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It’s a Chimed Life: Meet Celeen Rusk

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When she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in music in the middle of the great recession of 2008, Celeen Rusk (she/her/hers) had a hard time finding work. “I did some contract work, but more than anything, I was eager to travel,” she says. “I booked the least expensive ticket I could find to another continent.”

She spent six weeks volunteering and traveling in Ecuador and Colombia — without speaking more than a few words of Spanish when she arrived. “It was either brave or naïve to go somewhere where I didn’t speak the language, but I had a lovely time learning what Spanish I could,” she says. “I realized that immersion learning is a completely different experience than traditional learning and started to see there are many different ways to learn things.”

Later, when Celeen became interested in learning software development, she was introduced to Dev Bootcamp. “Everything I read online made me believe that I’d be successful there,” she says. “In one interview with Dev Bootcamp founder Shereef Bishay, he explained how they incorporated a teaching philosophy to remove everything from the learning context except the thing being learned. I liked the idea of creating an artificial vacuum in which to learn one thing at a time and build on it — and that’s how Dev Bootcamp was structured.”

Celeen decided to lean into the immersive nature of a classic coding boot camp and jump in — not unlike how she’d leaned into her travels. After all, she hoped to build her career without having to go back to full-time school. “With my music degree, my other options were to go back to school for a degree in a different field or pursue graduate school for music,” she says. “In lieu of spending all that money and years of study, I decided to go to Dev Bootcamp — at least if it didn’t work out, I’d be able to regroup in a few months.”

“As it turns out, I really love the work and have carved out a career for myself,” she says.

While Celeen decided to go to Dev Bootcamp because of pragmatism, she has stayed in the field and continues to learn because of the joy it brings her. “I like learning about new things and how they work, as well as the creative aspect of being a developer,” she says. “It always feels good to build things, even in the abstract.”

And, in case you were wondering, Celeen is still in a band, where she plays keyboards and sings backup vocals.

Celeen’s advice: If you’re considering a coding boot camp

When Celeen was considering making the leap and attending Dev Bootcamp, she talked to folks in her network who had been to other boot camps. “Their advice was that if this is something you want to do, then a boot camp will support you doing it, but be prepared to put a lot of work into learning.” They reminded her that building any new skill well requires a lot of time and groundwork, as well as a lot of trust: “That even if it doesn’t go how you expected it would, you’ll work hard and land somewhere where you can put your skills to work and be happy or apply your learnings in some other way.”

To anyone considering a coding boot camp, Celeen offers the following advice:

The draw to Chime: Our mission

Celeen began to hear about Chime when she was at Braintree. Several of her coworkers had joined Chime, and Emily Anderson, a new Senior Director of Engineering at Chime, had been a mentor to her there. “I had a lot of respect for Emily, as well as others who had joined Chime, so when I decided it was time to leave Braintree, of course I talked to Chime,” she says.

While her connections to Chime employees put us on the map for Celeen, our mission led her to join Chime. “I admire the place where Chime sits within fintech and the broader economy,” she says. “We succeed as our members succeed; if our members don’t succeed, we don’t succeed. That feels like such a unique view and position to be in as a company and as a fintech.”

Getting hands-on experience across the full stack

In her role, Celeen does technical leadership work as part of the account access and update team, which falls under Chime’s authentication umbrella. “We’re in charge of all logins to our app,” Celeen says. “Technically, the work is interesting because it’s very full-stack. We touch the mobile app, web app, a big slice of our backend server components, and database layers and infrastructure. I love getting hands-on experience with all layers of the stack.”

From a business perspective, Celeen loves her work, too. “I frame our responsibilities not just as keeping out bad actors but also making it easy for people to access their money,” she says. “In our industry, where the stakes are particularly high, account access has some of the highest opportunity to impact the user experience. Finding that balance and striving always to provide a good experience makes the work interesting. If we’re doing our jobs well, nobody notices that the software we build exists.”

“We want to be invisible in a good way, creating a frictionless experience for members on their journey and keeping out bad actors in a way that secures our reputation and their experience.”

Connecting to members on various levels

While spanning the full stack, Celeen’s work is also directly member-facing: after all, every Chime member has to log in to their accounts. “It’s pretty unique to get a mix of user-facing and deep stack experience,” Celeen says.

Whenever she and her team release a new feature, it involves a lot of testing. Not only do we test in non-production environments, but we also dogfood our product heavily. “It’s encouraged for Chimers to use our product every day to get into the member-first mindset and prioritize the experience we’re creating for members,” she says. “Our internal dogfooding program adds a fun and interesting dynamic to our work because internal employee stakeholders will often come to our team with requests, which has been helpful to improving the features we launch and the quality of our code.”

The team also gathers feedback from other channels, including an automated Slack channel that shares any account access complaints from members. “It’s important that we provide an excellent experience to our members,” she says. “I’m really proud of the things we’ve accomplished and want to make sure our feedback channels are wide open so we’re always considering our members.”

After all, one of the reasons Celeen was drawn to Chime was the fact that if our members succeed, we do. “We’re in a unique position and in order to deliver on our mission, we have to keep our members in mind at every turn,” she says. “Part of that is understanding their experience, listening to their feedback, knowing the product ourselves, and iterating constantly.”