Arta Team Spotlight
Q&A with Jishnu Mohan—Software Engineer at Arta
Arta Team Spotlight
February 02, 2023
Jishnu’s life was forever changed when he casually applied to an international school based in Singapore. He relocated from India for high school and then stayed for college and two incredible tech jobs. Today Jishnu is still loving life in Singapore, currently as a software engineer at Arta Finance.
I grew up in Mumbai and attended a Catholic all-boys school for my primary and middle years. The school was so small that if you were interested in something, you could always “make the team,” even if you didn’t have much talent. Thus, I was able to try out many sports and clubs without much background or previous skills. It also made for a tight-knit community where everyone knew each other.
That all changed when I went to high school in Singapore.
My dad thought it would be fun to apply to the A*STAR Youth Scholarship, a program provided by the Ministry of Education Singapore to children from South East Asian countries. It covered tuition, accommodations, and an allowance - a generous plan for families, especially those interested in attending an international school.
I was shocked when I was accepted to the program. I hadn’t processed the meaning of it all until I was mid-flight to a new country where I didn’t know anyone. I had never left India before that experience!
That must have been an exciting (maybe scary) experience for you as a young teen. How did you like it? Were lessons did you take away from that experience?
Living abroad on my own, was a pivot point in my life. The school was similar to my school in Mumbai, so the transition was easy. It was a Catholic, missionary, all-boys school. Even the uniforms were the same, apart from the tie. The big difference was that, for the first time, I was in a community where not everyone was Indian.
Most of my classmates were Singaporeans, and I lived in a hostel with other international students. Thus, I was immersed in Singaporean culture at school and a diverse mix of cultures in the afternoons and evenings. The experience significantly expanded my worldview.
Looking back, every day offered a lesson in some way, but there is one that stands out, and I’ve taken with me into adulthood. My roommates were Filipino and also new to Singapore. While we all spoke English at school, it was natural for my roommates to slip into their native language, Tagalog, when they were together. Although they didn’t mean to be exclusionary, I often had to remind them that I was there and ask them to switch back to English. I learned that even when people are doing things that seem exclusionary, it’s often simply because they are not thinking about it. I was lucky because they were open to my frequent reminders and would simply jump back in English.
In situations where others may feel excluded, I give the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes a reminder is all it takes to point out inconsiderate behavior, and then the offending person has a chance to correct the situation. I have a fundamental trust in people and an optimistic attitude because of that experience with my Filipino roommates.
The cost and quality of education balance kept me in Singapore for college. First, I double majored in computer science and finance and then earned a master's in computer science. After graduation, a “dream job” opportunity at Google’s Singapore came up and made staying here an easy decision.
Initial interactions leave the greatest impact on how users feel about an app.
To this day, my parents tease me about a high school essay I wrote about my goal to work at Google in cybersecurity. I didn’t know a thing about coding or cybersecurity at the time, but the idea of working for Google felt like a big dream. So, after all that, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity!
You worked on Tez / Google Pay. What did you learn about creating great customer-facing products based on that experience?
For many of our users, Tez was the first financial application they ever used. It was a privilege to introduce so many people to the digital world and help them get comfortable using technology. Because it was a first-time experience for so many, the application needed to perform predictably and reliably.
It’s like they say, “you only get one chance to make a first impression,” and the initial interactions leave the greatest impact on how users feel about an app. So, using that first experience to build confidence and trust is critical.
It was also important that every user got maximum benefit from Tez, no matter how unique their situation or experience. That meant spending a disproportionate amount of time and care for ‘rare’ scenarios to cover all use cases for all users. That approach paid off and allowed us to build a useful tool that worked for virtually everyone.
Real-world insights into money management are immensely beneficial. Besides, why should it be taboo to talk about money when money affects us all?
Secondly, I learned how important it is for engineers to use automated user testing and up-to-date aggregated metrics to fully understand how users interact with the app. Sounds like a mouth full, right? Joking aside, those insights help us catch issues that we didn’t initially imagine, including those rare case scenarios. This understanding is particularly important with personal finances because everyone’s situation is unique.
You learned how many people think about personal finance while “on the job” at Google and Arta. So how do you go about learning personal finance at this stage of your life and career?
I’m learning at an accelerated pace, thanks to my colleagues. Unlike most social settings, where talking about money is strangely off-limits, the Arta team always discusses personal finance. As a result, money talks are regular, welcome, and encouraged.
Real-world insights about money management are immensely beneficial. Besides, why should it be taboo to talk about money when money affects us all?