Q&A with Ane, Product Manager at TransferWise

ProductLondon

I believe autonomy is the best way to move fast and remain customer-focused. It’s also one of the biggest challenges. It means you can’t tell other people what they should do. Instead, you have to persuade them to do it. So I need to be crystal clear on the impact of things I’m proposing and sell it to the rest of the team. It involves a lot of relationship-building to make sure my team trusts me when I have to make a call.

Why did you join TransferWise?

I knew about TransferWise because I was a happy customer. I was familiar with the struggles of moving money internationally. When I left Brazil, TransferWise hadn’t launched there yet, and it was painful moving the money I needed to help me relocate and settle in the UK. So when I moved to London and I started using TransferWise to send money back to Brazil, I was like ‘wow’.

But I hadn’t considered TransferWise as an employer until I went to a product conference in London and saw our VP of Growth, Nilan, talking about mission-driven startups and the impact they have. The discussion was around how being mission-driven enables employees to work autonomously, and it was this that made me want to work for TransferWise one day. At the time, I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter so it was 10 months until I decided to apply.

Why did you leave your old company?

My previous company was also very mission-driven. My job was to build the charity’s online fundraising capability.

A lot of people ask me how I ended up going from a charity to a FinTech, as they seem so different. But actually, the motivation is quite similar. The mission is very clear, and everyone is moving towards achieving it with clear metrics and goals.

In the end, I’d been in the company for 3 years, so it felt like the end of a natural cycle. When I went on maternity leave, I started looking for a new challenge somewhere that also had a strong mission and a more mature product culture.

In a nutshell, what do you do at TransferWise?

As a Product Manager, I help my team to find and maintain direction. I do that by analysing data, talking with our customers, evaluating our operational processes with and understanding the underlying technology. I have to bring all these things together to define the product.

Product Manager roles can vary across different companies. But I think one of the main qualities of a great PM is the ability to learn about a new domain and understand an entirely new set of users. If you can’t do it, you can’t do product management.

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

What excites me is being able to see the direct impact of my job on our customers. Last year, we decided that increasing the speed of transfers from Brazil was one of our main priorities.

My role was to identify which changes would drive the biggest impact and make sure we were tackling the right problem. Speed is interesting, people don’t always need their money fast, but in general, the faster you make their money arrive, the more peace of mind you give a customer. When money is in-between places, it can feel unsettling.

So we had to figure out how to leverage speed in this specific market. First, we had to look at all the possible payment methods and systems we could connect to. After this, understand what we needed to build and how to get it to our customers. I was juggling a lot of things at the same time: understanding the operational perspective, unblocking engineers so they could work effectively, dealing with partners, communicating the changes to our customers and analysing the impact we had to see what could be improved. There were lots of bumps in the road, but by the end of the quarter, we were able to make all transfers on average 3 times faster. Seeing this kind of measurable impact really drives me.

What’s your fun team tradition?

We do lots of themed events. Our Latin America team is very diverse, and we always organise activities that feature our local traditions. We’ve done everything from Indian feasts to Brazilian feijoada, to Italian wine tasting and cooking tiramisu for the whole London office. Doing things involving everyone’s different cultures allows you to bond with your coworkers on another level.

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

We disagree a lot here and being able to challenge not only my lead but also other teams is crucial to how we operate. When I first joined, I attended our team’s quarterly planning session. I had a bunch of ideas for ways we could improve the sessions and make them more effective. Two months in it felt daunting to ask “Can I try something completely different here?”. Nobody asked me to do it, but I saw things could be better, so I decided to take the matter into my own hands.

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

My parents have always been entrepreneurs. So I’ve ended up involved in lots of their businesses from a relatively young age. I’ve done everything from working in a flower shop to a restaurant to running a football pitch facility. My family now runs a cake business, that has grown very quickly actually, so every now and then I get involved in trying to solve their scaling pains.

What’s your side hustle?

Parenting is definitely my full-time side hustle. I’ve learned that the most important thing is not to be too hard on yourself. You need to make peace with the fact that you’re not going to be perfect, and that’s ok. I feel parenting has helped me improve as a Product Manager as there are lots of similarities between product management and parenting, you’ll find plenty of uncertainty and ambiguity in both. When you’re not sure what you should do, you have to try something out and see how it goes – parenting is all about that, and that’s what we preach in Product too. Raising a child has helped me to accept that I can’t fully control the outcome, but that it’s all going to be fine in the end.

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

I’ve recently stepped up to lead the Product Managers in our team. Although it’s just 3 people I lead directly, I have a huge influence over the whole Latin American Expansion team as we’re almost 150 people now. For me, this has been a big leap. I was scared at first, but I wanted to push myself to see how it goes. So far, it’s been great, and everyone’s been very supportive. It’s a big responsibility and involves lots of relationship building with lots of teams to understand the direction we’re taking when we decide what to build.

Any tips you’d like to share with other working moms?

Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect perfection. Accept that you’ll have to give up on some things to create space for the new. Leverage all the new skills that come with parenthood. If there is one life experience that has taught me about lean and fast learning cycles, it was having a kid.

Finally, build a network of support around you. There’s no need to prove to yourself or anyone else that you can handle it all, that’s a myth. Ask for help from your relatives, friends, neighbours, professional childcare, or whatever works best for you.