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Ghizlane Aroussi is an Engineering Manager at Payfit, where she works closely with the “Triforce” — a unique structure where engineering managers, product managers and designers work closely together in a flat hierarchy to shape the product direction of the team.  

I was born and raised in Morocco. I came to France for studies ten years ago. After graduating, I joined a big company where I worked as a developer for four years. That was a really formative experience—a stepping stone for my later career. Then I left to work at a startup, first as a full stack developer, then as a tech lead, a wonderful experience with a huge impact on my mindset.

Last year, I joined Payfit as an engineering manager in a team of five engineers.

A balancing act

The first part of the job is really about helping people work well together and supporting them when there are challenges. And on the other hand, there is the technical part—architecture, system design and project planning. And last but not least, as hiring manager I’m in charge of recruiting new people to join the team.

When I started out as engineering manager, I expected that most of my challenges would be human challenges, but actually I found that I encountered more technical challenges because we had a lot of dependencies with other teams. More specifically, we had to constantly balance how to build products fast while not sacrificing the scalability and ending up stuck six months later.

Payfit really supports us in this process. First, we have a team of architects, they help us and challenge our designs. We have book clubs too, to dive deeper into some specific areas of expertise. And we call on consultants when needed. So there is internal and external support when we face technical challenges.


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Quick adaptation

At a scaleup, things move really fast. The first week is mainly about absorbing information. When you join, you meet a lot of people from different departments explaining what they do. After the first week, you begin to understand how some pieces of the puzzle fit together. And of course you also meet your own team.

Then the rest depends on your position. When I joined as a manager, I had to get up to speed extremely quickly. For instance, I was hiring new candidates just two weeks after joining the company. Of course, I got a lot of support from my manager and my team. I also received a lot of support from the Triforce. This is a notion we have at Payfit, where engineering managers work with product managers and designers. We are all equal, there is no hierarchy between us. Last but not least, we also have a buddy system—somebody to help you navigate the first couple of weeks, which is really useful.

Empathic management style

When I started out as an engineering manager, there was a lot I had to learn. Luckily I got a lot of support when it comes to the hiring process, receiving bias awareness training for example. We were also encouraged to use a scorecard during the interview process, so as to reduce biases.In addition we all follow a set of training called manager guide with a lot of tips and tricks.

I adopt a human and empathic management style, adapting to the needs of individuals, which can differ a lot. I want people to know they can talk to me very easily, and I always try to make them feel comfortable and happy. We all spend most of our time at work, we have to be ourselves. Teams perform better in an environment where there is enough psychological safety to fail as well as give and receive feedback.

As engineering managers at Payfit, we do role playing exercises to learn how to give feedback, or what to do when somebody is underperforming. We also have access to a mentorship platform where people can volunteer to support each other in some key areas. For instance, I’m mentoring two people at the moment. Mentorship is linked to humility, one of our values at Payfit.


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The value of mentorship

I really believe mentorship plays an important role in helping you get to where you want to be. It provides people with support and boosts their self-esteem. It’s so useful just knowing somebody is there for you in moments of doubt, and that this person will help you identify areas of improvement so you can progress in your career.

It’s also about having a role model. I was lucky to have a mentor who was also a woman, it was somehow easier to know the difference between a real limit and a simple obstacle.


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