Etienne from Strasbourg, Dedia from Kinshasa, and Chengfeng from Singapore have all eschewed the corporate life in favor of working for the young FinTech NetGuardians. They tell Sophy Buckley why
Etienne Seiter, 38
My former boss at a big French bank told me about the job. He’d left to join NetGuardians a few months earlier, moving from Paris to Yverdon-les-Bains where the company is based. He told me it was growing fast and offered me a risk-consultancy role. With my audit background, I knew the job would fit. I wasn’t nervous at all about the change; I was confident, and there have been no surprises since I arrived in January.
NetGuardians has lots of skilled tech people. I bring banking experience, and it’s nice to be valued. In my last job I was in IT audit, so people would often see my role as imposing constraints on them, regardless of their willingness to do it or not. We tried to show that we could improve their systems and processes, but it was sometimes hard to convince them. Here, I’m working with clients to deliver something they want. It’s very positive.
I’ve got quite a lot of autonomy and independence. My old job was very process-driven, so things moved very slowly – which can be a bit frustrating. I’m in quite a new team at NetGuardians, so there’s lots of things to set up, and we have the freedom to use our experience to propose and do what we think is best.
The move to Switzerland has been good. I live in Lausanne, about 25 minutes from the office by car or 40 minutes by train. It’s known as the City of the Night in Switzerland. There are lots of students, the lake, it’s busy but quiet.
I think I work better here. It’s more friendly, less corporate. You’re not just a number in a suit.
Dedia Ekofo, 27
I was hired via LinkedIn – my profile matched a vacancy. I applied for the job and got it, and have been here nine months already. I really like the environment and atmosphere. I could have joined a large investment company – one of the largest in Kenya – but I preferred NetGuardians. At the other company there were lots of policies about dress code, processes, hierarchy – the typical procedures that come with a big company. NetGuardians is much more relaxed. I can come to work in casual clothing when it’s really hot. I couldn’t have done that at the investment company.
I’m part of the professional-services team, delivering solutions, and supporting and training clients. I work on my own and in a team, but mostly on my own. I’m really happy with that. It can be challenging, but I like it.
When I joined the company, I went to Yverdon-les-Bains for two weeks’ training and onboarding. I met my overseas colleagues. It was really good to see what it is like. It makes you feel more part of the company. I met everyone, putting names to faces. It helps build the team.
I work in the Nairobi office. There’s no feeling of hierarchy and I can talk to everyone. It’s very friendly, but respectful. I could probably have earned more at the investment company, but I didn’t want that life. My work-life balance is good. The investment company would have demanded long hours. But that’s not part of NetGuardians’s business model. Sometimes we do stay late if something needs to be done, but if anyone has to stay we all stay to help. No one stays back in the office alone.
The office is very friendly, more like a family. We go for lunch together sometimes and meet after work. We have fun.
Chengfeng Hong, 27
My previous companies have all been SMEs – up to 250 people – so I’m definitely scaling down in size. I like that in a smaller office you are more visible, and you have more autonomy. Your contribution gets noticed. For me, my sense of purpose grows if my contribution is easily recognized.
I was contacted by a recruiter on LinkedIn. I had phone and Skype interviews and then a face-to-face with my would-be team manager and boss. I’m a solutions-analytics engineer and work in the delivery team; I am quite often on site with clients. My time is split about 70 per cent with clients, 20 per cent in the office, and I get to work from home one day a week. Working from home isn’t that common in Singapore and it helps give a pretty good work-life balance.
I took the job out of curiosity. I hadn’t been looking but the job description was interesting. My background isn’t compliance or fraud, and my degree in IT was general. In my second job I had done some bank-related work, so it’s not totally foreign. The work looked interesting.
I thought NetGuardians had a good future. It’s got a good track record. It’s a decade old and has lots of partnerships with banks. It’s a very promising market and our technology seems far ahead, so that’s promising, too. There are some really good people in key roles, and R&D is also pretty strong.
The Singapore office is growing. I was the second when I joined seven months ago. Now there are seven of us. We pretty much keep to 9am to 6pm office hours. That’s quite unusual in Singapore. You often see people working late into the night. At NetGuardians, the focus is on being productive.
I really enjoyed the two-week training and onboarding at Yverdon-les-Bains. It’s unusual for companies to invest in their new hires from the get go. It gave me more confidence and was empowering.
Recently a friend joined NetGuardians at my suggestion. She gave up her job to come here, so it must be good. The best thing? I like how diverse we are – almost 21 nationalities worldwide. It’s multi-cultural and the atmosphere is very casual. It makes it less of a job. But we still get good work done.