on a daily basis from my clients, co-workers, peers, community and industry.

Best place to work outside of your office: Meeting with my clients at their place of business.

Current reading: “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens

Most want to meet: Amelia Earhart

Social media you most use: LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook

Stress relievers: Getting outside and exercising, working in the garden – it’s therapy, spending time with my family, and I adore watching my daughter play softball and basketball. Her passion for life is so refreshing.

Favorite hobbies: Travel, aviation, astronomy, gardening and anything that gets me near water – snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, etc. What tops the list is spending time with my family and watching the world through my daughter’s eyes.

What would parents or significant others say if asked to brag about you?

Full confession, I had no idea how to answer this so I asked my husband and here is what he shared:

‘From a business perspective, I would say that Sama is very client driven. She understands that the number one goal is to provide her clients with excellent customer service.

’She cares about her clients and wants them to succeed on both a professional and personal level. From a personal perspective, Sama is an incredible wife and an amazing mom. Even though she works hard at her job, she works just as hard at home. She's the glue that keeps the house together and running. She does all of this with a soft touch and lots of love.’

Sama Hershey Davis

North Bay benefits practice leader

InterWest Insurance Services LLC

5401 Old Redwood Highway, Suite 105, Petaluma 94954

3645 Westwind Blvd., Suite A, Santa Rosa 95403


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