A career change into a completely new area requires courage and perseverance if you are to navigate new topics and assignments. Our colleague Sandra is proof that such changes can be implemented with great success. In our blog, she explains how she changed career, moving from the insurance sector to requirements engineering, how she overcame the challenges of this new path, and how her everyday work is structured.
Hello Sandra! Let’s start off by asking: what exactly does a requirements engineer do?
Roughly speaking, this job involves determining, analyzing, specifying and validating all properties and basic conditions of a software system. During my first few weeks, however, I must admit that I asked myself what I was actually doing here. 😉 I quickly realized that the basic activities of a requirements engineer cannot be applied to every area in a mirror image and that, above all, you need to begin by building up a lot of specific knowledge about the product and its embedding in the overall software architecture.
adesso insurance solutions GmbH develops release-capable standard software for all insurance sectors. One component of this is the policy management system for life assurance - the in|sure PSLife product, on which I work. My task is to understand the requirements a customer has for this product, and to check and document its feasibility. As a result, I often engage with customers, developers and product managers. Analytical thinking and empathy are very helpful in these frequent polls and surveys. And because everyone formulates their needs from a different perspective, you have to be able to use many different ‘languages’, so to speak, and in the end you need to be able to bring everything together.
As someone who has changed careers, we are interested to know what your experience of navigating new IT subjects was like? Who supported you in this process?
For me, after a certain time there came a point where I asked myself: why should I always do the same thing professionally? And since I consider myself as something of an IT expert, I decided to take the plunge into IT and the in|sure PSLife world. Despite my 8 years of professional experience in insurance sales, my extra-occupational studies in business administration and business psychology, and most recently my experience as a business analyst, I had to admit that the new subject fields were very complex for me – and still are, in fact.
My main focus was to understand the technical functionality of in|sure PSLife and its components, data types, dependencies and interfaces. Building on this, I then learned the "drum-around", i.e. the methods, such as Kanban, the designing of wireframes or the creation of specifications and documentation. I was brilliantly supported by my manager and my new colleagues, with plenty of patience. At the end of the day, however, it is up to you not to become overwhelmed by the many topics and to work through all the challenges that arise. But above all: ask, ask, ask.
For this reason, training new colleagues myself was a very special experience for me. I was able to impart my knowledge in a way that I knew would have been helpful to me during my own induction period.
You told us that you are more involved in the development of the product with us, and less involved in the concrete projects with our customers. What are the differences in these areas of responsibility?
Project work usually involves a preliminary analysis of our customer’s existing infrastructure, i.e. the insurance companies, or the concrete embedding and customer-specific adaptation of in|sure PSLife into the existing system landscape that we encounter during the project.
My work differs from variable projects in the sense that my colleagues and I continue to develop the basic version of our software - the core of the product. The challenge here is to implement the further developments in a generic way, so that they can be used by most customers. This means that we have to think very carefully about the requirements that arise for most customers in the process, and develop the best possible solutions for them. This is when you really dive into the processes of an insurer. For me, this means that I am responsible for preliminary analysis in the form of a specialist assessment as well as for the compilation and documentation of features, i.e. the technical and professional description of system functions, for example - similar to a user manual. The professional experience that I have gained on the side of the customer is of great help to me here.
Even though I am working on the basic version of the software, customer contact is important for me as it allows me to obtain information on current needs. For this reason, I occasionally spend time with our customers, taking part in workshops or the partnership forum (usually a type of user group), and recording and discussing basic requirements together with customers. In addition, my remit includes the design of wireframes with regard to usability. I also support the team in testing and quality assurance, and introduce new employees to in|sure PSLife with live demos.
What items are absolutely essential for your work?
My daily breakfast apple, noise-cancelling headphones, and my self-crafted “tasks board”.
What do you love most about your job?
It always amazed me that I really do learn something new every day. In times of digital transformation, my job also offers me potential for the future: this field is constantly evolving and you inevitably have to deal with innovations – which is very exciting! In addition, for the first time in my professional life, I can really contribute my own ideas and implement them myself.
My job also involves great colleagues and superiors, who all have a great sense of humor; and I mustn’t forget to mention the stunning view of the Rhine from my desk.
Would you recommend adesso insurance solutions to your friends as an employer?
My duties and - I think - those of the company’s other employees require a high degree of personal initiative. If you are happy to organize yourself and your work independently, you are in the right place. For me, the collegial environment and the relationship with superiors are just right, which is ultimately due to the company’s flat hierarchies and the informal culture. Above all, however, I believe that you can really develop and contribute here. So yes: I would recommend adesso insurance solutions to my friends as an employer.