Technology innovation is core to Enova’s success in our highly analytical business. This concept of continuous innovation empowers Enova’s ability to take advantage of advancements in technology. If you’ve read other blog posts here, you can see many examples of the continuous innovation that is part of our DNA. At Enova we accomplish this in many ways: through our values like “Best Answer Wins,” and through programs that allow engineers the opportunity to try new things. One of these programs is called the Fellowship.
Enova’s Fellowship program is an opportunity for Enova’s Technology and Analytics team members to take some time away from usual daily duties to explore new and innovative technologies and/or methodologies that have the potential to deliver value to the business now or in the future.
How it works
Two times a year we collect innovative ideas from anybody in our Technology or Analytics departments. These ideas are initially vetted by a team of Fellowship mentors who help guide the people, a.k.a. Fellows, and their fellowship ideas to the pitch. You can think of it like Shark Tank™ for Enova innovation. At the pitch event, the Fellows present their ideas and answer questions from the committee comprised of leaders from the organization. After the Fellowship ideas have been approved by the committee, the really awesome part begins. The Fellows get a month off of their day jobs to focus on building and proving their idea. They get four weeks to dedicate themselves to experiment and build the future they have envisioned.
The Fellowship program is an amazing perk that Enova’s Technology organization has had since 2016. It started out a bit smaller than it is today, being only in our Software Engineering department. We very quickly realized that there are many great ideas out of Software Engineering that we were missing. Since then, we’ve gone through a couple rounds of expansion, first to all of Technology, then adding Analytics. As we’ve expanded the program we’ve seen more and more diverse ideas being pitched and executed. We’ve had nearly 100 innovative ideas submitted over this time.
Okay. What have people actually done?
With so many intelligent engineers and analysts participating in the program the Fellowship ideas have been as varied as anybody can imagine. Some of the ideas have been ways to improve our development and testing strategies. Others are new ways to interact with our existing customers, while others are ways to attract new customers. Some of the most interesting Fellowship ideas relate to the use of our data. Because, you know, we are a strongly analytical technology company. They have ranged from automating data enrichment, expanding our usage of machine learning, to improving the ways we view and process our data. All of these start out as a simple idea that turns into a month long dedicated experiment to implement and test the idea at Enova.
Great! You try things, but what’s the result?
Some of the chosen Fellowships go through the process, get tested, and we find out they are quite applicable and stick around. With other completed fellowships the experiment might fail because the technology isn’t quite ready, or we haven’t found the right use for the idea. Regardless of the outcome of the experiment, the Fellowship program is meeting our goals. Those are to keep the team thinking about the future of Enova and engaging the entire team in the innovation that will bring us there. You can read about a couple of the results of previous Fellowships here and here.
I’ve been managing this program for the past year and it has been amazing to see how the Fellowship is received by the team. From the excitement on people’s faces as the pitch their ideas, to the conclusions of their experiments, the Fellowship gives its participants the ownership and autonomy to drive change in their own and Enova’s future.