May 2, 2022

Working at Walnut: A 360 Degree Impact on Tech and Innovation

Lead Engineer Aditi Barbhai loves every opportunity to examine problems from a different angle. We spoke to her about how she applies that mindset to innovating the insurance industry and what makes insurtech so exciting.

Working at Walnut is a series that profiles members of our team at Walnut and how they came into the picture at our insurtech. We crack open the shell for an inside look at what inspires our team and explore the growth and innovation in this new era of insurance.

What inspired you to build a career in software engineering?

I’m someone who loves solving problems and having a creative output. 

When I started university, I thought I would become a genetics researcher, but after doing a few hands-on research projects, I realized that they didn’t have the scale, pace, and innovation I had hoped for. 

I always enjoyed building websites in high school and playing around with the computer, so I decided to give computer science a try by taking an intro course – and I loved it. 

Software development is really about creating something out of nothing. There are infinite possibilities and applications, so it’s the perfect marriage of my desire to think cratively, solve challenging problems with logic, and leave a positive impact on the world around me.
What attracted you to Walnut?

I really like Walnut’s mission to make insurance more accessible to everyone. 

I’m passionate about financial literacy and independence, especially for young people and women. And generally speaking, people don’t often think about life insurance, much less talk about it when it comes to their financial wellbeing – but it’s actually a big piece of the financial security puzzle. 

I wanted to be part of something that empowers others to take charge of their financial lives.

Life insurance hasn’t always been accessible. Walnut is changing that – and then some. We’re completely digital-first, and create holistic products that provide security beyond traditional insurance, which is a huge step forward in innovating this industry.

How does working at an insurtech compare to your experience with more established organizations? 

I’ve spent most of my career working at enterprise organizations, and the biggest difference at Walnut has been the autonomy and agility. 

I’m learning how to build products from the ground up and move at a pace that supports innovation, which means having the freedom to experiment with new things, fail fast, and iterate to find a better solution.

My impact here is also so noticeable and far-reaching. Working in an early-stage startup like Walnut allows me to have an incredible impact on the team, the product, and our customers.

Our vision is to build insurance technology software and make insurance digital-first. Even though I started at Walnut about a month ago, I was able to create an early version of a digital portal to bring us closer to that vision, and we’re launching it later this month! 

To define an MVP – minimum viable product – build it out and go to market in a month? That just isn’t possible at a larger company because you just don’t have that kind of liberty to work across teams.

Why is embedded insurance exciting and how does baking it into the subscription model work better?

Embedded insurance is exciting because it makes insurance more accessible! We live in a busy world, where it’s very easy for something long-term and invisible like insurance to fall through the cracks.

By embedding insurance into other subscriptions, people are more likely to think about it or plan for their future. Today, people have subscriptions for everything, and by bundling wellness benefits like ClassPass, Headspace, and Dashlane with life insurance, we’re offering a 360 degree package that covers a person’s whole wellbeing.

Offering insurance through a subscription model also makes it that much more affordable. It provides consumers with the flexibility they want, which of course, makes it more accessible.

Where do you find room for innovation in designing an entire system of applications or in your building process?

It’s not about finding room for innovation – innovation is a necessity when you’re trying to change existing systems and do things that have never been done before.

If you want something different, you have to do something different.

I really want to put my stamp on things, so it’s a matter of approaching problems in a creative manner. Asking “why should I solve this problem?” instead of “how do people usually solve this problem?” gives me the opportunity to innovate. 

There are always constraints you have to work with when solving a problem, so you have to think outside the box to find a new way forward.

What excites you most about the career you’re building at Walnut?  

I’m excited about the freedom to bring my ideas to the table and work with a diverse and talented team to bring them to fruition. There’s something so rewarding in being able to transform a vision in my head into a tangible thing that others can see and use.

During the short amount of time I’ve been here, I’ve already worn different hats. I’ve played the role of product owner, infrastructure developer, front-end developer, and more, which allows me to lean into different skill sets – from a specialist role to a generalist – and develop myself more holistically while moving my career forward.

What advice would you give to people considering a career as an engineer in tech?

Tech is such a fast-paced and dynamic space, where the applications are always changing. There are a lot of problems out there that need solving, so you need a focus.

My best advice for people who want careers in the tech industry is to stay curious and find problems you’re interested in solving.

Because when you’re curious and passionate, it’s going to make your experiences richer and give you the perspective you need to become innovative. Then surround yourself with smart people who are willing to share their knowledge with you and collaborate with them. That’s how you can make an impact and move the needle in the direction you want.

Kickstart your next chapter.

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