Q&A with Rachel, Senior People Development Specialist at Wise

PeopleLondon

Changing roles and working on so many different things has helped me to build up my confidence. There are always new challenges and new problems to solve.  I’ve been out of my comfort zone more times than I can count. I’m grateful for having had these opportunities at Wise. There aren’t many places that I could’ve done these things. It’s taught me that unless you take risks, you’ll never develop.

Why did you join Wise?

I came from a business with a huge emphasis on people, culture, and developing employees. So my priority was to find a place that really valued their people.  Wise was a small start-up back then but I could already tell that they wanted to do things differently and that was exciting.

In a nutshell, what do you do at Wise?

I’m part of the team that looks after learning and development. I develop, design, and deliver learning and development opportunities that help us empower the people who work for us. This includes things like onboarding, performance, and training sessions.

Have you done any other roles at Wise?

Yes, quite a few. I started as a personal assistant and office manager when there were only 16 people in the London office. As Wise grew, I moved to manage the office full-time and carried out our first office move, and then later project managed our move to the Tea Building. Soon after, I moved to Singapore to help build our team and open our first office there – setting up our policies, traditions and helping translate our culture for the team we were building there. I then did a technical project to implement a new HRIS system. Now I’m in People Development. So I’ve done a variety of roles.

Why did you make these moves and how did you do it?

When you join a small startup, there are so many opportunities and projects to get stuck into. I was a jack of all trades at times out of necessity. I feel very lucky to have had these opportunities and the trust from the business to make things work.

What’s the biggest challenge working here?

Working within autonomous teams can be challenging. You need to learn how to engage and influence people. Ideas only get support if you prove the impact they’ll have, so demonstrating impact by using data is key. This is different from the way a lot of companies work, where the strategy is set from the top. Adjusting to this way of working takes time.

What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

Opening the Singapore office. I was the second person from Wise to move out there and had completely free reign. We created everything from scratch and built an amazing team. The office was unique, as for the first time we had a mix of all types of teams, both operational and non-operational in one place. It was like going back to being a small startup with everyone pitching in to get things done… I’m so proud of what we built. We were able to take the essence of our culture and enhance it with a distinctly Singaporean outlook. It was a massive team effort.

Most interesting place you’ve used your Wise card?

On my sabbatical (we all get a sabbatical after 4 years at Wise!), I took the trans-Siberian railway through Russia to Japan. We started in Moscow and ended up in Tokyo.

What does working with freedom and autonomy mean to you?

I feel incredibly lucky to work within this autonomous structure as it’s allowed me to do so many things. I don’t think I would’ve had these opportunities in companies that are more risk-averse. 

An autonomous culture allows you to learn and develop quickly. I believe the amount of ownership and autonomy here helps us to hire, retain and develop our brilliant people, it’s very powerful. However, it can be challenging, too — as we’ve grown so much it’s become harder to know what teams are working on, and it takes effort to stay up-to-date on new teams and what everyone’s doing. 

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made at Wise and what did you do to fix it?

Due to the autonomous nature of Wise, I’ve worked on various projects. One of my roles focused on implementing our new HRIS system. After lots of work and time invested, unfortunately, the project stalled as the provider we were working with wasn’t the right one for us. Going through the process helped us understand what we needed from a partner and we made the difficult decision to stop the implementation and go back to the drawing board rather than continue with a system that wouldn’t be fit for purpose.

What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever done?

I was a chalet worker at the skiing center in Val-d’Isère in France. I love skiing, so after university, I wanted to do a job that allowed me to do it every day. I loved living in the mountains. 

Tell us about something extraordinary you’ve done?

I performed in the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games as a dancer. Also, at my first Summer Days, I walked over hot coals. That was the most extraordinary thing I’ve done at a company event.

Tell us about a time you went out of your way to help a customer

In the early days of Wise, there were a lot of walk-in customers to our office, so we often helped customers with their questions. We had one customer cycle across London to the office, he was nervous as he wanted to move a large amount of money having sold his house. I sat with him and helped him set up his account and made sure everything went smoothly with his first transfer.