Meet Cake: this is Jessica

By Sophie Docx

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 Jessica.

Name: Jessica Ruelens
Age: 34
Role: Co-founder and Head of Data Science
Making Cake since: December 2018
Location: Linkhout-Lummen, Belgium

Tell us about your workspace 

We live in an old (renovated) house of over 200 years old. It is located right across from both the church and the school. My workspace looks straight onto the church. It’s the smallest room in the house, but still ideal for a long desk that fits two computers and a closet. I spend most of the time here, so I am allowed some pink from my husband.😊

My first challenge of the day is getting my kids, Lara (almost 5) and Amber (2) to school and daycare on time, clean and fed. Then I start by checking Slack and checking our dashboards to make sure our user base is still increasing and no data processes have failed overnight. During our daily stand-up video meeting at 9, I discuss the focus for the day. But very often that doesn’t coincide entirely with what I’ll be doing as priorities shift quite a bit, blame it on start-up life.😬

The church bells and the noise at school remind me to stop for coffee and eat, but most of my day, especially now, consists of a mix of concentrated work and Zoom video calls to discuss planning or specific integration parts. Pre-corona we also gathered with the team in co-working spaces or at each other’s homes every now and then. I have missed that mix during the Corona measures, the variety of workspaces, the casual conversations with colleagues and the drive there helps me generate new ideas around possible applications or solutions for existing problems. 

At 3 pm it’s only a 1 minute walk to pick up my oldest daughter from school and then I still work for a bit while she plays. At 5 pm I need to pick up the youngest one and there’s absolutely no way I can get work done with the both of them around. I have done that a few times and it almost always ends in chaos or shattered glass.💥

Very unusual sight of the 2 kids playing quietly while I work.

Sometimes after the kids go to bed, I take advantage of the silence to still finish off a few things, investigate certain trends in our data or plan the next day. 

I’ve had my fair share of offices and commutes over the years, there was even a year in which I was taking the ferry to work in Sydney harbour. They all have advantages and disadvantages, but working from home being the default is a great time-saver when you have kids. And a big bonus is that I can be there for all the big moments in their lives.

What do you do at Cake?

I am the Head of Data Science, which means that I try to plan and coordinate mostly everything to do with the functionality we are building around and with data. That includes (but is definitely not limited to) our machine learning models to enrich your transactions, implementing feedback we get from our users (massive thank you for that 🙌), creating aggregated reports for our B2B partners, measuring adoption and engagement, .. 

I am very lucky to have an amazing team of geniuses all working hard to try to achieve our ambitious goals. I am extremely proud of how far we have come if you consider we had nothing to start off with. 

Our enrichment model and all the things that are now made possible thanks to that is a great milestone in itself, but one that will never be finished as we see more data coming in all different types of formats and from different countries. Thanks to that enrichment model, which structures the unstructured transaction data that we receive from the bank, we give people more insight into their spending habits. Bringing this information to our users in a very clear and visual way is the first step towards better financial health. It’s a first step in trying to bring our unconscious everyday decisions that we make without thinking about it, visible and conscious. 

Apart from the planning and coordination, I also still very much like to get my hands dirty in reporting, data loading scripts, data modelling and development of machine learning models, where I can. I am also very lucky to be in this line of work, I can’t imagine a more exciting job where you get to explore and find new kinds of patterns and trends every day. Although it might not look like that from the outside.👩🏻‍💻

Why Cake and not another company?

At the risk of sounding corny, I always wanted to use data and analytics for the greater good. A lot of analytics jobs revolve around trying to sell more stuff to more people. This is my first shot at trying to actually help people to be financially healthy and as many studies conclude, this adds a great deal in mental and physical health as well. 

I really believe that our business model is a unique one, that tries to marry up viability with serving a good cause. So when Davy, our CEO, first talked to me about the idea and the mission, I think it only took me a few hours to decide that this was a one-off opportunity to build something great from scratch, one that doesn’t come along too often. I’d rather regret things that I have done than regret things I have not. 

What’s your most memorable Cake moment?

There have been a few, but one thing I will never forget is driving around on a scooter together with Davy during an event with the Cake co-founders. We were trying to complete a number of tasks Pieter (aka the scouts leader) had given us. Let’s say I have come to appreciate life even more after this experience.😅    

This is me waiting for Davy to take a picture of some sort of monument by the side of a very busy road. 

What’s your favourite cake?

I am not good at baking myself. Well, that’s an understatement. I can’t bake at all, I am not good at following recipes. 😏

But luckily my father can make the best frangipani cake and I always urge him not to bring too much over if he bakes one, because, you know, the working from home alone thing. 😅

Any topping on the Cake?

Lately, a few missing puzzle pieces are falling into place, with the addition of Revolut and BNP Paribas Fortis bank accounts. The support that we get from our users through our support channels and on social media is very encouraging. Seeing people enjoying our app and using it in the way that we intended is fuel to give it our all, every day. On the other hand, Cake for Business, our B2B solution, is shaping up nicely as well with the addition of new users and new insights. Especially during these economically challenging times, insight into behaviour and how it evolves can help companies cater for consumer’s changing needs.

You might also be interested in …
Tell us about Data, an interview with Jessica

The Cake app has been freely available to download since the beginning of this year. Although it is still a beta version it already offers more than enough features to improve your financial insights and to make your bank account profitable again. Download the app in the App Store or via Google Play.
Enjoy!  🍰