The tech sector has seen significant highs and lows this year, with the growth of exciting new industries, the continuing balance of hybrid work and the stability of tech giants being flipped on its head with mass layoffs. This has left many young professionals re-evaluating their priorities when searching for a new job.
When hiring and retaining workers, one Toronto-based company’s answer is to put its mission at the forefront to always attract dedicated talent.
Jeff McKay is the CTO and Co-Founder of Insurtech Startup PolicyMe, a digital-first insurance provider on a mission to deliver simple and affordable insurance for Canadian families. Since March 2020, the company has successfully tripled its headcount to over 54 employees. As PolicyMe continues to build towards their post-Series A priorities of scaling into the health & life insurance space while building out its B2B2C partnerships, the company will continue to hire rapidly for engineering, product, advisory and growth in 2023.
Here are insights on what PolicyMe is bringing to the table regarding the hiring process, and why it’s essential to highlight the company’s mission throughout.
What was one of the biggest learning curves for you as a founder when you began building out the PolicyMe team?
When starting PolicyMe, my experience was in the tech industry, and my two other co-founders came from insurance, so it was a highly complementary worthwhile merge. However, when considering all the various functions required to get a business off the ground, we knew that we had a lot of work and learning to be done. For example, having grown my career up to that point primarily in tech-heavy roles, I had limited involvement and familiarity with legal or marketing which was a big learning curve to overcome in the early days of PolicyMe. As a co-founder, you have to wear multiple hats in the beginning because you don’t always have the means to outsource, and that can be extra challenging at times especially as you learn new roles that aren’t tech related.
Early on, we searched for sources of knowledge and advice as we built PolicyMe and aimed to get it off the ground. Fortunately, the startup community is vast, and there are many folks who are willing to talk you through problems or new ideas.
There is a wealth of information out there; once you know how to find it, it makes the building process much easier. You shift your attention from making sure everything is done precisely to generating and testing more in order to address issues more quickly. In those early days, I fondly remember talking to many other founders and entrepreneurs or reading blogs that helped lead me to an ‘aha’ moment.
Insurtech, particularly in Canada, is a newer industry. Tell us about how PolicyMe has been able to attract tech talent who may not have considered the industry before?
People don’t realize that insurance is a massive industry, and how much space there is to have a significant impact. The outdated and archaic nature of the insurance industry presents an opportunity for us to leverage technology in modernizing and differentiating how we offer insurance to Canadians. As individuals and as a team, I believe that we are attracted to and energized by the potential for innovation in an industry that hasn’t seen much change. We have the unique opportunity to scrutinize every part of the insurance process, leverage technology to build it better, be risk-averse and push the mark.
For potential talent, if you are someone who enjoys challenges and has a creative mind, PolicyMe is the place for you. We aren’t just a regular insurance company; we pride ourselves on trying to make a difference. Startups are appealing to many people because it motivates and pushes them to grow; at PolicyMe, the problems that we’re trying to solve are complex, our vision is ambitious and our focus on building better is relentless. We value and celebrate adaptability, and are always in search of similarly motivated talent to join our teams.
What is one thing your team has changed in its hiring process this year?
Finding talent has been quite difficult this year due to fierce competition in the recruiting market. Further, with the recent layoffs in the tech sector, people have increased weary about joining a startup. These challenges and headwinds have challenged us to be more open-minded about where we look for talent.
With PolicyMe being fully remote, we can find great talent that work from anywhere—enabling us with the opportunity to tap into regions and areas where we weren’t previously looking. Our team members are dispersed across Canada, but the systems and rituals that we’ve built to support our fully remote culture allows us to still come together and stay united under one goal.
What would be your number one piece of advice for other tech startups who are looking to stand out to candidates who are on the job hunt?
As a startup, we don’t have extensive onboarding experiences in comparison to other corporations, we need to really make an effort to stand out to candidates looking for a new experience. I think the greatest thing we can offer to people interested in tech is how much personal growth comes from working at a startup. You have to wear multiple hats that build new skills and separate yourself from others in the long term. With PolicyMe we have seen personal growth in roles and company growth.
You really want to position your company as the number one option. Showcasing all the perks you have that don’t compare to bigger corporations as well as highlighting your company culture. Your co-workers become a huge part of your life and presenting the personable side of a work/life balance and putting your employees at the forefront will come across to candidates.