When it’s not just a job: Career development at Wise
In just 10 years Wise has grown from 2 people to 2,200 (and counting). As we grow it’s important to us that our employees feel like they can grow with us and progress in their careers.
At Wise, we work differently and we’re proud of it. Our employees have bucket loads of freedom and autonomy and with that freedom comes responsibility: we’re a company of self-starters who don’t have rules to follow. This is in contrast to more traditional work environments where there might be clearly defined tasks and projects. The same goes for development — we encourage and support our employees to drive their development and shape their career paths proactively. Let’s look at how it all works.
Our career and growth philosophy at Wise
At Wise, our employees’ career development and growth is highly tied to the impact they have towards our mission: money without borders. In a nutshell, the more you scale your impact, the more you progress.
But what does scaling your impact really mean? It means finding smarter ways to do things and prioritising the most impactful opportunities in and around your work. It also means taking ownership of your area — spotting opportunities without waiting to be told, kicking things off and making sure they get done.
Of course we understand that this stuff is easier said than done. So that’s why we have heaps of resources for our employees to help shape their career path here — whether it’s to develop into a lead position, become a deep expert in their area or learn new skills to move to a different area in the business.
Empowering employees to drive their own development
To help our employees reach their development goals, it’s important to provide the right tools. We’re constantly developing and are focused on building an environment where our employees feel empowered to find the right opportunities for them. And, we’ve found that a combination of the traditional career ladder approach combined with experience works best.
We don’t have traditional line managers who tell their team what to do. Leads are rather enablers whose focus is to help their team members to remove any blockers in their work and support them to take on projects that will enable them to deliver impact and grow. To make this work, leads are focused on fostering an environment where team members aren’t afraid to make mistakes and where they can collaborate and learn. In practise the lead’s role is to expose employees to projects and opportunities, give them time to learn and develop, while coaching them to achieve their full potential.
In addition to these ways of working, we have a wide selection of tools we have to support the growth of our employees:
Career Maps: Bringing clarity to shaping development goals
One tool that we’ve created to help our employees guide their development and growth are career maps. They’re a framework we use to map out all the different levels within all teams. The goal is to give clarity on what we expect at each level and help our employees know how they can progress.
The traditional career ladder assumes a one-size-fits-all approach and works on the idea that employees are more alike than different so they want and need similar things to deliver results. But we don’t think that’s true.
Here at Wise, we’re striving to combine the so-called ladder driven approach and experience driven approach of development.
The idea of the career ladder can be limiting and we think a more adaptive model works better. Given careers now zig and zag we don’t want to assume that climbing the ladder is the only way to progress so we do a hybrid of “the ladder” and “the lattice”. That means we give a little more structure and clarity on what to expect in any role/team (i.e the ladder approach) while being flexible, empowering and leaving the doors open for individuals to move around and gain the skills and capabilities they need to flourish in other roles (i.e experience driven approach).
Progression isn’t a tick box exercise
While career map frameworks are a useful guideline tool, they’re certainly not a tick box exercise of a list of tasks or having an individual stay in a position for a set length of time. Instead, they’re a guide to show the kind of impact we expect from our people as they progress in their journey at Wise. Different roles and teams have varying expectations in specific areas, but on the whole these expectations are common across Wise.
Feedback: We get it often and use it to grow and develop
At Wise, we believe feedback is a good thing, in fact it’s a huge part of our culture and we take pride in it. You’ll probably get a lot more of it here than other places you’ve worked at which helps us grow, move forward and get better at what we do.
At Wise there are two types of feedback you can expect that will help you develop:
- Informal feedback: Here anyone, in any team can challenge someone else’s ideas. It helps us stay focused, move fast and recognise when we need to shift direction. Informal feedback is present in our day-to-day through catch ups with your lead and team.
- Formal feedback: gathered through a process we call GrowWise that happens twice a year. In a nutshell, GrowWise is a 360 degree feedback session where each of us gets feedback from our lead, peers, and stakeholders together with our own self-reflection of our own impact over a set period. Feedback is discussed in a conversation with your lead and focuses on: where you’re now, where you want to get to, and how we can get you there.
What else is available to you at Wise that you could use to support your growth and development journey?
- Resources to help you build your Individual Development Plan
- Learning from each other through shadowing and side-by-sides
- Doing side projects for other teams to learn and develop skills
- Using your development budget for something interesting
- Lots of materials to help you drive your development including career maps and training
- All our leads at Wise go through training to build their coaching and leadership capabilities to best support their team members
- Finding a mentor at Wise and learning from them
One size doesn’t fit all — 2,200 different development stories
There are many ways in which you can progress at Wise, but we’re all encouraged to drive our own development and to grab the right opportunities — the obvious and not so obvious ones.
