If You Feel Like All the Things Are Scheduled, You’re Not Making Progress
Based on the interview with Radomir Mastalerz, CTO at WealthArc.
WealthArc is a FinTech company developing cloud-based solutions for independent asset managers in Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. Their product simplifies everyday operations by automating the end-to-end workflow from portfolio management to reporting. As WealthArc’s CTO Radomir Mastalerz says, the company fosters digital tools amongst wealth managers, as it’s often the first automated tool for most of their clients. He likes to say that their main competitor is Excel.
Radomir Mastalerz was a software engineer before becoming WealthArc’s CTO. He has a solid academic background and hands-on experience in the development of risk management and e-banking solutions for investment and retail banks. He decided to start WealthArc with Chris Gogol (WealthArc’s Founder & CEO). In just four years, a small team has grown into a flourishing, 40 seasoned professionals’ strong company of dedicated innovators committed to digitalizing the wealth management industry through smart product development.
In this article, we’ll discuss the biggest challenges a CTO faces in his day-to-day work. How to hire people for startups? What one should know about security when founding a new company and what is the key to personal growth and motivation?
When any company faces steep growth, it also has to confront new challenges that need to be properly addressed. These are usually defined by the number of customers, team size, and product complexity, and they are accompanied by specific situations a CTO should face.
Mastalerz and Gogol started WealthArc in April 2015. At that time, the team consisted of four people, including two co-founders. Back then Radomir was a regular developer, the whole company was meeting on daily standups. Once the team has grown past 10 people, the old flat structure stopped working. The company was split into 2 teams and assigned team leader to each team. The next significant change was needed when the company has grown past 20 people. There was no way to control and check what everyone at the company was doing. Radomir and Chris had to split the company into more teams, put processes in place and design a communication framework for the company.
Today, the company is using the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) methodology borrowed from Google. CEO sets objectives for the company. Progress on the objective is measured by accomplishing Key Results. Key Results become objectives for his subordinates. Objectives are set for teams as well as for individuals.
“The OKR methodology helps everyone to align with company strategy. On one hand, each employee sees a direct impact of his/her work on company objectives, on the other, the employee has the flexibility to come up with the best way how to meet the objective.”
When the company structure is being changed, one needs to think ahead. A CTO should have a plan and put in place processes that will work within the next one or two years assuming the rapid growth of the company. Otherwise, one keeps changing the structure and the processes every six months, thus wasting time and effort.
The same forward-thinking rule applies to technology. Radomir and Chris decided to build a cloud-native application hosted in Microsoft Azure since the very beginning. In 2015 cloud adoption was low and prospect clients were concerned about cloud security. Nevertheless, they knew cloud would give a huge competitive advantage and thus decided to partner with Microsoft to build the solution for wealth managers.
Many architectural decisions made at the beginning proved to be very efficient. As security is crucial to WealthArc’s clients, because they keep some of their personal data there, they separated the databases storing the CRM client data from the financial data. They have also introduced various access levels internally as the company has grown.
“We started the company with four people, and all needed to have access to everything. However, when the company grows, you start thinking about internal security. If you do it as early as possible, then it’s much easier to escape the ‘everyone has access to everything’ scheme. We have gone through that journey but at most startups security is very often neglected at the very beginning.”
Money motivation is short-term
The direction in which a company is heading is very much defined by the people you hire. Mastalerz used to hire plenty of engineers because he and Gogol are engineers themselves. It turned out that they overestimated engineers’ capacity to carry out other business tasks. Now Mastalerz is keeping up with hiring more business-oriented people.
“People tend to recruit those that have similar skills, education, experience. I found myself trying to hire people with the same profile as me, but then I realized that I need to change my approach. To move forward, you need to overcome your natural fear of working with diverse personalities and skills. In my experience working in a more diversified environment brought the company and me as a manager more benefit.”
The most important thing for a startup is taking full responsibility for the task that you’re given. Startups usually cannot afford constant supervision and double checks of the work that someone is doing. Startups must focus on hiring self-motivated, responsible professionals. From WealthArc’s point of view, the technology starts with the engineer and his analytical thinking, algorithmic and communication skillset.
The candidates who meet the criteria have plenty of other offers to choose from. That’s why startups should motivate the candidate to join the team by giving them something they cannot find in big corporates – challenging problems to solve, freedom, responsibility and growth opportunities.
“What we do to attract people is giving them a lot of freedom and very responsible tasks. We are not able to beat the top market salaries. If you attract people only with money, usually it works only short-term. You need to have people that enjoy the fast-paced environment of a startup and like being challenged daily.”
It’s difficult to check if a person meets the profile during a short interview. Still, WealthArc adopted a set of questions about the problems that they encountered in the past. It allows them to see the candidates’ way of thinking and helps them determine if they can solve a real problem.
“We encounter a candidate that solved in the past problems to problems we are currently facing, then it’s usually a very good match.”
As a CTO, Mastalerz must find his motivation and areas of growth. For him, these two are inseparable as it is always good to challenge yourself to stay successful. For now, what motivates him most is defining the balance between business goals and technology. Being the bridge between the business and the R&D team is not an easy task.
“If you feel that you have a lot of things scheduled and you know how to deal with all of your tasks, then usually you’re doing something wrong and you’re not making progress.”
The most exciting thing for him was to learn how to navigate tasks and manage people. It is probably the most difficult part for former engineers to understand that they don’t have to do everything themselves to achieve desired results. Some people can do things better than you, so it’s worth improving management to perfection, he says.