Meet Cake: this is Dirk

By Davy Kestens

We’re a fully remote team of about 20 people spread across 3 countries, all working together to build Cake and improve the financial well-being of every consumer. Meet the people behind Cake in this blog series. Today, it’s up to Dirk.

Name: Dirk Bonhomme
Age: 34
Role: Cloud Software Engineer
Making Cake since: January 2019
Location: Oudsbergen, Belgium

Tell us about your workspace

When we built our house a few years ago, we had already taken into account that I work a lot from home. The plans therefore included, right from the start, a separated office space. It was the very last space in the house though which was finished off completely.😏

I did the interior design and finishing all by myself. And tried to make it as timeless as possible. I designed the desk with floating worktop myself. The wall is made of plasterboard. The directional LED spotlights accentuate the relief. 

All I’m still looking for is a ceiling lamp. All tips are welcome!  

I usually get up around 7 in the morning so we have just enough time to bring Noa (3 years old) and Lukas (9 months) to school and childcare. And to feed the chickens. 

Afterwards I quickly get myself some coffee to be ready at 9am (hehe) for the daily “stand-up” video meeting. During that meeting everyone in the development team explains what they are doing and what problems there might be. 

After the “stand-up” there are usually no other meetings scheduled and the normal working day starts. The details and progress of our work is tracked in Monday – the project management tool we use – so everyone can follow and give feedback.

Most of the discussions and questions are first asked via Slack in one of the many channels or groups. Asking a question or giving an answer is often done with GIFS. I certainly make more than my daily contribution to this.πŸ˜…
If necessary, we quickly start a Zoom video meeting with the people involved, which usually provides a quicker solution than chat.

Although people often get the impression that people at start ups are working a lot during long working days, I have gradually found out that this doesn’t work for me. Long days are certainly necessary and useful from time to time, but by doing this for longer periods of time you end up getting tired, getting less done and making mistakes more easily. So, if at all possible, I choose a nine-to-five working day in which I really focus, avoid distraction and try to get as much done as possible.

By the way, our company values literally state: “Making long hours is not encouraged and always being busy is nothing to be proud of. Being tired is not a badge of honour.”
I can only agree that this is the right way for me!Β 

Since the corona lockdown I have hardly been home alone and it is much harder to work a full day undisturbed. I hope this is temporary and the loosening of the measures will continue so that I will soon be able to fully focus again.

What do you do at Cake?

In short: Backend Engineer. This means that I develop the underlying systems and internal APIs.

At Cake we opted for a microservices architecture where we have a lot of small components that work together. Every engineer is familiar with the operation of most microservices in the system but is “owner” of only a limited number of services. Usually you become an “owner” because you have the most experience or interest in that area and will therefore contribute the most.

I mainly work on these services:

  • Partner backend: this is the part of our platform that is important for our commercial partners. Partners can define the target group for their Rewards campaign here. In other words, this is where they select the conditions that Cake users must meet in order to be eligible for a particular Reward. 
    Through this platform, they also ensure that there is enough budget available to pay the Rewards directly into the bank accounts of the Cake users. 
  • Contextual data: this backend keeps track of which brand or category belongs to your transaction and ensures that for each purchase the correct location appears on the map in the Cake app.
  • Funds service: this is the service that ensures that the Rewards are being paid out on the bank accounts of the Cake users.

If you would like to read more about our architecture you should definitely read this interview with Andy and Pieter.

Why Cake and not another company?

I have had the opportunity to do freelance assignments for banks a number of times in recent years but have always rejected them. The financial sector is known to be cumbersome and old-fashioned and that just doesn’t match my start-up mindset. Also the mandatory commutes to Brussels or Leuven are really not my thing.

My previous assignment, adventure might be a better word πŸ˜„, was at Sparkcentral, the previous company of our CEO Davy. There, Davy always managed to make the most banal things interesting. So when I switched to Cake, I was confident that even at Cake there would be no problem with working remotely and that the final result you achieve is more important than 1000 internal rules and procedures.

When Davy explained the basic concept of Cake over a lunch, I was already interested. But especially when I heard that he had put together a diverse core team with all senior profiles I was really convinced. Without this team we would never have been able to build such a high quality platform so quickly.

What’s your most memorable Cake moment?

March last year we had our first teambuilding day. First we went karting in Genk (unexpected podium for myself πŸ†πŸ˜) to have dinner at La Botte in the evening. That was an evening to remember! It became clear right away that everyone in the (small) team fit together very well.

During dinner someone was randomly assigned to make up a short speech on the spot. This was a good moment to announce that we were expecting our second baby!

What’s your favourite cake?

This is by far the Chokotoff Cake, a specialty of (and whether or not invented by) a local bakery. The picture says it all: a delicious chocolate cake with chocolate mousse, caramel, ganache and of course a real Chokotoff on top! Not to be eaten often, but incredibly delicious! 

Any topping on the Cake?

Yeah! Where should I start?

I find it fascinating how we are combining a typical tech startup with the financial sector. The outside world may not be aware of this, but we as Cake have to adhere to very strict rules regarding privacy, security and so on. We work with a licence from the National Bank of Belgium and are also under their supervision. So far, we have been able to implement this very well without becoming a cumbersome organization ourselves. Proving that it is possible to work flexibly and agile within a strict legal framework is a great feeling!

It’s also still impressive to see how we at Cake are making progress on all levels week after week. New features, new partners and Rewards, better enrichment of transactions etc. At this pace I can see us quickly becoming a great success.

My start at Cake actually sums up my enthusiasm very well. It went a bit like this: “Ok good, I’m joining the project”. And then a couple of months later, on my first day on the job: “Hey Dirk I actually don’t have a contract from you yet”. “Ah no we haven’t talked about that yet. We’ll sort that out quickly. πŸ˜†β€ 

And the rest is history!