Inside MetLife’s Digital Transformation: Putting Diversity, Learning and Soccer at the Center

How MetLife’s global dev teams learn from one another and share in new cultural experiences.

Written by Taylor Rose
Published on Jun. 12, 2024
Inside MetLife’s Digital Transformation: Putting Diversity, Learning and Soccer at the Center
Photo: MetLife
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When Rene Rivera isn’t working, he is often still talking with his MetLife colleagues. Or running with them. Or rowing with them. 

“We have a MetLife soccer team where we play in an indoor league,” said Rivera, adding that even though the team lost their last game it was a high-scoring, close match. “It’s really exciting. You have people from all sorts of different places getting involved.” 

Rivera, a senior full stack software engineer, first joined the MetLife soccer team through one of the company’s nine MOMENTUM Inclusion Networks, LatConexión, which connects colleagues and helps grow our sense of inclusiveness and community for our employees. And soccer isn’t the only sport that he is involved in through MetLife; Rivera is also on the company’s Dragon Boat Racing Team — an event that is a big draw at Raleigh’s annual Asia Fest. “The excitement of the campus is extended even out in the community,” he added.

MetLife’s Global Technology Hub sits in the Research Triangle near Cary, North Carolina. It boasts perks like a cafeteria, an onsite gym, basketball court and a walking trail, but it’s the company’s inclusivity, team collaboration and project innovation that has kept employees like Rivera and Dan Xiao, principal software engineer, each at MetLife for over a decade. 

“I would say the greatest benefit of working on the development team here is being on a diverse team with members from very different geographic locations, ethnic backgrounds and technical backgrounds,” said Xiao. “You really can learn a lot from those different perspectives.”

 

MetLife's grassy courtyard is the home to many activities throughout the year.
Photo: MetLife

 

Xiao went on to share how she has seen MetLife support inclusion in tangible ways, both in terms of company culture and professional development. She recounted how the company’s MOMENTUM Inclusion Networks — such as Pan Asian Professionals Network and the Women’s Business Network — have hosted events to celebrate different cultural holidays, inviting guest speakers to provide a fresh perspective to all MetLife employees. “I feel educated, included and get to learn a lot about these other cultures because of these groups and events,” Xiao said.

It’s not uncommon at the MetLife campus in North Carolina to find a cultural festival or celebration happening — and, Rivera’s favorite part, often a plate of good food to enjoy at it. “I’m a big food guy,” he said, laughing. “Just trying different things is exciting. In Cary, we have such a large presence of different cultures. We share food, we share experiences, we share sports, we share a number of different things — it’s just in the atmosphere.”

 

Project Support, Powered by Inclusion

Both Rivera and Xiao shared how they each feel supported at MetLife knowing they have a diverse technical team at their backs. 

“We have people from around the globe working within our departments and projects,” said Rivera. “It’s exciting to hear about their experiences and their cultural backgrounds.” 

He noted how the diversity of the team also means they are using diverse technologies. 

“It opens up opportunities for more learning,” he added. “And it makes the projects even more interesting.”

Xiao recalled a memorable moment during a recent project that helped speed up the provider search function for customers and surface more accurate dental provider reviews. 

“I hit a bottleneck with a stored procedure I was working on for a few days,” she said. “The procedure was to query, sort and slice a large amount of provider data. It was taking too long. My director and my teammate asked me how I was doing, so I shared with them that I was stuck.” 

Together, Xiao, her teammate and her director were able to craft a new approach that ended up eliminating all the fields sorted in the first query, using the query results as the criteria for the second select query. 

“By eliminating those extra fields, the performance was greatly improved and actually met the service level agreement,” noted Xiao. “I was so happy. I feel like I have teammates who I can bounce my ideas off of— they are my sounding board. I feel very supported working on this team. We were able to solve the problem together.”

 

 

Rivera also shared a project where he felt a similar type of collaboration. He had an opportunity to do some training with internal MetLife experts on the cloud. 

“We took about six weeks to just do tons of collaborative-type sessions with MetLife experts and cloud experts,” he said. 

Rivera noted that, with about 50 people in the room for those sessions, he was continuously impressed at the energy and alacrity between the infrastructure cloud experts and the regular development teams that drive the application development. 

“We essentially build software that runs on top of the infrastructure,” he said. “So normally, those two have a different type of thinking process. Everybody was so open-minded and listened to each other’s thoughts on how they drive, change and deliver change into the environment.” 

The team was able to discuss infrastructure codes and brainstormed new ways to automate their provisioning for cloud-based infrastructure.

“We shared ideas,” Rivera explained. “You know, usually when you have that many people in a room or in a session, there’s some kind of conflict. But any issues that we came across, we shouldered together, and we resolved them. That energy of positivity was really extraordinary. We learned so much.” 

The session resulted in a reusable platform that can help other teams onboard. 

“It’s going to make our development process much more productive and make our speed to market much faster, enabling us for cloud-native applications,” he said proudly. “We were able to do that in six weeks.”

For Xiao, her provider project was particularly unique. She noted that there wasn’t a set plan at the beginning. 

“We kind of had to feel our way around and form an interdisciplinary team on the fly,” she said. “Because all the technologies are new, no one has done that before, and we had to figure out the solutions ourselves. We had to deal with any impediments and resolve them. It was exciting.”

 

Open to Learning

There's a saying at MetLife: innovation is everyone’s job. Innovation is not confined to a lab or a team, it’s woven into the culture of the entire company culture. Outside of project-specific initiatives, Xiao and Rivera also had stories about their involvement in MetLife’s many professional development opportunities. 

MyPath, for example is MetLife’s digital talent marketplace, where employees have opportunities to upskill in critical areas, make strategic connections, help address business problems, and manage their own their professional development by networking, participating in and posting projects. The platform uses AI-based recommendations to match associates in the organization to people and projects based on their skills, experiences, and ambitions, driving internal talent mobility and hands-on development.

Rivera was able to support another team with his expertise in Java by participating in a MyPath project. 

“MyPath actually helps you grow and learn not only new applications, but new technologies,” he said. “It also showcases your talents to other areas of the business. So that helps you grow within the company.”

Xiao noted that she takes part in Focus Fridays, an initiative that sets aside time for employees to explore new technical skill sets that they might be interested in. 

“We’re encouraged to use the MyLearning page to catch up on the latest technologies and develop our skill set,” she said. Xiao added that she’s excited to take part in a professional development opportunity she recently learned about. 

“I just found out that there’s an experimentation fund,” she said enthusiastically, explaining that the fund allows any associate to submit suggestions for low-cost, quick experiments. “I think that is really cool,” she added. “I am going to see what projects I can request for this. Experimentation is fun. Where have you heard about this at another company? MetLife will give you a fund to just run with on a project — I was so surprised to learn about this.”

Rivera added that there are so many opportunities in the company and internal tools to find them. 

“It’s encouraged for you to seek and grow,” he said. “At MetLife you have those opportunities.” 

Working with teammates across 40 different markets globally allows employees like Rivera and Xiao to continuously learn and take on new projects, keeping them both excited and engaged with their work after a decade at MetLife. 

“When I first joined MetLife 10 years ago, I was hesitant,” concluded Rivera. “I was like, ‘Oh man, insurance?’ Well, it’s more than that. We’re talking about building solutions, about technology and about a culture that cares about people. I mean, being here for 10 years — that speaks for itself, right? And hopefully many more to come. Yeah, it’s a great environment.”

 

Read MoreMeet Three Leaders Helping Keep MetLife at the Forefront of Cybersecurity

 

 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by Metlife.

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