Allan joined Cleo in November 2018 as a Junior Software Engineer. Four and a half years later, he’s now a Tech Lead. We caught up with him to learn more about his journey.
Why did you choose to join Cleo?
Before joining Cleo, I worked in UK government. A colleague from that role actually introduced me to Cleo, as they had just accepted a role at Cleo.
I was instantly interested when I heard about the Cleo product and mission. I loved that the company was helping people to manage their relationship with money in a way that was SO different to traditional banks. I knew that if I joined I’d be able to make a genuine difference to people’s lives. Four years later and that is still the case–one line of code can impact thousands of Cleo users, which is pretty cool.
I also loved how Cleo’s working set up was relaxed and informal. At the time I was looking to join, there were six back-end engineers and two front-end engineers, so quite a small team. We were also working out of an office space that was a block of three flats, which was an interesting experience.
Fast-forward to now, our engineering team is over 50 people, and we’re settled into our new office space in Shoreditch.
What have you worked on since joining?
Initially, we spent time trying to make sure that Cleo could understand the context of what a user meant in their message to her (user intent).
We wanted Cleo to be able to engage in conversation like this:
User: Hey Cleo, can I afford a pizza?
Cleo: How much is it? 👀
Cleo: Sure you can, that fits in with your current budget 💸
More recently, I’ve been working with our Growth Engagement squad. Our aim is to ensure that we’re retaining users. We do this in various ways, for example by providing incentives or encouraging behaviors that we know will lead to retention.
What has your progression journey looked like?
I’ve had three incredibly supportive managers during my time at Cleo, which has meant my progression journey has been great. Each of the managers have taken time to understand where I want to go next with my career.
Last year, I’d been speaking to my current manager about my interest in technical architecture. This is an area that interested me, but I didn’t necessarily get exposure to in my day-to-day role, which was more focussed on product engineering.
My manager not only listened, but they took my interests into account. We set aside time to walk through various elements of technical architecture and they would send me relevant pieces to read. After a few months, they heard about an opportunity in our platform engineering squad that had come up to cover someone who was going on their sabbatical for two months (a fully paid sabbatical btw–we’re generous like that).
They suggested that I’d be a great person to stand in for a short time, as I was interested in the area. They pitched it to me as a great learning opportunity, which I jumped at. I actually ended up staying for an extra month on that team.
Becoming Tech Lead
I’d known I wanted to progress for a little while before an opportunity to step into a tech lead role came about.
Similarly to above, I’d kept the lines of communication open with my line manager. So, when the tech lead in my new squad was planning their sabbatical (spot the theme here), I was involved in conversations planning for their cover.
Both myself and my manager knew that I was ready to take on the responsibility of tech lead. I felt empowered to do a good job as I’d been surrounded by a bunch of intelligent engineering leaders for a while.
Since stepping into the role, I’ve felt well supported by the other tech leads, and I look forward to continuing in the role in the future.
How has Cleo changed in four years?
Back when we were a small startup we had more freedom to ship things, which definitely comes with pros and cons.
Now I find there’s more emphasis on wanting to do things the right way, meaning there’s sometimes more process around what we do. Not bad process, but process all the same.
Obviously as we’ve grown we now have more diverse people, experiences and ideas in the room when making decisions. This is essential as we’re creating products that we hope will serve a billion people one day.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on since being here?
In four years I’ve worked on lots of user-facing features, which is always exciting. Yet, I want to call out my secondment to the platform engineering squad.
When I was in the platform engineering squad, one of our database tables was growing quickly and the <ID> column was about to reach its limit (it was of type <int>). If we didn’t change it to <bigint>, Cleo would completely fall over. Essentially, everything was riding on this migration going well.
I worked with another engineer to complete the migration without causing any impact to Cleo’s user experience. It was a nerve-wracking but extremely rewarding experience to have worked on something so integral to the running of Cleo.
What’s your top Cleo highlight?
Outside of my day-to-day… I. Love. Karaoke.
I will never get tired of the following spectacle:
One brave person gets up to sing, others stand sheepishly offering meagre support.
The endorphins and adrenaline permeate through the crowd, more people join in with singing.
Cut to a few hours later: the whole office is belting out “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”
A great note to end on. If you’re interested in growing your career at Cleo, you can check out our open roles.