Q&A with Katie Hermans - Head of IT (Direct and Digital Portfolio)
How did you come to work in IT at LV=GI?
I graduated from Exeter University with a degree in Computer Science in 2005 and joined a software company in Bournemouth as a graduate developer, working on ecommerce and web systems for the Liverpool Victoria account. It’s funny to think back to a time when you could only get an online car or home insurance quote between 9am and 5pm – a lot has changed in 15 years!
In 2007 LV= started transforming as a brand, including bringing their IT department in house, so I applied for a job and joined LV= in 2008. At this point there were two other people in the ecommerce team, including a guy called Lee who is also still here! It was so exciting to build something from the ground up, and it’s when my career really took off.
How has your career at LV= developed?
Within 18 months of starting, the ecommerce team had eight people, including some of my colleagues from the software company, who were absorbed into the business. I was asked to line manage the team, which was quite a challenge for a young woman with only a few years’ experience under her belt. Over time, I continued to successfully grow the team and we worked on a lot of really fun projects.
I took time out to have a baby in 2014, then returned in 2015 feeling like I’d shaken off the reservations about being so young in a senior role. I established myself as a leader, and that year our team became group-wide Team Of The Year, and also CIO Team Of The Year, which felt like such a huge achievement. We were rewarded with a holiday to Iceland – the country, not the shop!
After that I felt like I’d really proved myself – I could be a mum, and successful at my job. Over the last 4 years we have been through a huge period of digital transformation, and now I lead a team of 120 permanent staff, as well as an additional 30-40 contractors. It has been such a wonderful experience growing and leading the digital team to what it is today.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen over the last 15 years?
When I first joined the industry in 2005, I was in a software development team of 16, there were very few females, and I was the youngest in the team by about 15 years. The reason I remember this so clearly is that it was drilled into me by my peers. But I’m pleased to say that times have changed; you just don’t hear anyone comment on age anymore. Women aren’t seen as any different, and your age doesn’t matter either. The past 15 years have seen a monumental shift, from feeling like a complete minority to actually not feeling that way at all. To feeling included.
We now have a good proportion of women in Software Testing, but in Development the numbers aren’t as high... we still have work to do, but I’m really proud of how far we’ve come and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
What’s the most rewarding project you’ve been involved in?
That’s a really tough question, there have been so many! On a personal level it has to be the Apprenticeship Programme, which was conceived over dinner with a colleague called Allison Sheard and launched seven months later. Our CEO was hugely supportive, and our first intake was 14 apprentices in IT, all recruited internally from other areas of the business. We discovered so much talent, particularly from the call centre, and it’s been incredible to give so many people the opportunity to take their career in a new direction. A number of the apprentices have now completed the programme and it’s been really heart-warming to see gratitude and emails of thanks from those involved.
The second example is the digital transformation project. Over the course of 18 months we introduced a lot of new technology into the estate such as Sitecore, React and Mulesoft and we implemented a brand new LV.com website and a My Account portal. This project was rewarding in many ways from a vastly improved customer experience on LV.com to having a delivery team that was excited to be using leading edge technology and tools.
What’s your vision for the Direct part of the IT department?
I head up the IT delivery team for our Direct and Digital portfolio, working very closely with my counterpart who looks after the Claims and Broker portfolio. Our priority is working together to provide outstanding and seamless delivery across all projects, and each year we agree a list of capability improvements that we want to deliver.
Next year we want to improve how we work with the call centre and look to further increase the value of test automation. We also have a strong people focus and attracting more female talent into IT and IT leadership roles is very much part of that.
What is it about LV= GI that makes it a great place to work?
It’s most definitely the people, the projects and the opportunities. We have a flair for recruiting people with a wonderful attitude, who want to do their best every day. We always have interesting and exciting projects happening too; I can honestly say that in 15 years I have never felt bored. As a result of the exciting projects, naturally there are also opportunities – whether that be to learn a new technology or skill or take on additional responsibilities.
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