liwwa is a fintech startup that connects small businesses in need of capital with people who want to invest in them. They do this using a marketplace model and a scalable credit assessment operation powered by machine learning and custom OCR for financial statements.
Supporting these efforts are a number of incredible tech professionals, including Elana Bell Bogdan, a software engineer who handles an impressively assorted range of tasks for the company. She describes her role there:
“Working at a small company like liwwa, I have the privilege to take on projects throughout our stack – one day I’ll be developing new tools for accessing our data, through a custom search index and query language, and another day I’ll be drafting designs to improve the UX for a multipage form."
“The great challenge and opportunity of working at liwwa, is that our tiny team is spread across multiple countries. Trying to communicate with coworkers in Jordan, to really understand their needs and perspective while simultaneously bringing my own experience to bear, has been such a positive learning experience."
When Elana started working for liwwa she faced a daunting challenge. However, she was able to overcome it through hard work and perseverance.
“When I arrived at liwwa, I was faced with a large codebase that I knew nothing about, and which had been written almost entirely by a single person (our CTO). It took me a good long while to figure out how to trace through the many interrelated files and understand how our various libraries, modules, classes, etc. all fit together! Acquiring the tools to do this kind of sleuthing, both mentally and technologically, was a definite challenge, but one which I feel has left me far more confident that I can do it again with the next codebase I take on.”
In addition to being an accomplished engineer, Elana also works to empower those around her, sharing her wisdom and knowledge, while also making opportunities available to others in the field.
“One of my first acts after being hired at liwwa was to help recruit Hannah, who has quickly become both an invaluable coworker and a close friend. Because I had so recently gone through my own onboarding process, and because I was a little further along in my career, I made an active effort to pay my learnings forwards, and to check in with Hannah on a regular basis. I feel we have both grown a lot since we started out at liwwa, within one month of each other, and I attribute my growth, in large part, to the reciprocal support that she has offered me.”
Fellow liwwa engineer Hannah Wood actually began her career with a background in design. However, she quickly found code as a practical way to express her creativity. She describes her journey:
“I studied media in college and I absolutely loved it, but as a young person with a humanities degree, I had a really difficult time finding a job (let alone a career). Last year I attended a coding bootcamp in New York called Fullstack Academy, and even with my very little initial coding experience, I was able to create full stack applications from scratch after several intense months of nonstop coding.”
“After working at the bootcamp as a teaching fellow, I was able to find my current job at liwwa. Although I'm obviously the most junior person on the tech team, my manager and coworkers have been very supportive, and through their help and encouragement, I was able to hit the ground running on day 1. I've learned so much over the past year that it's hard to believe that I only recently made the decision to become a developer.”
“I have always loved art and design, and even in my first job, I've been able to use technology to feed my creative side through UX/UI design.”
When asked about a misconception that most people have about the tech industry, Hannah said, “I think that there's this idea that everyone is automatically categorized as a ‘tech’ person or a ‘non-tech’ person based on personality, or that to get into this industry, you must have some inherent understanding of computers or math or technology that one just has to be born with.”
Elana reinforced that sentiment saying, “The obstacles may be greater, but learning to code begins with unlearning the belief that we can’t. Like any foreign language, code can look inscrutable and overwhelming when you’re first starting out. But it’s no more complex, by nature, than any other language, and it can become just as accessible and intuitive over time. Patience, confidence, and access to a respectful and relatable mentor can make such a huge difference.”