Engineering career journeys at Wise

Isabella Lampela
May 26 · 12 min read

Wise has grown from 2 people to 2,400 (and counting!) in just 10 years, and as we grow, we want our people to feel that they can grow with us.

Engineers have lots of freedom and autonomy, which is different from more traditional work environments where there might be clearly defined tasks and projects. The same goes for development — we encourage and support our people to proactively drive their development and shape their career paths. Impact and growth are down to your impact on our customers and mission. Read on to hear from some engineers about their career journeys at Wise.

Meet Ioanna, Senior Engineer in the Business Growth team

Wise had been on my radar for a long time. As an expat living abroad, I’d been a customer for a few years. I loved how passionate everyone was during the interview process. It was unique to see how enthusiastic everyone was about the mission and their job. And that’s continued throughout my time at Wise, it’s been empowering to meet so many like-minded people.

I first joined our Balances team, which focuses on a core part of our business — the multi-currency account where our customers can hold money in various currencies. Working in this team I gained a really in-depth understanding of our product and customers.

One of my biggest projects was leading the implementation of SCA (Strong Customer Authentication) which is a requirement within the EEA region to maintain high-security standards that protect cardholders and their accounts. It was a tough project with lots of intense teamwork with a lot of different areas. I was working with teams like security, legal, different product teams. A lot of my work was implementing the main logic and then different teams would take my work and provide specifics for their side of the story.

The project was a big team effort from everyone and I was over the moon when we got it delivered on time! The process taught me a lot about cross-team work and project management, which aren’t always the case for software engineering roles in traditional companies.

One of the great things about Wise is the ability to shape your own path. I was interested in moving from our Customer Journey tribe to the Business tribe after chatting with another Wiser about the opportunities and challenges in growing the business side of Wise. The team lead, Helin, was really supportive and together we found a role from the team that was a fit with my skills and interests. Now I’m part of the Business Growth team. Our mission is to deliver a great end-to-end adoption journey — from the moment business customers start considering Wise, until they have completely adopted the product.

Now one of my focuses is on improving the onboarding experience for customers. This involves talking to our customers and prioritising projects based on customer needs. What I like the most about the team is that we touch on so many areas of the Wise product, which brings along lots of interesting challenges.

  • Working as an engineer at Wise is full of technical challenges and working on systems that need to scale. I feel like I’m growing technically every day.
  • We’re at the cutting edge of tech, working with new frameworks and technologies and it’s interesting to experience them as they develop.
  • Everyone’s always so supportive and you can do a side-by-side or pair programming sessions any time you get stuck with something.
  • At Wise I’m being recognised for the work I’m doing. I feel appreciated and get a lot of feedback on how I can grow and progress. My lead is always supportive and thinking about my development and is always asking me ‘where do you see yourself going?’ and ‘what do you want to do next?’. It means a lot.
  • Wise feels like a sweet spot for me — you can have a big impact on the product, there’s the exciting startup feel of fast growth and exciting challenges, but the company is also financially stable.

I’m off for my maternity leave soon. After that, I’m looking forward to finding out how things have progressed and taking on a new interesting challenge that will help us progress further!

Meet Arsen, Tech Lead in the High Amount Transfers (HAT) team

I first joined Wise as an intern in our Cherkasy, Ukraine office. When I joined, we were going through a really interesting time — Wise was one web app back then and we’d just started migrating to microservices architecture. Three months in I was already on a project helping the team build a new microservice from scratch. From the start, I was included in my team’s projects and given a lot of trust and this helped me learn a lot fast.

After my internship I was offered a full-time role on a team mostly based in Tallinn so it made sense to make the jump and relocate there. It was an awesome time, the Wise team there became like family to me: we’d play basketball and hang out together after work.

Our team was growing really fast and this gave me an opportunity to move to London. As I was developing I was always on the lookout for opportunities to help my lead by taking things off his plate. I was always looking for opportunities to have a bigger impact. I also got involved in things like interviewing, supporting the product side and helping to onboard and coach new team members too.

When you become a senior engineer at Wise, you get to pick either the lead track or the individual contributor track. When I was promoted to senior level, I was doing a side project with our High Amount Transfer (HAT) team. They had a lead position open and were missing someone with knowledge of the wider business. So I saw a gap for me to jump in and contribute.

The HAT team is focused on how best to serve our customers who transfer large amounts of money. In comparison to my previous teams it entails more product challenges, a lot of cross-team work, proposal writing and getting buy-in for what we’re building. But the best part for me is leading people, it’s so rewarding to see others grow.

  • Always staying curious: Asking questions, learning from others and replicating things into my own work. Also asking for feedback for my work has helped me grow.
  • Studying our product and how we work together: This might be obvious but with 80+ autonomous teams working on different projects at Wise, it means constantly learning and keeping up-to-date with new projects and changes.
  • Building up my network: I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know people from different teams and expertise areas. This has helped me to find opportunities where I can best help the company, but it’s also helpful for knowing who to ask questions or help when something comes up.
  • Putting myself into the customers shoes: Getting into the mindset of the customer is difficult, but crucial for understanding their behaviour and feelings towards our product. We do a lot of user research, interviews and look at NPS scores and comments to understand what customers want.

I’m going to hit my four year anniversary soon so it’s time to start planning my sabbatical!

Meet Andrei, Team Lead in the Engineering Experience Team

I was looking for opportunities with exciting, fast-growing companies in Europe that would help with relocation and where you could have an impact and found Wise. The biggest selling point for me was that everyone’s working towards the same mission, building something positive that has a real impact on customers.

