“Human relationships are as important as coding skills” – interview with Fintech Team Lead Petru Motrescu

Who are you?

Hello! I am Petru, 39 years old, software engineer, originally from Romania, currently working at Wolt HQ in Helsinki.

Can you share a few words about your background?

At 14, I was extremely lucky to get into the only computer science high-school in the region back home in Romania. We couldn’t afford to have a computer at home so for me, the 4 years attending that school were extra special. I owe the foundation of my coding skills to the amazing teachers at that school.

I started writing code professionally in 2002. In February that year I arrived in Oulu (way up North in Finland) through the Erasmus student exchange program. The plan was to study at OAMK for a few months and then return back to my university in Timisoara. Thanks to my teacher, I met Sir Antero, a very kind and generous leader who was brave enough to give me the chance to work for one summer in his team at Microcell, an OEM startup that was producing mobile phones for Ericsson and Motorola. I built a few internal websites for them with PHP, and then I joined the mobile application team where I got to seriously start programming with C.

From 2005 to 2018 I worked at Nokia & Microsoft: 

  • For the first 5 I worked in the Java team, and we built a small UI framework called eSWT on top of Symbian S60 and later Qt. In 2010, I moved to Nokia’s MeeGo team here in Helsinki. Alongside a group of very smart and fun engineers we were building the Gallery and Camera applications that shipped with the legendary, Linux- based, Nokia N9 mobile phone.
  • In 2011, Nokia adopted Windows Phone as the platform of promise, and I was one of the first 25 engineers that formed the applications organization. Together with 3 other developers, we started developing the Nokia Creative Studio, a deceivingly simple mobile image editor that was packing some pretty neat algorithms under the hood. I am particularly fond of this little application because we developed all those algorithms from scratch and we ended up with 6+ million happy users.
  • And then I joined the Camera team. We created a couple of camera applications for Lumia devices, and in 2014 Nokia’s phone unit was acquired by Microsoft. Not long after, we were developing the Camera application for the new Windows 10 operating system. Working with that team for all those years and to experience Microsoft from the inside with them was a humbling experience and something to remember for a lifetime.

In 2018 I left the camera world behind and joined a wonderful bunch of people at Nordea to do Java again, this time building backend services for their mobile payment applications.

How did you end up in Wolt?

A good friend of mine was already working at Wolt and it didn’t take much convincing for me to apply. Still, I hesitated for a while because I didn’t have any experience with Kotlin nor Python. Now, looking back, I regret not applying much sooner. Anything can be learned, and at Wolt you learn anything at lightning speed.

What do you do here now?

I work as a software engineer and team lead in a new team called Fintech. In total we are 6 developers, a lead engineer and a product lead. Our mission is to develop the financial infrastructure for Wolt, across 22 countries. Our code is split across several repositories, old and new. We work with Kotlin, Python, Scala, JavaScript, Spring Boot, Flask, React, Kafka, Kubernetes, Postgres, Mongo, etc.

What are the things you enjoy most at Wolt?

One of the very first things that struck me was how advanced and high-quality the internal tools are at Wolt. It doesn’t take long after you join to understand what I mean. You can see that same level of highly polished quality everywhere, from the code itself to how people conduct themselves in meetings. The bar is very high, at every level of engineering. As our dear Miki (CEO) once said in one of his awesomely inspiring talks, if you make it at Wolt, you’ll make it anywhere.

The culture at Wolt is amazing. Overall there is this awesome vibe here. People are super smart, positive, relaxed, friendly and humble.

And what about challenges here at Wolt?

As a team at Wolt we are responsible for our area of business end-to-end, which includes taking care of some original services as well. Services that were most definitely perfect during the first startup years may not be suitable for the exponentially growing business of today. Things break sometimes so there is manual work needed for investigating and fixing the problems, especially on the payout side of things. We are then left to decide whether we invest our very limited developer resources in adding more automation on top of the old services, or do we live with the manual work until we build the new services ought to replace them.

How does working at Wolt differ from your previous jobs?

If we take for example payouts here at Wolt, we, the Fintech team, are solely responsible for everything related. From making sure we build the right things, to building them the right way, to testing, deploying and monitoring production, to supporting country teams and building the self-serving support tools they need –  everything is on us. 

For someone like myself who has worked in big corporations, where roadmaps span years and budgets seem unlimited, at Wolt you learn to appreciate how precious time is, you learn to become a bit more practical, and overall more humble.

What’s your favorite programming language and why?

It’s still C++ 🙂 After all these years, it’s still the language I know most intimately and the language that has always been there in the background doing the heavy lifting in most of my previous projects.

What drives you/is your passion in work & life?

I love building things, and it has to be done right. The iterative process of building something is more appealing to me than the final product. Obsessing about how we could implement something more elegantly, how to make sure it won’t break when we go live, those are the things that drive me.

Anything you want to share with fellow engineers?

Not long ago my shelves were 100% full of technical books. I’ve spent a lot of time studying programming languages, frameworks, design patterns, algorithms and everything in between. I think in general, as developers, we tend to focus so much on this technical side of our work we might forget the social aspect of it. I can also be quite demanding to myself and others. I’ve learned the hard way over the years that as a software engineer your job is not only about writing good code but also about nurturing your relationships with your colleagues – you can only go so far with great coding skills but not-so-great social skills. I didn’t take this seriously early enough in my career and I regret it now.

If I had the chance to do it all over again, these would be the things I would take most seriously:

  1. Feedback is a gift. Cherish and respect any type of feedback you receive. Take notes, try small tweaks, follow up, iterate. Invite regular feedback into your routine. Also, learn how to give constructive, gentle feedback to your teammates. When asked, set time aside to really dig deep and come up with examples and actionable tips for them.
  2. Co-create. Don’t fall into the trap of “I know better”. Early discussions and small incremental pull requests are the way to go. Give a chance for everyone to have a say in how the code could be. Don’t work alone. A healthy and happy team is one where each developer has an equal opportunity to participate.
  3. Seek help. Asking questions is not a weakness. Everyone is learning something new, all the time. Spend some time trying to solve the thing on your own but don’t get blocked, seek help. A lot of folks are happy to share their knowledge. 
  4. Evolve. Take time to study, try other stacks, maybe change the team every now and then, maybe learn some presentation skills, give leading a try. It’s so easy to get comfortable and forget to invest in your future.
  5. Disconnect. Don’t work yourself out. You are at your best when you get enough sleep, exercise and mind off work at the end of the day.

Join us!

By the time of posting this text Petru took another step in his career as a Lead Engineer of Financial Services at Wolt. This means that there is an opening for experienced or aspiring Team Lead to help the Fintech team! The team is set to chart the ways we can scale the financial work, something that is always a challenge for every company. We aim to do it in a Wolt way, solving each issue with great attention to detail and dedication while keeping true to our pragmatic core. If you find this opportunity interesting and want to have a great impact as a team lead, please apply from the link below!

Engineering Team Lead, Fintech: Apply here.