Starting last year, the engineering teams at Nubank collaborated to define the core principles of technology and development. The context was used to discuss and document the team’s approach to decision making and identity. The results were Nubank’s Engineering Principles, which were discussed profoundly during an interactive virtual event last May.
Lindsey Bleimes was at the core of these discussions from the beginning. VP of Engineering at Nubank, she has not only a degree in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, but an MBA at University of Maryland.
So she was the perfect match to enter the company in January 2020, when Nubank’s hyper growth was about to start before the pandemics. In those times, Nubank had 20M clients. Now, near 60M. And Lindsey was an engineer that could interpret the technical necessities of the growing team and business.
An American engineer chooses Brazil
Before Nubank, Linsdsey worked at Lockheed Martin writing logistics software for the US Navy, and led teams at Wayfair, focusing on search technology, and catalog data including imagery, 3D modeling, and pricing.
In this interview, she reflects about her role, Nubank’s Engineering Principles as a catalyst of everyday decisions and the job opportunities in Latin America for engineers from any part of the world.
“A lot of the technical innovation that’s happening in Brazil is because Nubank engineers were there to influence policy and say, ‘Yes, this is possible”, she says.
From furniture in the US to fintech for Latam
Question: Lindsey, what do you do as a VP? What are your VP’s tasks at Nubank?
Lindsey Bleimes: I see my job as helping. I’m helping my team to be happy and productive and successful and grow. I’m helping my stakeholders to understand what my team is doing and why and how we could do it better. And I’m helping the leadership of Nubank understand how to build a top-tier, amazing engineering team and how that can support the business and its growth.
So, it’s a lot of talking to people, and explaining, and sort of making the technology case and the business case come together to make the right investments. Trying to help is my main goal.
Q: You came from a very physical industry, in Wayfair. What opportunity, as an engineer, have you seen when Nubank offered you to come to São Paulo, Brazil, and to move your career from furniture to finance?
Lindsey Bleimes: Several things. One, I had been working with furniture for a long time, and I like change. So, I was ready for a change. Another one was the international aspect, to be able to learn a new culture.
And in fintech in particular, there’s a lot of pressure for innovation in places like Brazil, Africa, Southeast Asia. There is less pressure for innovation in the US.
Q: And why is that?
Lindsey Bleimes: The US population is relatively well served by banks today. Most everyone already has a bank account. Everything is sort of okay, as it is, versus things that are not okay in other parts of the world. And so, there’s much more pressure to do things differently. So I thought, if I’m going to learn fintech, it’s actually better to learn it in a place like Brazil than in the US.
Q: And can you identify some examples of what the Americans have and the Latin Americans don’t have, in terms of financial services?
Lindsey Bleimes: Well, just access to accounts and credit is a little bit easier in the US. The underserved population exists but it’s smaller. So, the business opportunity is maybe not as big. And thinking about credit cards, the US never even had chip and PIN until the rest of the world started mandating it. And so, just the technology for basic innovation like that, the US tends to be behind.
Coming to Nubank was an opportunity to learn all that as well as restart that hyper growth stage and be able to help. Nubank is growing, really, really fast. The opportunity is so big that sometimes it’s scary, in a really exciting way.
Going global: the influence of Nubank’s engineering
Q: Sooner or later, Nubank may turn from a Latin American company to a global company. In that sense, what do you identify as a strength of Nubank, in terms of engineering?
Lindsey Bleimes: We’ve built a team, and we have people that are very smart, very motivated, very independent. They really like business problems. They are really excited to solve the problems and think about the customer and do big things. And they’re not just there to do what they’re told. They’re there to be a part of the solution and have their voices heard – challenge the status quo as we like to say.
At Nubank, engineers understand the power of engineering. If something is well designed, it can scale. And that’s evident with Nubank, we scaled to almost 60 million people incredibly fast. And relatively smoothly. To be able to put that system into place, that could handle that, is amazing.
So, to always be thinking about the future, about the long term, to move fast and keep a system healthy I think that’s the strength. We have engineers who helped work with the Central Bank of Brazil (Bacen) to actually show them what’s possible.
A lot of the technical innovation that’s happening in Brazil is because Nubank engineers were there to influence policy and say, “Yes, this is possible. You can build it.”
Q: In which subject did that occur?
Lindsey Bleimes: Pix, in particular, which is a new way to make instant transfers and payments, and that works every day of the year. Nubank is proud to have actively collaborated with Brazilian Central Bank (Bacen) in the conception of this product, sharing our expertise in digital transactions from day 1.
Q: What has changed after pandemics in terms of growth of job opportunities at Nubank? Why is Nubank attractive for engineers all around the world?
Lindsey Bleimes: I think, speaking globally, the Brazilian tech industry does have a reputation for being very practical. I think there’s also a Brazilian phrase like, “You find a way to fix the thing.” And we already have an international team with engineers in 6 different countries
And I guess what I would say is, really, for any engineer, it is really valuable to work with people who have a different perspective than you do. This is one of the reasons I chose to come to Brazil, it’s one of the reasons I worked in Germany for a while. And that collaboration is so valuable, because you get the best results when you have a wide range of opinions and backgrounds. “Multiple perspectives build better software” is one of our Engineering Principles here at Nubank.
And so, if you’ve only ever worked with people in the same country that you are in, you’re missing some perspectives.
Q: Why is Brazil, where the gross of Nubank’s 60 million clients are located, so attractive to you?
Lindsey Bleimes: Brazil has a very unique culture. There’s also that phrase that, “Brazil is not for beginners”, which is true. It’s true in a business sense, like the complex regulatory landscape is challenging. Fintech in particular, there’s a lot of payment mechanisms and things that are different.
Brazil has one of the highest fraud rates in the world, which presents a really interesting technical opportunity for how do you defend against that, and how do you make something that works in a high threat market.
So, there are very few places where you could be exposed to that kind of challenge. And for me personally, I really enjoy learning about the culture and its unique history in the world.
We have a team that is global now, with people on three different continents. And we want to keep getting more global. And so, there’s definitely opportunity there.