Originally I relocated (with my wife and three cats!) from Brazil to Budapest to work in the Problem Flow team, which works to optimise the payment flow. It meant a lot of interesting cross-team collaboration with different Wise teams.

We also fell in love with Budapest and I’ll always remember seeing snow for the first time!

After a year, my family and I relocated to London. At the same time, we were experiencing interesting scaling problems at Wise: the number of transfers and volume of money we were handling was growing really quickly and our infrastructure wasn’t coping with the growth. We started having problems with our main database, Master DB, which caused outages in the Wise product.

Due to our autonomous nature of the company, this was quite a challenge to fix; the database wasn’t anyone’s problem specifically, but impacted everyone’s work.

At Wise we form new teams around solving new problems and as a result of the database issues we created the Master DB team. The journey took about a year — we mapped out the problems, helped to make things visible and helped each team to fix the underlying problems through things like database configuration tuning, indexes optimisations and service and library optimisations.

I’m really proud of what we accomplished — the foundations we built means we won’t have to deal with the same issues again. Although it wasn’t directly fixing a customer issue, it had a huge impact on us being able to provide our services to customers.

After some time, we identified that there were challenges around the tools and processes that drive how our engineers work. When we created a team called Engineering Experience around it, I stepped up as a team lead to build it. This meant hiring people into the team and creating a strategy from scratch. It’s been a journey of 2.5 years working on it and now the team helps build tools and processes for our engineers so they can work effectively.

Working on creating tooling for our engineers taught me a lot. I learnt that we can’t expect our engineers to be knowledgeable in all areas and it’s all really about understanding engineers as our customers. It showed me you need to be really customer focused in your role, whatever it is!

  • I’ve really been able to shape my role: It’s been a mix of finding the projects where I can have the biggest impact, while also thinking of how I want to grow professionally. Every once in a while I ask myself “what’s the biggest problem we have and how can I help?”.
  • I’ve learned to really accept and embrace change: In the beginning of my career I felt very frustrated when things changed. At Wise, things are constantly evolving and changing and I’ve realised it’s so important to get accustomed to it and embrace it!
  • Our open, blameless post-mortem culture helps us all learn: We share reflections on incidents in cross-team meetings so we can work on preventing things happening again. I always learn heaps from the team and we support each other through the process.
  • I’ve learnt how to get buy-in and negotiate: to help influence change. With the autonomous structure at Wise, you need to always understand the ‘why’ behind your work and use this to get buy-in for other teams to help you solve the problem.

After a lot of different challenges here and leading the engineering experience team, I’m now soon moving back to an Individual Contributor role to work closer on the product again. I’m also about to have a baby which is the next BIG step!

Meet Anastasiya, Engineer in the Treasury team

I was studying mechanical engineering and got hooked in doing some coding courses and started learning coding during my free time. What I love the most about coding is problem-solving, it always feels so powerful to crack something.

I joined Wise as an intern during my Bachelor’s degree. From day one I was working on the same projects as everybody else rather than doing separate ‘intern tasks’. This made me feel included and a part of the team.

One of the features I implemented during my internship had processed £15 million worth of transactions in just a few days, it felt unreal! After my internship I worked at Wise part-time and joined the team full-time after my graduation.

The main goal of the Treasury team is to guarantee the right amount of money in the right account at the right time to pay customers, as well as to manage risks associated with foreign exchange. It’s crucial for Wise to make sure we operate efficiently.

Whilst at Wise I’ve launched the first Python prediction service which was quite complicated as we hadn’t done anything similar before. My role was to research and understand how machine learning models work in general and how we can leverage them in our production environment. I came up with the design and implementation plan — I wrote the whole service and owned the process end-to-end!

It was a lot of responsibility but people put trust in me and I was allowed to go out there and figure things out. The service helps us be more flexible in what we can do, now we have more options and more complicated machinery models.

Recently I’ve been helping to improve our efficiency as a team. In the Treasury team, there’s still a lot of manual work our agents have to do, linking payments with their senders and recipients.

A project I’ve been working on has been focused on automating some of those manual processes, to reduce the workload of our agents. This has involved doing an analysis to understand the pattern of behaviours, then building up the system and communicating it to our different teams so they could integrate to it. In this project I’ve been able to set my own goals and own the process, while always getting support when I need it.

  • What’s helped me to develop has been the supportive environment here. Everyone’s always willing to help you out, whether it’s to pick their brain on something or do a paired coding session.
  • Learning how to write tests has taken things to the next level for me. Life as a developer can be nerve-wracking, every time you release code changes unexpected things can happen. So making sure things are properly tested has helped me to gain confidence in my work.
  • The most exciting thing I’ve seen in my time here has been to see the progression of the company and our platform. When I joined, there were a lot of unreliable bits in our system and we were running things on-premise in a datacenter. But now we have incredibly high availability although our systems have scaled massively — in 2020 we only had 14 hours of downtime during the whole year. It’s been a really interesting journey to follow.
  • The biggest challenge about working here is to understand our team structure and what everyone’s working on. The autonomous nature of Wise, can make it tricky to keep up with things and it took time to onboard myself. So to any newbie out there, I’d say be patient with yourself, it’ll take time but you’ll get there.

I’m learning new things every day and there are lots of exciting projects to work on. Some day I’d like to be a team lead but I want to learn more technically first.

There are lots of different engineering career paths at Wise and what you’ve just read is only a snapshot! A one size fits all approach doesn’t allow for entrepreneurial spirit and we want our people to have the power to set their own goals and career path so we’re all about helping Wiser’s make their own impact.

And, because we’re all different we support our employees with their development in lots of different ways to fit what works for them.

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

Wise Engineering

Posts from the @Wise Engineering Team

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store