Interview with Engineering Manager — Sarah Abrantes

Tell us more about yourself.

I’m from Brazil and have been living in Berlin for 4 years with my husband and daughter. I’ve been managing teams for about 5 years and now I’ve got this great opportunity at N26 as an Engineering Manager.

How did you end up becoming an Engineering Manager?

I started my career as a developer back in 2003. I had the privilege of experimenting with different roles in tech and spent most of my career in process and testing related areas. I’ve managed teams and the operations of a small startup before coming to Berlin, where I got to be Head of Quality of another company before reaching out to N26.

What brought you to N26?

N26 has a great product reputation, it’s the bank my friends in Berlin love to use and it’s always exciting to be part of the team that helps build such a product.

What’s your favorite part about your role?

For me, the most challenging and yet most rewarding thing about being a manager is dealing with people and doing my best to enable them to do their best.

What does an Engineering Manager do?

At N26, Engineering Managers are responsible for people management, overseeing process and taking care of deliveries, making sure everyone is unblocked and able to perform at their best.

N26 headcount has tripled in 2018. How does the Engineering Manager role impact this growth?

Of course the approach to manage a company of 100 or 300 employees is different. The Engineering Managers started to be part of the N26 structure in June this year and we were introduced not to be another layer between the engineers and the management, but to make sure all the needs from people and product were met.

You’ve been with us for 6 months now. How do you make sure that hyper growth won’t break the culture and alignment inside the organization?

I think open communication with absolutely anyone in the organization is key to keep the culture on track. By talking to people, you realize whether the values you have as a company are just part of a picture on the wall or if it’s something people really care about.

What are the challenges of being an Engineering Manager at a hyper growth organization?

Making sure everyone in your team feels supported, even though the teams grow very fast and go through constant changes; Keeping up with all the product changes going on; and being able to assess the culture and alignment, bringing clarity whenever needed.

How do you work together as a team?

All the Engineering Managers sync on a weekly basis to talk about subjects that impact our work and we are all pretty open with each other, seeking support and advice whenever needed. It’s still a small team, but hopefully as we grow, we’ll keep having a supportive and welcoming attitude towards each other.

Any advice for new Engineering Managers joining the team?

Take your time to know your team and the product. There are so many ways to help people around us and we have plenty of freedom to do so.

Do you have any tips for interested candidates?

Be inquisitive, be ingenious, be willing to share your knowledge and to be questioned in order to reach the best result. If all of these sound natural to you, please apply! We’re looking for you.

What was the most inspiring project you led at N26 so far?

N26 recently went public in the UK. The payments group was responsible for integrating FPS, the payment system that allows payment between different bank customers in the UK. It has been a great success, we went smoothly to production and now we’re happily seeing how well the system has been behaving with the number of transactions growing as more and more people join N26 in the UK. It’s been a terrific team to work with and I couldn’t be prouder to be part of that.

How has Berlin been so far for you?

It’s been great. I’ve been here for 4 years now and my daughter was born here.

What do you like most about Berlin?

I love that my kid gets to grow in a multicultural, diverse city with plenty structure to play and nice education.

Share with us a learning moment you’ve experienced recently.

Quite recently I had a talk about leadership style. People are different and therefore, there’s always a style that suits your personality better. On the other hand, the people you lead are also different and your style might not suit them. When trying to be a good leader/manager, it makes sense that you do so for every type of person and for every type of team. One of the cornerstones of success lies in understanding the differences and adapting to them so that your message reaches everyone. It doesn’t mean you’re changing your personality or even your style, it means you’re going the extra mile to deliver as much impact as you can.

Want to work with Sarah in Berlin?

If you’d like to join us on the journey of building the mobile bank the world loves to use, have a look at some of the Tech roles we’re looking for here.