How product & engineering careers are built on growth and trust at Spendesk

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Laura O'Callaghan

Published on December 8, 2022

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Choosing a new role typically poses the same dilemma: should you play it safe and stick with what you know, or extend yourself and possibly take risks? But in fact, great careers offer both. You should want the chance to use your best skills with confidence, and grow and learn in new areas.

The best work environments offer the right balance between autonomy in decision-making and the safety of a support system. You build your own path, but with experienced peers and mentors to help you find the way.

Spendesk strikes this balance by giving you the opportunities to contribute and make choices right away, with a strong team and leaders who can help guide those choices.

To illustrate, we asked two Spendesk product leaders what makes their teams and roles special.

Meet the Spendeskers

  • Olga Stepanova is a Product Leader at Spendesk, where she focuses on innovation and product-led growth. Olga spent two years as Head of Product Development Excellence at Miro, was Senior Product Manager at Cadre, and spent five years in the product teams at Dropbox.

  • Elisabeth Rotrou joined Spendesk as Head of Product in 2019, and is now Head of Research & Insights. Prior to joining, Elisabeth was CPO at Octoly, a Senior Product Manager at Criteo and Solocal, and was a consultant in the US and Europe.

A product-driven company

It’s a common cliché for fast-growing tech companies to claim to be “product-led.” For Elisabeth, the welcome surprise when joining Spendesk was that it was actually true

“The one thing that was very different when I started at Spendesk was how central the PDE (Product Design, Data & Engineering) department was to the company overall. I came in as Head of Product in 2019 when the company was still quite small. I was already impressed with the strength and professionalism in the product team at that time. But the level of scale and investment since then has been extraordinary.”

Compared to other companies I’ve worked or consulted for, Spendesk is investing among the most into building great products.

Elisabeth Rotrou

These investments include engineers and product managers, product marketing, research, data science, and tech support. Everything you need to conceive of, design, and build the best solutions.

“This is empowering for product and engineering teams,” says Elisabeth. “We have the support and resources we need to do our very best work. It’s so exciting and also reassuring to have the means to build better products.”

For Olga, the attention and interest her teams receive are crucial. “Everyone in the organization knows our product strategy and is excited about it. That’s a huge advantage, as it helps us focus on what matters most.”

Tangible growth opportunities

It’s also easy to claim that a company helps people grow. Particularly in startups and young businesses, this is part of the appeal. But more often than not, career development and real learning chances are hard to find. 

At Spendesk, the career journey is well defined and clearly stated from day one. No matter whether you join as a fresh graduate or seasoned pro, you understand your next steps and can build the career you want.  

“There are also more and more opportunities for people to grow and learn,” says Elisabeth. “New teams emerge and need leaders and coaches, and there’s also the chance to progress in other ways for those who don’t want to manage people.” 

“There’s room to grow into management or leadership roles, in both smaller squads and larger teams. But we also have more senior ‘individual contributor’ roles for people who want to develop their skills and own a wider scope of work, but not as managers. A Principal PM who delivers a critical business feature could be as influential for the business as their peer managing a group of PMs.” 

Elisabeth knows this first hand. Having joined as the Head of Product, “in 2022, I moved to a new role as Head of Research and Insights. This is a new team in the company, and our challenge is to expand, organize, and distribute knowledge and our users and ecosystem. Our revenue teams can drive new business, the product team can develop even better features, and our customers get the best possible version of Spendesk.”

“I haven’t ever seen this same opportunity in other companies. I had the freedom to identify a role that addressed one of the company’s key business needs - in a whole new field - and then go out and make it happen.”

A team mindset with space for individuality

Structure, systems and routines are highly prized in product teams. And there’s plenty of structure at Spendesk. 

But as Elisabeth explains, “there’s no ‘one way’ to be an engineer or product manager at Spendesk. You discover the right structure for yourself and your team, and then are guided along by people who may have been there before.”

“We do have team templates and systems so we can all work together easily. But you’re free to write your own specifications for new features and have the interactions with teammates you want.” 

And this extends outside of work processes. “Ownership” is one of the company’s core values, and this includes taking ownership of your routines and availability.

Olga says, “We recognize humans as humans. And we have 3D relationships - work is just a part of our lives. And Spendesk lets us find the structure and balance that suits us as individuals. The company supports people to manifest themselves fully and do great work.”

Elisabeth agrees. “I’ve spoken to a lot of other mothers about the barriers that can make work life tricky. For example, I need to leave earlier than my colleagues to pick up my kids. As long as it’s clearly marked in my calendar, there are no issues at all. It might take a few weeks for others to adapt, just like any habit. But everyone is very cool about it, and certainly not judgmental.” 

“Spendesk gives you the flexibility and autonomy you need in whatever your circumstances may be. And if it works well for you and the team functions well, there are no issues at all.”

A culture of trust and authenticity

An ownership culture only works where people feel trusted to truly own their roles. And that’s exactly the case for our product leaders.

“Spendesk is fueled by trust,” says Olga. “Product managers, designers, and engineers are driving large outcomes - supported by researchers and program managers. There is a lot of trust in people’s abilities and their diligence.”

Trust is not an empty word for the company.

Olga Stepanova

“We’re a comparably small team for the level of ambition we have. So even people who are relatively junior in their careers are working on large, important topics in the business. And they have a lot of say in where we go.” 

“We’re definitely not a top-down culture, where management figures out the plan and the rest just have to execute. There are a lot of constructive conversations going both ways - from managers to their teams and back again. Personally, I find this very rewarding.

“It creates winning dynamics, because it’s the team that learns. We build knowledge as a team. And people feel comfortable challenging each other - in a healthy way - regardless of their title or role.”

As Elisabeth explains, “there’s one word that truly describes the culture at Spendesk: authenticity. When I joined Spendesk, I was really struck by how honest and transparent Rod was as a leader. This attitude from the founders really flows down through the organization.”

“I love coming to work not wondering whether people are going to lie about or blame me for issues they’re having.”

Build your career journey with us

No matter where you’ve been in your career before today, there’s always room to grow and learn new things. That may mean learning more about fintech and finance teams, gaining certified managerial skills, or joining an international team with more than 30 nationalities.

Want to be part of a prized product team and also build your unique journey in tech? Join our talented team of:

  • Software engineers

  • Product and program managers

  • Product Designers 

  • Operations and systems experts

  • Team leads, managers, and Directors 

  • IT and technical support engineers

  • Research and Data Analysts 

Whether this is your first product and engineering role or your twentieth, you’ll have the chance to grow and make a real impact with us.

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