Sun Life: Practice Manager, Development

April 19, 2010

Sun Life is looking for a Practice Manager, Development:

The Practice Manager, Development reports to the VP, eBusiness and Call Centre and provides leadership in people development and talent management along with technical excellence and innovation to Java, Microsoft and Vignette practice. This manager has a demonstrated track record of working effectively within a shared services environment (matrix model) and is a strong people manager.  The successful candidate will work closely with Delivery Managers & Director PMO & BSA to allocate developers across projects.

The Good
It’s a senior role for a well-known, large company with an $18B market capitalization.  They seem to be doing well enough financially.

The Bad
I’m personally slightly biased against Vignette, having had some awkward experiences in the past.  I’m vaguely surprised they’re still around, although perhaps they’ve made progress since I last used their technology.  That said, it’s not like they’re hiring you to be a vignette programmer.

What’s Missing?
How big are the team(s) you’ll be managing?  What’s the corporate structure — who are you reporting to, working with, and who’s reporting to you?  How exactly are you working with the PMO, Delivery Managers and BSA?  What’s the technology mix really like?  Is it mostly Vignette, heavy on the Microsoft, or a 25% mix of each plus a smattering of others?  What are the challenges facing sun-life and the role you’d be filling?  What’s the compensation for a practice manager at sunlife?  Where’s the office located?

This role looks like it’s all management, no tech.  If you’ve got the technical background they’re looking for, this will either be interesting or horrifying on that basis alone.  Some of you might be looking for a less hands-on, more upper-management role, others of you really like to get your hands dirty and you’re not going to get the opportunity to do so in this role, I don’t imagine. Your mileage may vary when it comes to working in insurance.  On the other hand, if you want to be a manager in a big company, you’re somewhat less likely to be cuddling kittens, saving the world, or working on cool technology, so some of you are well-prepared for this already.

The Location

The only office that I know Sun Life does development work in is at Yonge and Front, which is a pretty solid location, easy to access by go train and subway, reasonable selection of food and shopping around, including the St. Lawrence Market and Esplanade.  That said, the position doesn’t specify a location.

In Summary
Seems like managerial role for someone with a background in tech but without the need to be very hands-on.


Guidewire: Product Developer

January 30, 2009

Guidewire is looking for what they call a Product Developer:

We are Guidewire Software, and we’re perhaps the best company to work for that you’ve never heard of. Guidewire delivers proven, modern software to run mission-critical insurance operations, including policy administration, claims, and billing. Guidewire has over fifty customers in six countries on four continents, including some of the largest insurance companies in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Russia. This is a lucrative and underserved market, and we have grown rapidly through a combination of quality products, excellent service, innovative technology, and word-of-mouth reputation.

The applications we build are large and extraordinarily complex, and support the needs of customers across the diverse property and casualty insurance market including personal lines (such as auto insurance), commercial lines (such as those that support small and large businesses), and workers* compensation. We are looking for thoughtful, creative, and skilled developers who would enjoy working with an impressive set of peers to extend our applications to support those business needs. We particularly value clear, logical thinking, good communication skills, a focus on quality, and the ability to work well in a team.

You will be a founding member of a new Product Extension Development Center whose sole purpose will be to extend our core applications to accelerate the development of critical new product functionality that the market craves. You will leverage your Java skills to understand the base product architecture and then design and build critical new business functionality using our product configuration tools, our internal scripting language, and a test-driven, agile software process. You will also develop integration adaptors and mechanisms that incorporate and promote best practices in integrating our products with external applications.

The Good
It’s an unusual role, not a strictly development position, from the sounds of things, more like a consultant on the implementation of guidewire, and implementation, often through configuration and well-known extension mechanisms.  I’m guessing it would be at least partially client-facing, although that’s a guess.

It feels like the wrong title to me, but I haven’t yet come up with a better one.  Some companies would call this a Sales Engineer although it’s not really a sales job.  Some would call it a solution architect role, but that’s not really it either.  Implementation Consultant, maybe?

Also, Guidewire seems to have a good reputation in the field — awards, and so forth.  That’s a good position to be in with the downturn, I would think.

They also project the vibe of a company that offers a good environment:

Although insurance software may sound boring, it’s not. Well, mostly! Sure, it’s serious work (and we charge serious money, too), but we use cutting edge processes and technologies to deliver products that our customers love. Our development process is sustainable, family-friendly, and fundamentally humane, and we pride ourselves on a calm, systematic, and rational approach to our business. We have a work environment that encourages individual initiative, experiments with new ideas for continuous improvement, and lets great people do great work by minimizing the hassles of hierarchy and bureaucracy.

The Bad
I don’t know how to evaluate the likely compensation for a role like this.  It might be less well-paid than a development position.