We embrace entrepreneurial spirit and know that what you can accomplish here isn’t set by your job title or your previous experience. What better way than to hear from our employees who’ve grabbed the opportunity to drive their development and see how they did it:
Terence, Business Development team, Singapore office 🇸🇬
Wise journey: Verification Agent → Business Development Manager (Small and Medium businesses) → Business Development Manager (Integrated Partnerships)
“During my time in Verification I was always on the lookout for somewhere I could add more value. What helped me shape my goals was to do lots of side-by-sides with other teams. When I had built up my network and figured out what would be the best fit for me, I pitched to our Head of Business Development an idea on how we could start our Business Development efforts within APAC. I was offered a three month project to help out the Business Development team and when a position opened, I applied and got it.
Ian, Customer Support team, Tallinn office 🇪🇪
Wise journey: Customer Support Agent → Customer Support Team Lead → Senior Team Lead → Regional Lead → Head of Consumer Customer Support
“I started as a Customer Support agent and have been able to progress to Head of Consumer Customer Support. I’ve always been keen to increase my impact and take on things where I can better help our customers.
My advice to others would be: don’t be constrained by your job description and always aim to solve the most impactful problems even if you don’t officially own them. I’ve been trusted to figure out things on my own and I’ve been out of my comfort zone more times than I can count so it’s helped me to grow fast. Because of that, moving into Team Lead positions and leading projects feels quite natural.”
Amelia, People Operations team, London office 🇬🇧
Wise journey: Recruiter → People Operations Advisor
“When I decided I wanted to move from recruiting towards more of a HR focus, I worked closely with my lead to build an Individual Development Plan with key milestones and objectives over a 6 month period. Alongside my lead’s amazing support and some external learning programmes, I spent as much time as I could doing side-by-sides with the People Operations team. When a role became available it was a natural fit as I’d already built the knowledge and relationships needed to succeed (as well as having a great foundation of knowing how things work at Wise — we like to do things differently!).”
Lexi, Copy team, Tampa office 🇺🇲
Wise journey: Customer Support agent → Content designer
“I fell head over heels for writing when I did copy training at Wise and proactively started driving my development. I asked one of our writers to be a mentor and looked for opportunities to get involved. I got a side project writing for our help centre. I treated the project almost like an internship, determined to show the impact I could have as a writer here. I found it was a lot about setting myself goals and finding ways to make things happen. I used my development budget to do a course on content design and bought access to a library of talks that will help me learn.”
Ekaterina, Analytics team, Tallinn office 🇪🇪
Wise journey: Verification agent → Analyst for the PR team
“During my time as a Verification Agent I was dealing a lot with projects relating to the efficiency of our team. We had a program run by employees for aspiring analysts and I started working with a mentor from our Analytics team. We had weekly meetings where I could ask for help and quickly became proficient in SQL. What I learned from my mentor Triinu, was how to approach problems with an analytical mindset. When a junior analyst position opened on our PR team — I got the job!”
They shared with us their top tips for driving their development:
- Don’t be afraid to take on new challenges: share your views openly and grab learning opportunities that come your way. Set goals and an action plan for reaching them.
- Be ready for rejection on the way: it’s not the end of the world. It can take a while to find the right fit for your development goals and the needs of Wise. Keep looking and stay positive.
- Don’t be constrained by your job description: solve the biggest and most impactful problems you can even if you don’t officially own them
- Don’t be afraid of someone’s title: approach people and learn from them. Ask for their help and feedback.
- Use the resources: make sure you use your self development budget and maximise it. Find out what others have done with theirs and do some research on what you’d find interesting whether it’s attending a course, getting certified in something, attending an event or to buy learning materials for yourself.
The right and responsibility to take charge of your own growth and career development
We’ve all heard the age old adage, ‘It takes two hands to clap’. We embrace entrepreneurial spirit and our employees are in the driver’s seat when it comes to defining the steps and getting to their goals. This means, if you really want something, you’ll find a way to make it happen, and we’ll do our utmost to support you along the way!
It’s definitely not an easy process and like our employees shared, it means putting yourself out there, proactively driving change and taking risks. But for those who are willing to invest in themselves and in their goals, the opportunities in Wise are limitless!
“If it comes easy, it’s not worth it. If it’s worth it, it won’t come easy”
P.S. Interested to join us? We’re hiring. Check out our open Engineering roles.