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We are Techlab!

Eva Jonkmans
5 minutes

First of all, welcome to this brand new content platform, launched by our awesome Essent IT colleagues. We are very excited to start adding content to the platform and in this way reach other IT enthusiasts, both within and outside of Essent.

We are Techlab, the one and only innovation hub of Essent IT. We got the honor to have our very own rubric in this content platform and will therefore share updates, interviews, podcasts, videos and who knows what more via this channel. We look forward to giving you an insight in our way of working, our projects and our days at the Techlab. But before we start sharing other content, we would like to briefly introduce ourselves in this article.

What is Techlab?

Techlab is a team of (currently) four DevOps engineers from across ARTs and one management trainee working together on innovative projects. Every team member works for a different team on “regular” days, but on Fridays we come together to work as the Techlab. The goal of the Techlab is to experiment with new technologies to improve our (current) business model and processes and to increase personal development opportunities.

Meet the team!

So, who is currently part of the Techlab team? From left to right on the picture, we are Eva, Panos, Niels, Hannah and Ekta. So, let’s introduce ourselves!

The members of Techlab Hannah is the Techlab Lead and has been part of Techlab the longest. She works as a front-end DevOps engineer in the I Use FE team in the Believers ART. Within Techlab, she works on projects just like the other engineers, but also leads the Techlab by organizing the Techlab days, networking with colleagues in- and outside of Essent and making sure we stay true to our mission. Panos and Ekta are engineers from the same DevOps team as Hannah, and Niels is an engineer from the Siterocks team in the Changers ART. The three of them work on both individual and group projects for Techlab and use their creative minds to come up with and execute great POCs of new technologies. Eva is the management trainee of Essent IT and works on several projects throughout her traineeship. One of these projects is to support and promote the Techlab as a true ambassador should.

What do we do?

So, now that you’ve got to know our goal and team members, I can imagine you are curious what we exactly do as a Techlab. Our way-of-working is quite simple: Each Friday is Techlab day. Currently, we spend half of the Techlab days at the office and half of them online. Working together in the Techlab We always start the day with a stand-up. When we are in the office we meet in the Techlab room, when we are at home we meet via our Techlab Slack channel. During the stand-up, we use our Trello board to check out the different projects we are currently working on. Everyone discusses what they plan to do today, and if someone is done with a project, we decide together what a next topic is we should start working on. We work on projects both individually, in couples and as a team. Also, we update each other on Techlab-related meetings we might have had during the week. Sometimes we plan a brainstorm session to discuss different technologies and project ideas before we decide what to work on. After the stand-up, everyone starts working on their tasks. When we have an office day, we always go have lunch together in the city. The Essent Office is really close to the city centre of Den Bosch, and we are still trying out which diner serves the best tosti’s in town. After lunch we continue working on our projects and have meetings in case we need each other’s help to move along. We end the day with a day closing during which everyone shares what they did throughout the day, and we update the Trello board accordingly. On Office days, we often follow up the day closing with drinks at café Buurt, which is only a few steps away from the office. A great way to start the weekend!

Now that you know what our day looks like, you might be more interested in the way we select and work on projects. Our main focus is trying out new and innovative technologies. There are two ways ideas for new projects come to us:

  1. We spot a new technology which we find interesting and try to find ways in which this technology can be useful for Essent.
  2. A business case comes to our attention, and we try to find new technologies which could be useful in this specific use case.

When a technology is selected based on one of the above ways, we research the technology and set up a Proof-of-Concept (POC) or Proof-of-Technology (POT). This can lead to several outcomes: the POC can be successful, in which case we give advice to the business on how to further implement the technology. Or the POC failed, and we cannot make the technology work. Another option is the POC was successful, but we do not see added value here. In this case we advise the business to find a different solution. What is important to know is that the scope of Techlab ends after the advice: we do not fully implement solutions or execute maintenance after implementation. This is the responsibility of the business unit which will use the technology. Of course, we are always happy to help if needed.

Where to find us

We hope you now have a better idea of what Techlab is, who we are and what we do. If you became curious about Techlab, please keep checking our channel on this platform. We plan to share detailed insights into our projects and fun updates on the team. If you want to contact us you can always reply to our article or send an e-mail to techlab@essent.nl. Thank you for reading our intro and don’t forget to check out the other articles on the platform, enjoy the read!

Eva Jonkmans

Techlab Ambassador

Eva is the ambassador of Techlab, the innovation hub of Essent IT. As part of her role in the team, she writes blogs about Techlab's way of working, the innovative projects they work on and the days she and her colleagues spend in Techlab.

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