Overcoming barriers and learning to hustle: my journey from Operations Specialist to Product Manager

ProductLondon

I’m Susanna and I currently work in the Send Money team at Wise. This is the group of people who design and build your money transfer experience. In this blog I’ll give you an idea of what it’s like to work in Product here, why I joined the company and how it feels to re-invent the way our customers move their money around the globe. 

I joined Wise because…

I joined the company close to five years ago after working at a financial audit firm. While the audit felt purposeful to keep businesses in order, the corporate environment wasn’t anything I enjoyed. I was drawn to more creative tech companies with a more revolutionary mission.

A friend who was already working at Wise suggested I take a look. I was hooked. The company’s mission to make money without borders the new normal really clicked with me. I like things to be fair, and I had heard this company has uniquely good intentions for its customers. At 23 years old, I was willing to join Wise regardless of the position. The rest is history!

Team member Susanna

My path in Wise hasn’t been a straight line

I started in the Operations team, got close to the heart of the business and learned how to keep things scaling as we progressively automated the work we were doing. Yet, it quickly became obvious that without having the right data points and a good understanding of the numbers it’d be hard to make customers’ money move faster.

I volunteered to become an Analyst within my Operations team, started to write SQL to give a picture of our performance and figure out new opportunities to increase the speed of transfers or reduce their cost. It felt a bit like being a financial news reporter. 

Thing is, this wasn’t smooth sailing all the way. I now had two jobs I had to do well, while one of them felt far more interesting to me.

I got really passionate about making EUR transfers instant. At the time, our Conversion team was building an instant transfer experience without much knowledge of our operational processes. They also lacked a Junior Analyst. This was a timely opportunity for me! I was supported by my leads to make the jump.

In my new team, I learned the ropes of conversion monitoring and developed my intuition in UX as I ran all A/B tests for the team. I quickly became the go to person for tools like Mixpanel.

The team were creating spin off project teams as the company grew. When our Product Manager went on sabbatical for 6 weeks, I started helping one of the teams to move their projects forward: the HAT team (High amount transfers team).

Our customers make some of the most important transactions of their life using Wise; buying a first home, transferring their inheritance, paying an urgent hospital bill… I felt this team could have more impact on people’s lives than any other. The team took me in and 6 months later I became a Junior Product Manager for HAT team. I was full of drive, yet very light in experience.

Learning the ropes

To be a good Product Manager at Wise, you don’t only need to identify the most impactful opportunities to move the mission forward, you’re also expected to have a lot of depth in design, tech, data and regulatory context. This is hard at times, as I lack an engineering background.

I started to do design work myself to help the team move faster when my Designer was overloaded. I’m also my own Analyst most of the time. I send out my own surveys and others communications to customers. I read regulatory texts. Anything that helps the team move faster. Although, I haven’t coded as much as I would have loved to.

A year later, I had learned loads about identifying and sizing customer problems, prioritising them and inspiring a team to solve them with the highest quality standards. All within a heavily regulated domain. 

I’ve impacted the mission a few times by improving our large transfers delivery estimates, giving customers the ability to pre-fund large transfers and wait for the right exchange rate, and helping to create a dedicated support team for those customers.

I’ve also failed quite a bit…

Failure is natural especially when you’re a junior. I couldn’t always inspire my team with a clear story. I got frustrated at times. I wasn’t picking my battles when I needed to. I couldn’t sense the room. I even cried in front of my team – something that is still widely misunderstood inside most companies.

You bounce back if you’re self-aware and driven

Your biggest enemy is your ego. At Wise you learn to leave your ego at the door whilst maintaining your self-belief. Your biggest ally is your self-awareness. Reflecting on yourself, taking very direct feedback well, focusing on what’s most useful is key to evolving into a better version of yourself.

I’ve helped onboard a more senior person into my first team. And started to help a few other teams until I settled in the Send Money Team. There is always so much to build in Wise, and it is common for people to change teams here.

 

The company also lets me have side projects…

Wise encourages you to have a side hustle or a passion away from the office. I invest a lot of my free time DJ-ing.

I run a monthly residency on IDA Raadio in Estonia and curate music for venues like Spiritland and Brilliant Corners in London. While on work trips, I often also get to perform.

I got to DJ at our Summer Days and it really helped me meet other creative people in the business, learn about their side projects and have conversations that made me feel like I belonged. 

There are so many smart and inspiring people around, you never stop learning and developing.

 

Interested in helping us to build the future of finance? Click here to find out more and here to learn about Product team’s levels.