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What it's really like to work at Stripe: from an ex-Citi trader

Life at the fast-growing payments fintech Stripe is a far cry from life at a bank. Matt Esteve experienced this firsthand; he joined Stripe after 13 years working on FX for 'TradFi' companies, including four and a half years at Citi.

Esteve left Stripe last month for an executive co-founder role at Pangea, a fintech building an AI-powered FX infrastructure platform. He recently spoke to us about the reality of working in fintech compared to banking, and what life is like before, during and after Stripe.

What is the culture like at Stripe?

Esteve calls Stripe an "amazing place to work," especially for career development. "I grew more in my career in those five years than in my entire career prior to that," he says. There's a "fantastic" level of mutual respect among Stripe employees.

Stripe's a larger company now than when Esteve joined, but he doesn't think its culture has changed drastically. "Just as it would happen with any company, you get more layers, you get a little more red tape," he said, "but you can still have an outsized impact." 

Working under John and Patrick Collison appeals to many, and Esteve says there was "no doubt" that if you "needed to talk directly to Patrick, or John or anyone in the C-Suite, you really could do that." It's not just the execs you can talk to if needed. At a Money20/20 event earlier this month, Lee Clifton, who joined Stripe as a JPMorgan executive director, said "don't feel like you can't ask a question to another colleague" if you work at Stripe.

Esteve agrees with Patrick Collison's recent claim that Stripe staff enjoy work that isn't "sexy." He says people at Stripe could often go to employers that are "easier to explain to people or have better marketing recognition," but opt for Stripe because it's "building something fundamentally different."  

While working for Stripe can earn you brownie points in the fintech industry, it's harder to brag about at the bar, or to your family. Esteve says "My parents still don't really know what Stripe is, even though I explained it to them for literally years." Stripe pays its engineers $370k on average, so if you need something else to brag about, there's that.

Esteve is bringing some Stripe principles with him to his new gig, specifically the notion that your work should be "done in a way that customers don’t need to know the complexity of what’s happening." Pangea says the goal of its embedded FX solutions is to make currency considerations "virtually invisible."

You can also check out our other articles where the Collison's themselves discuss other aspects of culture at Stripe, including hybrid working, developer productivity, and 'continual paranoia' 🙃

What is the work-life balance like at Stripe?

The working hours at Stripe are vastly different than a trading desk, but that doesn't make them easier. Esteve says, at Citi, he would work "seven to four. After that, we would pretty much cut out until tomorrow morning." It's a nine-hour sprint, however; "you work intensely for this time period, and then the whistle blows."

At Stripe, meanwhile, intensity "comes in waves." If there's urgent work, "something to ship, or a crisis to get through, you put in the time and get the work done." Once that's done, it lulls a little, "it's not nearly as intense for a time."

Some periods are much more intense than others. Esteve particularly recalls the weekend of Silicon Valley Bank's collapse: "That weekend was scary for everyone in the industry in some regards, but the amount of progress and work that Stripe was able to do over that weekend was really, really impressive."

Life isn't like that at all fintechs... at smaller ones it's even more intense 😱. Esteve says his new role at Pangea is "really exciting. I feel like I’ve done a year’s worth of work in a month." Although he finds working on new problems, very exciting, he also says it "can be exhausting. Weekends are great; I look forward to taking a breath when I can."

An advantage of working at Pangea compared to Stripe is that "there’s no baggage or legacy codebase." Because of this, he says you "can move fast and get things to market extremely quick."

What is pay like at Stripe

We've frequently highlighted Stripe's eye-catching compensation packages for engineers, but what can you earn in other divisions? Stripe often gives salary boundaries in the spirit of pay transparency, and we've selected some notable ones below across its London and New York offices.

Salary isn't everything at Stripe, of course. For engineers, total compensation consists of both cash and stock, with the latter making up the majority of compensation packages at higher seniority levels. The same is likely true of most other roles at the company.

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: +44 7537 182250 (SMS, Whatsapp or voicemail). Telegram: @SarahButcher. Click here to fill in our anonymous form, or email Signal also available.

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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