What’s Missing?
What’s the compensation like?  Where will you be working, since I don’t see a Toronto office?  How much travel will be required?  It doesn’t sound like they’re looking for much travel, but it seems like the kind of role where travel might be a factor.  Will you be the only permanent Guidewire employee in Toronto, or will there be others right from the start?  Will this ‘development center’ be growing, and does that bring with it an opportunity for career advancement?

Your mileage may vary when it comes to this kind of role — it’s a technical role, but not a development one.  Some people are going to find this inherently less interesting than a core product-development position.  Then again, some people might find this refreshing.

The Location
The location’s unknown.  I don’t see a Toronto office listed in their offices.

In Summary
An implementation consultant role for a big insurance software provider who seems to be establishing their foothold in Toronto.

Foresters: IT Architect, Applications

January 5, 2009

Foresters is looking for an IT Architect, Applications:


Foresters is at an important juncture in its history.  Product and membership growth requires substantial changes in the scope, flexibility, robustness and leadership capabilities of its IT services.  In a progressively outsourced environment, a new service delivery model has been designed, and is in the process of being executed.  This requires the addition of talent in new roles, three of which are IT Architects.”


Generally, the role of the IT Architect is responsible for envisioning and designing the technology environment required to meet the organization’s business objectives and therefore realize its strategic vision.


While grounded in the present, the role of the IT Architect is essentially future facing – ensuring that the technology environment has the necessary capability, capacity and flexibility to fulfill the current and future requirements of the business.  In order to achieve this, the IT Architect must be able to function skillfully in both the business world and the technical world and move back and forth between these two domains with ease.  By building a comprehensive enterprise architecture, and by demonstrating the ability to devise technology solutions that meet or exceed the needs of the business, the IT Architect provides the foundation to focus on building and running the business.


If this role doesn’t sound like you, you could try the IT Architect, Data or the IT Architect, Infrastructure they mention but that doesn’t yet seem to be posted, at least not on Workopolis.

The Good
Sounds like a pretty senior role in a relatively well-known organization.  
If Foresters is indeed at a critical juncture, then this could be a great time to get involved.  And, since work is only part of your life, the fact that they invest time and money into causes might be of some interest to some of you.

The Bad
Although Foresters is technically insurance-focused rather than, say, investment banking, it’s not a fabulous time to be in insurance either, from what I understand.  That said, they have a 1.4B surplus, which presumably means they can afford to weather some bad times.

What’s Missing?
Where’s the location, the corporate headquarters or somewhere else?  What’s the compensation like for an IT Architect at Foresters?  What does “progressively outsourced” mean for Foresters?  How many applications does Foresters build and maintain?  What are the challenges facing the current architecture, and what kind of goals do they have for the forward-looking architecture?  What is the other architectural role not yet posted, and how will the three of you work together?  What’s the working relationship likely to be with the implementation team(s)?  What is the size, composition and number of the implementation teams?  What would the organizational structure look like in IT management, and how do you fit into that?  Why is this time so critical for Foresters? 

Your Mileage May Vary
Your mileage may vary when it comes to working for a ‘progressively outsourced’ organization that uses phrases like, “technical architecture compliance.”  You’d have to talk to them to understand in greater detail what this means for them.

Although they don’t mention a location, the corporate headquarters seems to be on Don Mills, south of Eglinton, right around the Science Centre.  That location’s not terribly well-serviced by transit.  It’s pretty convenient by car, either by city streets if you’re in the east/northeast or by the highway if the DVP is more your speed.  It’s not a fabulous location for other reasons, although there are a fair number of random shops and restaurants around, particularly if you’re likely to have a car with you.  Let’s just say that I doubt you’d be picking this for the location.

And finally, your mileage may vary when it comes to a fraternal benefit society, which has reasonably laudable goals but comes with the trappings of lodges and other such oddities that might not be to everyone’s taste.

In Summary
Basically, this sounds like a “love it or hate it” posting for many — which is great, because it means that you can read it and probably get a good sense of where you fall without having to waste everyones time with a phone screen and interview before getting to that point.  If you’d like to be one of three architects helping to shape the future of progressively outsourced IT at relatively well-known fraternal benefit society focused on insurance, then get to it.

Aviva: Sr. Systems Analyst

December 22, 2008

Aviva Canada is looking for a Technical Lead / Sr.  Systems Analyst:

This role will lead technical/software development teams in the analysis, design, development and deployment of business critical applications. The individual will provide effective function as “Subject Matter Expert” in the development of our core insurance business systems, using comprehensive processes and methodologies to achieve quality delivery. In addition, the position will provide in-house technical support, develop and maintain appropriate processes and procedures for quality assurance, system stability, control of change, and risk mitigation. 

