There’s never been a better time to work in tech. I’ve worked as an engineer at Progressive for more than 20 years, and I don’t know that I’ve ever been this excited about the work we’re doing. Technology is changing faster than ever, and being with a company that’s keeping up with it is really energizing.
Let me tell you what I mean…
Throughout the past several years, we’ve used Cloud and emerging technologies in lots of new ways to move our business forward. As an engineer, I’ve been lucky enough to be heavily involved, collaborating with application developers and business leaders along the way. Not long ago, I was part of implementing a cutting-edge tech solution for a new customer product.
Our usage-based insurance group (UBI)—the people who bring you Snapshot®—approached us with an opportunity. We’ve long used a physical Snapshot device that customers plug into their cars to track certain vehicle stats. From those, we can get a better picture of a customer’s driving behaviors and charge them a more customized insurance rate. That “plug in” device carried a significant cost to Progressive. The UBI team wanted to explore using a cell phone to transmit our customers’ vehicle stats, and reduce the cost of providing our Snapshot service.
Rather than defaulting to our tried and true problem solution processes, my team and I saw this as an opportunity to look at innovative ways to deliver on the business requirements. Lucky for us, our business leaders encourage us to test new technologies. (Pretty cool, since many of us in the IT field know all too well that having access to new technologies is one thing…actually being empowered to test and use them to solve business problems is another.) In my experience, being able to evaluate new tech not only ensures the best solution is delivered, but it keeps the entire team fresh and engaged.
The (serverless) solution
We weighed the pros and cons of a typical server-based solution against those of a serverless architecture solution. In the end, it was clear a serverless solution would be more flexible, extensible and performant, without the overhead of server management.
At the time, serverless solutions in the public cloud were new for everyone here. But again, we’re not ones to shy away from testing and learning, and we felt confident we could use the technology to quickly deliver on a business requirement. It was the first time we’d leveraged the public cloud for a production solution. On top of that, we decided to deploy it all through Infrastructure as Code (IaC).
IaC has radically changed how we, as engineers, go about delivering and updating infrastructure components. It allows us to automate deployments through code with known supporting source control and deployment systems. It really moves engineers to think and function more like an application developer in that we use most of the same processes and tools that they use to deliver solutions. This starts us down the path of working together more with developers and increases collaboration, as we now speak the same technical language. And, I’d predict that the efficiencies we’ll gain by that improvement alone will be immeasurable.
The ongoing challenge
Unless you work at Progressive or know someone who does, it might surprise you to learn that innovation is part of our DNA. When it comes to technology, we’re not a “that’s how we’ve always done it” type of company. Working here is challenging, but in the best possible way. We love questioning the norm and looking at leading edge solutions to deliver the optimal technical solution, even if it’s outside our comfort zone—that just makes it more exciting.