Flutterwave made a couple of hires over the summer that got the Nigerian tech community buzzing.
Like everyone else, we were curious and went in search of answers. Luckily for us, we were able to land a chat with their Global Head of People Strategy, Mansi Babyloni. Mansi is based in the US, where they are five hours behind West African Time (WAT).
Amongst the other things that we spoke about, we touched on what it takes to be a Waver.
Here's the full interview, edited lightly for clarity:
BD: Hello Mansi, great to have you here today. How has your day been?
Mansi: I’m thrilled to be here too. It’s been a long day, but the sun is shining through my window, and I am sipping on a piping hot cup of coffee, so no complaints.
Benjamindada.com (BD): Before we go into your work at Flutterwave, please tell us a little bit about yourself? What did you do before Flutterwave?
Mansi: Before Flutterwave, I was a Strategy Consultant with Ernst & Young (EY), here in New York. I worked with EY for about five years. I started right after I finished my MBA at Georgetown University in Washington DC.
Most of my experience with EY revolved around helping some of the largest Fortune-500 organisations (around the globe) figure out their next big bet or strategic move. I did that for five years and truly loved the opportunity to add value to so many organisations. But I always itched to pivot towards an organisation where I would help build things from scratch.
As a Strategy Consultant, a lot of the times, you don’t get to see the implementation of your ideas which can leave you feeling starved. Here at Flutterwave, I get to work on things end-to-end, which has had such a massive impact on my overall level of satisfaction with life. I really love what I do, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.
A day in the life of Mansi Babyloni
BD: That’s great. So, tell us, what’s your day-to-day at Flutterwave like?
Mansi: I’m not sure if there’s a typical day. Every day looks different. We’re a young organisation. When things go wrong, which they do, you have to put out real fires. Because I sit in NY, I’m five hours behind my entire team in Lagos. I start my day very early. For the longest time in my life, I’ve wanted to be part of the 5 AM club (the famous book by Robin Sharma), but I could never discipline myself.
But hey (*laughs*) thanks to Flutterwave, I now wake up every day at 3:30 AM ET (8:30 AM WAT), and my first meeting starts at 4 AM (9 AM WAT) so I have maximum overlap with my team.
A big portion of my day is spent in meetings, not only with my team (everyone is pegged to a primary team or department at Flutterwave), but also with stakeholders across teams (we are a highly cross-functional organisation). While you have a primary team, if you are the kind that likes solving problems, raise your hand, and the world is your oyster.
I work very closely with a number of teams in my dual role as Head of People Strategy and (interim) Head of Customer Experience. When not in meetings, I spend my time deliberating and trying to figure out how to make our existing processes better, more efficient and how we can set ourselves up to scale.
When I started in June, our headcount was ~175, today as I speak to you, our headcount is 200+. We have seen monumental growth in the last three short months, and I don’t see us slowing down anytime soon. Being agile and lean is important to us, we don’t want to become an organisation that has unnecessary fat. We want to maintain our ability to move on things quickly, even as we grow. Sourcing the correct talent, as you may have guessed is a big part of my role.
So, yeah, every day is different. I wake up every morning to a lot of Slack messages about things needing urgent attention. Prioritisation helps me get things over to the finish line. Focus and prioritisation in my opinion are critical survival skills for any role at Flutterwave.
BD: Seeing as you are over 5,000 miles away, how do you keep in touch with your Nigerian colleagues?
Mansi: Well, unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to meet anyone in person. If we were not in the middle of a pandemic, I would have made several trips to Lagos, and spent time with my teams in the office, physically.
In the current environment, I make use of technology to stay in touch with everybody. For most of my meetings, I like being on video, just because it makes the experience so much more interactive. I also constantly stay connected with everyone using Slack, WhatsApp, and Email. It really hasn’t been bad, though I do miss not meeting people physically.
How is Flutterwave able to hire in the pandemic?
BD: You mentioned Flutterwave’s headcount has grown since your time with the company. Considering the times we’re in, that’s quite remarkable. What is Flutterwave doing differently?
Mansi: While Covid-19 is the unfortunate reality of our time, that has impacted a lot of businesses across the globe, negatively, it has also rehashed the importance of all things technology in the modern world. Retailers that did not have an online presence, have now taken to digitisation. As a company focused on payments, and digitisation, the move towards everything virtual has helped increase our revenue, and grow our business, which is the reason behind our hiring spree in the last few months.
When you shift gears from a startup to a scale-up (characterised by proven product-market fit), you either go big or go home, and we certainly want to go big. Finding the right talent to help us power and grow through 2021, 2022 and the years that follow, is always on our mind. The last few months, time was ripe for us to continue finding the right talent and that’s what we did.
Mansi's involvement in the recent hires
BD: We saw some big moves into Flutterwave this summer in terms of hires that appeared strategic. Did you have a hand in that?
