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Back Posted on: 2 July 2024

Alchemy proudly introduces Conor McCormick as our new Head of Technical Architecture.

Conor is a seasoned technical leader with over 20 years of experience in software development and architecture. His expertise spans cloud technologies, low-code platforms, and traditional coding methodologies, with a strong focus on insurance technology and digital transformation. Throughout his career, Conor has led major projects in workflow management, cloud-based solutions, and insurance systems integration. He has a proven track record of building high-performing teams and delivering complex, large-scale projects that drive business value.

1. What drew you to Alchemy, and what was your journey that led you here?

After spending over two decades in large multinational organisations, I was drawn to Alchemy's nimble and focused environment. As a smaller company, there are far fewer impediments to initiating and completing projects efficiently. Additionally, Alchemy's co-located team structure appealed to me, as opposed to the geographically scattered teams I've worked with previously. Alchemy has cultivated an enviable reputation for its expertise in Guidewire and other platforms, backed by a highly talented and motivated team. I'm excited to contribute to the company's growth trajectory.

Moreover, Alchemy's roots in the North-West region resonated with me, allowing me to give back to the community where I live. Like many in the IT field, my career path wasn't straightforward. I originally studied Music at university and spent my 20s as a schoolteacher. Eventually, I decided on a career change. Since I always had an interest in technology, that was the route I took, going back to university to study Computer Science. While I have nothing but admiration for the teaching profession, I haven't missed it for a minute! The technology field has proven to be an invigorating and fulfilling path for me.

2. As Head of Technical Architecture, what's your vision for architectural excellence at Alchemy, and what contributions do you plan to make in your role?

Two key areas of focus will be establishing an architectural practice group and enhancing Alchemy's intellectual property.

Firstly, I aim to bring together the team members involved in architectural design and foster a collaborative architectural practice group. Within this group, we can share best practices, drive innovation, and establish a robust methodology for architectural excellence.

Secondly, Alchemy has been highly successful in implementing and maintaining Guidewire and other platforms. In this process, we've identified opportunities to develop our own platform extensions. These extensions will provide us with a competitive advantage by accelerating implementation timelines and delivering added value to our clients.

3. Having been involved in digital transformation initiatives throughout your career, what are your thoughts on the current landscape of digital transformation in the insurance and technology sectors, and how can Alchemy help?

The insurance and technology sectors are undergoing rapid digital transformation, marked by increasing competition and significant opportunities for innovation and growth. Some notable trends include:

  • Personalisation and customer experience: Insurers are leveraging big data, AI, and machine learning to offer personalised products, services, and tailored customer interactions.
  • Automation and efficiency: Claims processing and underwriting are being automated through technologies like RPA and AI, streamlining processes, reducing turnaround times, and minimising errors.
  • Insurtech collaboration: Traditional insurers and consultancies are partnering with Insurtechs and disruptors to innovate and bring new products to market faster.
  • Cloud adoption: Cloud computing continues to drive digital transformation by providing scalable infrastructure, reducing capital expenditure, and enabling rapid deployment of new services.
  • Cybersecurity: Defence strategies are becoming increasingly proactive, with AI playing a key role in threat detection and response.

Alchemy is well-positioned to assist in this digital transformation journey. We are at the forefront of cloud adoption for Guidewire and have built extensive expertise and experience in this area. Additionally, we are actively engaged in Insurtech collaborations, an area where we see significant growth potential.

4. You're a big advocate for agile methodologies. How do you see yourself using them in your role, and what benefits are gained?

Agile methodologies are instrumental in allowing development teams to adapt to changing business requirements and incorporate frequent customer feedback. As Head of Technical Architecture, my role is to ensure that the architectural designs can accommodate the pivots and changes that inevitably occur during implementation.

As Alchemy takes on even larger projects, the need for a high-level architectural lens becomes increasingly important, especially when integrating with other systems within client organizations and external entities. Agile methodologies enable us to maintain this flexibility while delivering high-quality solutions.

5. Your journey from being a schoolteacher to a tech leader is unusual. How has this transition influenced your approach to mentoring and developing talent at Alchemy, and how do you plan to foster a culture of continuous learning?

My background in teaching has instilled in me a fundamental value: never underestimate what people can achieve when provided with the right support and opportunities. In my teams, I have always strived to encourage individuals to step out of their comfort zones, take on additional responsibilities, and continuously acquire new technical skills. I firmly believe in empowering my team members to make decisions and suggest improvements. This can only thrive in an environment of open and honest communication, supported by training in both technical and soft skills.

Alchemy's strong mentoring culture and focus on certification preparation exemplifies this approach. Fostering a culture of continuous learning is crucial. To this end, I plan to broaden the scope of Alchemy’s inhouse bootcamp structure, extending it beyond certification preparation to encompass a more well-rounded software engineering curriculum, including general concepts and learning paths. Additionally, I aim to organise workshops focused on identifying accelerators and best practices for future Guidewire engagements, further enhancing our capabilities and delivering exceptional value to our clients.

6. If you could have a conversation with a past version of yourself, what age would you choose, and what advice would you give?

I'd go back to my 29-year-old self and offer some reassurance about the big decision to transition from teaching to IT. At that age, making such a significant career change felt daunting, and I remember grappling with doubts and uncertainties. I'd tell my younger self not to worry – the leap into IT was absolutely the right move. I'd explain that while the transition would require hard work and dedication, it would open a world of exciting opportunities. The skills developed in teaching – like breaking down complex concepts, effective communication, and adaptability – would prove invaluable in my tech career, especially as I moved into leadership roles.

Most importantly, I'd assure my younger self that this career pivot would lead to a fulfilling and rewarding journey. The challenges faced and overcome, the innovative projects worked on, and the talented people collaborated with would make for a rich and satisfying professional life. In essence, I'd say: Trust your instincts. This big change you're contemplating? It's going to work out better than you can imagine.