My Guidewire with Francois
Welcome to our new “My Guidewire” series!
We talked with the teams in our offices to get to know them and find out about their perspectives and overall experience in working at Guidewire.
Meet Francois Groenewald, Architect in the Guidewire Services Centre. Get to know him and his perspective on Guidewire.
Tell me about you. Where are you from, and how come you decided to embark on your particular career?
I'm originally from South Africa and came over to Ireland in 1998. My career started in insurance working on mainframes with CICS, COBOL and DB2. Over time I worked in other industries such as logistics, Intelligent Transport Systems, banking and other financial industries. I feel I have completed the circle by working in insurance again.
Guidewire was quite attractive in terms of the challenges that would come along with the job and further exposure to AWS, but I was also interested in terms of what I could bring to Guidewire. I felt I could be a key contributor with my experience on mainframes, distributed systems, and cloud infrastructures, along with the fact that I was coming from a development background and experienced in numerous coding languages.
Tell us about your journey with us and what made you decide to join us?
My journey with Guidewire began two and a half years ago. In that time, I have worked on one of our first cloud customer projects. I loved being part of this project and found it interesting, but most of all the people that I got to work with are friends for life.
One reason for joining Guidewire was that I felt I had the ability to share my cloud knowledge and contribute to the company's cloud strategy. I had a lot of prior experience with cloud infrastructures as I managed a complete Google Cloud stack in the past. Although Guidewire is focused on AWS, there are quite a lot of similarities between the two.
There was a lot of learning with that project, and my previous cloud experience helped shape the future of the company. I got to see the beginning of Guidewire’s transition to a cloud service, the creation of our cloud on roadmap, and the establishment of the Cloud Delivery Strategy team.
The other area that I had a lot of prior experience in was around integrations and anything to do with messaging, batch or web services and felt this to be a benefit when integrating with vendors in the P&C insurance industry.
I was also extremely excited to see how Guidewire was growing in Dublin and highly ranked as a Great Place to Work. I am proud to be working at Guidewire.
What team are you currently on and what are some of the most interesting aspects of your role?
I am part of GSC and currently leading a Dublin team in an initiative to expand the Behaviour-driven Development content for PC and CC. We are capturing the OOTB (out of the box) behavior in Gherkin which will be interpreted by Cucumber to validate that our software is behaving correctly after code changes and especially when doing upgrades. This initiative forms part of ISBTF and the wider test strategy for Cloud Delivery.
My responsibilities are guiding and mentoring team members, leading discussions with product owners on the scenarios that need to be captured relating to the out of the box behaviour and reviewing the implemented code. Then I present our progress to the Cloud Delivery Strategy team as part of sprint demos. I also contribute and review standards documents related to ISBTF, which form part of the standards being delivered by the Cloud Delivery Strategy. I also lead other initiatives within Guidewire, such as coordinating the GSC Starter Kit and leading a Dublin technical group.
What have you learned from your time in the Dublin office, is it worth being a part of it, and why?
I love working in the Dublin office and there are a number of reasons for that; the first would be the people, along with the technology, and the direction the company is heading to.
The people are some of the friendliest I’ve ever worked with and I also find that they truly understand the meaning of work-life balance. People go home in the evenings and switch off. You would rarely see anyone in the office after 6pm although, of course, we are in the software industry and it does happen from time to time that we need to work longer hours. When called upon our staff do not hesitate to put in the extra time, but this would be rare.
There is also a sense of pride in the quality of work we deliver at Guidewire. Working on a project you will get the feeling that you are delivering something crucial for a customer and something we can stand over and be proud of. We want to ensure that solutions are correct, robust and maintainable going forward.
The Dublin office is also fantastic in terms of the social aspect and facilities it offers. Throughout the year, the Dublin social committee plans numerous events and it’s great to see how everyone interact and take part.
We are a culturally diverse office, which is something I really like. Sitting around me are Spanish, Portuguese, Brazilians, Italian, Chinese, Irish, French, Lebanese and many more, I could probably name every nation in the world and they are presented in our office, I love that.
Learning about these different cultures and becoming friends with them, is just fantastic and life-enhancing. Everybody brings a different mindset to a problem and I find that unique.
How would you describe our people and our culture? What is most important from your perspective?
Well, as I’ve touched on already, I like how culturally diverse the office is. We have, I think, over 35 different nationalities in our office, so it is great to able to learn about the different cultures and get to know so many different people.
Language is not a challenge either given all the different nationalities. It’s very easy to communicate with individuals and as I said, everybody comes to a problem with a different solution because of their diverse cultural backgrounds and that's what I love about Guidewire.
What are you most excited about regarding our goals as an organization?
I am most excited and passionate about our cloud journey. Our cloud strategy is obviously a massive initiative, so we need to be able to react very quickly to customer needs and ensure that our standards are followed. We must own and deliver a product that we can stand behind, in an efficient and cost-effective manner to Guidewire.
What are three lessons or three pieces of advice that you can share with someone looking to begin their journey with Guidewire?
As an experienced person joining the team in Guidewire, you must be confident that you can speak to customers and to stakeholders in the business as you will interact with them frequently.
Architects will become quite important individuals within the teams that they lead. They must be strong enough technically to carry out problem resolution, speak and mentor junior members on the team, resolve conflicts, have ideas and be willing to listen to customers (including being able to say no or provide alternative solutions).
This is the kind of place where we all collaborate and help each other out. You have to be willing to support others and be open to working with them to help find solutions even if they are not from your team.
Previous team members still come to me with problems that they are facing and with our open-door mentality in Guidewire and I’m always there for them if they need help. We are not superior to others; we are all equal and all working towards a greater goal for Guidewire.