Q&A with Smrithi, Software Engineer at TransferWise

EngineeringSingapore

I’m a Full Stack Developer, focused on improving our product for South-East Asian countries. One of our main focuses is providing a better user experience for our customers to reduce the time spent on Operations and Customer Support. My other full-time job is being a mother.

Why did you join TransferWise?

I had a 15-month-old baby at home, so flexible working hours and the ability to work from home were key selling points. I was already a TransferWise customer and really liked how much money it saved me while being really transparent. Everyone I spoke to during the interview process seemed very open and smart, and the culture seemed like somewhere I could thrive.

Why did you leave your old company?

I’d just had my daughter and wanted a longer maternity leave, so I resigned when she was 8 months old and interviewed with TransferWise when she was 15 months. Coming back to work-life felt intimidating after a break, but I was really happy everyone at TransferWise was so welcoming.

In a nutshell, what do you do at TransferWise?

I’m a Full Stack Developer, focused on improving our product for south-east Asian countries. My weeks are about 50% meetings and discussions and 50% actual coding time. My work focuses on opening and improving our currency routes. It’s interesting as every single currency has its own challenges. I help with running operations for our currencies, opening new pipes and routes, integrating TransferWise with partners.

What’s the biggest challenge working here?

I know a lot of people would mention either autonomy or working remotely. For me, they’re not a challenge as long as everyone’s willing to do that extra mile. I used to work remotely, and I think the most important thing is to be aware of the time zone differences and plan accordingly. I know when people in Europe or the Americas will be reviewing my code and coming to work, so I prioritise to ship code accordingly.

For me, the biggest challenge as a working mom is the balancing act. If I feel I’ve done exceptionally well at work, I usually feel I’ve neglected my daughter. Or if my daughter is ill for a week and I’m caring for her, I get worried about the product being late. The culture here helps me make the most of the situation. I can work from home and be close to my daughter. But I believe every mom would say the same, it’s always a balancing act, and it’s difficult to not be hard on yourself.

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

My first project was to help our Asia currencies team. I was working on the receive money feature for Indian Rupee (INR), which is very different from our other currencies. I worked with lots of teams in our other offices, and the project really pushed my boundaries, which I love.

What’s your team’s fun tradition?

Every quarter we get together as an Engineering team in Singapore to do an activity. So far we’ve done paintball, a VR experience and an obstacle course just to mention a few. We also have smaller traditions like Friday evening board games.

What does working with freedom and autonomy mean to you?

It means you have full ownership of your work. This empowers you but also keeps you accountable for delivering your projects. It can be challenging at times. When you’re so focused on the things you own and want to improve, you might end up losing the bigger picture. So it’s crucial to keep up-to-date and informed with other teams and what everyone else is working on.

Tell us about a time you disagreed with your lead and why

Sometimes as engineers, we clash with product managers because we have different perceptions of project timelines. It can be challenging to estimate how long things will take to get done as every currency is different. For instance, something that worked for GBP might take much longer for an Asian currency, and we can’t use our previous learnings as an appropriate indication for how long. So sometimes we need to challenge our Product Managers from a technical perspective. However, we always talk things through to build realistic timelines we’re all happy with.

What’s your side hustle?

Rather than a side hustle, I’d say my other full-time job is being a mother. My day-to-day is very different from most of my team. My day starts early getting my child ready for daycare, but I’m happy to have help from my nanny. It took time to make peace with the fact that I can’t do everything on my own and need help. Also, with the fact that I can’t do 12 hour work days when we’re launching a project.

What I’ve learned is that it’s important to be aware of my restrictions and be vocal about them. It’s easy to overthink “what does everyone think about me leaving work so early?”. The reality is, it’s just inside your head, and everyone has their own lives and priorities.

Tell us about a time you went out of your way to help a customer?

When we launched in Malaysia (MYR), my team was really pushed to launch it as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). We had so many customers who had requested the currency and needed it. So even though the product wasn’t absolutely perfect, we thought it was essential to enable our customers to use the product. So we released the product into the market and after this, worked hard on improving and perfecting things.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done at TransferWise?

Helping our people team to organise a team lunch for Diwali. They wanted to order vegetarian Indian food. I’ve never really organised anything like this, a party for ten easily stresses me out, let alone organising food for 150 people at work! Somehow I managed to pull off a vegetarian Indian buffet. It was actually a fun experience talking with caterers to figure things out. It was very out of my comfort zone and totally different from the things I usually do at work.

What’s your favourite Slack channel?

#devnull where engineers share geeky jokes and all kinds of fun stuff. It’s a nice break from work!