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Engineering UnZipped: Q&A with Kalpana


Kalpana Chandrasekar


November 11, 2022

Engineering UnZipped: Q&A with Kalpana

At Zip, our mission is to be the first payment choice everywhere and every day. Our Engineering team plays a crucial role in how we deliver against this mission and I wanted to give a sneak peek into why I’m finding working in our Shop & Rewards team particularly exciting at the moment.

I recently sat down with the team to talk about my experience since joining the organisation earlier in the year as part of our ‘UnZipped’ series - here’s how the conversation played out…

Kalpana, tell us about yourself, how long you’ve been with Zip and a little bit about your background and previous career

My name is Kalpana and I’ve been working as an Engineering Manager at Zip for just over two months now. I have over fourteen years experience working in technology across a variety of different roles including as a web developer, full stack engineer and Tech lead, on domains such as e-commerce, logistics and fintech. In my last role prior to joining Zip, I was the Technical Lead at online foreign exchange and payments company OFX. I was there for over nine and a half years, with the last three spent in the Technical Lead role. This was my first foray into the exciting world of fintech and just like at Zip, I was exposed to cutting edge technologies and what was very much a Cloud-first approach.

What is unique about the type of work you do in Engineering at Zip versus where you’ve worked previously?

I would say first and foremost the nature of my role is different. Leading the Engineering team within the Shop and Rewards squad, I see my main responsibility as supporting other Zipsters to fulfil their career aspirations.

Beyond that, the breadth of my functional remit at Zip actually stretches beyond just focusing on engineering. Unlike at my previous organisation where that was my main responsibility, at Zip I get to challenge myself with tasks like product delivery and process improvement, as well as steering the direction of all of our key engineering initiatives for the squad.

Thinking about the way your Engineering team works in agile alongside our Product and Design teams, what are some of the things you do as a leader to inspire great outcomes for the squad?

Our main focus in the Shop and Rewards squad is to create a seamless user flow between the moment a customer starts shopping for a product using the Zip app, and the moment the merchant in question receives their payment.

As Engineers, we partner with Zipsters in the product, design, marketing, data analytics and data science teams who are all in the same squad. Our collective goal as a team is to improve the shopping experience for Zip customers and we work in a very collaborative way to make sure we’re all pulling in the same direction.

As an Engineering Manager in the team, I see my role more as guiding the Engineers to design and deliver the technical solution. So rather than getting on the tools myself, I tend to share my knowledge around engineering best practices and product delivery in a way that empowers others around me to do their best work.

What one thing that people outside of the organisation may not know about Zip makes you proud to work here?

What makes me proud is that we are sticking true to our values in the way we show up at work. Our values clearly aren’t just words on a wall. We definitely bring a ‘Customer First’ mentality to problem solving, and work ‘Stronger Together’ within our squads, and the wider business, to tackle the interesting challenges that come with new product development.

Another thing that I’m proud of, which may surprise a lot of people, is the scale of the impact of our work. We now have over 11.4 million customers around the world, up from only a million customers three years ago. Being a part of a business that has grown so fast, yet has ambitions to get even bigger is exciting, especially when I see our work as a team directly contributing to that growth.

Why is it an exciting time to be working in the Engineering team at Zip?

For me, it’s down to three elements. Firstly, we have built a fairly unique culture which for me blends the best of both worlds; we’re enabled to work cohesively as a team in pursuit of common goals, yet as Zipsters we still get the choice, the space and the time to work in ways that suit us as individuals so that we can make the best possible contributions.

Secondly, because we’re a growing business with a flat structure, there are some very real opportunities for career growth. What also contributes to our professional development is the fact that we’re working with cutting edge technologies like Kubernetes, Kafka and AWS, with a cloud first strategy, which means we’re always learning on the job and pushing ourselves to innovate in ways that will change the game for our customers, and each other.

And finally, related to that second point, is the culture. We’re encouraged to try new things and I really feel like we have the backing to ‘fail fast’, learn from those mistakes and use the experience to get better. As a team, we’re also conscious about maintaining a great work-life balance. It’s important to understand boundaries and so far I’ve only seen positive things across the business.

We are currently seeking expressions of interests from Engineers to come and join our team. Hopefully you got the sense from my article that it’s a really exciting time to be joining Zip. So if you’re a Software Engineer who has experience with Java and Spring Boot, and you’re someone who might be keen to get stuck into the world of Kotlin, then check our latest Engineering roles here.

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