  • Lead technical teams of 5 to 15 resources – train, retain and supervise full-time and/or contract software developers and other technical staff as necessary 
  • Provide leadership and direction to ensure software developers are working effectively and successfully at completing tasks 
  • Prepare project plans, monitor project progress, and report status to stakeholders and management 
  • Maintain build and release plans for new functionality and enhancements 
  • Plan work, assign resources, identify issues and resolve conflicts 
  • Work with Project Managers, Business Analysts, Solutions Architects and others to translate business ideas and functional requirements into high-level design, low-level design and technical requirements for development projects including middleware integrations 
  • Introduce effective software development practices and methodologies aimed at controlling costs and delivering quality solutions on a timely basis while building a strong well-motivated development team 
  • Represent development teams at partner and management meetings
  • Work with subcontractors and business partners to ensure completion of agreed activities 
  • Remain abreast of relevant technology developments 

The Good
It’s a fairly senior position at a pretty big insurance company ($10B Market Cap, 60k employees, see Google Finance).  Their stock price has been declining slowly over the past two years, although in recent months that’s just about everyone, and they don’t seem to have been hit as badly by the ‘credit crisis’ as some.  The description of the role sounds fairly reasonable (although it sounds like a more traditional role than an agile environment).

The Bad
Although I’ve seen this elsewhere, it’s a little frustrating when a company delivers a bullet-point job description without formatting.  This probably says something about the formatting capabilities of their job-posting system, but when coupled with a typo in a bolded phrase, it’s a bad start.  The Craigslist version is slightly easier on the eyes.  And then the Contact Us page doesn’t list the Scarborough office and has a broken header, so the bad continues.

The technology list is ridiculous, particularly since it’s under the must-have skills.  There’s almost no-one they’re going to see who will have any reasonable level of experience with all of:

Java (J2EE, Servlet, JSF, JSP,JDBC, XML), Java Design Pattern, Web services, Object-oriented design, UML, Microsoft .NET, C, C++, XML, XSLT, X Path, COM+, ODBC, WSDL, WSAD, ECLIPSE, IDE, SQL Query Analyzer, Tomcat 5.0, Jboss Server, IIS web server, UDDI, SOAP, ADO MD, Solaris, Windows & Linux, MS Project, Word, Excel, Visio, SQL in MS SQL server & Postgres SQL, Cobol, Assembler, Supra, DB2, VSAM, JCL, SCRIPT, Z/OS, MQ, CICS.

More than half of that probably belongs in the nice-to-have skill list, but which half?

What’s Missing?
What would you be working on?  What systems does Aviva develop internally?  Is the team you’d be leading already in place, or one that you’d be building?  What’s the compensation?  How much do they use contractors?  Are they really big consumers of RUP, or is that simply an example of a software-development methodology?  What technologies do you really need to know?   Where do you fit into the larger organization?

Your mileage may vary when it comes to working in Scarborough, although their location isn’t far from Kennedy station and I’m told they run a shuttle, so if you’re in the east end and/or near the Bloor/Danforth line it’s not totally insane.  Alternately if you’re coming from the Northeast by car, you’ll miss the core traffic.  But for most of the rest of you, it’s probably too far east to be in serious consideration.   Given how far out they are, there’s a reasonable amount of things around head over to Warden, and you’ll find a collection of malls and restaurants, and they have a Mandarin restaurant in the building, which could be bad for your waistline.

Your mileage may also vary when it comes to the glimpses you get of their process.  There’s a mention of RUP, a number of named roles (Project Managers, Business Analysts, Solutions Architects).  Although contracting makes an appearance several times, it’s not clear from the posting how often Aviva uses contractors; some companies put this kind of language in for occasional contractor use, whereas others make heavy use of contractors and use similar language.

In Summary
If the location and technology list doesn’t throw you, it’s a fairly senior role at a large insurance company and could be worth inquiry.

Sun Life: Manager, Application Development

April 21, 2008

The Sun Life Financial Assurance Company is looking for a Manager, Application Development Services:

This is an opportunity for a manager with a good development working background to manage a pool of developers on the Enterprise Application Delivery Services team within Enterprise Application Services (EAS).  The team has responsibility to maintain a variety of applications, including those that support Investments, Enterprise Services, Finance and Corporate Services.

This position is accountable for providing career management to a team of approximately 15 developers.  In addition, this position is accountable for establishing/maintaining development processes and best practices, continued improvement of development service delivery, agile resource management, and building effective partnerships with our Business Partner Account Managers.

The role seems to be a mix of managing the resources and service levels as well as best practices and career management, for about fifteen developers who maintain existing applications for Sun Life.

The Good
The location seems to be King/York, pretty central.  The role is senior and well-detailed.

The Bad
The developers you’d be managing seem to be restricted to support and maintenance.  This can make for cranky developers, or make it difficult to attract and retain good, talented people.

There’s lots about the role, but very little about the work.  The compensation doesn’t rate a mention.  The process is enterprisey, and I guess you won’t be touching the technology, since that doesn’t rate a mention.