This week, we’d like to you meet Will, a Data Engineer in our Pricing Development and Analytics team. Will shares his thoughts on data science at Hastings, what a typical day entails for him and why being curious helps you thrive at Hastings.

A laser-focused approach
The Hastings Direct vision is to be the best and biggest digital insurance provider, an ambition which drives a market-leading approach to analytics. From mathematical models in R to essential data pipelines developed across SQL, Python, and more, our approach to data science is laser-focused on ensuring that Hastings’ customers receive maximum value. One of the many practical implications of this is that, as a member of the Pricing team, we receive continued and varied exposure to a range of best-practice programming languages, tools, and methodologies. There’s also a wide variety of technical skills throughout Hastings Direct – each colleague will have a wealth of individual experience across a diverse range of areas, so you learn a huge amount just through working with brilliant colleagues.

Unique cultural strength
My first day at Hastings Direct started in a similar format to most jobs during the pandemic; digitally. Whilst convenient for some, you don’t have to search particularly hard for exposure to the underlying risks of work-from-home culture – burnout, isolation, and barriers to communication to name a few. It very quickly became clear that any apprehension I felt about such risks at Hastings Direct was misplaced. From the outset, a strenuous effort is made by all your colleagues, irrespective of seniority, to ensure that new starters feel welcome, in the loop and, crucially, part of the team. A lot of this is the result of practical measures across our digital platforms (regular meetings, catch ups, and social events). However, an equally significant part is the result of Hastings’ uniquely supportive culture, where each and every colleague is approachable to the ‘nth degree’. It’s possible for other organisations to replicate regular meetings and social events, but I sincerely believe the same can’t be said for Hastings’ unique cultural strength. It’s made my online onboarding process extremely smooth and allowed me to hit the ground running.

A day in the life
Whilst no two days at Hastings Direct are the same, there are a couple of constants. For instance, in my Pricing sub-team, each day begins with what we refer to as a ‘Stand-Up’ – you might know this as an ‘Agile Scrum’. In essence, these half-hour sessions involve cross-team discussion about our respective days and goals. This time is invaluable for so many reasons, not least that it prevents individuals becoming siloed within their own team; particularly important in a remote working environment.

Once the Stand-Up ends, I’m able to engage in the commercial application of leading data engineering techniques. Some days this means intensive SQL development, and other days it means building architecture across cloud warehousing platforms. Outside of your specific role, Hastings Direct actively ensures sufficient time for you to pursue areas of your own individual interests – the monthly hackathon dedicated to your own personal work projects is just one example of this!

Opportunities to develop
The main reason that I applied to Hastings Direct was that I’ve always had a real drive to educate myself and there’s never any shortage of new things to learn here. In my opinion, this is due to two main factors. The first is that there’s never been a more interesting time to work in the insurance sector. Increasingly, regulatory pressures coupled with rapid technological change mean that you’re provided with exposure to an incredibly broad range of commercial issues. The second reason is that Hastings Direct places a real emphasis on curiosity as a quality, and this means there are many aspects and impacts of business to engage with. If you feel slightly daunted by this scale of learning, don’t be. Hastings Direct is an incredibly tight-knit company, and you’re consistently surrounded by friendly colleagues, all of whom are very eager to help and watch you grow.

Friendly without exception
People might be surprised by the people oriented culture throughout Hastings Direct, and in Pricing in particular. I say that because a common stereotype of technical teams is that there can often be a cold or robotic culture; people there to solve problems with little-to-no interest in their colleagues or customers. In my experience, that stereotype couldn’t be further from the mark at Hastings. I’m fortunate to work with colleagues who are just as people oriented as they are technically skilled (which is to say “very”!). In every environment I’ve experienced across Pricing and Hastings Direct as a whole, there’s been an incredibly supportive atmosphere, with colleagues who’ve all been extremely friendly without exception. I believe that such a strong atmosphere amongst colleagues is a key pillar of the unrelenting consumer focus that exists at Hastings Direct.

Crucially, all of the above is by design, with focus on colleagues and customers comprising two of our 4Cs culture that’s championed by our CEO Toby Van der Meer and by colleagues throughout the company. 

Be curious and eager to learn
A core goal for any applicant should be to demonstrate the qualities we look for and conversations I’ve had with leaders at Hastings Direct have always come back to one fundamental characteristic – curiosity. There’s a constant flow of cross-team topics to research, and a curious individual will learn, adapt, and ultimately deliver value for customers to a much greater degree than an incurious individual.

Beyond that, it’s worth researching the specific technical skillset that the relevant role requires. However, you’ll have the opportunity to work with a range of technologies, so it’s crucial to express a real willingness and aptitude for learning. Considering the level of support Hastings Direct provides, curiosity coupled with a real eagerness to learn will allow you to thrive here.

Join us: Like the sound of the environment that Will has described? If you’d like to grow a data career in a dynamic company that has a vision to be the best and biggest digital insurance provider, find out about available opportunities such as the role of Data Engineer and Junior Data Engineer.