Employee Stories - Women in Tech on Advancement

Four Women in Tech: We Are Heard, We Are Valued, We Are Promoted

Women in tech at The Hartford discuss how their talents are recognized and developed.
While women are often underrepresented in the technology industry, many have found opportunities for career growth and development at The Hartford. In fact, most major tech initiatives are led by women.
Four female tech employees discuss how The Hartford recognizes, values and develops talent.
Brenda Holloway, a senior developer and tech lead, has worked with the company for 13 years.
Courtney Pettiford, a software developer, joined The Hartford in 2019 after graduating from Georgia Institute of Technology.
Teresa Leggett, a developer and tech lead, has worked for The Hartford for two years after graduating from the University of Northern Colorado.
Vidya Sundaram, vice president and Group Benefits CIO, has worked at The Hartford for 10 years after a long career in consulting for a tech company.
Vidya Sundaram employee testimonial
“At The Hartford, I’ve always felt that they don’t see me as a woman leader; I’m seen as an IT leader.”
– Vidya Sundaram, Vice President and Group Benefits CIO
Why is working for an insurance company, such as The Hartford, a good career move?
Teresa: There is a stigma that insurance uses old, antiquated systems and programming languages. This is not true. There is a huge push for innovation at The Hartford and there is an emphasis on learning – not just learning whatever software your project uses, but other programs, too. The Hartford has a tech company feel and supports continuous learning by encouraging you to get certifications. I’ve worked with many different software development systems including Java, Angular, JavaScript, React and Cloud computing. I’ve learned more on the job than I ever learned in school.
Courtney: From the very beginning, I worked on innovative projects, like a cutting-edge API. I’ve worked on many new projects using frameworks like Spring and have created different types of microservices to help with application development. There are so many courses and exercises readily available through The Hartford’s internal resources that supplement what I’m learning and coding at work.
Brenda: Technology is a key component of working for an insurance company. The technology is always changing and The Hartford wants to make sure people are learning new skills. Programs I’ve learned at The Hartford include Java, SQL, Python and C#. I could probably fill a book with what I have learned here.
Vidya: There is a great opportunity to make an impact with your tech savviness in insurance. We are going through this transition [with technology] now, where there is a lot of investment in technology to drive business transformation. It's the best time to be here because you add value with your experience.
How do you feel supported by the company and your colleagues?
Vidya: I’ve been with other companies where I felt it was harder for a woman to make her voice heard. At The Hartford, I’ve always felt that they don’t see me as a woman leader; I’m seen as an IT leader. I haven’t experienced not being heard or not being included because of my gender here.
Courtney: I first heard about The Hartford at my college career fair. The woman I spoke with there is the reason I decided to apply. She acknowledged my concerns about tech being a male dominated field and assured me her experience at The Hartford has been great. Now, I feel like my opinion is valued. I feel like my effort and my work is seen for what it is.
Brenda: Everyone has input into what the group is doing and The Hartford gave me the time and space I needed to get up to speed with everyone else. At prior companies, I hadn’t been in an environment that was so encouraging, where everyone wants to make sure you succeed. I can’t put into words how that made me feel.
Teresa: There are lots of opportunities for mentorship and networking. We have two professional women’s organizations at The Hartford: Women in Technology, which is a group dedicated to supporting women in tech and data roles, and the Professional Women’s Network, which is a broader group and one of nine employee resource groups. There is a lot of informal support that happens through the culture. Women genuinely want to support other women and the support is organic, not forced. There is evidence of internal promotions and The Hartford is committed to fairness and equality.
Courtney Pettiford employee testimonial
“I feel like my opinion is valued. I feel like my effort and my work is seen for what it is.”
– Courtney Pettiford, Software Developer
What are some of the unique opportunities you have been given at The Hartford?
Brenda: I made becoming a tech lead part of my development plan. At previous companies, if you wanted a better position, you had to leave to get promoted. Here, I feel like I can look for the next best opportunity by talking with colleagues. For example, my manager worked with me to find ways to develop the skills I would need to meet my goal of becoming a tech lead.
Teresa: I was brought in as a junior developer. When I told them I was ready for more responsibilities, the company had me work with a senior developer who was the tech lead. He ended up taking another job and I was promoted even though I was very new and had a junior job title. I was able to prove myself and ended up being the tech lead last summer on a high-stakes project.
Vidya: I joined The Hartford because I wanted to be in this location and didn’t want to travel as much. Because I was new to insurance, and to balance my personal needs, I decided to step away from IT and join the Enterprise Sourcing Strategy team. It was a very hard decision for me because I felt like I was putting the brakes on my career. In the time I spent in that role, I learned a lot about the company. I worked with CIOs and operation leaders, and that helped me have a better perspective of how technology enables the business. When I was ready to get back to technology delivery, I was provided a great opportunity and a meaningful role to make an impact. This speaks to The Hartford’s culture of commitment to people and allowing flexibility in career choices.
Now, I’m in a position where I can help create career opportunities for other women. A few years back, I was managing a high-performing woman who was working part-time for flexibility. However, I noticed that she was very committed and would work above and beyond her part-time responsibilities. I sat down with her and we worked together to determine a flexible schedule that allowed her to return as a full-time employee so she could have all the advantages of one. It was very liberating for me to have that conversation and to be able to enable her professional growth. That’s the difference between supporting someone and truly relating to someone through similar challenges you have experienced. This is a good example of the impact of having women leaders.
Teresa Leggett employee testimonial
“Women genuinely want to support other women and the support is organic, not forced.”
– Teresa Leggett, Developer and Tech Lead
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned while working at The Hartford?
Brenda: I can succeed. Before coming to The Hartford, it was sink or swim. If you weren’t working out, they’d let you go. Here, I feel like they’re going to bring me along and show me what I need to do.
Courtney: Hard work pays off. When I first started, I was very nervous and thought I wasn’t as knowledgeable as others. But, after getting a promotion and hearing the good feedback my manager had gathered from everyone, I saw that hard work could pay off.
Vidya: Put yourself out there, get out of your comfort zone, and try to learn and grow. Most women underrate themselves. Often, they will consider applying for an open position they see but will hesitate because they think there’s only a 50% chance they’ll get it. I’ve had managers tap me on the shoulder to ask me to take on a new role and I’ve thought, “Wow, would I have applied for that role?” When I look at my organization, I see high-potential women and my consistent message to them is to get themselves out of their comfort zone, learn as much as they can and finally, believe in their own abilities.
Teresa: Network as much as you can, keep sticking your neck out and don’t get comfortable. Be brave and say, “I got this, I can do it.” Go for it, especially when any opportunity is brought to you. The opportunities will keep coming if you’re willing and open.
“The technology is always changing and The Hartford wants to make sure people are learning new skills. … I could probably fill a book with what I have learned here.”
– Brenda Holloway, Senior Developer and Tech lead
Learn more about an exciting career in Tech & Data at The Hartford.
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