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  • Aflac NI - Putting people at the heart of success

    Written by Aflac Northern Ireland’s Mark McCormack

    Contrary to popular belief, tech transformation and success is all about the talent and the people behind it - not the technology itself, according to Mark McCormack, Aflac Northern Ireland’s Head of Technology, who says employees are the true growth drivers.

    In the fast-paced world of digital technology, the rate and pace of change can be incredibly exciting, often challenging and sometimes complex.

    However, all these factors continue to be a big draw for quick-thinking, creative problem-solvers keen to hatch out a flourishing career in this exciting arena.

    With a mission of developing software and engineering teams within Digital Services for Aflac, we’ve been growing exponentially since we established our company in Northern Ireland in 2019. With a busy team of more than 100 staff—and plans to add 50 more in the year ahead—we’ve been creating something different while making a splash on this side of the pond with our iconic Aflac duck.   

    Supporting our US parent company Aflac, a Fortune 200 company providing supplementary health insurance to 50 million global customers in the United States and Japan, Belfast is front and centre for delivering innovative tech solutions. We help people when they are sick or hurt, calling on our brand when they need us most. We’re also learning new skills and new technologies as we work.  

    From building customer solutions using Pega to delivering world class web and mobile apps used every day by our sales agents and policyholders, our Belfast teams also have a strong focus on data science, cloud computing and artificial intelligence. We’re very proud of how far we have come in such a short time in NI, solving some of the most complex problems in the insurance industry.  

    However, as anyone knows, success doesn’t come easy and despite the perceptions, tech is a truly people-centred business. 

    Our focus on our teams and each individual employee's development and wellbeing is a top priority, and the supportive culture of our workplace, means everyone shares in our success—and we work hard to make sure everyone enjoys every minute. 

    Since we established our global tech hub in Belfast, we’ve been hiring some of the best and brightest in the industry and bringing in new talent in the form of career-changers experiencing their first role in the digital space. Once a start-up, we’re now focused on scaling up. 

    Despite the pandemic and the restrictions involved, Aflac NI has put our teams front and centre, ensuring that everyone stayed connected and immersed in our day-to-day teamwork. At Aflac Northern Ireland, we embrace the maxim advanced by our founders back in 1955; if you take care of the employees, they will take care of the business.  

    Among the many people initiatives we have introduced, our new ‘Organisation 2.0’ programme is making waves. Recognising our growth in size from a start-up to a flourishing mid-size tech company, we sought feedback from our teams about the kind of organisation they want to be and empowered them to come up with ideas that would help us retain our nurturing ‘small’ start-up feel.  

    The process was a revelation. With great input, ideas and insights, our employees delivered a series of recommendations which we’re now actively introducing, including the creation of a brand new ‘Engineering Coach’ role, which combines elements of tech leadership, hands-on coding, mentoring and coaching.  

    As part of this, we also pivoted our Digital Services team into three newly defined engineering practices—Pega, Data and Web & Mobile. Working together, we’re thrilled that this dynamic process means even more opportunities for our teams. Everything we’ve done in collaboration with our employees has also allowed us to scale up while continuing to deliver high-quality digital products for our customers. A true win-win for our teams and our customers. 

    At Aflac NI, we believe that when an organisation manages both its talent and culture well, the synergies created unlock a wealth of opportunity and real impact.  

    We’re also really great ‘quack’! 

    This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of the Sync NI magazine. You can download your FREE copy and sign up to receive future digital editions here.

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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