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How Endowus engineers the right tech values

January 01, 2023  ·  By Deepak Sarda, Joo Lee  ·  Filed under culture

There have been many attempts at defining the culture of an organisation. Some claim culture stems from a company’s vision and mission. Others think it’s about perks and benefits.

We think the best articulation of what constitutes a company’s culture is found in Ben Horowitz’s book “What You Do Is Who You Are”, in which he writes:

Your culture is how your company makes decisions when you are not there. It’s the set of assumptions your employees use to resolve the problems they face every day. It’s how they behave when no one is looking.

This rubric of decision making can be captured as that which a company values. As individual contributors, and later as engineering leaders at many different companies, we’ve witnessed first-hand how engineering teams make choices and decisions that are influenced by these cultural values.

Every company, every department, and every team has values. Whether they realise it or not and whether they explicitly write them down or not - they exist and are the invisible force guiding employee behaviours and decision making.

Culture is not about catchphrases

Take the phrase “move fast and break things”. Set by Mark Zuckerberg, this value statement informed several big and small engineering decisions at Facebook.

Or “fake it till you make it”, another well-known value statement, especially in the startup world. Zappos is known for buying shoes from a shoe store to fulfil orders, Reddit populated its site with fake users to generate activity, and many early AI bots were just humans behind the scenes.

Build the right thing, ship it fast

As a wealthtech firm where earning and retaining client trust is paramount, we can’t afford to “break things” or “fake it till we make it”.

Instead, our engineering ethos can be summed up as this: build the right thing and ship it fast.

Let us elaborate on what this means.

The right thing obviously is a thing that solves a pain point for a customer. It solves a genuine customer need and in our case, it means building something that helps our clients to invest better to live better.

Just one way in which this guides our decision making is making investments in tools and processes that help improve collaboration between product managers and engineers.

There’s another dimension to building the right thing for our customers — it’s that the customer can actually use the product! If something is supposed to be the perfect solution to a customer’s need but the customer can’t use it because it’s buggy or hard to use, then it’s not the right thing.

So we make decisions that push us towards higher quality in our deliveries.

However, clients are not the only stakeholder for us. We also need to build the right thing for our employees, for our regulators and ultimately, for our business.

Our employees need to be able to support our wealth platform so the right product for them is one that’s observable, has a high degree of automation, and can be easily supported. For example, we’ve built an entire administrative platform just for our internal production operations team that helps them effectively manage our business.

Our regulators expect us to have high standards for security, reliability, resiliency and we make decisions that help us meet and exceed those expectations.

Finally, the right thing for our business is to build a tech platform that is flexible to accommodate new areas of growth such as fresh product lines or market expansion, while keeping operating costs low. As a business, we are only paid by you, our clients. So to provide a great investing experience at a fair price, we make cost-efficient decisions.

Speed to market

Those are a lot of considerations when it comes to building the right thing. So many, in fact, that if left unchecked, it can significantly slow down an engineering team. That’s why we explicitly include “shipping it fast” as a core value.

Jeff Bezos said that “speed matters in business” and we couldn’t agree more. We are aspiring to solve the broken investment and wealth experience for all of Asia. We can’t do that if we can’t move quickly from idea to production.

Put together, our values lead us to make engineering decisions that help us build the right thing for our clients, our employees, our regulators and our business at a high velocity.

If these values align with yours, please explore one of our open roles!