March 24, 2022

Investing in Yourself: A Software Developer Big on Cracking New Skills & Launching a Career in Insurtech

Software developer Pranav Birajdar takes advantage of every opportunity to invest in himself, even when he’s off the clock. We spoke with him about what gets him out of bed in the morning, the future of insurance technology software, and why he thinks Canadian insurtech is globally ahead of the pack. 

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 get into software development? 

As a kid, I always played computer games but never connected the dots between entertainment and an eventual career until I saw a friend of mine build a website from scratch. 

As soon as I realized code could make text and colours appear out of nowhere, I knew it would be powerful.

I left India to pursue my master’s in mechanical engineering in Newfoundland. The thing about mechanical engineering is that it’s a conventional industry. It’s slow-paced, whereas in software development, all you need is a computer and you can build anything.

When I built my first product during my studies (a handyman services platform), I learned all the intricacies of what it takes to build a viable product, including getting customer feedback and seeing where it could take us. I enjoyed the design process, and that’s when I really got serious about a software developer career. 

Having an eye for design set me up to work in front-end development. But it’s so much more than just making things appear on a screen, it’s about accessibility and performance as well. The more I got into it, the more I loved it.

What attracted you to build your career with a Canadian tech company?
Canada was always my dream destination – I knew I wanted to live here and since moving here in 2014, it’s felt like home. I wanted to build Canadian products and work with innovative people.

When I moved to Canada, I was really impressed by the agility that startups have here. Working for an insurtech means that there’s so much awareness of and accessibility of insurance products online. What I like about Walnut is the simplicity of how to get insured online, you fill out an online form with a few questions, see the prices, and get a policy – all within minutes. 

But what differentiates us further are our additional services that cover other aspects of your wellbeing, on top of the life insurance coverage we provide.

Walnut offers coverage for financial security, but also focuses on improving a person’s quality of life while they are still alive with embedded insurance that ensures digital, mental, and physical wellbeing, for a holistic approach to life insurance.

What are some challenges that keep you on your toes? 
I always make an effort to teach myself something new.

Software development is always evolving. If you see a website from five years ago, you may ask, “what’s going on, why does the website look so bad?” – it’s because our modern standards shift quickly. So on my weekends, I take on small projects to keep myself informed and inspired. That way I can bring my A-game to my work and innovate solutions in other ways I might not have thought of otherwise.

What advice do you have for others considering a career in Canadian tech?

Now’s the best time to get into tech. Canadians show exponential growth and unicorn potential – so much so, that a lot of American companies are hiring talent across the border. With such lower barriers to entry, I encourage anyone thinking about a career in the tech industry to just do it.

My advice for other devs is to create a portfolio and share it within your network and abroad. Building your personal brand publicly helps you learn on a deeper level and only then, can you teach it to someone else.

And when you’re ready, you can take it to the next level by partnering up with someone who’s more experienced and can serve as a mentor to you. 

What excites you most about the work you do at Walnut? 

I’m actively building products that make a positive impact on our users. Working with a small and agile team, I get to own a specific part of the product and run with it. If something goes wrong, it’s okay. I have the support of people behind me to figure it out.

I can try things freely without the apprehension of getting pushback when I fail.

Having watched self-taught developers work inspired me to pursue additional training, and that exponential growth gets me out of bed in the morning. 

Having people mentor me at Walnut is equally inspiring. I get the chance to work with our CTO to build up my skills and eventually go into full-stack development. He’s always given me supportive and actionable advice, which is invaluable to my career progression. My work isn’t just limited to front-end development though. I also contribute to product design, marketing, and help build backend APIs, so I’m learning a lot quickly.

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