David San

Establishing Cashrewards as the first stop in your shopping journey
Senior Software Engineer

How did you get here? 

I’ve had a mixed experience in engineering in the last 5 years – I’ve been at smaller startups, post-acquisition startups, mid and large businesses.Throughout the years, I was looking for opportunities that allowed me to take on more of a managerial role and have more impact across a range of projects.

Currently, I’m at Cashrewards in a senior role. It’s been a lot of fun working on prevalent problems – particularly post COVID where brick and mortar stores experience less foot traffic and as more people create their own ecommerce business. I was also attracted to their strong market position of having 1.8 million members, and the opportunity to build a range of propositions that could serve this large and growing market.

What options were you considering following your last role?

In my opinion, there are typically two pathways for engineers – 

1) Individual Contributors (who typically prefer to spend most of their time coding/solving problems and seeing more of their own impact day to day) and 

2) People managers (e.g., like a “Head of Engineering” where it’ll be more about how much you can bring out of the team, vs yourself.).

I always saw myself in the second path (found myself really enjoying mentoring juniors and those trying to break into software engineering. For example, I have mentored for the Student Startmate Fellowship where I still keep in touch with my mentees to this day–  Consequently, I was looking for a company that was growing fast, where I was able to be involved in process development so that as they grew, there’d be an opportunity to grow with it.

In terms of what I was looking for in a company – I focused on their culture. I wanted to join a company where people are a core part of their strategy – where Engineers are seen as fundamental to the growth and development of the business. That’s where I believed I could feel most empowered to do my best, and feel really connected with the mission of the company.

I have been fortunate with Cashrewards where teams are designed to be multidisciplinary, as we have a mix of designers, engineers, product and business analysts. We really feel like a team, and can get to the best answer given the diverse thinking.

How did you make the decision to take your current role? 

This really came down to two things – I was attracted to the opportunity and also the people.

Cashrewards is a first-mover in this space, could capitalise on recent market shifts, and had an existing strong customer base.

I also had a really engaging interview process and got the sense that people really enjoyed working here. It showed that they are willing to take risks and learn from mistakes. This was the type of culture I wanted to work and grow in.

What is your role now? And what does your day to day look like? 

As a senior software engineer at Cashrewards, our team is responsible for the Search experience where we help members navigate our website to find their favourite brand or product and then earn cashback on their purchase. 

We anticipate the different ways a customer may think of to search for something on our platform, and provide the tools to help them do so smoothly.

Here, my role is more positioned towards Front-End, although I’m able to support across the full-stack.

On any given day – it typically includes a stand-up (a check-in of our priorities for the day, and articulating what support we need for roadblocks), writing code and reviewing others’ code. Other times, I’ll be in a meeting with other front-end engineers to discuss progress/ any learnings to other times where I'll be engaging with other stakeholders from Product to Design and the various other functions that our actions may impact.

What do you love about your job? 

The ability to create experiences for people and see the impact (for both customers and the business). It’s exciting to know that we have people accessing and interacting with what I’ve built. Not only that, but also seeing it translate into tangible impact (i.e., more people receiving targeted merchant offers, which means more transactions for the business). 

It’s also really rewarding hearing direct feedback from people I know given we are all consumers ourselves.

What do you not love about your job? 

As an Engineer in the startup space – there’s typically a culture or expectation to upskill quite quickly. There’s always more to learn if you want to accelerate your career.

This means a lot of time spent outside of work hours either learning, doing exams (e.g., AWS exams) or working on side projects.

Not everyone has to do this but certainly in a startup environment, there are lots of people who are looking to further their career in a fast-paced environment. This is something you might want to think about before moving into this pathway.

Also like any fast moving startup, there will be times where you may have to do extra work beyond the standard 9-5. Particularly when there is a go-live on a new feature, or large spikes of traffic (e.g., Black Friday) – you’ll have to be prepared to be all hands on deck and/or on standby. This might mean looking into issues as they come (e.g., breakdowns on website) and responding to customer tickets. 

What advice would you give someone deciding what they should do?

The best way to figure out what you want to do is to try different things and get involved in communities (e.g., Earlywork, startmate, also Insidelane!)

Some of these guys will have formal programs but the real value is in the network you build – you’ll meet like minded people and you never know where a conversation could lead. You might learn about different companies, technologies, roles – or get an intro that might land you your next gig.

It’s a great way to expose yourself to more knowledge and opportunities.

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