Top tips for Java Engineers interviewing at Wise
Hi there 👋, I’m Rafaela Sousa, Technical Recruiter at Wise in Tallinn.
Back when I applied for my role at Wise, I was over the moon to hear back from a recruiter saying I was moving forward in the process.
I thought “Cool! But what happens now?”. I had no idea what to expect or what the recruiters were looking for. You might be in the same situation. So I put together a guide for you to understand what skills we’re looking for in our engineering candidates and how they align with our 4 values.
1. Cultural fit ⭐
Value: No drama. Good karma.
We’re growing really fast, in fact, we’re one of Europe’s fastest-growing companies 🌍🔥, and we believe our culture is key to our success. We aim for a culture where decisions are based on facts and what gets us closer to our mission, not egos. One where doors are always open, and where we always make time to help our customers and each other out. So cultural fit is a key trait we interview for.
In terms of soft skills, this translates to some of the following skills:
- Adaptability 🌱
We’re looking for people that can speedily adapt to an ever-changing environment. We typically launch our product in new markets, open new currency routes every quarter and often spin-up new teams to accommodate our growth. We generally follow Agile methodology, usually with 2-week sprints, and we also incorporate some parts of extreme programming when it comes to putting code into production. This growth means that what is true today, can already be out-of-date tomorrow. You’ll need to be adaptable in an environment like this.
- Initiative ☝️
Autonomy is the word that best describes how people and teams at Wise operate. At Wise engineers have end-to-end exposure to the SDLC. This means you’ll have the freedom to prioritise your own tasks and contribute with your own ideas. This ultimately means you won’t work based on predefined specifications, so having initiative is a must.
👉 To better illustrate this, you can find out more on this Practical Guide on How We Work.
- Communication 💬
In an environment that is continually changing, communication is crucial. You’ll work closely with Project Managers, Analysts, Operational teams and Customer Support. We’re looking for people that are able to simplify problems, understand the why’s and how’s and explain their ideas in a straightforward fashion.
One way we communicate company-wide is through an event called Mission Days. Every 6 months we do a retrospective of our goals (where are we and what we need to do to achieve them or get closer to them). This concise summary of all pillars (coverage, speed, price, transparency, convenience) helps us stay focused on achieving our end goal: Mission Zero.
- Open/teachable 📖
We pride ourselves on our culture of honest, useful and transparent feedback. We widely share our work and projects to the whole company (e.g. our team monthlies and guilds quarterly plannings). We also have individual career development sessions (known as a GrowWise) where we receive (or give) 360° feedback from and to our colleagues and stakeholders.
At Wise, we want you to succeed and to realise your true potential, and we believe that honest and constructive feedback is the way to enable that. Hear more about how we think about feedback here.
- Passion 😍
We build products that solve real problems for real people. Every engineer needs to ask themselves, “What problem does the thing I want to build solve?” before they start working on it. Since engineers are involved in the end-to-end product building process – from idea to delivery, passion is a crucial trait to have. We’re passionate about what we do and for whom we do it for (over +6 million happy customers), and we want to work with such curious and passionate colleagues too.
2. Motivations for joining Wise 💪
Value: This isn’t just a job, we’re a revolution.
At Wise we’re revolutionising the way more than 6 million people interact with money. Our day-to-day tasks are guided by our mission:
Money without borders 🌍 instant, convenient, transparent and eventually free.
But what does this really mean?
At Wise we’re emotionally invested in the work we do and the impact we have on our customer’s lives. We want to make sure you understand this and that you’re as mission-driven as we are.
In terms of motivations, these are the things we look for:
- Research 🔎
There is no better feeling than talking with an engineer that did their research. Whether you’re interviewing with us, or somewhere else, you can try to understand:
– What kind of company you’re interviewing with? ( e.g. product vs outsourcing, startup vs scale-up, number of employees, company values, etc.)
– What engineering culture (values) is promoted within the company?
