Interviews

Good leadership is working at all levels!

  • Written by Steven Limmer, Senior Delivery Lead, Liberty IT 

    From Quality assurance, test engineer, scrum master, agile coach and now Senior Delivery Lead with Liberty IT it’s clear from your background you have worked almost exclusively in agile roles. Was this a career path you always wanted to follow or was it a case that it chose you?

    My career path hasn’t been planned at all, in fact I’ve had three careers – I’ve been a professional DJ, a soldier (reservist) and now a technology leader.  

    I’ve been working in technology since 2007 when I started with Allstate. My career really took off in 2012 when I worked as a Scrum Master in Kainos. As part of my employment there, in 2013 I worked with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural affairs (DEFRA)on the Common Agricultural Payments (CAP) programme – this was a Government Digital Service exemplar, showing how UK government could start to build its own digital capability. It was such a unique experience and I was the first scrum master there, to bring in agile ways of working.  

    In 2018 I worked for Ministry of JusticeDigital. It was a real highlight and I gained fantastic experience and I loved how they treated those who had fallen through the cracks in society with empathy. I then worked for BT for a couple of years, and this led to where I am now in my career. I was training and coaching teams,and this helped grow their digital capability. This confirmed to me that I loved training people and helping to build communities 

    I joined Liberty IT in August. I had been interested in the company for a number of years and had developed a number of connections within it prior to joining. I run Lean Coffee Belfast and ProductCamp Belfast and Liberty IT sponsored ProductCampa few years back. I really admire the people andthey are great to work with.  

    What would you say are the most rewarding aspects of your role at Liberty IT? 

    Training, building communities and growing people. That is my main driver. Community building is so important for me and is something that my career at Liberty IT really allows me to do 

    I mentor individuals and teams on the Liberty IT Consultancy Training Programme which is helping future-proof the company by changing how it engages with the wider Liberty Mutual organisation. I love being able to share my consulting experience with the folks on the programme and helping them develop their facilitation, problem solving and business engagement skills. 

    There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your colleagues unleash their potential and realise their capability.  

    Continuous learning and improvement is central to everything you do. How do you apply this to your current role? 

    Being adaptable and pragmatic is so important to ensure you thrive in leadership in tech. You have to have strong opinions and you have to make strong decisions but they can be loosely held. You have to be willing to take feedback and adapt if things need to change.  

    Having delivered high profile projects for large corporate and public sector bodies are there any particularly challenging moments when you thought you should have picked an easier life? 

    I was in Afghanistan in 2008, age 29; when I went out on patrol, I’d be wearing 40kg+ of body armour/rifle/kit and would walk with a minesweeper in front of me, so this is definitely easier in comparison. It puts things in perspective. It’s made me very aware of good leadership and what good leadership is.  

    Good leadership is working at all levels. Listening to people on the ground who know what they’re doing. Making a hard decision and giving people the why rather than the what we are doing. Giving people and teams a purpose.  

    How has the technology evolved during your career and can you think of situations where only a short time ago some problems seemed to be too complex or difficult to solve and now they are a reality in our daily life? 

    When I started in my tech career I was a manual tester. I wouldn’t dream of doing the stuff now that I did then. We manually ran tests that I would like to think are now automated. Looking back, it was such a waste of time and skill, especially when there is more human error than computer error.  

    But it also massively depends on each organisation - its ethos and drive will determine how its technology has evolved. I would say that Liberty IT is right at the forefront of cutting edge technology. We are the biggest organisation outside of Amazon that uses Amazon Web Services (AWS). There’s an assumption that because it’s insurance that it’s boring but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The way we work to understand and solve problems is fascinating.  

    Having to remotely manage teams in numerous locations globally sounds like a huge challenge. Are there one or two major learnings that you would like to share with others in a similar position? 

    Over-communicate all the time. If people don’t know what you are trying to do, that can cause more problems than the folks in your teams being sick of hearing from you. Communication and understanding their purpose and why they are doing the work is so important. People sometimes don’t think past the code that they are writing but when they do, they get more invested in the business and the people they are working with.  

    Be credible. If you are going to talk about a subject or coach your team on that subject and if it’s something you don’t know about, then put your hands up and get them the help they need. I spend a couple of hours a week training and coaching with my unit on things like; giving effective feedback, how to coach, how to make good presentations, understanding things like strategy and vision.  

    In the training I deliver, I’m a big believer in Explaining, Demonstrate, Imitate and Practice – it’s very simple and it’s an easy visual way of learning. Most people learn by seeing people doing something first and explaining why they did it and then trying it themselves.  

    Liberty IT is renowned for having tremendous strength of depth and teams of innovators working in new technology. Was there a particular individual within the business that inspired you to join the team or to be working on a particular project or product? 

    I met the whole leadership team at an agile conference about five years ago. They were so friendly and it also blew my mind that a whole leadership team would take the time out to learn. And since then, I met others who just continued to spark my interest in the company 

    The people in Liberty IT care, they want to know the why as well as the what when solving problems and there’s a real emphasis on doing the right thing. This is so important and spoke to me.  

    What would say to anyone considering a career in InsureTech? 

    Give it a go because it’s very interesting and rewarding. Everybody needs insurance so it’s never going to go away.  

    Be prepared to be a contributor and be prepared to muck in. If you want to cruisethen this isn’t the industry for you. It rewards the people who want to make a difference.   

     

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