Arta Team Spotlight
Q&A with Fabien Lauf, Software Engineer at Arta
Arta Team Spotlight
January 31, 2023
Born in Paris, France, Fabien is quick to joke that French stereotypes are true - proud, direct, and dramatically expressive, to name a few. Yet, when it comes to his own accomplishments, Fabien is humble, quiet, and understated. He’s a talented engineer, champion fencer, and avid traveler. But, most importantly, he recently started the most critical role of his life - being a dad to a baby boy! Formerly at Apple and Expedia, Fabien is a software engineer at Arta.
How did you get started in software engineering?
I went to university for computer science. But, honestly, I didn’t have a passion for one specific thing and was never sure what I wanted to do! So, I thought the smartest plan was to follow an “easy path” that would result in tangible skills and ultimately allow me to explore options.
After graduation, I took an internship as a developer, mainly because they were in high demand and easy to get! Lucky for me, it turned out to be a great fit because it matched my personality. I’m an introvert and like to be “in the zone” for work. Software development provides a good balance of working solo and collaborating with teammates.
I love the idea of making complicated things simpler and better through technology.
One thing I enjoy about being a developer is that your job is constantly evolving. You are not dependent on tools or technology. Instead, you are building the future of tools and technology for yourself. It’s unique in that sense. Plus, I love building things.
How about outside of work? Do you have hobbies or interests that you are passionate about too?
For 25 years, competitive fencing was a central part of my life. I started training at age seven and only “retired” a few years ago. Fencing is fast and explosive - the only Olympic sport where you hold a weapon! I like to think of it as a mix between physical sport and chess because it requires stamina, strength, and strategic thinking. You set traps to ensnare your opponent and then wait until the last moment to touch (or slash!) them.
When I fell in love with travel, I combined my two passions and entered fencing competitions in different cities and countries. I was lucky to travel to places like Bangkok, Tokyo, and Hong Kong for fencing tournaments. I won the Fencing Championship titles in Malaysia and the Philippines in 2015, two significant highlights of my fencing career.
Travel is an extremely important part of my life. Mark Twain said, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness," and I wholeheartedly agree. I believe meaningful travel experiences change lives for the better.
When I started traveling, online travel agencies were basic, and there were no smartphones. I knew many people who didn't want to travel because they thought it was too complicated and expensive. However, I believe the problem was that they didn't have access to a way they could explore locations and options that fit their preferences and budget. It frustrated me that, because of this barrier, people were missing out on something as rewarding as travel!
I had the opportunity to join the online travel industry early in my career, where I was able to build products that made travel more accessible. The work made an impact - a bit like what Arta is doing for Finance.
Did your love of travel inspire you to move to Singapore?
When I lived in Paris, I visited Asia 2 - 3 times each year. I enjoyed my time in that part of the world so much that when I got the chance to relocate, I decided to move there.
I chose Singapore because it is a modern city and the center of Southeast Asia. Plus, the transition was easy since English is spoken here.
I moved with just my suitcase and laptop, so the moment I landed, I started looking for a job. I took a role at Expedia that leveraged my engineering skills and love for travel.
Another great thing about being a developer is that your job is always evolving.
Working at Expedia was incredible. I wanted to help people feel more at ease about traveling, and I felt I was making a difference.
Then Covid-19 arrived. As a travel company, Expedia was hit hard. Unfortunately, the company had many layoffs and let go of the entire Singapore-based engineering team, including me.
Luckily, I found my next role with Apple. I was thrilled to be there and achieve a position at a “FAANG” company, which was not even an option back home in Paris. I learned as much as possible, and after a year with such a big company, I found myself eager to work on something new from the ground up.
That’s when you discovered the opportunity at Arta. How did that come about, and what inspired you to leave big tech behind for something completely new?
While at Expedia, I met Jishnu Mohan. He was an intern at the time and is currently a software engineer with Arta. We kept in touch, and he told me about Arta when I was looking for a new opportunity. But this story has a funny twist: I was absolutely against working at a fintech company for most of my life.
My mother and father were corporate bankers and managed millions of dollars across different companies. So, I had a lot of knowledge and exposure to the financial industry because of my parents. But, to be frank, I thought finance was the epitome of boring.
When I was eight years old, mom and dad taught me about shares, “You can buy a part of a company,” they explained, expecting me to be excited. As a kid, I didn’t understand why anyone would spend money on something like that. I had money to buy something I could enjoy, like video games or candies. So why would I purchase invisible shares? So I asked them, “if I buy a share, what can I do with it?” They explained that I could sell it for a profit. But from my perspective, all that meant was I would “have” money that I couldn’t even see!
It was a very blurry concept, and I questioned the whole thing. To top it off, I felt rebellious and denied it from the start simply because it was my parents’ thing. Be like my parents? No way. Follow the safe path? No, thanks. How boring! But here I am now, working in personal finance - albeit in an innovative and exciting new way. And I eventually invested in some stocks too. So, maybe my parents got the last laugh after all.
That’s a great story! What was it about Arta that turned things around for you?
I like the vision of making finance easier, more transparent, and more accessible to more people. I love the idea of making complicated things simpler and better through technology. My mission is to use technology to help people, so working at Arta is a great opportunity.