Q&A with Smaranda, TransferWise Bootcamp Product Engineer

To give you a sneak peek into the TransferWise Summer Bootcamp, we chatted to one of our Bootcampers Smaranda who interned as a developer in our Latin America team this summer.

Bootcamp is a 3-month summer internship programme for product engineers ready to launch their career in tech. You'll join one of our teams as a developer and build real-world products that matter. You can apply to join one of our engineering hubs in Tallinn, London, Budapest, Singapore or Cherkasy.

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

A: I’m Smaranda, originally from Bucharest, Romania, but I moved to London for the summer from Cambridge, where I’m studying Computer Science. I’ve been coding competitively since I was 10 years old. I got into it as I’m quite competitive myself and I’ve always liked puzzles! So far I’ve been in over 100 regional, national and international competitions, represented Romania on our national team and won eight medals at the National Computer Science Olympiad.

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Q: How did you find out about the TransferWise Bootcamp?

A: I was looking for an engineering internship and came across the TransferWise Bootcamp on LinkedIn. I’d not heard of TransferWise before, but the job caught my interest because FinTech was something I was really interested in and I was looking for an internship where I could have an impact, even as an intern. I did some research about TransferWise and it seemed to have a really cool culture and good reviews on Glassdoor so I decided to apply.

Q: How was the application process?

A: The application process was quite simple. First, I submitted my application and CV, then I was sent a HackerRank coding challenge to complete. After that came my favorite part: the interview. It felt like more of a conversation about myself, my experience and coding skills than a test. My interviewers were really cool and friendly. We worked on the problems together and I got to showcase a lot of the tricks I knew. It was so much fun that I was excited to join the company by the end of it. I got a good sense of the culture after just being in the office for a bit and my experience has been exactly what I expected based on my interview, except on a bigger scale.

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Q: What was the internship itself like?

A: I work as a part of the LatAm Team, where we deal with everything that has to do with the expansion and operations of TransferWise in Latin America. I was part of problem-solving from beginning to end: from understanding what the issue is, to figuring out how to fix it and finally building the solution.

During my internship I’ve worked with lots of different projects. For instance, I got to work on web scraping documents from one of our partner banks, making payments to and from Brazil faster and cheaper. I was proud to see my work immediately make TransferWise better for our customers. It’s cool for also customers to see how quickly their feedback gets to us and that it directly drives everything we do.

Q: What do you like the most about working at TransferWise?

A: My favorite thing about working at TransferWise is that your title as an intern is not a limit on what you can do. From day one I felt like I was part of the company and free to take on as much responsibility as I wanted. Work is really autonomous here, you’re not just simply told what to do - you have to figure out what’s needed and then go for it. But you also need to be able to justify your work and thoroughly understand why you built what you built. Compared to a huge corporation, TransferWise really has that start-up feel: you learn so much faster, get loads of responsibility and get to make a big difference within the company.

I also love the culture here. Everyone’s passionate about the company’s mission and their excitement catches on quickly. You get the feeling that your work is making a positive difference in the world. We always think about how we can save money for our customers rather than how to maximise profits - it really makes work feel meaningful.

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Q: What are your key takeaways from this internship?

A: I think one of my biggest personal improvements has been getting used to some of the tools used in the company and industry. University Computer Science courses tend to focus on high level theory because technology is advancing so quickly that specific tools change all the time. So it was cool to see how TransferWise uses things like Springboot and Kafka events to move from a monolith application to distributed microservices.

What surprised me was to see how much team management is needed to figure out simply what we have to build. While often the focus is on technical engineering, it’s also important that everyone works together to understand what problems should be solved and how. It was interesting to see how much past decisions influence our product today and how important teamwork is for figuring out each step going forward.

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Q: What’s next for you?

A: After my internship I’m moving back to Cambridge to go into my second year of university. I’ll have one more summer to get experience before starting my career and would love to move somewhere new. I want to have an international career so Silicon Valley or maybe Berlin… I guess we’ll have to see!

I’ve always wanted to have my own business. TransferWise showed me what it can be to work in a place where everyone is passionate about the product and working on something they believe in. It was really inspiring and when I have my own company I’d like it to have the same feel to it.

Q: Any tips for people who might be thinking of applying?

A: Practice your coding skills to be well-prepared for the Coding Challenge. And be yourself,  the interviewers want to get to know who you are!

Once at TransferWise, don’t feel constricted by the intern title. Ask a lot of questions and get to know as many people as you can to learn as much as possible.

Want to make a positive difference in a fast-growing company? Keep an eye on our Bootcamp open dates  here.