What it’s really like to be an Engineer at TransferWise in Budapest

Maybe you heard about TransferWise when a friend mentioned fast-growing fintech startups. Or maybe you’ve used us to send or receive money abroad. Either way, you might be wondering what it’s like to work at TransferWise as an Engineer, or be thinking of making an application.

Firstly, let me give you some background about myself. I’m András and I’ve been working in the software industry since 2010. Before joining TransferWise, I spent seven years working in hierarchical, corporate scrum environments. When I arrived at TransferWise, things were a lot different! So here’s a little summary of my experience so far.

We hire great people and trust them.

From day one at TransferWise, I felt trust and openness. People listened to my opinion, and there was transparency within teams. Unlike traditional organisations, with a hierarchy and people making decisions from the top, we own both our own tech and business decisions.

Want to refactor? Skip stand ups? Drop scrum, Kanban and use just a piece of paper as your to-do list? You can decide as a team. No complicated approval processes. No time wasted in meetings you didn’t sign up for. We trust that you know what’s the best for our customers and the team.

And one more thing: our product managers report in at the stand ups, too. This is the opposite of violent transparency - it’s mutual respect.

We own our plans and deadlines.

Working on something you believe in, rather than just another deadline, makes a huge difference. Engineers who are handed deadlines have to de-prioritise code quality in favour of getting the job done on time. This is a hard fact of life. But at TransferWise, we plan as a team. We discuss the plan as peers, assemble the information and data (we have analysts in each team) and then act upon it. So it’s you, the customers, the data and your team. You can’t blame external factors if you don’t want to clear up the mess.

Offsite planning session in Budapest

Our tasks are fluid. And it helps us grow.

Another consequence of our autonomous structure is that my work is more diverse. Sometimes I do user testing. Sometimes I track down issues for customer support. Sometimes I crunch numbers in our event tracker to backup my ideas with data.

When you grow as a developer at TransferWise, it’s not just your coding skills that mature. You understand flows and their consequences. You start to see opportunities in product. You realise a decision might plant a landmine for the future and you know you need to defuse it now. It’s a total game changer compared to the rigid company structures I used to work in. And I love it.

We have weak ownership and high standards.

TransferWise believes in weak ownership. In other words, all our repositories are open internally to submit pull requests to. No team should be the bottleneck if there are others with the expertise to get the job done.

But this weak ownership only works if we pair it with some strong requirements:

  • Your repository’s Readme.md should contain all information from testing to deploying
  • Your code is easy to set up. No global packages required, no advanced SQL debugging certificate required
  • You’ve user tested your repository with developers on different teams. That means a developer from another team can fire up your project without asking you anything.

We have real customers with real issues.

I once worked for a unicorn start-up that was scrapped after meeting with potential customers. I can’t tell you how motivating it is to work on a product that has millions of users, and potential users waiting for us to complete our features and fix our issues.

We QA our own work.

For me, one of the biggest shocks when I joined was the lack of a manual QA team. Teams own the quality of their work, and provide automated tests. It’s a ramification of continuous integration and frequent releases. In short there’s a lot more to QA than manual testing.

We’re 120+ people and the team is growing...
We’re 120+ people and the team is growing...

And we have an amazing office in Budapest.

A Brazilian, Russian, Hungarian, German, American, Dominican and a Canadian walk into a room…

This isn’t the start of the joke - it’s an average day at TransferWise Budapest. The office started as an experiment in May 2016. Now we have 120+ people and we’re the fastest growing TransferWise office. We’re even moving into a new office near Dózsa György tér early next year, so we can make room for more of us!

We have an English-speaking, multicultural office with friendly people from around the globe. You’ll probably pick up some Portuguese and get great travel recommendations and everflowing snacks from everyone’s travels. We’ve even got team lunches every week and fresh fruit everyday. Can you beat that :)?

Sound like a good place to work? We’re hiring engineers in Budapest, click here to visit our careers site.

Want to know if you’re a good fit? We look for people who are:

  • Friendly and solution-minded
  • Care about software quality
  • Don’t care about job titles, power trips, and so on
  • Treat everyone with respect, regardless of their role
  • Curiosity for new tech, new solutions, and new approaches

Have more questions? See you below in the comments.

...and you can have some cool colleagues.