Definity’s Tatjana Lalkovic: Celebrating Women’s History Month and Innovation Success
In honor of Women’s History Month, Guidewire is proud to share insights from Tatjana Lalkovic, Senior Vice-President & Chief Technology Officer, Definity Financial, a leading property and casualty insurer in Canada.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Tatjana to discuss how Definity became the first Canadian insurer to undergo demutualization, the first to leverage a modern cloud platform as part of its quest to become a top-five Canadian carrier, and her perspective as a successful female leader in a historically male-dominated industry.
I’ve been a passionate advocate for women in tech throughout my 20+ years in the insurance industry. Advocating for and mentoring young talent is so incredibly important to me because I have a 10-year-old daughter interested in following in my footsteps and pursuing a career in STEM. I serve on the board of Girls in Tech, an organization that Guidewire is proud to partner with to help nurture the female leaders of tomorrow. Guidewire and Definity are collaborating with Girls in Tech to execute a female empowerment hackathon later this year.
We provide highlights of the intriguing conversation below, and you can listen to the full interview on my podcast, “InsurTalk,” which aims to help P&C insurers drive innovation and turn possibilities into realities. Hear more from Tatjana and other phenomenal female insurance leaders in a Connections 2022 panel, “Boosting the Bottom Line: Gender Diversity in Tech.”
Q&A with Tajtana Lalkovic:
Laura: Can you share a little bit about what you do at Definity?
Tatjana: I joined Definity three years ago and, as CTO, and I am a change agent who’s driven by curiosity. With a keen focus on innovation, I lead technology teams, seek agile ways of working, and collaborate closely with my business peers to deliver value for our customers, brokers, and Definity through continuous, digital innovation and transformation. Prior to joining Definity, I spent most of my career in the financial services industry and a couple of years in telecom, driving digital transformations at scale.
As a digital transformation leader, I am particularly excited about solving business problems and delivering customer-centric experiences by leveraging exciting and innovative technologies. For example, in addition to capitalizing on Guidewire Cloud capabilities, we:
Formed a multi-year, collaborative relationship with Google Cloud to power innovation by using Google’s advanced analytics, AI, and machine learning technologies
Built robust cyber security with innovative threat simulations to enable optimized cost and expanded coverage
Stood up the strategic data platform in record time and delivered business value within a year
Laura: What were your business drivers for moving to Guidewire Cloud?
Tatjana: Reflecting on our ambition to accelerate our organic and inorganic growth as we were preparing for demutualization and our IPO, we knew we needed our digital platforms to be scalable and resilient, enable innovation and agility through adoption of new business capabilities, and leverage data and AI technologies to deliver on changing customer expectations.
Definity sees cloud as both an operational and strategic play. From a strategic lens, cloud offers agility and speed, more time for business innovation, and helps avoid complex, costly, and self-managed maintenance and currency. It is also an operational play because it addresses business opportunities, while leveraging cloud benefits, such as “on demand” and “pay as you use”, while reducing IT overhead.
Laura: Definity was the first Canadian insurer Guidewire migrated to our cloud platform in August 2022. Congratulations! What benefits have you seen and expect to see from moving to cloud?
Tatjana: Thank you! We are extremely proud of this recognition!
Since launch, enterprise value has been boosted through increased quote volumes, improved transaction performance, and greater responsiveness to severe weather claims volume, helping customers recover faster. We have also optimized cost and expanded coverage by building in robust cyber security with innovative threat simulations.
Speed to market in delivering business enhancements and innovative capabilities is critical to support our business strategy, optimization, and automation of delivery in the cloud, which will play a critical role.
We are also excited about Guidewire’s blue-green deployment capabilities. With our digital direct-to-consumer Sonnet business, we require 24/7 uptime and no downtime to deploy new capabilities or improve our infrastructure.
Finally, in today’s competitive environment, innovative cloud technologies enable us to continue to explore and improve agile delivery, new ways of working, and attract and retain top talent.
Laura: How are you leveraging data insights to improve customer experience?
Tatjana: We are a data-driven organization and aspire to bring this to the next level. As the insurance industry is transforming and customer expectations are being shaped by innovative experiences in other industries, integration of third-party data with our internal datasets is key to improving and personalizing our customer experience.
We leverage Google Data & Analytics technologies to build real-time integration with our Guidewire core insurance platform.
With data privacy and cyber security measures in place to protect data and ensure its proper use, we leverage data analysis to build personalized product recommendations and targeted marketing campaigns.
We’re using AI and predictive modeling to analyze customer data, which allows us to more accurately predict the future behavior of customers, proactively create personalized and data-driven experiences, and address potential issues before they happen.
Laura: You shared that you are a passionate advocate for women in technology. Census data reveals that in 1990 about 31% of jobs under the general heading “IT” were filled by women. Compare that to today’s number of 26%. What can we do to increase the number of women working in tech?
Tatjana: I personally believe that a mix of diverse voices and perspectives at the table will help uncover better opportunities and enable success, productivity, and profitability.
It starts with talent attraction, and when choosing the best candidate, you must also be constantly mindful of having diverse representation, which can help us increase the number of women in tech and overall diversity in our teams.
I am a big believer in women earning an opportunity by their own merit, not simply because of gender.
Laura: I often get asked for advice by women entering the tech field. I suggest they prepare for every meeting or important interaction, find their voice, and get a mentor. What advice do you give?
Tatjana: I believe curiosity is a critical element that I have personally incorporated into my own career. Ask questions and don’t settle for less.
Next, be deliberate in your career and when selecting your next role. Never stop learning.
Take up the opportunities to meet with others and learn. In doing so, you will not only build your personal brand, but you will also more likely be tapped on the shoulder for that next big project or role.
One of the best bits of advice I have received is from a very senior female leader who recommended focusing on being awesome.
Women often shy away from more senior mandates, with concerns around work-life balance. The reality is that work-life balance is different for every person and for me it is not about hours, but the flexibility to integrate my career into my personal life so I can be present in both aspects, in the moments that matter.