Connecting with the company culture

New employees are making the most of their virtual onboarding

5 min read

July 2021

Open laptop on coffee table in front of a sectional couch

2020 brought more changes for husband and wife duo Ernest and Eliza than just those ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the year, they both began careers at Progressive as software developers. And while neither of them have had the opportunity to work at an actual Progressive office yet, they’ve both connected with the Progressive culture.

How did it happen that you joined Progressive the same year?

Ernest: We both got into developing through boot camps. While Progressive’s been on Eliza’s radar as a great potential place to work for a while, I was busy trying out a lot of different opportunities. But the big thing I kept coming back to with Progressive was the culture. Every time I spoke with someone from Progressive, I’d learn they’d been here for decades. I took that as a sign that this was a good company.

Eliza: Right. I’d been trying to get into Progressive since around 2017. I knew someone who worked here and loved it. After the coding boot camp, I worked as a developer at a couple different places, but really had my heart set on doing the role at Progressive. The first time I applied and got an interview, I bombed it, honestly. But I kept working and improving and eventually got another at bat to interview here. I did a ton of prep work before that one—I had reams and reams of notes and examples—and I finally did it!

What attracted you to Progressive?

Ernest: The culture! There’s a real feeling of “togetherness.” Progressive has a culture of collaboration. I also love the spirit of constant evolution here. The fact that we’re always assessing things, asking, “How do we improve? How do we make people feel included when they can’t be together physically in our buildings?” This company really walks the talk. Again, it speaks volumes when people are still here after decades, especially in the tech space where people tend to move around often.

Eliza: It’s actually a different aspect of the culture here that drew me in. I love that Progressive has a strong focus on development. We actually train employees and do it really well. We encourage growth and development. I’ve seen us apply a lot of different techniques to analyze and solve problems rather than taking a “that’s just how it is, live with it” stance on things.

Having onboarded virtually, what are some ways you got to know your teammates and the culture?

Eliza: I’ve developed some good work friendships through Microsoft Teams interactions. A team member set up time for all of us with ice breaker questions so we could get to know people better. What’s been unique—and really great—is that we all feel open and supported enough to talk openly about work as well as things outside of work like our families, weekend plans, and things like that. While I’d love to get together with my team members in person someday, I think my experience is proof that we don’t necessarily need to be in the office regularly for us to feel connected as teammates.

Ernest: My team gets together every Thursday afternoon for a virtual hangout; we play games, chat, and just catch up on things beyond work as well. We stay connected through team chats and video calls, too. It’s nice getting that “face time” with each other.

What are some things Progressive’s done to help you feel more connected to the company?

Ernest: I love our model of promoting from within. There’s so much opportunity here. And I think the internal boot camps we’re facilitating now really show our focus on development and also speaks to our diversity and inclusion efforts. I really believe in our diversity and inclusion efforts; it’s not just talk here.

Any advice to job seekers with their eyes on a career at Progressive?

Eliza: There’s a lot of internal promotion here, so as someone on the outside, you can feel a little walled off. I’ve heard people joke that it’s like trying to get accepted into an ivy league school, but it’s really not. Because here, you can keep trying; keep learning and applying. You may just have to wait for the company needs and your skill set to line up. Even with my experience—bombing that first interview—it really ended up playing out well for me because now I’m in a role that’s an incredible fit.

Ernest: I’ve learned it’s best to articulate who you are and put that best foot forward. Know how to sell yourself. There are a lot of candidates and the competition is tough. Being able to effectively articulate that you have the skills needed for the role is important, but it’s not everything. I’ve found that it goes beyond skills—you also need to show you can work with others on a team, collaborate, and that you’re going to feel good in the company culture. I’ve definitely found my fit with Progressive.

Eliza: A common stint for tech professionals is two years before you're off to the next shiny opportunity, but Progressive invests a lot in its developers to make sure we have the tools we need to seamlessly integrate our code into what's already there. I've been here six months and I’m still learning. It’s a reciprocal investment. Progressive is investing in me and betting that I'm going to stay—and it's a really good bet!

Eliza Blair grew up in the Cleveland area, moved away for ten years, and came back. She's been a software developer for four years, and has worked for Progressive for six months. In her spare time, she gardens and fosters cats.

Ernest Bluford, a resident of the Cleveland area, has worked for Progressive for one year. In his spare time, he enjoys Dungeons and Dragons, gardening, cooking, and an increasing interest in woodworking.

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