We’re back with this month’s employee spotlight, featuring Mike Iannarone, Vice President of Technology at Verikai.
With only a few months under his belt, Mike has hit the ground running. He is a talented leader who is strategically focused on building a skilled team full of technology experts, while maintaining the unique culture that initially drew him to the company. Get to know Mike’s background, his adventurous spirit, and why he chose to work at Verikai:
How long have you worked at Verikai?
I joined the Verikai team in August 2021.
Where did you grow up, and where are you based now?
I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, but I live in New York City now.
What brought you to the company?
After nine years at my last company, I felt it was time to branch out and prove that I have the skills to make an impact in a bigger role and different market. What Verikai is doing was familiar enough given my P&C insurance software background, but different enough that I knew every day would bring new challenges and opportunities to grow. I never got to experience the pre-IPO phase of my last company, but I did miss how it felt when the company was a bit younger, and there were more opportunities to impact the company’s direction. Verikai checked all those boxes for me, and Jeff and I made a quick bond due to shared experiences and our common vision for the type of company we want to build and work at.
What does a VP of Technology do? Can you take us through a day in the life at Verikai?
Every day is different! I had a lot of new people to meet, and terminology and technologies to pick up on at first, but everyone has been so helpful with getting me up to speed. The past couple of months have focused on growing the team to help Verikai achieve its longer-term goals to change how underwriters do business. We’ve had to change how we work to accommodate the expanding team size, so I’m focused on putting processes in place to facilitate that. Beyond that, some days focus on future product direction, whereas others focus on onboarding/mentoring, InfoSec, or responding to customer needs. Where I can, I’ve developed a few smaller fixes that have allowed me to better learn our systems and help the team carry the load.
Moving from a large organization like Guidewire, what have you learned that’s applicable to a startup like Verikai?
In terms of the software development lifecycle, there are a lot of transferable skills and experiences in my last job to what we do here at Verikai. I had some great projects and some not-so-good projects, so I’ve been trying to replicate the things that worked well and avoid repeating the ones that didn’t. The tools and technologies may differ, but the challenges and best practices are still applicable no matter the team size. Lastly, I learned that the most successful projects are where everyone is empowered to do their jobs with a degree of autonomy, so I’ve tried to manage the team following that ethos.
As you actively expand your team, what qualities do you look for in an employee?
First and foremost, I’m looking for the right cultural fit to introduce to our amazing Verikai team. The culture here is strong, and we don’t want to dilute that as we grow. Beyond that, I want self-starters eager to learn and grow their skillsets and responsibilities beyond their comfort zone. At a remote-working startup, people need to have the right mindset to proactively seek answers to their questions and be willing to take on new challenges when we inevitably run across them.
What do you enjoy the most about working at Verikai?
I like being surrounded by like-minded smart and self-motivated people that truly enjoy the work they’re doing. Every teammate brings something different to the table, and nobody has an ego. We’re all trying to build something great together, and it is a refreshing place to work as a result.
Now a few fun ones…
What’s your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
Such a tough question! Spain, particularly Barcelona and Seville, have always had a special place in my heart. But trips that take me out of my urban comfort zone are often the most rewarding. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, hiking in Patagonia, or safaris in Africa and the Galapagos were all unforgettable experiences for me.
What’s a fun fact about you many people may not know?
My wife and I have lived in four countries (including the US) and have traveled to over 60.
What are three things still left on your bucket list?
-Seeing the Northern Lights.
-Going on a gorilla safari in Rwanda or Uganda.
-Move to Spain for a couple of years.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, but the second-best time is now.
What did you want to be when growing up?
I wanted to be a paleontologist — even before Jurassic Park! 🙂
To learn more about Mike, connect with him on LinkedIn!