We’re thrilled to welcome Tim Collins to the Federato senior leadership team as VP of Engineering. A seasoned technology executive, Tim has experience leading engineering and IT functions at some of the world’s largest technology firms including Google and Facebook.
1. Welcome, Tim! Prior to making the decision to join Federato, you did your due diligence, making a point of speaking with some of our customers. What was it about the Federato team, technology, or approach that stood out, and made you want to come on this journey with us? What sealed the deal for you?
In the discussions I had with Will and William, I was struck by the lack of modern software products supporting the effectiveness of underwriting at large insurance companies. The Federato RiskOps product fills this gap through the innovative combination of data and AI to empower underwriters and their partners in fundamentally better decision making. I was also impressed by the passion and quality of human thinking that drives the creation of these customer-focused products. This humanity was evident all the way up to the investor level. Finally, I could tell from the conversations I had with Federato’s customers that this was a product that practically sold itself. The customer enthusiasm was really impressive. I couldn’t pass up such a rare and wonderful combination!
2. In addition to overseeing engineering at Google and Facebook, you’ve also worked for a number of successful startups, building and scaling their engineering teams and products. What do you love about startups?
I know that it might sound a little trite, but it is always about the people, no matter the company’s size or stage of growth. Nothing compares to an energetic group of people all going after the same goal together. It is always a unique journey.
3. You’re no stranger to insurance. As co-founder and CTO of MetroMile, you delivered the company’s first pay-per-mile car insurance offering to the market. When you think about the insurance industry today, how are technologies like AI and machine learning changing the game for insurers and having an impact?
Back when we started MetroMile, it was all about how data could be used to create a new kind of insurance product: pay-per-mile auto insurance. We were just scratching the surface of how technology could be used to create better insurance products and serve new markets and customer needs. With Federato, we are seeing the next step in the evolution of data and AI-driven insurance. As you can imagine, it is really exciting to see where this will go.
4. One of the key things that drew Federato to you is your proven ability to inspire, innovate, and amplify the impact of the teams you’ve led. What do you look for when hiring a software engineer, and how do you create that magic in an engineering team?
Like many engineering leaders, I am looking for evidence of potential during the interview process. Does the candidate exhibit curiosity, passion, initiative, and common sense? Do they enjoy the journey and the chance to collaborate with similarly minded individuals?
For me, magic occurs when one is able to unleash the innovation of teams. I have seen this occur in a number of companies. One of the best examples was the Google Fiber team. The demo culture we built was fun, engaging, and drove valuable innovation for the business.
5. What’s one thing that people might be surprised to learn about you?
Occasionally people notice that I have a slight accent that they can’t quite place. It turns out that I am a proud immigrant to the US! I was born in Australia and moved to California at the age of six. I still enjoy visiting family and friends in Australia when I have the chance to make the long journey back.
6. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
That’s a tough one. I think that the team I am most proud of is the Google+ team. We had to turn down the Google+ consumer product in about a six month period. This was the most complex – and intense! – project I have ever been associated with. The team pulled together in an amazing way. They set a unique “North Star” of making the shutdown “The best shutdown ever!” They worked together to solve a long list of hard problems and managed to hit the aggressive timeline with a combination of passion and flawless execution. For me, this was really the pinnacle of high quality teamwork.
7. What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?
I love to get outdoors. Hiking and desert camping are two things I really enjoy. My newest endeavor is learning how to wing foil! It is both a humbling and exciting experience.
Ok, bonus lightning round! Can you please answer these next few questions in one sentence or less. Some of these come from a parlor game popularized by French writer Marcel Proust, who believed a person’s answers would reveal his or her true nature.
First job and what, if anything, did it teach you about engineering?
My first job after my PhD was at Novell working on the future of the Java language – these efforts, combined with the experience of working with Eric Schmidt (of later Google fame), really opened my eyes to the almost unlimited promise of the Internet.
I really like Polo and Pan right now.
Last book you read?
How the World Really Works: A Scientist's Guide to Our Past, Present and Future by Vaclav Smil.
Your most treasured possession and why?
The fountain pen my wife bought me for how it inspires the creative process.
What’s your greatest extravagance?
An overwater bungalow in Tahiti. Definitely worth it!
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Certainty. We are seeing the results of polarization and a lack of ability to see other’s viewpoints.