Experiencing the Future of Business Finance with Aspire’s Head of Engineering, Jarek Tkaczyk

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Aspire aims to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs by equipping them with the financial tools that they need to succeed. What exactly does it take to achieve this mission in an engineering perspective?

Head of Engineering at Aspire, Jarek Tkaczyk, shares more with us in this interesting and insightful interview.

Parts of this interview has been edited for clarity*

Tell us about a day in your life as the Head of Engineering at Aspire.

Juggling between the urgency of today and the needs for tomorrow.

In short, making sure that neither me nor other leaders on the team fall for the fallacy that what got us here so far, will get us where we want to go next.

What is the working and engineering culture like at Aspire? 

Coding is cool, but have you ever tried talking to people?

In all seriousness culture is the foundation in the engineering team and we want it to be strong. We invest in resources and do our best to create a structure that helps but doesn't get in the way so that people can excel in what they are best at.

We value diversity and appreciate the fact that every day we get a chance to work with people from so many backgrounds & cultures. In our recent eNPS (Employer Net Promoter Score) more than 90% of our members shared that they are proud to be part of Aspire’s success.

What is an engineering challenge that is unique to Aspire?

We handle millions of dollars every day which brings about very strict standards that we need to comply with.

Balancing function & exceptional UX with those standards requires more than just writing good code.

When scaling the team for Aspire, what were some of the challenges that you faced as HoE? 

The most rewarding thing is to see people around you really care.

The most challenging is to create such an environment, where smart, diverse folks representing several nationalities, working remotely in timezones hours apart, come together and build great products.

Our work is far from done! I can't wait to see the new challenges ahead as we scale from 50 to 70 members by Christmas and then to more than 100!

How do you ensure that your team is motivated daily to carry out their tasks at Aspire?

I believe in Richard Branson’s mantra: Take Care Of Your Employees And They'll Take Care Of Your Business. When we acknowledge that and we don’t aim to ‘ensure’ that people are doing something. 

Instead, we help them grow by supporting them every day and challenging their ambitions. 

Motivation takes care of itself.

What are some of the key indicators that usually translate to a good hire for your team?

Open mind, ambition, and team-work.

What is your favourite question to ask in an interview? And why do you ask this?

We talked about the past, now what do you want your future to be? And how can Aspire help you?

It is easier to focus on what we already know. With the resume we already know the experience that the candidate has. Naturally all of that matters, but what’s much more important is the future and that often boils down to the right attitude.

The right attitude is what I’m looking for.

What is one key skill an individual must have in order to succeed in a management role?

Ask your boss ;) No, really, you have to understand your manager if you want to be a manager!

You were in the travel industry for a little while before transitioning to Aspire, what are some of the key differences working in these industries?

Scale of impact is definitely one of those things.

There’s an enormous amount of trust that our customers give us when they let us handle their money. This brings an immense feeling of responsibility, something I haven't experienced to such an extent in travel.

Throughout your career, what was the most painful mistake that you’ve made?

There’s simply too many!

If I were to pick just one, it would be an experience that many managers share: don't delay tough decisions regarding people.

Sometimes things don't work out and the sooner you face it and openly communicate it with the person, the higher chances for a positive outcome.

I've made this mistake and the outcome was far from positive. Lesson learnt.

What is the proudest moment in your career?

I’ll tell you when I retire, meanwhile I'm enjoying the journey.

You have been an active contributor to Open Source for over a decade (and ranked top 0.23% on StackOverflow this year) 

  1. What is your Motivation behind this contribution?
  2. How has giving back to the community helped you in return?

Initially my motivation was rather selfish. I started contributing to various communities and projects as a way to learn. It didn't take long to understand and appreciate how much more important it was to become part of those communities and simply help each other.

Years later I can tell you we wouldn't be having this conversation if it wasn't for those contributions.

Do you have any tips and advice for people who want to start contributing to open source projects?

Start today, be bold, ignore naysayers because there are always some. Those who care will lift you up and you’ll meet many more of them.

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