(Photo by Juliet Shen)
By now you may have heard of Technically Talent, the platform we created to give readers a deeper look at the company culture of some of the region’s top startups. This is one in a series of articles checking in on how hires made through the platform are fitting in at their new workplaces.
There is a palpable sense of ease in the office at Perpay.
Team members work at long wooden tables in the converted loft-space office. A tricked-out coffee bar and piped-in music add to the relaxed, yet busy vibe. As the Philly-based startup grows, it has been steadily adding to its workforce. Perpay’s COO, Nikos Petrides, says the company hopes to double its staff in the next 12 months.
Director of Risk & Analytics Zach Binkley (formerly of JPMorgan Chase), Software Engineer Jacky Lee (a Stanford grad and Silicon Valley transplant) and Director of Finance Michael Drobny (formerly of KPMG) sat down with us to chat about making the transition from a large company and moving back to Philly from the West Coast.
Technically Talent: What factored in to your decision to join this company?
Zach: One of the things that really spoke to me, coming from the largest bank in the United States to a very small shop of 15–16 people, was really the customer focus and the mission of treating each customer like a true individual versus just a number on a balance sheet at the end of the year. There’s a lot of red tape at traditional financial agencies and there’s a lot that you can get bogged down in and lose sight of the day to day, but here we are able to see our impact right away.
Jacky: I came from a startup background and the biggest thing I look for are the company’s culture, who I’ll be working with and the company’s mission. And I felt like Perpay had all of those already checked off for me when I interviewed here. You want to be in an environment where people are constantly challenging you and can help you grow, so I really liked that. And in terms of its mission, what resonated with me was, just helping people financially.
TT: How has this company’s culture changed the way you work, or how you work with others, compared to your last job?
Zach: At JPMorgan, I would spend probably 70–80 percent of my time sitting in meetings where we’d talk about what needed to get done, and then had to check in with any number of internal regulatory groups to see if we could do it. Here I’m able to sit with the engineering team directly and get faster turnaround and real-time feedback on projects, as to what’s feasible or not, versus wasting time filling out forms and going back and forth between different departments.
TT: Has that had an effect on your personal life?
Zach: Yeah. It’s a much more enjoyable workplace, overall. By far. It gives you a lot of validation seeing the faster turnaround times that things are able to be deployed.
Michael: The big difference for me was going from working on a project where the team was 100 people — that’s way bigger than our entire team here. And I think it’s just the hierarchy and the accessibility to the people around you. Everyone is on the same playing field and, as the guys talked about, everyone is aimed toward the same mission. You feel like you’re making strides forward at your own pace and you kind of set the bar where you want it to be.
TT: What projects are you working on?
Jacky: I’m on the engineering team and I’ve been working on this one project where we’re trying to decrease the operation team’s operational load in terms of customer support, and trying to be more proactive in getting customer’s questions answered.
So I’ve been working on building a self-help tool that can be easily accessed from any page on the website. If a customer has any questions, they can just navigate through the tool. We are on the tail end of getting the first iteration out so we can see how our customers act with it and hopefully make better iterations quickly.
TT: What’s been the most surprising thing, so far, about coming here to Perpay?
Jacky: Coming back to Philly after seven years, I’m most surprised about how much the city has changed. I went to grade school and high school here — Stephen Girard, Holy Redeemer and then Roman Catholic — and coming back after all this time, you really see how many more young people are here, and even just how people interact has changed. I have high hopes for the city. It’s always been on my mind to come back after learning what I could in California and take it back to my community. So that’s my goal.
Michael: One of the great things about this place, coming from a very traditional corporate environment, is that every Monday morning we start out with a meeting, and everyone has a few minutes to talk about what they did that weekend, or update on some part of their life. It’s just a nice way to start off the week and something completely different than what I’ve experienced before. Above all else the levels of transparency here are unbelievable. It really is like everyone has a stake and a claim and feels that they’re part of the mission. It’s part of the culture here.-30-
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