A woman smiles at the camera against the background of a grey wall.
Claire Flynn. Image: Liberty IT

What are the skills you need to work in an innovation hub?

11 Aug 2022

As a senior innovation lead with Liberty IT, Claire Flynn talks about the skills she needs and her current focus on machine learning.

Claire Flynn leads the intelligent processes area within Liberty IT’s Incubator team, driving transformative innovation with emergent technology for the benefit of the wider Liberty Mutual group.

“In the incubator we cultivate emerging business and technology opportunities that add measurable value for our business,” she told SiliconRepublic.com.

“With partnerships across the organisation, we position our capabilities to tackle complex business problems bringing the ‘art of the possible’ to an operational reality.”

‘In an innovative environment, it’s critical to have a willingness to learn’

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

A typical day starts with a leadership sync with fellow leaders from across Incubator to discuss the top priorities for the day and align on strategy.

This could be followed by an exploration session for a new area of innovation with our lead designer or a working session with architects to prepare for a stakeholder meeting.

I regularly collaborate with the technical and delivery leads from the area to consult on any issues faced by the delivery teams.

Most afternoons are spent meeting stakeholders to discuss existing engagements or present proposals for upcoming explorations.

I have a continuous focus on helping people grow and develop in their careers as well as recruitment, planning and budgeting for the area. As you can probably tell, no two days are the same, which keeps me on my toes.

What types of projects do you work on?

Being part of an innovation hub means the work is extremely wide-ranging with opportunities to work on a variety of projects and technologies. My key focus at present is harnessing the power of machine learning to create more efficient workflows, ultimately improving the customer experience.

Integral to this effort is working with engineers and data scientists to streamline the machine learning lifecycle by building a solid machine learning operations (ML Ops) framework.

ML Ops focuses on the intersection of data science and engineering, enabling models to be seamlessly deployed, monitored, retrained and integrated with products. These advancements in ML Ops are key to enabling a faster time to value through reusable patterns, specialised tools, and automation.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

Communication. The ability to communicate is an essential skill in my role, whether it’s one-to-one coaching, sharing a message with a large group or leading an exploration with a new stakeholder.

It’s also important to be a strategic thinker. Working in a growing sector means I must focus on the bigger picture and plan ahead, finding and developing unique opportunities to deliver business value.

In an innovative environment, it’s critical to have a willingness to learn. I continue to keep my technical knowledge sharp and remain up to date with emerging technologies and their impact to insurance.

I am naturally empathetic and this trait is key in every work interaction, I take a genuine interest in the people I work with and I’m always keen to understand the challenges they face as well as the things that inspire them.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

Not so much the hardest, but perhaps most challenging part of my day is context switching. With accountability for multiple teams and engagements, it requires discipline to get focus time while also ensuring that I am available and approachable throughout the day.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

I work part-time and therefore I must be extremely efficient during my work week. I maintain a prioritised personal to-do list, this ensures I keep track of my own tasks and brings a sense of achievement when things are completed.

It’s important to have a clear view of what’s coming in the week ahead and allotted windows for responding to the various communication channels. In my role it’s also important to be available for people so being able to change plans at short notice is key.

In the tech industry, meetings are essential for enabling collaboration, creativity and innovation, so it’s extremely important to have a clear agenda and if the objective of the meeting has been met, finish the meeting early and everyone gets the time back.

When you first started this job, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

It surprised me that finance was such a key part of the role as I am responsible for managing budgets and billing across the area.

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

I’m in a relatively new role within Liberty IT’s innovation hub. As the sector continues to grow and evolve, we’ve never had to be more innovative, which is why the creation of new roles like mine is so important to help the company continue to drive transformative innovation.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

The thing I enjoy most about the job is the people I work with. They are a very passionate group all working towards a common goal of leveraging innovation to radically improve the services we provide our customers.

Everyone has a relentless energy and passion for what we do, we love a challenge and thrive on making things better, through experimentation.

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