Behind the scenes of working in a Regional team at Wise

Melvin Tiong
May 26 · 7 min read

Good day! I’m Melvin, an Engineer working at Wise and I’m writing this on behalf of the roughly 90 employees who call themselves ‘Regional Engineers’ here.

I joined Wise in late 2017, in the wake of us having just opened our Singapore office. What caught my interest with Wise was its product focus and open feedback culture. Here, you never just code what you’re told to, you always think about why you’re doing it, and you’re welcome to challenge the status quo and suggest new ways of doing things.

Whenever I interview potential future Engineering teammates (by the way, we’re hiring!), I frequently get asked what the day in the life of a Regional Engineer looks like. This is when I usually have to start explaining how our team’s responsibilities slightly differ from what you’d expect from a ‘typical’ Engineering role at Wise. So I figured I might as well put this down in writing to save everyone some trouble!

The role of Regional teams at Wise

At Wise, we work a little differently from many organizations. So to start off, it’s probably helpful to look at the structure of our Regional Expansions tribe at Wise:

The Regional Expansion tribe consists of Regional product groups, Regional core teams and Supporting functions
  • Regional product groups make our product work well for customers sending money from or to a particular region. These groups divide into Regional tribes, for example Asia Pacific tribe. The tribes are divided into Regional teams, such as the East Asia team.
Regional tribes are broken down into Regional teams that each focus on a specific geography

Much like traditional Product teams, we have Engineers but also Product Managers and Analysts embedded in our Regional Teams. I’m one of the five Engineers in the East Asia team. Essentially, we’re a group of generalist Engineers with a very geographically-focused mandate.

While our product teams are focused on a very specific part within our product, we work across the full lifecycle of our product for the given market. This means everything along their journey with Wise — from when they first discover us and start signing up, until when their recipient sees the money in their bank account.

Having Regional teams helps us to work seamlessly in every market

Every country and region is different in their own way and Wise needs to work seamlessly in all the countries we operate in. The goal of Regional teams is to allow as much of the world as possible to access and use Wise conveniently. Having Regional teams helps us adapt to the needs of our customers in different regions.

To start with, Wise needs to have bank accounts on the ground in each country we operate in, and we need to integrate with those bank accounts so that we 1) know whose deposits are coming in and 2) can pay out money to the recipients of transfers. Beyond bank accounts, there are also things like card payments, local payment wallet schemes and much more to think about, when thinking about our offering in each market.

But there’s also much more to creating a seamless experience to all our customers. So in a Regional team our job is essentially to:

  • Customize and adapt our product and services to customer needs into our market

Working on interesting projects that have a direct impact on the Wise mission

At Wise, everything we do is focused on getting to our mission: money without borders — instant, convenient, transparent and eventually free. In fact, we call speed, price, convenience and transparency our product pillars that we use to shape our goals and work.

Integrating with local payment systems is a core part of our strategy as it allows us to make money move fast, even instantly. One project our South East Asia team recently completed was integrating with the Direct FAST ecosystem in Singapore. It was a long project with quite a few interesting technical challenges to solve. Now, instead of relying on a bank partner on site, we’re an official member of Singapore’s central clearing system. Our customers there no longer have to make a transfer to a bank acting on behalf of Wise, they simply transfer the money straight to us.

This wasn’t my team’s project, but it’s one I’m personally excited about as a Wise customer myself. It means I can now send Singaporean Dollar transfers faster, easier, and cheaper, thanks to the work of my peers!

Some interesting projects that we’ve been working on in our team lately have been…

  • Rolling out the Wise multi-currency account to Japanese residents

It all sounds like a lot, but we’re not alone in this. We have our counterparts in core product teams focusing on specific domain areas. So for one project we might be working with the Security team, and for another with Payment Processing or the Spend and Cards team. While they’re experts in their domain and focus on a specific area deeply, we’re experts in the specific local region’s needs. So our responsibilities criss-cross, kind of like a waffle’s stripes, and our projects almost always involve collaboration with other Product teams.

Working cross-team to make the Wise magic happen

Recently my team worked on a feature to allow Wise customers to send Chinese Yuan (CNY) to Alipay wallets. It’s a nice example to show how we work across different teams within Wise, as well as collaborating with an external partner.

Our team first needed to support new recipients based on an Alipay ID, as opposed to recipients’ traditional bank account details, so we worked with the Account Details team to add a new recipient type.

We then needed to be able to automatically instruct Alipay to make payouts to Alipay recipients, so we worked with the Currencies Platform Team at Wise to write code that would generate these instructions. Next, Alipay also requires us to ask our customers the purpose of every transfer, so we worked with our FinCrime Team Engineers to make sure that happens. And at the end of the day we need to reconcile statements from Alipay to make sure that we’ve actually sent money to who we think we’ve paid out to.

So it’s a lot of moving parts that need to be carefully orchestrated to make this one feature possible for our customers. Without the coordination of Regional Engineers, it would’ve been hard for various core teams to get things running smoothly.

It’s all about ownership and accountability of your area

The fulfilment from working as a Regional Engineer ultimately comes from having full ownership of the entire product experience for a local market of customers, and solving the most impactful problems for them, whatever they may be.

This role isn’t without its own challenges, however. Since the entire customer experience falls under your ownership, you’ll be called on to investigate and solve problems in lots of different domains.

Practically, this means that one week you might be reading another team’s microservice code for the first time, starting a conversation with them about a change you want to add, writing the fix, publishing the pull request for it, and finally merging and releasing the change with them, before moving on to another team’s microservice next week. It can be a lot!

For this reason, it may not be a job for everyone. Due to the role’s touch-and-go nature, what you gain in breadth of experience, you can sometimes miss out on in technical depth. But it does mean you develop a very holistic, big-picture understanding of why Wise works well for our customers.

So, for product-minded people who enjoy solving other people’s biggest problems, wherever they may be, and also for those who enjoy spelunking through a giant machine and learning something new every day, this can be a very rewarding role. You definitely get a warm fuzzy feeling inside reading a customer’s feedback about how smoothly everything went for them, knowing that you had a hand in multiple points along their journey. Nothing beats that!

P.S. Interested to join us? We’re hiring. Check out our open Engineering roles.

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