For Chief Technology Officer Dave Gordon, the work he and his peers accomplish at Northwestern Mutual is a team sport.
“We need to be inclusive and engage people fully into problem-solving and decision analysis,” he explained. “As a team, we’re stronger when we’re working together.”
Gordon, who leads the financial services company’s software development and engineering teams, has been passionate about technology since earning a computer science degree in college. Over the years, he has learned what it takes to bring projects across the finish line: diverse perspectives, collaboration and authenticity.
Although Gordon’s transparent and team-oriented leadership guides his peers’ success, the firm’s purpose-driven culture also helps team members thrive. For instance, during monthly all-hands meetings, tech team members get to hear about how their work directly impacts customers, enabling them to connect purpose with their day-to-day projects.
Gordon added that extensive learning and development resources encourage team members to heighten this impact. With access to training courses covering a wide range of topics, including Cloud services and security, the firm’s technologists are empowered to dedicate time and energy into building new skills, which has proven to be beneficial to both them and those they serve.
“We need an employee population that feels invested so they can provide the best application services for our clients and financial advisors,” he said.
In Gordon’s mind, Northwestern Mutual offers more than just another workplace. Rooted in stability and sound strategy, the company offers a space for technologists to focus on what matters most: delivering work with the potential to shape the outcomes of its customers.
“When you couple the investment in technology with an organization focused on doing what’s right by our policyholders, as well as the strength of the company, it makes Northwestern Mutual a very unique place to work,” Gordon said.
“When you couple the investment in technology with an organization focused on doing what’s right by our policyholders, it makes Northwestern Mutual a very unique place to work.”
Below, Gordon describes his career journey and leadership vision, the organization’s empowering culture and the reasons why technologists should consider joining his team.
I’ve been in technology since majoring in computer science in college. I began my career at Accenture, where I gained an incredible foundation in a fast-paced consulting environment focused on client outcomes. I also spent over a decade at Capital One, where leadership development and innovation were at the forefront of the company’s priorities. My time there included a variety of roles in technology with increasing responsibility levels linked to the leadership development programs in which I participated. Another pivotal career experience was working at USAA Bank, where I served members of the military, veterans and their families in one of the most service-oriented organizations in the world.
Each experience was foundational to my career journey, from consulting and honing my leadership skills to understanding the client experience and how to best serve our end users.
With that background in leadership development, how would you describe your leadership style?
I consider the work we do to deliver technology a team sport in which we need to be inclusive and engage people fully into problem-solving and decision analysis. Whenever possible, I try to drive active engagement and inclusion to ensure that our teams feel supported, can work together and ultimately deliver the best work.
Another key leadership trait that I’ve learned over the course of my career is authenticity. It’s so important for people to sense honesty and transparency from their leadership team and feel connected to them. It’s a core behavior I strive for — to be myself and be honest with my teams.
“It’s a core behavior I strive for — to be myself and be honest with my teams.”
How does Northwestern Mutual’s culture make technologists feel connected to their work?
Northwestern Mutual has a great culture with a strong focus on always doing the right thing for our policyholders, which is felt within our day-to-day work. To reinforce that focus, we’ve added a “field,” which is composed of our financial advisors, or “client experience” topic in each of our monthly all-hands meetings, allowing the entire team to hear how their work impacts the end experience. This way, our engineering and technology professionals can see their work in action and directly hear the impact our work has on the experience with our sales teams and customers.
We’re focused on connecting our teams to the end users, which helps drive a sense of purpose to the work.
What opportunities do technologists have to develop new skills?
Northwestern Mutual offers an extensive set of training and development courses. A key priority is to ensure our team members know what’s available to them and understand how to access these resources and set aside time for skills development. The training that’s available includes current topics such as Cloud services, security, various development languages and much more. We want to make sure that people not only know the training is available, but build in the time to allow them to learn and grow.
“We want to make sure that people not only know the training is available, but build in the time to allow them to learn and grow.”
From a leadership standpoint, we offer a variety of coaching services, access to conferences and mentoring opportunities to help individuals continuously develop leadership skills, stay up to date with industry trends and ultimately develop into strong leaders.
What’s something exciting that you’re currently working on with your team?
An investment we have underway is to fully implement current development capabilities through continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) automation. Although many companies are in different stages of this capability, we’re accelerating our deployment of the automation of standards and software deployments. We’re measuring the increases in efficiency, creating a better engineering experience and increasing technology standardization across our environment. This is a tremendous accelerator for the engineering process at Northwestern Mutual and allows our engineers to focus on solving business problems by reducing the overhead and administration of lower-value work.
What is the employee value proposition for those thinking about joining Northwestern Mutual?
Northwestern Mutual’s financial strength, stability and overall strategic direction is something that cannot be underestimated. I’ve previously worked at companies that experienced external pressures, which created distractions from the end services we deliver to our clients and advisors. Our stable foundation is a clear strength and enables us to stay focused on the work that matters, which is our multi-year strategy.
Many companies are impacted by financial, regulatory and technology changes that distract them from their focus. Northwestern Mutual has the strength and stability to reduce distractions, maintain a strong financial foundation and allow employees to focus on outcomes. As a mutual company, we’re focused on our policyholders with perspectives of both clients and direct beneficiaries in our business outcomes. Our continued investment in technology and data are key to ensuring we deliver an exceptional client experience and remain competitive.