Kickstarting my career as a Product Engineer at TransferWise

Hi! I’m Lauri, a Product Engineer at TransferWise. After finishing my studies in Informatics at the University of Tartu, I joined TransferWise in our Tallinn office and a few months ago I relocated to join our London team. Starting as a participant in the TransferWise Hackathon, leading into an internship and working my way up to a TransferWise Product Engineer, I’ll share what it’s like to work at TransferWise and learnings from my journey so far.

It all started with some hacking...

During my 4th year of university I decided I wanted to learn web development so found an online course on freeCodeCamp (FCC) and attended some Hackathons.I was inspired by this blog post by FCC’s founder Quincy Larson, discussing the power of coding skills on boosting career prospects. When I started learning HTML, JavaScript and CSS I realised I actually liked coding, so I became an FCC community ambassador to actively help out newbies to understand bits of code.

One of my last hacks was the annual TransferWise Hackathon, where our team made an app where people could scan and pay for the items on their phone while shopping, without ever waiting in line to pay, and came third! This experience got me interested of working at TransferWise, so when I saw the summer bootcamp programme, I instantly applied, got a place and so my journey began.

Life in the shoes of a TransferWise engineer

I’ve been at TransferWise 18 months. I’m in a sub-group of our Conversion team called HAT (High Amount Transfers), where we focus on customers who send large sums of money, for example for buying a property abroad. Our team works on the transfer flow which is the 5-step process that most customers go through when sending money abroad.

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A typical day in my life at work would be:

  • 6.30 am: Go to the gym.
  • 8.30 am: Breakfast in the office, after this I catch-up with the work if needed and have an intensive hour of programming, while my brain is fresh!
  • 10.00 am: We have a stand-up with the team to share what we’re working on and what we plan to get done for the day to make sure we’re aligned.
  • 10.30 am: The morning usually continues with diving into my projects. At the time of writing this I’m adding an education modal for users sending big amounts to give them better experience with us.
  • 12.00 pm: Lunch time! We usually grab food together with the team, there’s lots of nice places around our Shoreditch office to explore. My favorite place is Old Spitalfields Market, you get to stretch your legs walking there.
  • 1.00 pm: During afternoons I usually keep programming until evening. Ideally we have a game of ping pong while waiting on code reviews (or just to have some fun!).
  • 5.00 pm: On Fridays we have drinks in the office it’s great to chat and play board games together.

Solving customer problems is a cross-team effort

One of my recent projects was creating a modal which contains tips about large transfers, for example for customers to have documents ready for verification, that their bank might have limits, the rate is guaranteed for certain time period and so on. This project took me about 3-4 weeks and we launched just before Christmas.

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Here’s an overview of the workflow:

  • Identifying a customer need: We saw that customers are telling us that we should warn them upfront about for example documents they’ll need to submit and bank limits they should know of.
  • Think of solution: As a team we brainstormed what we could do to avoid customers facing this problem in the future. We iterated over some ideas and when we all agreed that we have a good solution, our designer created the design.
  • Testing and implementation: Before implementing the design in the code, the designer ran multiple user testings to see if this is logical to people. When the design was ready it was my turn to start implementing it in the code.

Whenever we launch something, we track it to monitor if customers are using it and finding it helpful. Now, after several weeks, we’re analysing the impact of this project and tweaking the logic and copy to maximise its usefulness. If the customers don’t find it useful we’ll remove it and see if we can tackle the problem in a different way. That’s why it’s good to ship in small bits (also known as MVPs - Minimum Viable Products) so we find out about the pros and cons of the solution as soon as possible to iterate over it.

Although we rarely have strict deadlines, the biggest challenge for me in this project was to ship it before the holidays, to not lose 2.5 weeks worth of valuable data on the change. It’s always tricky trying to balance deadlines (and meeting them!), without compensating on the quality of the project!

A workplace for growth and development

TransferWise has many opportunities to learn and grow. I’m currently working to improve my technical skills and since TransferWise has lots of bright minded experienced engineers, it’s a very good environment to work in and to ask for help. If you’re feeling that there are no more interesting challenges left to tackle in your team, you can change teams to try something completely different, so I think there’s always something you can learn and improve at.

So far, I really like working here. It has its ups and downs, but I would say that there are definitely more ups than downs. The atmosphere is great. The people working here are like-minded and I can be open about anything around them (although sometimes it’s hard to restrict my dark sense of humour, but I’m working on it!). I also really love that you can manage the time yourself and nobody’s bossing you around.

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However, the work can sometimes be stressful. There are times when I feel like I barely know anything and take a long time with a simple change, but as everybody keeps repeating here: “it’s normal!”. Also autonomous teams can be challenging as all teams can choose their own priorities. Adapting into this way of working, for example learning communication and negotiation skills, has been a huge learning experience for me that will benefit me in my future career.

Interested in working with us? We’re hiring! Check out our paid summer Product Engineering Bootcamp internship and apply here!