CTO interview: Ben Goldin, leading 300 people at Mambu
Ben’s passion about computer science led him to become CTO at Mambu, the leading SaaS cloud banking platform. He shares insights into maintaining the innovation spirit in a big team like his (300 people!), and some advice for younger developers starting their career.
Can you give an overview of your career? How does one become CTO of a huge company like Mambu?
I don’t know how it works for others, but I never had this objective of becoming CTO of a huge company. It’s always been about me impacting the industry, one step at a time. If you do it well, your team does well, the company does well, then you become big. My advice would be not to start with the objective of becoming big. Put your efforts in what you’re passionate about and the company will grow. It’s not only your own individual effort, but the whole team. Just see how you can contribute.
I started my career very early, when I was 16 years old. I was very passionate about computers, in particular programming. My entire career I stayed close to financial services and banking. I remember myself at the same age using one of the first internet banks back in Lithuania where I’m coming from, and I thought I’d like to change how this looks like, how it works. At the time we didn’t say ‘digital products’. That’s what I was doing for quite some time in different companies. That was my North Star since the very beginning.
Can you explain what is Mambu for those who haven’t heard of it?
At Mambu we are in a mission to change how users interact with banks. It’s the leading banking platform that provides the foundation for any digital bank. We provide what is traditionally called the core banking platform; anything related to managing bank accounts including current, loans, deposits, savings. It’s everything a digital bank would need to start their operations. We do it in such a way that we allow our customers to build on top of Mambu.
The banking license is with our client, we only offer our technology. If today you were launching a bank, thanks to Mambu you’d only build the frontend.
We are leading the pack at this moment as a SaaS provider. We have customers across 60 countries, with 400 installations as of today.
Is there a secret to managing a big team like you do, and how do you maintain the innovation spirit?
We are following a few principles that we believe are very important for big teams and scaling. It starts with high autonomy and high alignment. Lots of companies are talking about this: alignment means that we all know what we are doing and why we are doing it. Even if the roadmap is not fully stable, we know why we are doing things. This is important. The second part is to motivate people around the direction that we are taking.
On a more practical side, having strong leaders in every part of the organisation is important. You need teams that support other teams. We have onboarding processes and bootcamps for any team to hire efficiently, with a proper career framework where people can contribute as individual contributors throughout their entire career and continuously learn and progress.
In terms of innovation, always remember that there is no end to the game. The company is in constant change and evolution. Everyone is always super busy. If you wait for better times for innovation, it will never come. Therefore, it needs to be embedded in the day to day of the organisation.
How do you incentivise that innovation?
Some teams would have innovation days on a quarterly basis, building something completely outside their day-to-day job. We’re not going wild; most of these techniques and technologies are applicable to our business. Once a year, we have a bigger event where the entire engineering team does that, with certain competitions. It’s like an internal hackathon.
As of today, we have roughly 300 people in the tech team.
What advice would you give to younger techies who start in the industry?
Recently, I had one mentee who asked the same question and my answer to him was: if you want to be a successful Software Engineer or become a leader, it is very important to stay curious about the problem you are trying to solve. Don’t just limit yourself to technology, it’s a means to an end, not the end itself. The tech is only valuable if it helps solve real world problems.
As a matter of fact, if you find a way to solve problems without introducing tech, it’s even better!
How can we encourage more people to learn programming? It seems to scare a lot of people.
To attract people, I would say to start with a bit more fun earlier on in school, making it playful. I think we need to have more and more off-class activities in schools, not only universities.
We need to detach the academic programming for having fun with it step by step. I think what scares people is the scientific part of the programming. They think you need to be very good at mathematics or have a strong scientific background. It’s something that needs to happen gradually.
If you want to connect with Ben, click here.
To learn more about Mambu, visit their website: mambu.com
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