Mansi: Every hiring decision made since June, I have been very closely involved in. I think for any organisation, your recruitment strategy and whether you’re successful in getting the candidates you want to go after is testament to your vision and what you stand for. We have been very fortunate in hiring extremely talented individuals across the board, which makes me feel so proud of who we are, and the positive sentiment for us in the ecosystem.
"I think for any organisation, your recruitment strategy and whether you’re successful in getting the candidates you want to go after is testament to your vision and what you stand for."
How to get hired by Flutterwave
BD: For people who might be interested in working at Flutterwave in the future, can you tell us what you look for in a Flutterwave hire?
Mansi: There are three primary things we look for in any candidate.
- Does our vision, mission and core values resonate with you? Do you know why we exist, what we stand for and what we are trying to achieve? Do the words "simplifying payments for endless possibilities" mean anything to you?
- Do you have the ability to handle ambiguity and the drive to roll up your sleeves to fix issues? As an organisation playing in the fragmented payments landscape in Africa, we encounter issues regularly, and not always do we have the answer to these problems. We need people who can handle the unknown, use their best judgement to develop a solution, test it, tweak it and implement it. Get-the-job-done attitude is just so critical to what we do.
- Do you fit into the cultural sphere that we have set for ourselves. Are you the kind of person who works hard, but also has a very human, personable side to them. If I were stuck with you at the airport for 5 hours, will we be able to have a conversation, connect as friends and not want to kill each other? Can you pass the airport test? This is the framework we use to find the right talent. Yes, the right skill-set is important, but we are betting on you as a complete package.
We have had more than a few people come through the door with a limited understanding of the payments landscape, but with coaching and mentoring by teammates, these individuals could hit the ground running also immediately, and are raging successes in what they do.
If you are a fast learner and a true problem solver, who can walk in the door, jive with our existing workforce, and get cracking to solve real problems, this is the place for you.
What is Flutterwave's culture?
BD: You mentioned that fitting into the company culture is very important. What would you describe the culture at Flutterwave as? What are the values you find most important?
Mansi: Our set of core values is the fulcrum that we revolve around. We are customer-focused. We pay A LOT of importance to our customer, everything we do is for them. Every organisation on the face of earth exists to serve an unmet need to customers. Identifying what customers want and creating products to meet that need is what we take a lot of pride in.
Payments and money is a touchy matter for all human beings. Given the space we play in, building trust with internal and external stakeholders is another intrinsic value we live by. Constant innovation is another big bucket item for us. The payments landscape across the globe has changed rapidly in the last few years. Keeping up with the pace of change requires visionaries and people with an innovative mindset.
Our culture is work hard—because our impact is far and reaching, have each other’s back—because what is life without a solid support system, celebrate our accomplishments with each other and constantly strive to get better.
At Flutterwave, we’re always thinking about "what next". As we go from Millennials to Gen Z, needs and aspirations differ, and therefore our products and services will have to keep up with the changing needs.
More on recent hires at Flutterwave
BD: Back to the new hires. Some of them are well-recognised talents in the tech industry. Were they brought on because Flutterwave is looking at new projects or were they hired to help with the work on the ground?
Mansi: I think for any organisation to continue thriving, a constant focus on the next new thing is important. As we bring on new talent, the expectation is to split time between stabilising and improving what we already do and look out for new things on the horizon.
A very popular case study in business schools is Kodak. The company ceased to exist because "what next" was not top of the mind for the executives. They were happy being the best at making films and then one fine day films were no longer needed.
At Flutterwave, we’re always thinking about “what next”. As we go from Millennials to Gen Z, needs and aspirations differ, and therefore our products and services will have to keep up with the changing needs.
Employees at Flutterwave, old or new, not only focus on making current processes work like clockwork, they also constantly question our value proposition in the quest to find the next frontier.
BD: It’s been interesting to watch the progress that Flutterwave has made as one of the biggest payment platforms in the country. Hopefully, we have a chance to discuss sometime soon on some of the other things you’re doing at Flutterwave.
Mansi: I appreciate you getting in touch with me. Thanks.
BD: Hopefully, we will have you in Nigeria soon, and we can do a physical interview. Of course, respecting social distancing rules.
Mansi: (*laughs*) Wouldn’t that be cool? I’m very excited to make that trip to Lagos. I just don’t know when that will be.
BD: Hopefully, 2021.
Mansi: Ah. At this point, I’ve just given up, Hachi. You let me know when the world is ready for us.
BD: Well, thank God for technology, we can still work.
Mansi: I know right?. That’s why you see Amazon hiring, and Facebook hiring and Flutterwave hiring
Hachi: Have a lovely rest of the day
Mansi: Thank you for your time. Take care. Bye.