What Does a Typical Week Look Like as an SE3?
I moved across to work in a ‘New Bets’ squad about five months ago. Our squad’s goal is to find new ways for Cleo to provide value to users, and diversify our product offering. Our work has been very discovery heavy so far, which means I’ve been collaborating with user researchers and product analysts a lot. Find out more about what they do.
Since joining new bets, we’ve tested different concepts and ideas around habit tracking and building, and using AI to support our users in improving their financial health.
Initially we used Facebook and Instagram ads to see which concepts attracted the most interest. We’ve found that working with attribution data can be tricky, so now we’re testing concepts with our existing users (we love to Learn at Speed).
Our squad is set up a little differently to the other squads, as we’ve been testing concepts without actually building the products out. We’re now at the point where we’re moving to MVP build, which is super exciting.
Our squad also doesn’t work in the same defined sprint cycles, or use the same daily/weekly ceremonies as other squads. Instead, we have two whole squad meetings a week, then the engineers and product analysts have a daily stand up too.
We now have two backend engineers on the squad (including me). Our tech lead has recently gone on sabbatical, so I’ve taken on the role of acting tech lead until he is back.
I’m also part of the back end chapter. We meet bi-weekly to learn from each other, and hear about any improvements that people are working on.
It can sometimes be hard in a growing company to know what’s happening with infrastructure and new tools, but I find that these meetings bridge that gap nicely, no one is left out of the loop.
Back end engineers can lean on the chapter if they’ve identified a piece of work that they don’t want to do alone. These pieces often end up being rolled into an action group.
I’ve recently been working in an action group that’s focussed on our Rails 7 upgrade. We meet every two weeks on a ‘join if you can’ basis. Through this experience I’ve been able to pair with senior engineers, picking conflict changes that we can try and understand together. It’s been great learning from someone with heaps of experience.
One thing I want to highlight here: pairing is highly encouraged here at Cleo. You can learn so much from these types of sessions, so we’re not shy about dropping time into people’s calendars.
Who Do You Get Support From?
I found it challenging when I was the only backend engineer in the squad, as previously I’ve always worked with someone more senior than me. I sourced support from outside of my squad, which actually has worked well. Initially this support came from my line manager, who’s also a tech lead. I’d have technical refinement sessions with him to make sure I was on the right track.
I knew my line manager was planning a sabbatical (he’d been here for four years and we offer people who hit that milestone a two month paid sabbatical). So, I set about sourcing a mentor. I now meet with my mentor, who works in platform engineering, each week for half an hour to talk about things that I’m interested in.
At the moment, I’m particularly interested in infrastructure, databases, and performance. It just so happens that he works on those things day-to-day, so I can pick his brains. I’ve continued doing technical refinement with him. As the sole back end engineer in my squad, I find it useful to lean on my network to get a range of perspectives and ideas.
What Makes Cleo’s Engineering Culture Unique?
One thing I love about Cleo’s engineering team is that we have a WNB (Women and Non-binary) group.
The group was established organically, as we wanted a safe space to share our thoughts and experiences with people who can truly sympathize with certain challenges that WNB can face.
We meet monthly to share wins, support each other and try to contribute to cultural improvements at Cleo.
Any Tips For Someone Looking to Join Cleo at SE2/SE3 level?
Firstly, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support in your daily tasks, especially if some contextual knowledge is needed. Saying I don’t know is okay!
Taking an iterative approach to problem solving is crucial here. We’re not aiming for a perfect thing right away. Start small, collect feedback and iterate. Working with imperfect features might be uncomfortable but helps learn faster.
Finally, collaboration is key at Cleo. We work in cross functional teams and do paired programming a lot, so you need to be able to communicate clearly. Enjoying working closely with other engineers is invaluable– you’d be doing it almost every day if you join us.