The increased focus on digitalization in insurance means talented technologists have lots of opportunities to apply their innovations. That’s something that makes Esurance such a great fit for Nandini Easwar, the company’s director of quality assurance and IT compliance.
“The changes and the innovation in this industry are really groundbreaking,” she says. “It’s really been very attractive to me to ride along with that and stay ahead of the curve.”
Easwar’s entry into the insurance industry follows a familiar pattern: She was working in financial services in her home town of Philadelphia, for the Susquehanna International Group investing firm. She eventually left that job to relocate to the Bay Area, where she worked in human resources technology. In 2006, she joined Esurance because she wanted to return to the financial services sector.
Esurance’s unique position both as an insurance carrier, and as one of the Valley’s many dot-com companies, made it a leading indicator of the coming focus on changing the way insurance is sold to reflect the e-commerce age.
“Just until a few a years ago, when you thought of insurance, you thought of a lot of paperwork,” she says. “Esurance has been a pioneer on that front in how we’ve switched from traditionally buying from an agent and [doing] it all online.”
Over her time with the company, Easwar has made many contributions to that transformation. After Esurance was acquired by Allstate in 2011, the company benefited from an infusion of cash — but pressure mounted to deliver results. In order to improve speed to market for new homeowners and renters lines of business that Allstate wanted Esurance to offer, Easwar developed a “parallel releases” technique to leverage work that was being done across projects more efficiently.
“We had to precede the launches by building out the core apps to be able to support that kind of product line,” she explains. “The idea was to ‘split it and go forward.”
She gave the business units and the larger IT organization several vehicles to launch projects, allowing them to be nimble by breaking them down into smaller units for greater efficiency and quality.
Easwar also developed a testing center of excellence, which is credited with improving the alignment between the business units and QA testers while reducing costs. She also is leading the construction of a new test automation framework, with the goal of not only testing faster, but also help navigate the state-based insurance regulation system in an automated way, so that Esurance can get products to market faster without hitting localized snags.
Easwar is a champion of professional development within Esurance. She is a founding member of the company’s Women’s Innovative Network employee resource group, but notes that its charter is to help women and men prepare for their jobs and compete in the workforce.
“When you think about something like return to work, we want to help all associates,” she says. Though long absences are generally associated with pregnancy and childbirth, “there are a lot of men who may be out for leave of absence or surgery, and it can be difficult for them too.”
Today, the Women’s Innovative Network has several chapters across Esurance’s many local offices. Since the Allstate acquisition, the parent company has been “very supportive” of the network’s efforts.
“Allstate also has a resource group to help out with employee development, that’s a very similar model to ours,” she says.” Easwar also cites “Six Degrees of Esurance,” a “TED Talk-style” series, as fostering unification within the company.
“A few executives have participated in creating content about our strategies,” she explains. “It fosters a sense of inclusion in the organization.”
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