‘Be the change you want to see’

Crischelle Pana is a software consultant at Guidewire, as part of the company’s graduate programme. Crischelle talks to gradireland about her experiences of life at Guidewire, her job seeking journey, how the application process works, and she also gives advice to those interested in a similar career.

Crischelle Pana, Software Consultant with Guidewire

What do you do in your daily role and what function does it play in terms of the overall operations of the organisation? 

I am part of the GSC Upgrades department, the job title is Software Consultant II, where my role includes upgrading customer’s old software to the newest version that Guidewire has to offer.

My daily routine usually starts off with the daily scrums, which are fifteen to twenty-minute team meetings. In those meetings, we discuss what we did the day before, what tasks we plan on doing that day, any relevant problems each member might be facing, etc.

Usually, there is another scrum meeting that involves the customer’s development team. After that, it’s mostly development work the rest of the day, where I try to complete user stories or fix defects and/or bugs within the project.

In terms of the overall operations of the organisation, the Upgrades Department provides for the upgrading of the customers’ old platform, helping customers have the most up-to-date and best software that Guidewire has available.

This ensures that the customers have better technology and functionality, a better user interface and better support to work with, allowing them to deliver their own products in the way possible.

What did you study at third level and how did you find your path to starting your career in the technology sector?

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study Computer Science in UCD and I graduated in 2018.

I was first introduced to Guidewire by the wonderful Career Resources department that we had in the UCD Computer Science building. They frequently sent emails detailing opportunities that companies have and that’s how I ended up applying for Guidewire’s on-campus interview.

It’s an interesting story actually, as I was already planning to work with another company, and ready to move somewhere outside of Dublin, but after receiving the email from the Career Resources centre introducing me to Guidewire, I researched the company and was immediately intrigued by what Guidewire represented and their core values – integrity, rationality and collegiality. What Guidewire prioritises, what they represent, resonated with me.

I applied for their on-campus interview and luckily got a place. This involved a white-board interview with a manager from Guidewire and I remember it feeling more like a conversation than an interview. When I didn’t know something, he would explain it. I found it helpful, and I felt that as much as it was an interview, it was also a learning experience.

I then received a phone call a few days later and got through to the final round of the recruitment process.

How have you settled into your role and what were some of the challenges you have overcome? 

I settled into my role in Guidewire quite quickly. This is due to the fact that the minute you enter Guidewire, you are assigned a manager and a mentor to help you ease into the company. My manager was always helpful, asking about how I’m doing, sending me information I would need to know or might be interested in. They were always communicating with me and that was a great start to life in a new company. My mentor was there to help me throughout training. I could go to them with any technical problems or questions I had and that helped me to learn a lot in those first couple weeks.

I didn’t find the role itself challenging, however I did find my early days in the job a little daunting and nerve-wracking as it was my first real job after college. But after a couple of months into Guidewire, after meeting a lot of people, I realised I was actually thriving. People around the company, be it my manager, my mentor, or my teammates, they all allowed me to be myself, to move at my own pace, to learn and to grow in confidence. I cannot stress enough how friendly, approachable, and helpful people are in Guidewire. I met people who are so smart and willing to teach me things I didn’t know yet.

So, with such supportive people around me and the readily available resources that Guidewire provides, it was rather easy settling into my role!

What skills do you feel you have improved most since joining Guidewire? 

I think my communications skill have improved a lot since joining Guidewire. There’s a lot of communication that goes into development work that I didn’t realise at the start. I have learned how to approach people in general, and customers in particular, in an appropriate and effective manner. This has also allowed me to improve on my teamwork skills which are essential,especially when working in the tech industry.

In terms of technical skills, Guidewire provides its employees with memberships to educational sites such as Udemy and LinkedIn Learning, allowing everybody to take courses on a wide variety of subjects! On top of that, Guidewire has a Graduate Programme where we have multiple sessions, learning about topics such as Agile Methodology, Design Patterns, Organisational Skills, etc. All this allowed me to develop my technical skills, which I can use not just within Guidewire but also within my own further personal development.

I’m also in a study group with people from the office to take the Scrum Certification, which is paid for by Guidewire.  They also offer to pay for other certifications, such as Java Certification. Within Guidewire, you always have resources at hand, and are always encouraged to improve both professionally and personally.

What misconceptions did you have about careers in the technology sector?

One of the misconceptions I had about the world of technology, that I did not find in Guidewire, is how competitive it is working in the sector. I always thought working in technology companies would involve working in a very competitive environment, which didn’t really appeal to me. In Guidewire there is a sense of community and teamwork that makes you feel like you can be yourself and this was such a relief for me. People always help each other out and if there is healthy competition, it’s friendly, engaging and it helps us do great work!

