The Experts at ELEMENT: - Michael Demian (He/Him)

At ELEMENT, the future of insurance can't be accomplished without talented people, innovative ideas, and modern technology. The Experts at ELEMENT series sheds light on pioneers of innovation and technology in our various departments. The goal is simple: to identify and celebrate our experts, their contributions to the future of insurance, and delve more into how they succeed each day at what they do.


Our guest in this issue is Michael Demain who is an Engineering Manager at ELEMENT.

Hello Michael, can you tell me a bit about yourself and what you do at ELEMENT? 

Hello Jacob. I'm Michael Demian, the engineering manager in Finance cluster in ELEMENT Insurance. I have 13 years of professional experience in different roles related to software development and engineering. I have designed, implemented and delivered a lot of seamless project turnarounds under strict deadlines in different domains such as Digital Media Distribution, Health Care, and Transportation. 

At what moment did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in insurance, specifically Software development and engineering? 

During prep school, I got my first computer, and this for me was a surprising miracle. I felt I can do everything with it, i was keen to try new things like design, study, plan, do graphic designs and play games. This curiosity to know how the new amazing device in our home worked made me start with investigating the hardware and checking how components were integrated. It was in exploring this device that my attention got directed to software programs, and this childhood experience would propel me into the software development and engineering industry. Over the years in the industry, I found out that for such programs to exist, there was a need for extensive collaboration and thinking in a group and this is why I ended up as an Engineering manager. In my role, I ensure that my team members can work together in healthy ways and collaborate with other teams to build perfect products.


How does a typical day look like for you? 

I usually collaborate with many stakeholders closely on different key topics where I'm involved in either planning, designing or implementing. My role is to ensure all my stakeholders are satisfied, creating an open and healthy culture for everyone to work in and feel safe to share ideas which we transform into finished end products. Another part of my job is people's journey and how each individual in my team can grow and thrive in their career. I support them to do so and provide them with all they need to make reaching their goals a success. Sometimes my daily activities also include focused on one-on-one meetings where I listen to my colleagues and provide coaching.


Are there any strengths which you think are most important to be successful in your role? 

I would say that firstly being a good listener is key in being a great manager. Your peers should know and feel that their ideas and thoughts are heard. Another substantial trait is the ability to handle conflicts and empower others. As an Engineering manager, I have to be able to wear different hats at different times based on the situations. Such situations necessitate you to make a decision immediately, while others need you to wait and consult. Such versatile trait to be able to decide which hat to wear at each given time comes with experience.


What are some challenges you faced in your career as an Engineering Manager, and how did you handle them?

I think the challenge is when you first join a new team and how you can break the ice and start integrating with the team. Sometimes there are conflicts between business priorities (PO) and the dev team's plan, and it's imperative to be a voice of calm and guide such situations tactfully without compromising overall business continuity. The goal is to ensure the development team are motivated, without missing the product vision and road map.


What is the most interesting project you have worked on? 

I have worked on many exciting projects, but I would say building an internal portal for the finance department is by far the most exciting one till date. I found it exciting because firstly, financial insurance is a hard domain and this project involved cross departmental collaboration from the finance department, risk management team, and other dev. It was insightful to hear the many ideas and perspectives on the project, and also understand the various nuances required to make this project a success. 


Are there any development tools or resources you could recommend for anyone looking to branch into becoming an Engineering Manager? 

I would recommend reading the following books; “The manager path”,  “Managing humans”, and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”.  Regarding the course, I would say  “Team Leadership & Team Building by Lawrence M. Miller” is a great asset to have. There were also valuable training sessions that were introduced to leaders by ELEMENT Insurance, which were very helpful. Lastly, I would say ownership, commitment, and openness to receive feedback and act on them are the main keys to success and continues improvement.

Lastly, what advice do you have for anyone looking to join the Finance Cluster Team at ELEMENT? 

In the Finance cluster, there is the opportunity to gain a lot of knowledge about Finance, accounting, and payment domains. Everyone in the team actively contributes to defining the most suitable working process that reduces any bottlenecks and focuses on quality over quantity. In the team, we believe that individual growth and learning will have an impact on the overall team performance .which is why we dedicate time for learning activities. We also prioritize having fun together as a team to improve overall health and collaboration!



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