Inspiring Inclusion with INSTANDA’s Lead Scrum Master, Karen Lean

Posted on 6th March 2024

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Inspiring Inclusion with INSTANDA’s Lead Scrum Master, Karen Lean

Posted on 6th March 2024

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International Women’s Day (IWD) will always be a special day for INSTANDA’s Lead Scrum Master, Karen Lean. Two years ago, Karen marked her return to the corporate world with a LinkedIn post sharing that she was looking for new opportunities following a short career break.

Here, in the first of our IWD blogs, we catch up with Karen. She shares her path into scrum mastery, her passion for the insurance industry, her hopes for the future and why joining INSTANDA has been such a great career move.

Karen, could you tell us a little about life before INSTANDA. What was your journey to becoming a Scrum Master?

I’ve always been fascinated with computing and software. Not long after graduating with a BSc in Computing from Staffordshire University (a twinning programme with Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation in Kuala Lumpur), I moved to the UK, initially working in public sector consulting roles.

I began my IT software development career as a Test Analyst at Cambridge University in 2006. After earning my master’s degree in International Business Management from the University of East London in 2011, I was employed as a Test Analyst at AXA Health where I stayed for nearly nine years. During that time, I became a certified Professional Scrum Master, delivering and testing large-scale agile projects using the Scrum framework.

In August 2019, I ventured into a hybrid Scrum Master/IT Development Team Manager role at Guinness World Records. Guiding the development team in Scrum/Agile principles, values and methodologies was a key part of my role, ensuring efficient sprint cycles and seamless software releases. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, and for personal reasons and on completion of my contract, I chose to step away and to focus on my family.

What led you to INSTANDA?

When I was ready to return to the corporate world, I placed an International Women’s Day post on LinkedIn. I knew I had plenty of relevant experience, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from employers. I applied for roles and had lots of conversations with businesses.

I was blessed with several job interviews, and within two weeks I was offered two roles, one of which was a Scrum Master position at INSTANDA.

Both roles were a good match for me, but I followed by heart and joined INSTANDA. I had done my research before accepting the position and could see that the company was, and still is, on an exciting journey. Plus, I love working in insurance and when I met a couple of members of the INSTANDA team at the interview, I knew that I would fit straight in.

I can hardly believe that it will be my second work anniversary in May!

What have your first two years at INSTANDA been like?

When I joined INSTANDA, I was given the privilege of working consecutively with four different Agile teams. Each team, with its unique qualities and dynamics, has enriched my journey as a Scrum Master, enabling me to bring the best out of each team.

Last autumn, I was promoted to Lead Scrum Master. My new role involves being the Scrum Master of one of our Agile teams where we work on delivering value to our clients. At the same time, I have team management responsibility for our newly formed Scrum Master function.

I have also recently joined the Senior Management Team, where along with the other heads of function, we work together to help shape INSTANDA from a strategic perspective.

Wearing multiple hats can be challenging, but I am finding my new position extremely interesting and rewarding.

What do you love most about being a Lead Scrum Master?

I guess it depends on which hat I am wearing at any one time. Essentially, I am always focusing on how the team members work together as ‘one team’, rather than as a group of individuals.

Recently, I was tasked with creating a new Scrum Master function. Observing my direct team move from the ‘forming’ to the ‘norming’ stage, where they are working in a collaborative, agile and positive environment, has been amazing.

I also feel valued, trusted and supported in my role by my manager. At INSTANDA we have a learning culture where we constantly assess how we can do better together, which is great.

What is the key to being a successful scrum master?

I find it difficult to shout about my own achievements, so this is a little tricky for me to answer, and so I’ll answer more broadly.

A great work ethic is essential. I strongly believe it is important to hire people with the right skills, but it is even more important to hire people with the right behaviour, which is exactly how we have created our new Scrum Master Function.

I believe, if we are great at our job, positive feedback will naturally come from our peers. It is equally important to have the courage to listen, recognise our mistakes and continue to improve ourselves, regardless of our positions.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #InspireInclusion. What does inclusion mean to you?

My understanding of inclusion is that people are treated fairly with equal opportunity and respect, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, race, religion, or health condition.

I am proud to work at INSTANDA. As a company, we value and celebrate diversity. We have female colleagues employed across every function, as well as inspiring female managers and leaders.

What advice would you give to the next generation of women looking to enter Insurtech?

Believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid of pursuing something new or different.

Work hard at your goals and be determined. Equally always remember to be kind to yourself when things don’t quite go to plan – it’s all part of our growing journey.

If you could describe the benefits of working at INSTANDA in a couple of sentences, what would you say?

I love our people. We have a friendly and supportive culture at INSTANDA where colleagues are willing to help each other. Equally, we are allowed to challenge to improve the way we work.

The benefits are great too. For example, INSTANDA recently introduced Dynamic Days, where staff are given one extra day off each month to do the things that we love. In January, I used my first Dynamic Day to go for a 5K run and celebrate my husband’s birthday. It’s the little things like this that mean a lot!

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