TrueTalk with Neil
Neil was one of the first employees at TrueLayer and brings both never-ending wisdom and laughter to the team. He enjoys making pasta from scratch, is an avid (crazy) golfer, loves a good meme and knows a thing or two about 🍺! We all love Neil’s logical and humorous approach to sharing knowledge and admire his passion for problem-solving and living life to the fullest.
Tell us what you do.
Engineering is where reality meets expectation. It’s the place where some really good ideas go to die and others come to life. It’s the crossroad of compromise. Where the business can think liberally (and of course it should), Engineering will act conservatively. We crystalise ideas in the form of ones and zeros (and in doing so ever so subtly change the shape of the space around us) in order to delight our customers and ourselves.
My primary role in engineering is as a developer — I help create and run our product. As a technical lead, I also take some responsibility when technical decisions need to be finalised. And as one of the architects of our platform, I also help others navigate its depths.
What attracted you to TrueLayer?
Luca and Francesco, our founders. They had some crazy idea about building something that would educate people to the possibilities of Open Banking 🏦 (PSD2, in technical parlance) a year or two before Open Banking was ever to launch in the UK — oh and it will actually be a functional product ready to seamlessly integrate with PSD2 when it’s ready. And they were going to do this knowing that the banks wouldn’t really be that helpful (as in, they might actually try to stop us) or actually knowing what PSD2 would end up looking like. Totally Mental. I fell in love with them immediately.
It’s difficult to think about leaving. Not that I haven’t thought about it. We’re all human and I do get some genuinely interesting propositions via LinkedIn (hint, hint), as many in this profession do. But it’s really simple for me. I was an early investor (in my time) and want nothing more than to see this company succeed. I also feel a debt to new engineers joining us who have to figure out some of my earlier code. Best to nip that in the bud rather than get confronted on the internet about some of the more interesting code I’ve written.
How do you maintain balance while working in a fast-paced startup environment?
Whilst we do work hard, there is none of this “you will clock in at 9 and clock off at 6” nonsense. Everyone is trusted to know the value of their work. The interesting thing about being trusted is that it fosters a sense of loyalty and personal responsibility. Work is less about grinding for some payday but more about being emotionally invested in something you feel part of.
I work from home 2 days per week so that I can help out with childcare and other family commitments. TrueLayer was accommodating from the get-go.
I worked from home, exclusively, for 8 years in another role. The first 5 years were great, the last 3 not so much. It’s easy to think that working from home all the time is a dream, for some people maybe. Ultimately we are social animals and meaningful bonds are made in person, rather than over video conference. The split I have now is perfect for me. ⚖️
If you weren’t an engineer what would you be doing?
I love a good metaphysical question. It depends on how many assets were at my disposal. Over the years I have thought about being an actor, a philosopher, a 🍕pizza baker, an international man of mystery, a father of many, many children. I’d like to know what it’s like to be a different person. I’d like to know what it’s like to be a different gender, a different skin colour. I’d like to collect viewpoints, the way the BFG collects dreams. Maybe that’s why acting so appealed to me when I was younger and why philosophy became deeply rewarding later in life. If I could choose anything to do, I’d probably take up a degree in western analytic philosophy 🤔. And learn to draw/paint. And take up singing lessons. And learn to play the piano. I’d definitely be looking into cookery courses.
What would you like to share with those interested in joining TrueLayer?
I guess this is the PR part. I could say we’re all cool and the team is amazing and so on but for me, it just boils down to one thing. If you want to have a stake in something that makes you want to come into work then come and see what we’re about.
Tell us a TrueLayer anecdote?
Just being on this journey is amazing. We started with two desks in a shared working space and now have our very own office. I miss the view from number 1 Canary Wharf 🌇 but the sight of our little family growing is an order of magnitude more satisfying.
What’s your favourite programming language?
Clojure is such a beautifully designed language and so rewarding to learn that it takes my top spot. However, it’s applicability is somewhat limited for our use cases at TrueLayer. We prioritise solid tooling and static types to make our code easier to refactor and share amongst many people. Please don’t mail me with the pitfalls of using inherently mutable objects…the trade-offs we have made are for good reason 😉
What advice would you give to aspiring junior engineers within fintech?
Unless it was from someone you respect and trust, ignore every piece of advice you’ve ever been given about what it means to be a software developer. It’s especially safe to ignore articles telling you how to be a better “engineer”, whatever that means in software. Software development is different things for different people. Be your own person. Make your own path. Find out what it is to you.
The engineering part is easy, it’s just moving concepts around. How you do that as part of being a human in a complex society is entirely up to you. Never let anyone tell you otherwise or make those choices for you.
What is your life motto?
I plan on living forever. So far so good ✨