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How to Cultivate a Culture of Innovation, Intent, and Mission-Focus with Shanthala Rao, Chief Digital Development Officer at Primerica

In the latest episode of Engineering Leadership, Rob Ocel talks with Shanthala Rao, the Chief Digital Development Officer at Primerica. The episode delves into Primerica's culture of innovation and intentionality, where they consistently strive to enhance their services while mitigating risks. It also touches on Primerica’s commitment to supporting the relationships between agents and their clients, and how the technology Shanthala’s team develops actually enhances human connection rather than replacing it.

Shanthala emphasizes the significance of technical leadership in the financial services industry. She walks through her over 17 year career at Primerica and how her skills at building up teams and the culture of continuous learning and improvement at Primerica have helped her achieve success.

Throughout the interview, Shanthala stresses the importance of understanding the core mission of your company in all of your technical decision making and development. For Primerica, that’s supporting the relationship between agents and their clients. For example, Primerica added ways for customers to be reminded of their agent and to connect directly to them. Even features such as adding self-service features for end-users support the mission by freeing up agents from having to do mundane tasks so they can focus more on meaningful relationship building.

Shanthala explains how to overcome risk aversion as an organization and responsibly pursue technical innovation. At Primerica, they do this by keeping track of their architectural themes, creating room for developers to suggest new ideas and technologies, and to use proof-of-concepts to vet ideas before wider deployments.

Finally, Shanthala discussed the challenges and opportunities in training the next generation of technical leaders at Primerica from the pool of current technologists. She explains how they intentionally provide technologists looking to enter leadership with additional mentoring and training to support their move into leadership. Even for those who return to development, they are enriched by the experience, carrying a broader perspective of the significance of their work.

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