– What’s the technical environment (tech stack, methodology, hierarchy)?
– Does the company provide help with relocation (Visas, documents, relocation package)?
– What is the recruitment process like?
– What does the job entail?
– How does the job description aligns with your experience?
Clarify the basic questions that might go through your mind with research and prepare questions on the information that is not available. When you prepare, the conversation is more fruitful for both sides.
“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet” – Bobby Unser
- Side Projects 🔧
Side projects are the things you do when no one is watching. Tell us all about them. We want to hear what you do for fun, what you do to expand your knowledge in a new language/framework/tool, where you like to contribute, and what your areas of interest are. Side projects are a great way for you to show us that you are passionate, that you like to contribute, you have self-initiative and that your job is more than just a paycheck. It’s also ok to talk about your failures, things you tried that didn’t work out, for example, a project, or a business idea. We value an entrepreneurial mindset!
- Reasons you want to join Wise 💡
The reasons you want to join us matter. We’re aware that the Wise culture is not for everybody, so we want to know your specific reasons for joining Wise. After you prepared for the interview, and read as much as you can about us, we want to hear what resonated with you the most (e.g. our values, mission, the way we work). We also want to hear about your doubts and the things that are not 100% clear for you.
Your reasons are a great way for us to see if you are also invested in the mission, and they are relevant for us as they enable us to better plan ahead to set you up for success.
- Questions ❓
The goal of an interview is for both sides to get to know each other better. The last 10 minutes of the interview is your time. Don’t miss this opportunity to ask us about our challenges, future products, career development, or how we approach failure. Questions are a good way for you to show that you are a curious person that you are interested in Wise and that you are motivated to have an impact.
3. Product Mindset 🚀
Value: Customer > Team > Ego
At Wise we build products for 6+ million people without borders. Expats, students, immigrants, freelancers, traders, businesses and everyday people. And every engineer at Wise is a product person.
“As a Product Engineer, you are here not just to code but you are here to build and grow Wise. If you think about construction, every house is built for someone to live in there. I can’t imagine builders going for: “Let’s start building walls and then we will figure out how many floors we can get to and see if anyone will happen to live in that construction.” It will always start from taking people into consideration, their needs and their wishes. In case of Wise from thinking of customers who will be using it.”
Andrii Degterenko, Product Engineer at Wise
In terms of product mindset, these are the things we look for:
- Customer-centric approach 💙
Engineering at wise is product-centric. We invest a lot of effort in getting things right so that our end-users have the best possible experience. So we ask you always to make decisions accordingly. To give you an idea, these are some of the questions we ask ourselves when building Wise:
– Who is going to benefit from this solution?
– Does this problem really need to be solved?
– How much value does this feature add?
– Do end-users really need this feature?
– Should I make the core product better or work on releasing this feature?
– How will I know users like the new feature?
– How do I improve it in future?
We expect you to have some understanding of what a product is, why it’s important, and how to build one. There aren’t any rights and wrongs when it comes to product answers. Product Engineers provide strong facts/data/arguments for the decisions we make when building a better product. You should also be ready to provide strong reasoning for your answer.
Wise is a low margin, high volume business, meaning we charge the bare minimum fees that support our operations and the revenues we earn are based on the volume of our transactions. This puts customers to our core values since customers are the ones driving our mission of eventually zero fees. Engineers at Wise keep this fact at heart when writing any new code, as having a small bug can impact millions of customers.
We’re keen to hear about previous experiences where you had to think in this way because once you join Wise you’re expected to be able to think “customer first” when building the systems that enable you to send, receive and convert money with a few clicks.
If you don’t have product experience or you come from a different background, talk about your opinions or views on a product that you are using recently, what you like about it, what you dislike, any upgrades you would want to make to it, etc. It is also great if you use or at least tried Wise as a product (see the flows, what is clear or unclear, and what you’d improve), and give us open and honest feedback about your experience.
