A fantastic opportunity to learn how to lead

A fantastic opportunity to learn how to lead

Two weeks ago, Guidewire Dublin was officially announced as a Great Place To Work for the second consecutive year. We placed 12th in the Medium Workplaces category, moving us up one position from last year’s ranking of 13th.  This has been a great achievement for us - one that we're very proud of - and as the leader of the internal GPTW committee I'm especially proud.

The committee's mix of technical and non-technical employees across functions (this was not just a HR/recruiting effort!) provides a strong sample of our employee base and I think that's had a large role in our success. I've watched and coordinated all of the hard work from this team and, while not without it's challenges, it has given me a fantastic opportunity to learn how to lead.

Our internal GPTW committee was set up in late 2015 (about 5 months after I joined the company), with the goal of getting Guidewire listed as a Great Place To Work.  We achieved that and throughout 2016 we worked on improvements to be made around the office, based on the feedback given by GPTW, and re-listing in 2017. In the second half of 2016 I became the leader of this committee and I can say without doubt that the chance to lead a team at such an early stage in my career has really taught me a lot.

When I took on this responsibility I was the most junior employee on the committee - in fact, my own manager was on the committee. Our roles reversed very quickly - for half an hour every Wednesday morning during our weekly meetup he became my reportee and this was, without doubt, an unnerving experience! I had to quickly learn that I could no longer switch off or zone out for a few seconds during these meetings; as soon as there's a lull in the room everyone looks to me. People can expect me to have an answer when I sometimes don't, and while I'm used to this in my day-to-day consulting role, it feels very different not having an answer when in a leadership position. Hopefully it's something I'll adapt to!

Aside from the personal challenge of leadership, one of the most important lessons I've learned has been that of setting attainable short-term goals. Our overall aim throughout 2016 was a simple one - we would take the survey results provided to us by the GPTW Institute, devise action items to improve the culture around the Dublin office, and then break into sub-groups and act upon them. As with any task-setting exercise the outcome was fairly predictable.

Some tasks were easy to complete and quickly finished off.  Others were long-running tasks, some of which to this day are still on-going, and some were completely out of scope for our group.  The easy tasks were completed first and everyone felt great; the group was making progress! However when the more difficult tasks had to be tackled the same approach didn't work.  Tasks were dragging on over months and we soon began to lose our steam.  To tackle this we implemented an approach familiar to everyone here at Guidewire - Agile methodology.  We broke our larger tasks down into smaller, more digestible tasks which we then began tracking using Trello. One member of the group even became our dedicated Scrum Master, keeping track of all of these tasks and their overall progress.  The full extent of this methodology change will be seen as 2017 progresses, but based on the buzz around the group I think it's going to be a success.

Maintaining this buzz and group diversity is going to be key to ranking as a Great Place To Work in 2018. In fact, we'll most likely be in the large workplaces category - the challenge will be even greater based on that fact alone. Hopefully I'll be back here in twelve months’ time writing not only about how those challenges were overcome, but how a full year of leadership has grown me as an individual and furthered my career.


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