5 minutes with Yoel Marson: building technology that’s sound, secure and scalable
How did you get into a career in technology?
I’ve always been very technology and maths oriented; I started working on computers at the age of 10. But I never realized it was a career, so I ended up doing a masters in Economics and going to work at JP Morgan. There, I realized I could use my coding background to automate and analyse things. After that, I went into the technology world, eventually working for Yahoo!, which was a fantastic experience.
I was the first person to manage a global product for Yahoo! outside of the US. At that time, Yahoo! Answers was receiving 1.5bn page views a month from 200m+ unique monthly users: a huge volume that the architecture needed to be able to support. That’s where I learnt what it really meant to build something for a global audience.
How did you end up joining Bondaval?
I was introduced to the Bondaval team through an old Yahoo! colleague of mine, Eileen Burbidge. She had been on the product side, while I had been on the engineering side.
As a company, the whole team at Bondaval operates with integrity; they’re all people I like and respect. Everyone is trying to get things done, but it’s not a ruthless environment; you don’t need that to be successful. Ultimately, that’s what I believe makes a good culture: honesty, integrity, effectiveness. It’s the opportunity, the team and the culture that first attracted me to Bondaval.
Since leaving Yahoo!, I had taken on a number of mostly CTO roles. But I’ve always been more hands-on, and I wanted to build something again. I love to take a strategic, executive stance on the technology within a business, but I never want to be completely out of the engine room. That was another part of the appeal of Bondaval, and I think it’s a common quandary senior technologists face.
For example, if you’re an engineer, you have a few options open to you. You could work for a giant technology company like Google. It would be a fabulous experience, but you’re not going to make a difference. Conversely, a very small startup is a bigger risk. You could work for a government body, where the work would be very slow and perhaps a little boring.
But I think now would be a good time to join a company like Bondaval. We’re established, but there’s plenty still to build. You can really make a difference. And there’s freedom here to bring in your own ideas.
What do you think makes a successful engineering team?
When it comes to managing teams, there are two main objectives. The first is that people are learning and doing interesting things; there’s definitely lots of good tech to learn and exciting challenges here. The second is to minimise friction as far as possible.
It’s a fine balance. For example, I do believe in speed, but sometimes you can create an air of intensity that doesn’t let people think. There’s nothing wrong with going fast, but people need to know they have the time to do the work properly. We try to create a dynamic environment where people still have the time to focus.
We’ve changed some of our meeting patterns to achieve that, and to help give people that space. We use some codeless technologies to make things more efficient, including one which is my own patent, which takes a file and uses it to create an array of microservices. We also use Webflow to generate HTML markup. I do believe that humans shouldn’t be writing HTML and CSS. If we can offload tasks like that, people gain more time to work on what matters.
How do you approach building technology at Bondaval?
As a company, our aim is to get closer to a truly agile technology mindset for developing our product. We need to be asking ourselves: how can we help people throughout Bondaval understand exactly how the technology works, and how they can get involved with its development?
After all, getting that credit experience into the product is vital; technology needs to be built alongside domain experts, not in a vacuum. Otherwise you risk creating something that’s technologically excellent but isn’t fit for the commercial purpose.
For example, engineers might learn something about the credit world, take it as gospel and enshrine that nugget of business logic in the code. But that piece of information may not be fully representative of the way things actually work, meaning the technology ends up less flexible and useful than it should be.
That’s why, when our underwriting team have an idea for a feature or functionality, they need to be with us for the whole journey while we build something. We don’t want to disappear, build something without them, then deliver something finished, which might not actually be a good solution.
What is the main goal for the technology team at Bondaval?
From a pure technology perspective, we are building something sound, scalable and secure that adds real value to everyone using it: from our blue-chip customers, to our underwriters, to our insurer partners.
While we’re a B2B platform, we also like to take cues from consumer tech products when we think about how to maintain technological excellence as we scale.
For example, if a million people are given the task of posting something on Instagram, virtually all of them will be able to complete that task successfully. Similarly, if we were to set people the task to renew a MicroBond, or change a limit, can we get to a point where everyone is able to do it as easily every time?
We’ve hired a team of exceptional people. We’re using best practices to build and iterate, and we’re building something amazing, that has the potential to change the way companies protect their balance sheets forever. Right now, it works well for both our technology and underwriting objectives to remain focused on a few key industries and territories but eventually, we will get to a point where we can support more and more businesses with more and more varied requirements and risk appetites.
Ultimately though, the whole team recognizes that there isn’t a defined ‘end goal’, there’s just a continuous approach: make the platform better every day. That’s what I like about this work; there’s never an end to making a great product. It’s part of the joy of the whole thing: to know you can build the best thing ever and keep pushing for progress. Progress is hope; so far we’re making a lot of progress and we have plenty of hope for the future of the platform.