- Feature prioritisation 📈
At Wise, we believe in autonomy and ownership. Being part of an engineering team at Wise means that as a team we own the service we produce, from ideation to production; we own testing, we own performance and scaling, and we own the fixes for failures in production.
As a Product Engineer, you will own the entire SDLC, including feature prioritisation. Your Project Manager will analyse, plan and indicate what you should focus on that specific quarter (based customer feedback), but you are responsible for prioritising your tasks factoring in the level of criticality, customer impact and capacity you have to get it done. You’re also encouraged to voice your opinions if you feel that the product will benefit more with a different plan.
We would love to understand, based on examples of your previous experiences, if you are someone that a) is comfortable defining and measuring KPIs, and b) if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, as in Wise you won’t have a predefined specification to follow.
- MVP approach 🔥
We build our products following the Minimum Valuable Product (MVP) approach. This allows us to simplify a problem and think in terms of “what are the most fundamental functionalities the solution needs to have”. This approach fits well with our engineering culture as we receive validation from our customers much faster via A/B testing. We can then iterate and improve.
It’s important we understand if you have the ability to simplify something complex and understand what the fundamentals are, instead of diving directly into optimising the solution, which is usually done at a later stage of solution scaling. You’ll be tested throughout the interview on this approach based on various situations that could be based on the products that you already use or a new product idea that you might be asked to build. We suggest you guide us through your thought process and discuss your ideas as we’re colleagues.
4. Technical Competency 👩💻
Value: We get it done.
In engineering we believe in 3 things:
- Ownership – as a team we own the service we produce, from ideation to production. We own testing, we own performance and scaling, and we own the fixes for failures in production.
- Automation – DevOps and infrastructure as code, continuous integration, deploying to the cloud, and having our support systems there too.
- Having the right culture is paramount – one where decisions are based on facts, not egos, where doors are always open, and where we always make time to help each other out.
- Tech Stack 🤖
Wise is a complex engine of +750 currency routes, with +6 millions happy customers worldwide who send +4 billion GBP each month, is supported by an ecosystem of 200+ microservices. Our architecture is based on spring based microservices using Kafka as the messaging backbone and React based frontend apps. We use docker containerisation with Kubernetes and we are using AWS as our cloud service provider, CircleCI for our continuous integration and Octopus for our continuous delivery to our K8 clusters. A few teams are also heavily investing in AI and ML to speed up manual processes and reduce operational costs.
- Quality 🐞
Quality is one of our big focuses. We don’t have any QA testers in Wise, so this means that every Product Engineer does it. During the interviews, it’s always great to see you following coding best practice, suggesting and speaking about the choices you’re making and any related experiences to it. We want to see when you’re in the moment you don’t forget this and always write the cleanest possible code.
We also expect you to have a reviewer’s mindset. At Wise, you’ll also be responsible for reviewing your colleagues’ work, and you’re expected to have strong opinions on the code practices that should be followed. During the interview, we encourage you to speak about the challenges and experiences that you may have faced during code reviews, following the practices within your team.
In terms of technical competency, these are the things we look for:
We try to see if there are indicators from your experience that make you an ideal candidate for Wise:
- Experience building enterprise scale applications preferably in Java;
- Good understanding of Java programming language, algorithms and data structures;
- Experience with databases (Postgres or Mysql), and understanding of how these work;
- Experience in full life cycle of software development including testing and reviewing;
- Basic experience with front end apps if you are a back-end engineer, since we love to write back office UIs;
- Experience with microservices architecture, building them would be a bonus point;
- Experience with writing unit and integration tests.
👉 In terms of experience as a whole, the things we’re looking for are a mixture of soft skills, motivations, product mindset and your hands-on experience.
If you get all the way here means that you are either thinking of applying to one of our roles or you’re already in process with us. This is great news 🎉🎉🎉 I hope this is a helpful guide.
Here are other blog posts to help you successfully tackle technical and product interviews:
We’re looking forward to meeting you and work with you! 🤩