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Meet Zelun Zhang, Senior Engineering Manager at BVNK

In this edition of Life at BVNK, Zelun talks about his journey from foreign exchange to distributed ledger technology, how he moved into engineering leadership and his advice for those starting out.

Mar 19, 2024
min read

Tell us what you do.

I manage three global teams that are responsible for our DLT Payments service, DLT infrastructure, and Global Settlement Network. That involves a mix of strategic planning and leadership, technical oversight and project management. 

A typical day for me starts by reviewing critical issues that might have arisen overnight. 

My team is based in the UK, Serbia, Italy, Romania and South Africa, so communication is key! Each day involves a mix of stand-ups, planning sessions, retrospectives and one-on-ones, as well as cross-functional collaborations.

In between, I focus on strategic tasks like overseeing project progress, reviewing key technical decisions and looking for ways to improve engineering efficiency.

I wrap up the day by making sure the team is set up for success, for example by removing blockers, answering queries or just checking everyone has the clarity they need. My aim is always to create a work environment where each engineer feels empowered to do their best work.

Why did you decide to join BVNK?

Distributed ledger technology is reshaping payments, so the opportunity to work at the forefront of that was exciting. 

I was also drawn to BVNK’s vision to create a financial system that is available to everyone, anywhere in the world, 24/7. Knowing that our technology can change the way people interact with money worldwide is incredibly motivating.

Since joining, I’ve been impressed by the team’s technical prowess, their passion for the work they do and commitment to creating a supportive and inclusive workplace.

Describe the culture in one word.

Innovative. It’s not just a buzzword – it's a way of life and the engine that drives our success.

Innovation is a part of everything we do, from the technologies we use and solutions we develop to the way we approach challenges. 

One example of this is our regular hackdays, which are a stage to brainstorm and develop novel solutions to real-world problems. We’ve just returned from one – and the range of ideas that came up was inspiring, from creating a GPT-based internal knowledge expert, to devising a machine learning model to enhance financial modelling and forecasting, to developing a ‘know your business’ autopilot. 

Outside events like this, our engineers are encouraged to explore creative solutions to challenges. For example, we routinely carry out ‘spikes’, which allow us to evaluate and implement new solutions in a structured, efficient way.

How did you end up here?

I’ve always had an interest in technology and problem-solving, which drew me to software engineering. Early on in my career, I had the opportunity to work on fintech projects like creating a pricing engine for FX trading for a global bank, and developing an open banking platform.

This experience gave me a deep understanding of software engineering, development lifecycle, as well as effective team working.

I realised, though, that my passion went beyond writing code. I was interested in how to translate business needs into technical solutions, how to lead an efficient team and how to balance innovation with a disciplined approach. This led me to take on leadership roles and over time, I moved from being a software engineer to a tech lead, and finally, to a Senior Engineering Manager.

It’s very satisfying to enable a team of engineers, watch them flourish and grow together with them. 

“Every journey begins with a single step. Take that step with confidence and don't be afraid to ask for help along the way.”
Zelun Zhang
Senior Engineering Manager, BVNK

What advice would you give someone starting out?

  1. Stay curious. The industry is ever-changing. Make a habit of learning constantly, keep up with the latest trends and don't be afraid to dive into new technologies or methodologies.

  2. Embrace teamwork. Great products are built by great teams. Learn to work effectively with others, respect diverse opinions and remember that everyone has something valuable to contribute.

  3. Think long-term. Try to develop sustainable and scalable solutions that not only solve the current problem but anticipate future needs.

  4. Don't forget the user. In the midst of all the coding, testing and deploying, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that we're creating products for people. Always keep the user in mind and strive to make their interaction with your product as seamless as possible.

And remember, every journey begins with a single step. Take that step with confidence and don't be afraid to ask for help along the way. 

What’s the most challenging thing about your role and how do you unwind?

The fintech ecosystem is continually evolving, so keeping pace is a challenge. Identifying emerging tech and integrating it into our processes and products can be intense. Balancing this with managing a diverse engineering team is complex, but fulfilling.

In my spare time from work, I delve into my passion for Web3. As a crypto enthusiast, I follow industry news daily and like to learn about new projects and concepts. 

I also try to swim 1km every day! It's a time when I'm entirely disconnected. The rhythm of the strokes brings me peacefulness, which helps me to unwind, clear my mind and recharge.

What are you most excited about at BVNK?

We're innovating at an extraordinary pace. I'm excited to see the launch of our newest product, Embedded Payments. Using BVNK's regulatory-wrapped solution, our clients can launch any of our payment products on their own platform, customised in their own brand.

Every new client brings unique needs and challenges that stretch our capabilities and allow us to grow as a team. As we expand into new markets, there are a lot more exciting opportunities to learn, adapt, and make an impact.

What would you say to someone considering joining?

If you enjoy thinking differently, solving complex problems, and being around motivated people, you’ll feel at home at BVNK.

We also invest in people here – from learning resources to mentorship programmes, here you’ll have the tools you need to thrive in your career.

Our team is global, and we celebrate diverse experiences and perspectives, so I hope you’ll feel valued and supported to do your best work.

Working at BVNK also means contributing to something bigger. If you're someone who loves a challenge, believes in the power of teamwork, is driven by curiosity, and wants to make an impact, BVNK could be your next great adventure.

We're hiring!

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