Q&A with László, Technical Lead

EngineeringBudapest

The customer focus here is my biggest career learning. I believe it’s the key to our success. It’s all about building an MVP, testing, getting feedback and iterating. Here I’ve learnt the importance of building what customers really need, instead of what I think they need. When I leave TransferWise someday, I want to work for a company that’s as customer-driven as we’re here.

Why did you leave your old company?

Before TransferWise, I was a co-founder of a startup. We were building a platform to connect food vendors and chefs, as we realised the difficulty chefs had finding good, high-quality vendors. We ran the company for two years but ended up not continuing. What I loved the most about the startup was the customer delight we could bring. So when looking for a job, I wanted to work for a company that helps people. 

When I came across TransferWise, I could really identify with the mission. I wanted to work with people who want to have a positive impact on the world through their work. I liked the fast growth of the business and the opportunity to learn from my colleagues.

In a nutshell, what do you do at TransferWise?

I’m in the Problem Flow team. We focus on improving the flow of payments that need customer contact or intervention. We realised that the manual work involved in transfers is a significant part of our product cost, so automating things will help us get closer to our mission. If we can solve customers’ problems without contacting them, we can provide a better, faster and more convenient experience. In practice, this means identifying customer problems that cause transfers to get stuck and automating where we can. Our mission is to make the customer experience as smooth as possible.

Have you done other roles at TransferWise?

I was in our Speed team for a year and a half. We aimed to provide accurate estimates for customers about the speed of their transfer. I heard of plans to start a new team focusing on the customer problem flow. We knew we had inefficient flows that needed fixing. I was passionate about fixing problems with our transfers, so I nominated myself. After some discussions, I started building a team for this. It’s been like starting a startup within a startup. We’re now 5 engineers and a Product Manager. Together we’re making our product more efficient and customer-friendly.

What’s the biggest challenge working here?

Keeping up with the pace we’re moving at. With more and more engineers, the systems are getting more complex. When designing a new feature, you need to make sure it fits into the bigger picture of things. Although it takes effort and time, it’s crucial to keep up-to-date with what everyone’s doing to ensure you’re prioritising your work right. I find it helpful to visit other teams’ planning sessions. Plus communicate with other teams and sit down with our Customer Support team to understand what the biggest pain-points in our product are.

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

The most impactful and interesting project I’ve worked on was building our self-service platform. It’s a user interface that allows our product to automatically request additional information from a customer to move forward with a process. For example, when a customer enters a typo in their account details and the payment bounces back. Or when we receive money from a customer but need to ask for proof of funds — requesting additional info used to be a really manual process for our Operational Teams. In fact, it was one of the biggest reasons customers contacted us. Launching self-service had a huge impact on our customer experience and made cost savings for the business.

The platform was a cross-team effort. My role was both coding, but also managing the process with other teams, as my team owned the project. It was a big undertaking, so we had to go live currency-by-currency. Now all our currencies are integrated with the service. It’s been great to see it go live.

Most interesting place you’ve used your TransferWise card?

I’m a wine lover, and it had always been on my bucket list to visit the famous Napa Valley in California. So I’d definitely say paying for my wine tasting with my card there would be the most memorable one.

What does working with freedom and autonomy mean to you?

We make our own decisions and take responsibility for them. Nobody’s telling you what you should do or what tools to use. It’s the freedom to do what you want. This motivates you to deliver a better quality product as you own your code. If something goes wrong, you’ll be the one to fix it. 

The challenge with autonomy is that if you don’t communicate appropriately, teams might focus on building similar things. So that’s why communication is key to ensuring we work efficiently.

Tell us about something extraordinary you’ve done?

I’ve done a PhD in Computer Science, focusing on Software Modeling. I’m passionate about automating software and wanted to invent new ways of building software quickly and efficiently. Using software models is interesting as it helps you to scale your code and ideas. I’m looking forward to applying the learnings in my day-to-day work.

What’s your side hustle?

I used to design and build drones to understand how they work. I’ve built 5 and they all fly! 

Now I’m focusing on small electronic projects. I’m fascinated by cryptocurrencies, so I’m building an LED ticker wall showing their rates, similar to the stock exchange tickers in Wall Street. 

What’s your favourite slack channel?

#linking which is a channel between operational currency teams and my team. The Operations team report their difficulties and questions and we try to react as quickly as we can.