Q&A with Checkout.com's CTO, Riaz Bordie
Riaz Bordie is Chief Technology Officer at Checkout.com. He joined the business just over six years ago and has scaled the technology team to over 200 engineers across five global offices.
We caught up with Riaz to learn about his start in technology, his time at Checkout.com, and his advice for anyone thinking about joining Checkout.com.
So, how did it all start? How did you get into technology?
I guess I’ve always had a natural inclination towards technology and gadgets in general, and understanding how they work. I wrote my very first line of code when I was seven. My dad bought me an Oric Atmos 48K computer (which you’ve probably never heard of), along with some magazines with code samples for all levels. My first worthy attempt was a small program I had scraped together for my mum, asking her how she was on the day. Despite zero natural language support and a total lack of input validation, which is excusable for a seven-year-old’s best effort, she was happy enough to answer in great detail! It’s certainly one of those childhood memories that stays with you.
Early into my career, I was lucky to be working with entrepreneurs to help them execute their vision – turning a simple idea or concept into something tangible. This experience taught me a lot about ownership and the importance of maintaining a healthy velocity by being decisive and efficient.
Fast-forward to the present day, what do you believe has shaped the technology function at Checkout.com?
What has truly shaped the technology function at Checkout.com is the amazing talent we've been fortunate enough to hire over the years. The concept of "jobs" is old – it’s vague and lacks emphasis on delivery. Engineers want a good puzzle, a friendly working environment, and meritocracy at the center of it; and of course, a solid tech stack! Above all, engineers want to see their work being used by many and feel a genuine sense of accomplishment. Our Engineering leads value this sentiment highly and consider it a top priority to continually bring new challenges to the table and help their teams cross the finish line.
As you can imagine, the more engineers we hired, the more processes and discipline became important. And while uniformity remains a key aspect of scaling a technology function, it is just as important to let teams experiment and provide them with a clear path to introduce new technologies and ideas within the ecosystem. In short, we want to strike a healthy balance between platform stability and engineering creativity.
What advice would you give to someone at the start of their career in technology?
Learn to pitch your ideas well! Every good idea that’s ever made it to production involved a degree of salesmanship. You need to sell – whether it’s to your boss, your team, or the customer. In the spirit of humility and equal opportunity within a team, it's not good enough just to be right or to have the right solution on your laptop; you also need to be able to explain to others clearly and convincingly why your solution is the right one. Start small; take the time to pitch your idea/solution to one person and go from there.
How about for anyone looking to join the business? What advice would you offer to anyone thinking about applying to Checkout.com?
Be highly reliable. This is a combination of good skills, good work ethic, and great attitude. We work tirelessly throughout the year to deliver quality products to our merchants and are bound by collective trust and team spirit to reach our targets. This has remained unchanged from Checkout.com’s start-up days and continues to serve us as the organization it is today. So in our search for talent, we’re always on the lookout for candidates who possess these qualities that fit within our spirit and culture.
In return, we will match your effort and commitment with an environment where you will be challenged, rewarded, and consequently be in a great position to make a real impact in the business.
Do you have any final reflections to share?
In October 2019, I celebrated my sixth anniversary at Checkout.com. It was a good opportunity to reflect, and I believe that my greatest challenge so far was putting Checkout.com on AWS cloud services. We set ourselves an ambitious deadline though we didn’t have the necessary team and resources at the time, and to my detriment, I wasn’t effectively communicating my expectations. Put simply, I had to accept failure and go back to the drawing board. Time lost or wisdom gained, it was most likely a bit of both. When it all came together, it was supremely rewarding and I held on to my sanity – and probably my job! As always in such tough times, you meet fantastic people who are great to work with, and who truly have your back and will help you deliver.
As I continue my Checkout.com journey, it's extremely encouraging to see the creative capacity and achievements of our growing team. I can’t wait to see our 2020 plans come to fruition!