Mutual of Omaha IT Leadership Series
Published: September 20, 2022
Tim Darnall first joined Mutual of Omaha in 1989, working as a developer on the Universal Life System. He left in 1995 for a job at Conagra Brands but returned in 2016 as vice president of Enterprise Architecture.
Darnall said he returned because he’d heard that Mutual’s new CEO, James Blackledge, was planning to shake things up and refocus the company with a customer-first strategy.
“I like to come in and help change things,” Darnall shared, “I like to be a part of something that’s moving forward.”
Today, Darnall is Mutual of Omaha’s chief technology officer and very much a part of its forward trajectory. We recently met with Darnall to discuss his work and why Mutual of Omaha is such a great place to work for IT professionals.
Q: What are your primary areas of focus as Chief Technology Officer?
A: I’m responsible for three areas of Information Services. My responsibility since I started has been Enterprise Architecture, which involves establishing practices, creating architectural flow and setting a target architecture direction, such as microservices architectures. Then there’s Cloud Platform Services that integrate cloud computing technology like AWS (Amazon Web Services), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and others. I also oversee Infrastructure and Operations where we manage on-prem data centers, networking, storage, security, etc.
Q: What type of IT professionals are you looking to add to your team?
A: We’re very interested in candidates who have experience in Cloud and DevOps technologies such as OpenStack, Docker, CoreOS, Ansible, Jenkins, GitHub, etc. We’re also looking for a number of candidates with strong experience in creating and consuming loosely coupled integration. Tools and methods change over time, so candidates need to be adaptable as new ones emerge.
We like to think that everything in the future is about code, from infrastructure to business applications, so candidates having a background in software development, along with experience, is attractive to us.
We also have a saying, “think globally and act locally,” which is to say we value an engineering mindset. We want our IT associates to look outside their respective areas and collaborate across our developer/engineering community and reuse where possible.
Q: What can we offer IT professionals that other employers can’t?
A: First and foremost, Mutual of Omaha has a phenomenal culture. I believe our culture played a big role in us being listed on Fortune’s Top 100 Companies to Work For®. We also ranked No. 14 on the Forbes list of Best Employers for Diversity in 2022.
We really care about our people. This is one of the most unique companies I’ve worked for in that regard. You’re not going to find the same great culture we have at Mutual of Omaha.
Plus, investing in our IT talent is a top priority. We offer robust training and development resources.
Q: How do you and your leadership team invest in the professional growth of your associates?
A: We have regular skills-based assessments to help us better understand the type of training staff will need moving forward.
We also provide an extensive library of IT training materials and online courses, paid IT certification programs such as AWS, leadership development and numerous cross-training opportunities that help associates expand their skills.
In addition, associates can take advantage of Mutual’s tuition reimbursement program.
Q: Can you share a story about one team member who experienced this professional growth?
A: Melissa Pruch is a great success story. Melissa came to Mutual 24 years ago with a degree in education and worked in Human Resources. After taking an interest in technology, she pursued numerous training opportunities and roles in IT. She also returned to school to earn her MBA.
Today, Melissa is vice president of Information Services Performance and Operations. It’s been wonderful to see her grow and advance over the years.
Q: How do your teams measure success?
A: We measure success by whether teams achieve their ambitions or end goals. For example, product development is a key performance indicator for Mutual of Omaha and speed to market is critical. One team is working to help Mutual bring new products to market in less than 100 days. Sometimes, technology bogs down the process, so expediting this phase is crucial to staying competitive.
Another team is working to achieve 100% API (Application Programming Interface). APIs are mechanisms that enable different applications to integrate and exchange data easily and securely. The ambition is to integrate 100% of our applications yet allow those applications to function autonomously.
Q: Why is now an exciting time to work at Mutual of Omaha?
A: Mutual of Omaha is undergoing a modernization that is both challenging and exciting for IT staff. We’re looking for new ways to streamline and accelerate systems to better meet customer and market demands. We need to be creative, innovative and take a few risks. I think that’s exciting.
There’s also a lot of excitement surrounding Project Beacon, the company’s new headquarters planned for downtown Omaha. Our new building will provide a new employee experience for those who choose to return to the office full-time or in a hybrid arrangement. I’m really proud to work for Mutual of Omaha, and I’ll always be proud to work here.