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Safiya Henry: Driving Transformation at MetLife

Safiya Henry, AVP of Digital Strategy and Transformation at MetLife, has come a long way since the days of hacking her computer game to give herself unlimited life. Now she thinks about life — and other types — of insurance. She’s working to transform the insurance industry by evolving digital capabilities and creating engaging user experiences.
Safiya Henry: Driving Transformation at MetLife - MetLife

Tell us about the career journey that brought you to MetLife.

I started my career as a software engineer at a medical device company. In my first role, I programmed a device that configured implantable pacemakers, defibrillators, and CRTs (Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy devices). It was my first exposure to the agile methodology, which we utilize here at MetLife. After that, I moved into consulting and worked across several industries including insurance. From there, I led backend and front-end development for an accounts reporting app for a well-known bank.

All of those experiences taught me about front-end technologies (the visual aspects of applications) as well as backend (the components that bring data into the application) and exposed me to the power and potential of integrating systems with application programming interfaces (APIs), which I’ve help establish at MetLife. I love technology and am passionate about digital transformation, so when I heard about the opportunity to help MetLife modernize tech at their global technology hub in Cary, I was eager to start.

What does digital transformation look like at MetLife?

Using the scaled agile framework, we break things down into program increments, which for us is 8 to 12 weeks. This allows us to respond quickly to needs, deliver value faster, and get user feedback in between. Within that timeframe we determine what the market needs, what the customer wants, and what we can do. Then we plan and execute. At the end of each sprint, we come back and consider, “Where are we now? Has anything changed? Do we need to adjust? We have a backlog of work, but has anything more important come up?”

This really fuels transformation because people might think they know what we need to do to transform. But the way that we truly know is by executing, delivering, and then seeing how the reception is. That’s the most valuable proof point that we can have in a transformation journey.

When you reflect on all the transformation work you’ve been involved in, what’s one of your favorite projects and why?

In business, everything is data driven. There is so much data available that can provide critical insights for businesses, and APIs are a bridge that connects you to that immense world of data. Utilizing them can transform a business. I saw this up close when I had the honor of collaborating with multiple teams to deliver an API Marketplace in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), one of the first of its kind at MetLife.

At that time, many companies in the region had begun tapping into the benefits of APIs. For MetLife to stay competitive and an industry leader, in a matter of months, our teams built a new mobile app for agents with modern capabilities and an API marketplace for our partners to integrate with us. These offerings attracted new business partnerships that positioned us as digital leaders in the market. It was an amazing journey and incredible to see revenue impact driven by technology in such a short period of time.

What advice do you have for women considering a career in engineering?

Go for it! This is such an exciting field, and there is so much opportunity. Even when the work is challenging, it’s very satisfying. If engineering intrigues you, find out what excites you and keep pursuing it.

At the end of the day, businesses need more women technology leaders at the forefront who are unafraid to be geeky and to be technical thought leaders who can influence organizations. That’s what produces a richer offering in the marketplace and creates better employee experiences.

 

You can hear more from Safiya Henry as well as her collegue Jeanine Prusienski, Director, Emerging Technology at Metlife in the following Tech Talk: Cloud Enablement: Azure Kubernetes Service at MetLife, now available on-demand in the Advance Learning Center.


Curious about what it’s like working with Safiya and others on the Global Technology and Operations team in North Carolina? Visit the MetLife career site to explore our open roles. For inspiration about unlocking your STEM dreams, read the story of  Anika Wall, MetLife’s Vice President (VP) of Global Customer Service and Operations Production Enablement.

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