Intern stories: What I learned about what makes WePay successful

August 14, 2015 Wepay Updates
Joy Gao
By Joy Gao,
Joy Gao
By Joy Gao,

Joy Gao

On my last day at WePay, I took a final snapshot of the office on my way out, reminiscing everything that had happened.

Saying goodbye has never been this hard.

I’ve spent a total of 16 weeks at WePay, 6 weeks longer than most interns, and just enough time to witness an office expansion, a $40M funding, a hiring sprint, a notable ranking of 62nd on Inc. 5000 with 4354% growth, and a company birthday celebration as it completes its 7th year on a strong note.

Success like that might appear easy on paper, but working here has taught me that it takes hard work. After hearing from Bill and Rich, the founders themselves, as well as the early employees of WePay in our weekly Humans of WePay initiatives, I’ve learned that the company got where it is today after numerous attempts, failures, and pivots, all of which strongly reflect the perseverance and faith of the people whom made this place so special.  

The problem that WePay tries to solve is fundamentally hard, because bank technology in the payment industry is still inherited from legacy IT infrastructures in the 1970s, plus various legal requirements from countries around the world makes horizontal expansion a challenging but worthwhile task.  WePay aims to deliver payment as a platform in an affordable, convenient, and seamless manner, meaning that it requires us to abstract out all the tediousness and the complexity, while giving a beautiful and effortless API interface for the partners and customers to work with. WePay is doing a good job at this already, in fact it has one of the the industry’s lowest transactional fraud rate; but its demand for excellence and care for customers push it to continuously revolve for the better.

So how does this company do this? Heres what I have uncovered over the span of 4 months:

WePay’s team is world-class, yet humble

Before joining WePay, I had the conviction that engineering culture can be arrogant with all these highly-educated and well-compensated programmers. However, upon entering the company and joining the Core team, that misconception was completely reverted and thrown away.

The core team is composed of around 10 people, most of whom are senior developers with 5 years or more of experience. The problem we solve everyday involves building and maintaining a software architecture backbone that allows our payment system to be fast, accurate, and fault-tolerant. On top of that, it requires building new features to enable us to operate internationally. This demands not just technical depth, but also industrial and cultural sophistication.

Throughout my work term, no matter what questions I had, there is always at least one expert in the team to be able to address it. More importantly, instead of just getting an answer to the what, my colleagues always patiently elaborated on the why and how.

For example, clarifying a configuration detail of a code coverage tool had resulted in an explanation of its underlying implementation; questioning about the effectiveness of a unit test had resulted in a comparison of various unit testing philosophy; asking about the a functional languages syntax had resulted in a discussion of the languages strengths and weaknesses.

As a nerd at heart, these discussions fuel my work on a daily basis. On top of this, knowing that people care about their work to the core (no pun intended) encouraged me to demand excellence rather than mediocrity in my own work (yes, the broken windows theory really is true).

During my time at WePay, I was assigned to work on the same challenging project as full-timers for features that will be used by all of our customers, not intern-specific pet projects. I was given access to anything that required me to get my work done, with complete transparency and trust. By the time I left, I had the opportunity to work with three programming languages, three frameworks, two build tools, two continuous integration tools, and numerous software engineering concepts and practices that benefit me immensely in the long haul.

WePay really does care about building real relationships

Before joining WePay, I thought engineers are difficult to make friends. I imagined the stereotype of really geeky techies who prefer to be left alone with their code rather than their peers. Again, that couldn’t be more wrong.

Our director took the time and hold 1:1 with each of his team members to address their concerns on a weekly basis. He went beyond his role and became a mentor and friend of mine whom provided me with valuable career advices. Our VPs and founders set times out to eat with us interns regularly, play board games with us at Game Nights, and hold long discussion with us about technical- and career-related topics.

We have a weekly session during lunch called Humans of WePay where colleagues who have worked here for a long time reintroduce themselves to the newer staff joining the team. The keyword here is human. People here value relationships like I’ve never seen before. Watching colleagues unfold their lives outside of work allowed me get to know those whom I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered on a working basis. It allowed me to see them as real human: sky-diver, rock-climber, guitarist, Ping-Pong master, philosopher, all of whom share a common trait: they are real and passionate people, both inside and outside of work.

More than anything, the people are what I will miss.

Sure, the new office is classy, the catered food is amazing, the free caltrain passes are convenient. But to me those all fall into the nice Pay part of WePay. The real magic of this company is the We, and that’s something that will stay with me as I leave this unforgettable place full of quirky, smart, fun, kind, and passionate people.

[EDITOR’S NOTE – Joy returned to WePay after graduation to work here full time.]