Why Enova’s tech recruiters look beyond the languages on your resume

Andreas Rekdal

An early adopter of the Ruby on Rails framework, Enova is one of the city’s biggest Rails shops. But for developers looking to get a job with the online lender, prior Ruby experience is by no means a prerequisite. Enova hires for aptitude and personality, rather than resume bullet points. To support that effort, the company has developed a thorough introductory program that teaches new hires the ropes. For Enova’s leadership, that program makes it easier to look holistically at candidates — and to fill open positions with quality employees more quickly.

We sat down with some members of Enova’s technology team to learn more about the program, what sets the team apart and how leadership encourages employees to share their ideas.

WHAT THEY DO: The online lender serves customers who often don’t have access to traditional bank loans, drawing on years of experience in data analytics to assess a potential customer’s creditworthiness.

WHERE THEY DO IT: In the heart of the Loop.

THE STACK: Ruby on Rails, PostgreSQL, Debian, JavaScript, Go.

THE SNACKS: More than you can imagine.

EMPLOYEES: 1,000 (including more than 100 engineers).

ENOVA TALKS: A weekly event during which any engineer can present a side project or a new technology to their peers.

FELLOWSHIPS: Employees with ambitious ideas can get time off from their daily tasks to develop the concept.

WHAT THEY LOOK FOR: Innovative team players who want to do challenging work.

What does Enova do?

Griffin Caprio, head of software engineering: Enova helps hardworking people meet the needs of their families, day in and day out. Our customer base is often left outside of the credit models of traditional banks and financial services companies. We provide fast and safe alternatives to the borrowing options that have traditionally been available to them.

What is the most interesting technological challenge to making that happen?

Caprio: Scale. Each year, we process as many loans as a small bank does — but we do it with orders of magnitude fewer people. The only way you can do that is with technology, analytics and massive amounts of efficiencies.

We also have to navigate a globally regulated environment. Each country has different rules and regulations. Some of our teams interact with five different regulating bodies in three different countries. It’s not easy to keep all of those in balance while still having upward of 60 software releases a week.

And then you need to adapt when those rules and regulations change.

Caprio: As a public company, we're regularly making changes to our products to make sure we're in compliance with changing state and federal regulations. Since we're regulated at the state level, that means we have a lot of moving parts, time-sensitive challenges and opportunities to create new capabilities.

Recently, the laws in one state changed in a way that required a custom product. We were able to segment it, size it, spec it out and build it in about five weeks. You can't even get a loan from a bank in four weeks, so the fact that we could actually create a completely new lending product in that time is a testament to what we’re capable of. 

Enova is known for its Baseline training program for new members of the tech team. What does that program entail?

Bob Lee, senior software engineer: When I started interviewing, I didn't really have any Ruby experience. Having recently finished the Baseline program, I would say it’s probably one of the coolest things I've done in my career. Throughout my first month, before joining a team, I was able to sit down and learn Ruby, Ruby on Rails and all of the different pieces of Enova’s tech stack.

It was really interesting to take a step back and not really focus on a particular product or application.

How does that program shape your broader company culture?

Caprio: It allows us to hire from a broader range of people. In the past couple of months, we've had several returning parents join the company after taking four or five years off to raise their kids. Some companies won't even give them a look, even though they've got 10 or more years of engineering experience. If all it takes is a month or two of training, then we'll make that investment because we're thinking long term.

Why do you think other companies don’t offer opportunities like that?

Caprio: I talked to an engineering leader at a different company a couple weeks ago, and I told him we've hired 34 people this year. His jaw dropped because they have three openings they haven't been able to fill for seven months. I've asked them if they've thought about investing in training, and they tell me they don’t have time for that. Yet they do have time for the jobs to sit open.

Our interview process is probably only 30 percent technical, and the rest is behavioral, problem solving and cultural add. We want to see what kind of partner you're going to be, and what kind of co-worker you're going to be.

What does the transition from the Baseline team to a product team look like?

Anita Khandekar, technology senior manager: While going through baseline training, new recruits are partnered with a current member of the product team who reviews their code and helps them learn how we do things at Enova. From there, we try to make sure that those folks find the right match with a product team. Our goal is to find something that aligns both with their skills and interests, as well as with our internal needs.

Lee: The learning process also continues, with things like Enova Talks. Enova Talks is an hour blocked off every Wednesday for anyone interested in presenting a side project they’re working on, a new programming language or a new feature they’re developing.

Lahari Manam, technology manager: We also have something called fellowships. If someone has an exciting idea that requires more than a few days for research and prototyping, they can apply for a fellowship to work on it for three or four weeks instead of doing their normal day-to-day work.

What is the best thing about working for Enova?

Manam: Enova has grown a lot since I joined the company, but we still have the same culture of encouraging everyone’s ideas. The best ideas win, and people have the autonomy to try things out. When you encourage people’s ideas, everybody sees that, and they also start thinking about new things they can bring to the table. The more you foster that innovation, the more ideas come out.

Caprio: For me, it’s about two things. The first is our people, our empathetic environment and the culture of work-life balance. When I interviewed for this job, a lot of companies talked about that kind of stuff. But when I walked through Enova’s office, they had newly renovated nursing rooms on each floor. That’s a clear sign to me that this is a priority, not just public relations. The second piece is our scale and our global impact.

What sets Enova apart from other companies you’ve worked for?

Khandekar: We promote people when they’re ready. That’s very different from places I've been at before, where you’ve had to wait for a given period of time, whether that’s mid-year or year-end. When someone is ready for promotion, they are put up for one and it happens. I think everyone knows they are being rewarded for what they bring to the table.

Lee: Another thing that has really stood out to me is the willingness to share knowledge. People create Wiki pages and share what they know, because they don’t fear being let go if others have the knowledge they do — which is something I’ve seen happen at other companies. If something does break or if something needs enhancement, there's always a Wiki page out there, and it’s almost always up to date.

What advice would you have for someone who's trying to decide whether Enova is the right place for them?

Manam: I think if you have an innovative mind, you're creative, and you're looking for a place you can be inspired and bring your own insights, then I would say, welcome to Enova. You can do your life's best work here.

Photography by Jim Prisching. Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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