Gabriella Poczo is the CTO of WorldRemit, the international transfer service known as the ‘WhatsApp of money.’ Before joining WorldRemit in 2015, Poczo worked in Sillicon Valley for 23 years, and has been the CTO of textPlus, Sun Microsystems’ OEM Platforms Group and was responsible for Skype’s transition from a desktop to mobile-focused brand.
Tell us a bit about your role.
As CTO of WorldRemit, I’m tasked with bringing together bank accounts, card payment systems, cash pickup networks and mobile money platforms so that the transfer of money instantly from a UK bank account overseas feels like one integrated system.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No, I didn’t – my career has simply been a direct result of me following what I love to do. I’ve always been into technology – I graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. I then followed my curiosities about new technologies, spotted the latest trends, and went with my instincts, which was how my career took off, really. Mobile technology was one of these trends, and I was involved in that sector long before mobile really took off in the early 2000s.
My career has naturally progressed with it, and my roles have spanned from T-Mobile, to Skype, to textPlus.I think mobile has remained at the heart of my career because it has and continues to have a massive impact on the quality and well-being of people’s lives. When I was at Skype, I remember speaking first hand to people that used the service to connect to their family and friends that were far away; they’d always share their experiences with a smile on their face. It was very gratifying, to know that you’re helping to connect people and build relationships across the world. Moving to WorldRemit was the logical next step – the work we’re doing in helping the unbanked to be financially included is amazing, and it’s giving so many people freedom and independence over their personal finances.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
I’ll always remember my first ever job interview when I graduated from University. The interviewer saw the engagement ring on my finger, and quickly asked why they should hire me if marriage and children were going to follow suit… I just stood up and walked out there and then!
I’ve been working in what was once a very male dominated field for over 20 years now, and I’ve come across some similar instances of the ‘glass-ceiling’, but I’ve never really been phased by it. I’ve always found that hard work, aptitude, and my thirst to prove myself has got me to where I am today.
Now, I’m lucky to work at WorldRemit, where the leadership team has a very even gender balance. There really are some amazing women working in technology!
What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?
I was 22 when I first went into a supervisory position. I found that the best way to lead was to work hard and get things done, and to treat people how I’d like to be treated. If you lead by example, in both professional and personable terms, you’ll be able to get the best results possible from your team. Saying that, no matter how many years you’ve been in a leadership position, it’s still a learning curve, and you have to be flexible and adapt to your surroundings. Technology is constantly changing, and the people that come into the workplace are too. Each generation of people and technology comes with its own challenges – it can sometimes feel like you are new to leadership over and over again. For me, even moving from Silicon Valley to London came with its own leadership challenges.
How do you manage your own boss?
From experience, I’ve found that managing my own boss requires the same level of adaptability that’s required for leading a team. You need to find the level of information that they need from you, and you need to identify the level of support that you need from them.At WorldRemit, I’ve found that painting my boss a story of how a certain project I’d like to undertake will affect WorldRemit’s customers, and why it’s worth doing, really works. Luckily for me, WorldRemit’s CEO is not averse to risk – he’s very open to new things. He was very supportive of WorldRemit’s agile transformation, for example, and I’d like to think that that’s because we’ve found a mutually beneficial way of working together.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?
I like to walk to work, and to start my day with quiet time. I try to avoid emails, Skype and Slack first thing in the morning, too – I find that each message that comes through can open a Pandora’s box of things to address!
I’ll spend most of my day talking with my team of developers discussing architecture plans. It’s incredibly important to speak with your team one-on-one, so on Wednesday we have ‘coffee and cake’ day. I use a wheel of fortune style app that randomly selects 2 of the many developers in my team, and we get out of the office for a few hours to talk about their agenda, their work life, their social life, and anything else they like!
In the evening I like to unwind. I’m very low-tech at home, I put my laptop away and try to disconnect. That said, I do enjoy binge watching TV series – I’m currently watching Halt and Catch Fire, a retro computer drama that maps out the evolution of personal computing. Think Ataris and Commodor 64s!
What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?
People should always think about what their own brand is – when people think of you, what do you want them to think about? Whether you want to be known for being proactive, being accountable, or getting things done, there’s no better way to perfect your brand then to embody the virtues you want to be associated with.
Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbie networker?
I think Social networking should be entered with caution; a lot of it is to do with raising your own profile, so make sure your input is in line with your ‘brand’ and what you want people to remember you for. I’d also suggest being selective about the events that you go to –only go to those that you think will be beneficial to you. I like to find a balance; I try to think about shared value.