For our final article in our International Women’s Day series, we want to share the perspectives of some of the women helping us to transform the insurance industry.
We invited Anna, Head of Fraud, Georgia, Design Manager, Gwen, Senior Content Designer, and Lexie, Senior Product Manager, to share their experiences and challenges around innovation, and working at Marshmallow.
Why these women in particular? Aside from the fact that they’re all fabulous, they also have leading roles across the company. They're making a huge impact on everything from design through to fraud protection.
For all of you, this is your first role in Insurance. So let’s start with the big question - why move to Marshmallow and into insurtech?
Anna: For me, it was a fantastic opportunity to do things in a completely different way, and create something really cool in a pretty un-cool space. The big insurers have been doing things the same way for years. Insurance is ripe for disruption and so it’s the perfect environment to come in and approach things from a completely new angle.
Until recently, everyone in our Fraud team had non-insurance specific backgrounds. That means the way we’ve approached fraud prevention is completely different to our incumbent peers. We’re all looking at things with a fresh perspective.
Georgia: I was most excited about getting to work on the claims experience. From a design perspective, it was greenfield, no-one in Marshmallow had worked on it before and it was something we were bringing in-house.
There are a lot of behavioural and emotional challenges to solve in this space, especially since it’s an area that can have a huge impact on the customer. It’s about meeting their needs at that point of time and trying to make a really difficult situation better.
Gwen: I’ll be honest, I had no intention of working in insurance! I was interviewing with a few people at the time, and had never heard of Marshmallow so I had no idea what to expect. What struck me the most was the sheer size of the opportunity here. And not just in terms of what I’d be working on. The potential for growth seemed infinite, and I could tell that I’d be pushed and challenged. Georgia’s enthusiasm in the interview really sold it to me. It was so refreshing to see.
Lexie: I agree with you Gwen. When I first started looking at Marshmallow I thought 'car insurance? Sounds boring!’ But when I started talking to Georgia, she made the work sound super exciting.
When I actually got here, I was like ‘Wow, being part of a company disrupting a conservative industry, thinking about how you can change something so ingrained in its ways is really cool.’ There aren’t many people who come from a traditional insurance background at Marshmallow, so we have tonnes of different perspectives coming together to tackle a very old problem. It’s exciting!
Tech and insurance are traditionally male-dominated industries. How do you feel the women at Marshmallow are helping to transform these spaces?
Lexie: The cultural value we’ve got around being open and honest means that everyone has a voice. That hasn’t been the case everywhere I’ve worked. So, even though we are technically in a very male-dominated space, I feel like we have a really meritocratic culture. Wherever you come from, whatever your role, everyone has an equal voice.
In terms of how the women here support each other, I think there is really strong peer to peer mentoring. Some of the best constructive feedback I’ve been given has come from Maria, one of my peers. We all look out for each other and want to help each other succeed and grow.
Thinking about the power of feedback. What do you think is the most useful piece of feedback that has helped you grow?
Lexie: When I first joined I got the feedback that I was defensive in some cases because I came from a culture where no one had each other's backs. It took me a while to realise that everyone is just trying to help each other here. There’s a strong feeling of psychological safety, and it’s meant I have grown quicker here than anywhere else I’ve worked.
Anna: It’s true. We value people being vulnerable, self-aware and reflecting on the things that they’re not doing so well. I got similar feedback when I first joined about being defensive. It’s common for new joiners as, in most places, you feel like you have to hide your mistakes. That’s not the case here.
Gwen: My feedback was about needing to be more assertive in my opinions and perspectives. While I’m confident in my work, I’m always aware that there’s an aspect of learned behaviour where I don’t back myself up as much as I should - like backing up my opinions when someone challenges them, for example. I often have to remind myself that I’m here because I am the best person for the job, and what I say matters.
Which female inspires you day-to-day?
Gwen: My friend Jen is the opposite of me in a lot of ways, and watching her navigate her working life is honestly an education. She works in a very male-dominated field.I’m pretty sure she’s one of only a few women on her floor, and probably among the youngest, too. I just love how honest and unapologetic she is. I really believe in the importance of speaking up about the imbalances that creep in as a result of gender bias at work, while also finding a way to navigate them. And I think she’s somehow found the magic balance.
We’ve all mentioned the importance of creating a space where women feel comfortable speaking their minds and can talk confidently about the things they believe in. What do you do to make sure that happens?
Gwen: For me, it’s about acknowledging and acting on the fact that people want to work, think and contribute in a way that’s comfortable for them. Some people prefer discussing and bashing-out ideas on a one-to-one basis. Others need time to think and process. Others perform best in meetings and large groups. I try to remember that, and make sure everyone has the chance to contribute. It's always a balancing act, and ultimately it's about making sure decisions are made at the right level and with the right input. If the aim is inclusion and empowerment, that effort has to be made to make sure everyone's voice is heard.
Lexie: Having written documents (or OP1s) that communicate our visions for the future are really useful. They explain what we think the team should be doing and why. It means that getting buy-in from senior stakeholders, who are usually men, isn’t based on someone being a really confident and engaging speaker.
The written OP1s give people who are not as strong at presenting a fair opportunity to bring forward their thinking, and means that the company can make more objective decisions as things aren’t based on how good someone is at selling their idea.
What top tips do you have for women wanting to get into your industry?
Georgia: I have a lot of conversations with people internally at Marshmallow about getting into design as lots of people are interested in it, especially from our customer operations team. I start by trying to defeat the idea that you have to have been to university and studied design to work in design. Asking a lot of questions and really getting under the hood of the problem is key in design.
Lexie: You have to be insatiably curious and not scared of the things you don’t know. Let go of perfectionism - it’s not obtainable, it's actually holding you back. Strive to learn as much as possible. Be like 'there are so many things I don't know, and that is super cool'.
All: What Lexie said!
A fun note to end on, who would come to your all female dinner party?
Anna: Well all of us, of course!
Lexie: Michelle Obama, Greta Thunberg, Malala, Emma Watson, Emma Thompson.
Gwen: I’d invite Beyonce. But what do you say to Beyonce?! I’m not one to idolise but I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to think in coherent sentences if I sat next to her.
Georgia: I want to add Rihanna to our dinner.
Gwen: Her turning up late to fashion week is top tier 2022 for me. There'll be no beating it.
We hope you enjoyed this chat with the women working behind the scenes at Marshmallow, helping us to transform the insurance industry for good. If you fancy working with innovative and inspiring women, why not check out our open roles here?