Inside Qonto

From SF to being Qonto’s first employee

June 03, 2019 by Anaëlle Gautier
Gabriel Klein VP Engineering

This article has been published on Medium first on August the 3rd of 2017.

As Alexandre, CEO of Qonto, recently said:

"Today, 99% of the company are the people who make up our team. It is our main asset".

Welcome to the 1st episode of #MeetQonto, to introduce you to the people behind Qonto, which we are inaugurating with Gabriel, our VP Engineering.

Gabriel, can you please introduce yourself?

I was born in Toulouse; I am married and I have a daughter. I love travelling, even if it is a little less possible now, because of Qonto and my daughter. 😉 I am involved in the Glénans Association, a sailing club where everyone can become a volunteer instructor by taking and passing exams. That's my goal for next year!

Professionally, I moved to Paris at the beginning of my career, where I worked for large companies for a few years (Lagardère, Veolia). After a while, I wanted to discover something else, and I went to San Francisco.

I discovered the start-up universe over there, 7 years ago. I spent 4 years working in different companies as a Full Stack Developer and Lead Developer. More precisely, I worked for Liftopia for 2-and-a-half years, which is recognized as an absolute reference in corporate culture in San Francisco.

Three years ago, we decided to return to France with my wife. But before that, we did a one-year tour of Latin America! We sold everything, bought 2 backpacks (that we overfilled, rookie mistake! 😅) and we went on the road with a 80$/day budget.

At the end of this extraordinary journey, I decided to join a startup in Paris. It took me a long time to find the one that would make me want to work really hard, with ambition, an interesting project and where my assignments would have a real impact, which is an essential criterion for me.

How did you become Qonto’s employee?

I was a little disappointed by my job search, so I started working on a solo project. I thought about my wife's experience as a COO in a start-up and mine as an employee who had to advance travel expenses, whether they lasted 1 week or 1 month. I started thinking about a solution for tracking expenses, expense reports, and expenses abroad. I understood that the only way to do it properly was if it came from a bank, not from a new SaaS as it already exists.

I had started to prospect suppliers on my project, but the amount of technical work made it a team project rather than a solo project. So I looked a little bit for similar projects to join, but I didn't find the real gem.

I had given up the idea of working on this subject when I ran into Steve and Alex's offer. In one sentence, I immediately recognized myself in the project and I knew that it was with them that I wanted to throw myself into! I started in early April 2016 and a few weeks later, Qonto was officially created.

What is different about Qonto, based on your previous experiences?

The startups I worked for before Qonto were all in the second stage of their growth. The advantage of this stage is that we have perspective about the first stage and that it guides our actions: we know what we should no longer do and what we should keep doing.

The challenges are very different during these two stages. When a start-up begins, the speed of execution prevails. Then, we move on to complex technical challenges to be met around optimization and scalability.

When I arrived at Qonto, I discovered that the whole challenge of the first stage: you don't have the same perspective on what you do, you have to be fast and better than the others from the start.

It is a very interesting experience and you actually learn a lot from it. In this stage, the quality of execution, the ability to take decisions, to bring together employees capable being involved at 200% and the prioritisation of tasks are crucial.

The first stage is harder than the second stage. My previous experiences in more developed start-ups helped me to move faster and have a better perspective on what was going to happen next.

Can you paint us a little picture of your working days?

When I arrived, I was alone in the technical team. I was mainly working on long-term features.

We are now 11 in this technical team, so I quickly added management to my activity.

“I'm no longer the engine but the oil you put in it.”

I am here to ease the work of others, to allow them focusing on their expertise, and I am here to take care of tasks left, focusing on design and vision.

As we also recruit a lot, an important part of my activity is to manage the new recruitments of the technical team. I am very proud of the talents we have been able to bring together around Qonto, including alumni from well-known start-ups such as Zenly, BlaBlaCar, Trainline or Sush.io.

What are the highlights of Qonto that you remember?

From a technical point of view, each version released is important: the release of the beta version and then the public version. These milestones had been our objectives for a long time, and that motivates us to keep on going. So these were very important moments for our team.

Another particularly strong memory is the first global team meeting we had. It was followed by a drink. By having your head in the game, you don't necessarily fully appreciate all the progress that has been made, whether regarding business or human resources. At that moment I really realized that the company had grown and that I was surrounded by talented people.

And finally, everything that customers say positively about Qonto is very important to me! That's why we work every day, so it's always very motivating to get these feedback.

If you had to convince a developer to join Qonto, what would you tell him/her?

When we take a look at the jobs in banks today, it has nothing to do with what we offer at Qonto. Joining a neobank with technological aspects that will be able to evolve, in a team that does not hesitate to test new technologies and integrate them is very interesting. Our technical team is constantly looking for innovation.

From a human perspective, we are close from each other, empathetic and caring. If someone has a problem, there is always someone else to come and help you with pleasure.

The technical challenges that await us and that we will have to solve together make our work super interesting and never boring!

What piece of advice would you give to candidates who want to join Qonto?

There is one thing that always hits: the motivation to join the project. You have to think "Qonto first". If we have a candidate who does not quite match the job description, but who is passionate and super motivated, we will always do our best to integrate him into the team.

We are looking for talents who are willing to go further, to learn and to improve. Qonto's culture of excellence is well established.

Qonto in one word…

WORK! And I would say hard work. 😉

More seriously, and in order not to frighten anyone, for me Qonto is the constant search for customer satisfaction. At all levels of the company, there is no decision in the teams that does not guarantee the satisfaction of our customers!

To be sure that you don't miss any episode, we're waiting for you on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Instagram.

PS: Want to join our great tech team? Have a look at our open positions!

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