What advice would you give to other women who are looking to work in this sector, particularly for Guidewire?

I know how clichéd and overused this is but my advice is; ‘just go for it’. Particularly in the technology sector, which has traditionally been male dominated. 

I’ve had low self-esteem ever since I can remember, and also developed impostor syndrome coming into college. It didn’t help knowing that the population of women in the tech sector was minimal, but I was and am very lucky to have people around me who have always supported me in everything I do, who push me to do my best, who told me that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. Without their support, I know I wouldn’t have the confidence or ambition to chase what I wanted and I’m lucky to be in a company where a support system is established right from the start.

So just go for it. Apply for jobs you think are out of your league, learn things you think are difficult and will never understand, do things that you’re afraid to try, don’t be scared to try out new things, be the change you want to see. I have found that there is almost always nothing standing in your way except yourself. Also, always be kind.

What was the application process like and what advice would you have for students to help them prepare for this, and similar, application processes?

You would think I’d be used to doing interviews by the time Guidewire called me for their on-site interview, but I remember still feeling very nervous going in, thinking I’m going to blank out or embarrass myself in some way. However, the second I set foot inside, I felt comfortable and in my element.

The overall process was about three hours long with three sets of interviews; technical, a hiring manager interview and a cultural-fit assessment.

The technical interview involved two developers and I remember thinking that they looked young, which to be honest made me feel a lot more comfortable. They introduced themselves first, briefly talked about what they did, what the company does and their day-to-day roles, allowing me to visualise what I’d be doing if I was hired. They talked so freely and in an easygoing manner that it felt like talking with friends. Then we continued on to a white-board interview. They didn’t expect me to know everything and let me know that if I was unsure about anything, I should just ask them. Guidewire know how interviewees can feel and they make sure they are there to help. They made the interview so comfortable that I could remember everything I needed to know, and I did better than I thought.

The next interview was with a hiring manager, which was a little bit more formal but nevertheless still comfortable enough that I didn’t feel intimidated. I was asked about my experiences in the field, projects I’ve done, why I think I should be hired and other questions relating to my experience with a couple of technical questions.

Finally, there was the cultural interview, which was a new type of interview for me at that time. This interview assessed if my values aligned with Guidewire’s core values. This was something I found unique and impressive and shows that they care about the kind of person that joins their company. They care how you work with other people, and how you portray yourself. This told me that they stay true to their core values.

I know it’s easier said than done but try not to be very nervous. I had instances where I was anxious during interviews, where I tripped over my words, or I would forget topics I knew I learned about. The more nervous I got, the more I lost my self-confidence which would then in turn make a me a lot more nervous!

Another thing to focus on are mock interviews with friends or family or record yourself answering questions. It helps you to be ready and have appropriate and good answers. Since everything is readily available online, sample interview questions and sample answers are easily accessible.

Lastly, know your basic material about computer science or basic technical topics. Most interviewers don’t expect you to know everything, but they do expect you to know the basics and demonstrate that you know your own field.

How have you adapted to remote working in the wake of the pandemic and what did you learn about yourself professionally and personally?

I found that working from home was better suited to me. I don’t have to travel two hours a day to go in and out of work or wake up in the cold early morning to get ready. Those hours were given back to me, either for my own personal use or even for more work if needed!

Guidewire has and is still being very helpful and accommodating throughout the pandemic, providing suitable funds for us to buy materials we need to set up a workstation at home, and helping us with our utility bills, which I know everybody appreciates.

On a personal level, I learned that I can cook! Either that or my partner has been lying to me very convincingly.

Professionally, I learned how to manage my time better. With working from home, it’s so easy to work continuously and lose track of time. There were times at the start of the pandemic where I’d still be working, and it was already seven in the evening. Once I realised that was happening, I learned how to properly manage my schedule, to include time for my hobbies and personal things.

How do you hope to see your career develop?

My ultimate career goal is to work for a company that makes a difference in the world, that can help make a lasting impact. I know I have a lot to learn yet, and a lot of skills to improve upon, and I think that’s what makes the journey ahead exciting and something to look forward to. I’m grateful to Guidewire for allowing me to have the chance to develop my career by means of education, and by way of having supportive managers and teams. I’m grateful that they give us these chances to develop our career, not just within Guidewire, but also equip us with skills that will stand to us wherever our futures lie.

To find out more about a graduate’s life at Guidewire check out some of the latest gradireland #GradStories videos – https://gradireland.com/gradstories/technology/gradstories-margaux-cherrueau-technical-support-cco-guidewire



For more on careers in Guidewire, visit their graduate careers hub here.

This content was created in partnership and consultation with Guidewire.

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