Michelle Christine: Next Generation People Operations Associate - She talks about her beginnings, her love for people and culture, and where she’s taking the future of Brankas recruitment.
This month, we recognize the complex world of Tech and Coding, and one Brankas lady who powers through this chaos gracefully.
Ria Cataquian grew up wanting to become a medical professional or take up Conservatory of Music. Her family comes from a humble background, and it wasn’t too long until she realized she needed to put that dream to the side, and think of a more sensible path.
“They said that Tech is one of those fields that can ‘yield you easy money’, so I ended up taking it for practical reasons - I am now working as a Software Developer for years and I still won’t call it ‘easy money’. I’m glad I took that path though, zero regrets.”
Ria recounts that it had never occurred to her that she would be in this industry. “Computers weren’t friends back then, they intimidated me.”
Ria learned early on how to cope with struggles, but it goes without saying that luck also played a huge part. She considers herself lucky to be in the right place at the right time, being surrounded by people who are supportive, helpful, and are very generous in sharing their time to mentor her.
“I am also lucky that these days, we no longer have to sweat every small stuff to do our work, another goldilocks condition. Many generous and smart people have already figured out most things and make their work widely available for everyone, it comes in many forms: the open source community, tech meetups, tech conferences, blogs, etc.”
When she’s not busy with work, Ria obsesses about the origins of medicine, space, society and the amusing biographies of accomplished individuals.
What is the most interesting job you have had so far? I personally think I matured as a developer in Brankas , I get to know and work with people across the globe with different cultures and be good friends with them and I get to try my hands on new things - one particular moment is when I was sent to a client to help them set up their infrastructure, with almost zero experience, it was not 100% fun during the time but glad that I get to experience it looking back now.
What programming languages and tools do you most typically use? It’s Golang and Kubernetes these days - Golang is Brankas’ primary language where most of our services are built, and Kubernetes is the infrastructure supporting our services. Golang, by far, is the language I spent most of my career with.
What do you think is the best thing about being a woman who can code? I think regardless of the gender, one of the best things about being a coder might be that you get to work towards the realization of an idea. That you get to build and contribute everyday to something that might make other people’s life easier or even a bit better - be it inside or outside the company.
It’s not a secret that many women in the tech industry have felt their gender has affected the way that they are perceived or treated. Have you ever been in a situation like that? How did you handle it? I’m very lucky to be in the industry these days compared to say, decades ago, where women in the industry aren’t even acknowledged and paid for their work. There are of course women who are still discriminated against and still feeling indifferent in their workplaces now and it’s unfair.
What advice would you give to women looking to break into the field of technology? The industry at large is dominated by men, but that doesn’t mean women are not welcome. Times have changed and the industry has never been more welcoming. I’d say just take that first step and actually get to know the field, you’ll realize it’s not as hard and daunting as it seems, don’t fall in the trap that you have to know about all the shiny new things. Once you’re in, you’ll see that people here are either a cat or a dog person.
How did you learn about Brankas and what made you decide to join? I was lurking around the Gopher’s Slack and saw Dan’s post (referring to Daniel Marti, former Brankas colleague) on the #jobs channel which reminded me of Ken’s post (referring to Kenneth Shaw, Brankas Chief Technology Officer) months prior to that. At that point, Brankas was already in my short list for reasons like 1) it’s remote and 2) we hire people from the Philippines. I looked up (stalked? :P) the people from the then Team’s page and figured out that these are people I want to know and spend my working (and non-working) hours with.
What was your first project at Brankas? If memory serves right, I first worked on the service that powers our Direct and Statement products. It was in its early stages back then, and we didn’t have that many integrations and features as we have now. So it was mostly enabling some of those integrations and making the service more reliable - which included adding end to end tests for our services which alert and notify us of failures in the system.
As a Systems Developer at Brankas, what are some of the products or projects you have been working on? I’ve been a member to three different teams during my stay at Brankas. I was part of the platform-badgers which I really enjoyed because I get to try my hands on the infrastructure that powers our services which has always been a long-term goal. We also get to touch the Brankas OpenBank service particularly because it allows clients to spin their own suite of applications which means providing clients their own isolated environments internally. After that, I joined the Party-Parrots, the team that handles Brankas Statement , one of the flagship products of Brankas - the launch of the service made us busy as we worked on making it reliable for our clients. Right now, I am part of the team that works on bank integrations that powers Statement , Pay and Direct products - our daily work includes monitoring clients’ environments, delivering improvements/fixes and making integrations more resilient.
What is your favorite Brankas product and why? Brankas OpenBank comes to mind because I like the idea of providing banks a whole suite of applications with minimal effort - this leads to easier integrations of their core systems, a somewhat refreshing idea I’d say. I personally think it’s innovative because it brings new ideas to an old industry like usage of Open API, self-serve developer portal and more. It’s also one of the projects of Brankas in which I personally enjoyed and learned new things.
As a remote-first company with employees spread across the globe, how are you able to foster collaboration and efficiency at Brankas? Having respect for other people, their time, resources and energy I think is important - everyday we get bombarded by noise so it helps to try and limit the noise in your own little way, one way I know is knowing who and when to loop the right people in.
There’s also many little ways that myself and my colleagues do on a daily basis but in the long term I think helps us keep our sanity: giving each other’s work respectful reviews, making ourselves available for inquiries, being clear of the team’s priorities and deadlines to keep surprises at minimum as much as possible and as simple as sharing memes and dog pics.
What’s the story behind your nickname: Sensei Ria? Haha! No origin story. But my guess is that between my closest friends in Brankas, Miggy (former employee), Randy and Jason, perhaps one of them was feeling giggly one day and decided to call me that in public - we tend to call each other that privately.
Where will you be leading the Brankas team in the next 12 months? Over the years I realized it’s not all about developing and delivering stuff, the point is making things that are reliable. I think it’s one of those things that companies tend to overlook because it doesn’t yield quick results, but in the long term, I think it has tremendous impact, to name some: less unplanned work, a slightly predictable work day and less unnecessary stress. Although reliability is not an aftermath or a phase in a project and that everyday we ideally should work towards it, there surely are more ways to make it happen and that it doesn’t happen on its own. With my colleagues, I’ll be glad to work towards it.😉
Brankas is bringing Open Banking to Southeast Asia. Our vision is to make modern financial services available to everyone.
Are you interested in a career in fintech? Join the Brankas team!