Right place, right time: why a career path at Wise doesn’t have to be linear
I’m Sheena and I work in the Notification Service team as a Product Specialist. This means I’m a bit more focused on one area of the product compared to a Product Manager, who oversees everything. In my team, we look after all the transactional comms that get sent to customers and some ad hoc communications. We’re a pretty small team – there’s two of us and everything we work on, our customers see. I want to give you a bit more detail about being a Product Specialist, working to solve customer problems and why I love working here.
I joined Wise by accident
I’m a “Wiser” by accident. My partner and I had been cycling for a year and ended up plotting a route through Northern Europe into Belgium, Sweden and Finland. We ended up in Estonia with plans to stay for a weekend and ended up living and working there! We’d been cycling and living in our tent for a year through Asia and Europe. At that point we needed a bit of a break, and when a friend mentioned that Wise were hiring, I applied. I’d used the product before and thought it was awesome. Five years later, I’m still working here!
And I didn’t follow a specific career path
My career path is less direct road and more pinball machine. I’m qualified as a Civil Engineer but lost my job after four years during the recession. I’ve always been happy to adjust to my circumstances so I became a falconer and also worked as a Christmas elf! It’s been a very diverse and winding path to end up where I am…
After a couple of years I decided to do some travelling. Arriving in Tallinn while doing that is what led to me joining the Customer Support team at Wise. After a year I moved to Budapest to help set up the new office and started to take more of an interest in the product. I wanted to dig into how we help customers in a more diverse way than just the direct and reactive help we give in Customer Support. I worked with our Borderless and Plastic team before these products had even launched and got a really good understanding of what our product is all about and then a couple of years later, I started working as a Product Specialist.
I’ve learned that transitioning is a learning curve
Because I’d already worked with the Borderless and Plastic teams I was pretty aware of what the product was like, so that helped when transitioning over from Customer Support (CS) to Product. But going from doing a million things at once in CS to narrowing down your focus can be a little disorientating.
I’d seen first hand how open Product teams were when listening to and being interested in our customers problems. Customer Support provides the insights into what is and isn’t working and I knew that I could have a bigger impact by building the best experience for our customers.
When you start any new job there’s always that feeling of “What do I do now?!” until you find your feet but as long as you’re really enthusiastic and open to learning it’s super interesting. The will to learn is what drove me forwards.
And that you need a few certain skills…
To be a Product Specialist you need good analytical skills. You’ve really got to dig deep and be a champion for the customer. It’s all about testing things and figuring out the right way to do something taking in all the nuances and nuggets of information.
So, it helps to be curious and put the legwork in to really understand the problem. Recently, I spent a few days reading through thousands of customers’ comments and it was really worthwhile because you get direct feedback on what’s working well and what isn’t.
Which means you also need to be a good storyteller. You have to be able to talk to people across the business in different teams and roles about what you’re trying to solve and why you’re doing it so they can really see the impact.
But ultimately, you need to be a team player and jump into whatever needs to get done. It’s about helping your team move things forward and making sure you’re giving them the tools and knowledge they need to have the space to solve customer problems and build new solutions.
You can learn so much from what you’ve already done
Civil Engineering has quite a few similarities with product. You have to deal with a project rather than managing a product but you’re still steering projects towards an end goal and dealing with lots of people to get stuff done. You’re able to be autonomous and have the power to make your own decisions.
I got to design and oversee the construction of a park. It was a great experience and I got to work with interesting people, but the best part was seeing abandoned residential units be transformed into green space. Having been given free rein over how things were going to look and be constructed, it resonates a lot with what I’m doing now, getting a blank canvas and doing what you think needs to be done.
I’ve learned that there’s a lot of correlation between Customer Support and Product, it’s just about coming at it from a different angle. I wanted to work in product because you’re trying to solve problems before the customer contacts you rather than the other way around. It’s interesting to see why customers get in touch and foresee the problems, so that those reach outs don’t have to happen.
There are always some surprises
Like how product minded our engineers are. It really sets us apart from a lot of other companies as they’re super involved in every step of building the solution. It’s awesome to watch unfold and leads to great teamwork giving us better results for the customer.
Another huge strength I’ve seen in my time at Wise is that in my team all the people in product have come from Customer Support. We know the challenges associated with it and I like to think that we understand our colleagues in CS and make sure we’re also working on reducing their workload.
And it’s important to follow your other passions
At Wise having interests and hobbies outside of work is important so you get time to relax and decompress.
I love to cycle and travel in general. We try to get away as much as possible and for our sabbatical we cycled the Pamir highway, which is the second highest road in the world. Even though it was difficult at times, it was great fun and we met some really amazing people.
I’ve also always loved nature and I like to challenge myself. Climbing up snowy mountains with ice picks and crampons is sometimes scary but when you do it it’s worth it. If it wasn’t difficult, it wouldn’t be worth doing.
I’m so lucky to love what I do
I need to learn something new every day as things are always changing but I really enjoy that aspect of the job. There’s always something new we could be doing. For example, in the last few years we’ve been making some big changes to GDPR, keeping on top of the process and making the right decisions about the way we talk to customers about it, plus, how they want us to talk to them!
Working at Wise lets me push myself to learn new skills which is awesome. As a Product Specialist, you tend to be a Jack of all trades, so I need to be able to do product analysis, write copy and critically think about the product. I don’t think I’ll never get to the point when there’s nothing new to learn and that’s one of the best parts of it.
And to have achieved some awesome stuff
I’m so proud of the work that we’ve done with Notification Service. Our customers appreciate the messages that we send because they’re useful, well-timed and delightful.We also enjoy some extra curricular activities here at Wise. I’m a co-founder of cloud club here – a group of people that appreciate the structure of a well formed cloud. And it’s something that I’m delighted to be involved with.
I also really enjoyed hosting Mission Days last year, which was super fun. It’s great to stand up and help present how our mission is going to the whole company. Working here in such a supportive and inclusive environment, there’s a lot I’ve done that I would have never thought I’d do.