Q&A with Cassio, Technical Lead at TransferWise

EngineeringLondon

Here you have to be proactive and autonomous. You need to be able to deal with lots of ambiguity and move forward without someone holding your hand. That’s why it’s important to know how to prioritise your work and where to focus to have the biggest possible impact. It’s about taking something from start to finish and not getting lost along the way.

Why did you join TransferWise?

I’m originally from Brazil and after doing an internship at Facebook, I decided I wanted to try a smaller, startup type company where I’d be thrown in at the deep end with lots of opportunity for growth.

When I was researching companies to work for, the strong TransferWise mission really stood out. It’s important to me that my work is useful and has a positive impact on people’s lives.

It was during the interview process that I was convinced this was the place for me. My interviewers were so smart, I knew if I came here, I’d learn a lot.

In a nutshell, what do you do at TransferWise?

I’m a Technical Lead in our Receive Money Team, leading 5 engineers. We’re working to enable people within businesses to receive money into their TransferWise Borderless account wherever they are in the world. As a lead, my job is to help my team grow and deliver in their projects. I keep us focused and make sure we’re bringing the best technical expertise to our product.

Have you done any other roles at TransferWise?

It’s been quite a journey over the past 3 years working within 3 different teams! I was previously a software engineer and started out in Performance Marketing, where we built tools to help the team be more efficient. I helped them get better at tracking users and also supported SEO, amongst other things. I then moved into our Borderless team and helped launch the product in 2017 and the plastic debit card the year after.

I then left TransferWise to start my own business. But after some time working on this, I decided to come back. I rejoined our Borderless team where I’m now a Technical Lead in the Receive team. When changing teams, it’s essential to be open and honest. You need to trust people and they need to trust you. And this takes time.

You left TransferWise to start your own business – tell us more!

I’m always studying what startups are doing, and I noticed that while FinTechs had started to boom in Brazil, they were all building solutions for consumers rather than businesses. I saw a gap in the market and thought ok, what if I create a local account for businesses in Brazil?

I started interviewing business founders remotely from London, cold-calling and emailing them to understand their problems and pain-points. I realised businesses were all facing similar issues. So I came up with a digital account for small to medium-sized companies. It was quite a journey, planning how marketing, distribution, monetisation, investment and of course, building the product would work. I received investment, but not enough to hire a full team. I built the prototype on my own, but my lack of resources eventually caused me to burn out. It was quite a journey. I learnt so much.

Did TransferWise play a role in your decision to start your own business?

The flexibility TransferWise gave me when setting up my own business was both empowering and humbling. Before I resigned to focus solely on my business, I worked remotely from Brazil, to do market research after work and during the weekends. The fact that TransferWise allowed me to move across the world so I could do this was incredibly helpful.

A lot of people here have their own side hustles and businesses they work on during their free time. It’s a really inspiring environment in that sense. As an aspiring entrepreneur, you’re not alone, and you don’t need to hide your ambitions. Instead, you can share your passion and ideas with others and use them as a sounding board!

Why did you come back to TransferWise?

After stopping my business, I went through a phase of soul searching. I realised I still had a lot to learn. I had a job offer to move to Paris and was learning to speak French. But then I got a call from my previous manager at TransferWise. I weighed up my options and thought of the growth opportunities. I love the culture, so I couldn’t say no.

The autonomy at TransferWise is so empowering. In a way, your only limit is yourself, and your growth opportunities are in your own hands. So I knew I wouldn’t be limited coming back here.

What’s the biggest challenge working here?

Focus. There are so many opportunities and so many things to work on it’s easy to get distracted. You need to be laser-focused on your delivery goals to have the most impact. It’s about taking something from start to finish and not getting lost along the way.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

Borderless. The technical challenge of creating it and the impact it had. It was interesting to both build something new but also figure out how to integrate the existing platform TransferWise had. It was insane, knowing the product would impact millions of customers. We had a great group of people on the project, it was like building a startup within a startup. It was a crazy time, and I’m glad to have been part of the experience.

What does working with freedom and autonomy mean to you?

It means that I’m empowered to make decisions. That if I really believe in something, I can do it. Nobody tells me what to do, and I’m allowed to disagree. And it’s happened lots of times.

Autonomy is probably the reason why I still work here. It’s what I loved about being an entrepreneur and what I respect in working at TransferWise, you don’t get this in many places. It’s about being able to have a vision and feeling empowered to make it happen if it helps us get closer to our mission and helps our customers.

What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever had?

When I was in high school, I wanted to make money. I lived in this neighbourhood in Brazil and printed out flyers about mowing lawns and washing cars. One house hired me for gardening work. I was digging holes and planting trees in 35-degree heat every day. It was the most painful job of my life!

What’s your side hustle?

I’m writing a book on product engineering – what it is, the skills involved, how it can help companies, and how to structure a product team. Over the past few years, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t when building products. It’s given me the motivation to write about it. It involves lots of late nights and weekends in the office. I’m now half-way through. The next part will be interviewing other companies that work in this way to get new views.