At NFU Mutual’s Guidewire Centre of Excellence (GCoE), we’re developing and implementing a huge number of transformational projects that will have a major impact on the business. The GCoE supports large-scale, long-term programmes of work that involves extensive business analysis, coding and testing, as well as agile working. We talked to some of the team about working on such a diverse range of complex projects, how they’ve been able to develop their skills and the impact on their careers.

For Gareth Brown, NFU Mutual’s IT Lead for GCoE, how the business is implementing Guidewire offers a variety of career opportunities. “It’s key technology to be involved in,” he explains, “because Guidewire are the global market leaders in terms of insurance industry technology and they’re also recognised as thought leaders.”

He points out that the main challenge the company faces is that Guidewire isn’t a common skill in the UK. “We know that we have to train people, whatever their background,” he says. “That means we offer people who don’t have any Guidewire experience – ideally with Java skills – access to all the Guidewire training tools.”

From Java to Guidewire
Dan Tew is an example of someone who’d never worked with Guidewire before but did have a background in Java coding. He works as a developer on the large-scale Bridge programme at NFU Mutual to implement Guidewire’s PolicyCenter application. So, how did he find the transition from Java to Guidewire? “It wasn’t too difficult,” he says. “The Guidewire language is based on Java, so the principles are the same. And the business helped by giving me access to all the online Guidewire training tools. There are a lot of self-learning papers with exams at the end, and you get recognised accreditation, so it’s up to you how far you want to take it.”

Durga Balagee, another Guidewire developer, had a similar experience. “Although I’d worked as a developer in banking, I hadn’t worked with Guidewire before,” she says. “But I’d used Java, which is very similar. The team gave me a lot of support and I had access to online training materials. It wasn’t a big change from using Java, because I’m using related skills.”

Broader skills training
Becky Muir manages the BillingCenter and ClaimCenter teams in the GCoE and emphasises that she makes sure her teams make the most of the technical training available. She also adds that she encourages them to get Guidewire certification. “It doesn’t form part of their career path,” she says. “But it means they get opportunities to move across to different Guidewire applications.”

Gareth Brown backs this up, pointing out that there are advanced technical courses available for each Guidewire product. So, joining the Guidewire team means you can specialise in one specific area or diversify. He also explains that the unique way NFU Mutual are implementing Guidewire means it’s integral to the future of the business and it’s important that people understand that aspect of it, too. “Although Guidewire’s the predominant insurance industry technology, each company will implement it differently,” he says. “So, as well as technical training, we give people training in the NFU Mutual business domains and processes, and how the systems fit together.”

Making training accessible
This approach to training is at the heart of NFU Mutual’s commitment to make the company a great place to work. Naomi Clayson started her career at NFU Mutual in underwriting, but left when she decided to move into IT. In 2017, she returned to the company as a Business Analyst (BA). However, as she points out, she didn’t have any formal BA qualifications at the time, or life and pensions experience. “The business supported me in gaining a BA diploma, studying for advanced modules, and gaining my CII exams,” she says. “They’re so good at giving you opportunities to train and develop your skills like that. They don’t force it at all – it’s more a case of offering you the opportunity or giving you the option.”

James Taylor is a Scrum Master in the Guidewire team who’s also had the chance to add to his skills. As well as gaining Scrum Master certification, he’s had change management training and took part in the company’s Aspiring Management programme. He says the company’s approach to training and development made it easy for him: “The development options are all so accessible, because the business is very open to helping you gain more skills and progress,” he explains. “You don’t have to go out and find things for yourself – although if you do, the company supports you in that, too.”

Personal support
As well as providing a range of technical and business skills training, NFU Mutual is equally committed to supporting people in their personal lives. For Naomi Clayson, this was a massive benefit, as she explains: “I’m completely deaf in one ear and partially deaf in the other, so big meetings are difficult for me, because I find it hard to tell who’s speaking. This was a problem when I was leading workshops, so I spoke to the company, who said to go and find out what could help me. The hospital recommended a Bluetooth microphone that sends the sounds to my hearing aid. It wasn’t cheap, but the company paid for it and it really helps.”

For Tracey Westbury, a member of the GCoE testing team, the support she received from NFU Mutual during the Covid lockdowns made a real difference. “They gave me all the equipment I needed to work from home, such as a rise and fall desk, so I could stand up and still work, and an extra monitor.” She adds that her team were very supportive, too. “We keep a Teams chat open all day, so if anyone’s got any questions or just wants to talk about the weather for five minutes, we can.”

Continuous development
As well as making sure people have the immediate skills they need, Gareth Brown outlines how the company supports everyone’s personal development. “Everyone has their own Personal Development Plan,” he says. “And this can be wide-reaching, from a new skill you want to learn, to the next step in your career. You’ll start the conversation with your line manager, so they understand what you want to achieve. Then they help you to see how you can get there, which might include gaining experience in different groups or business areas or getting a mentor from another area.”

He adds that the nature of the Guidewire programme at NFU Mutual offers a variety of career development opportunities. “There are individual opportunities to grow your technical, business and personal skills,” he points out. “But you can also expect a diversity of work, from small-scale support, to medium-term projects and large-scale programmes.”

And whatever you want to achieve, NFU Mutual will support you. As Tracey Westbury puts it: “The company want you to be comfortable, in the right surroundings and have the tools you need to do the job.”

Join us on our journey
At NFU Mutual’s Guidewire Centre of Excellence (GCoE), we’re developing and implementing a huge number of transformational projects that will have a major impact on the business. Find out how you can be part of this important and influential project. Take a look at our latest opportunities.