Who is Valon: Vib, Software Engineer

Who is Valon: Vib, Software Engineer

Hi, my name is Vib! I’m a Software Engineer on the Escrow team. Basically, some homeowners have their mortgage servicer make insurance and tax payments on their behalf. My team, Escrow, manages those payments. I’ve been at Valon now for about seven months!

It’s my understanding that you interviewed with Valon well over seven months ago, though, is that right?

Yes! I had an incredible interview experience with Valon way back when it was still called Peach Street. They used to have this lunch interview format, where you’d have lunch with everybody on the team (at the time, only fifteen people). I got along so well with everyone that I actually didn’t get a chance to take a bite of my food.

​Ultimately, I wasn’t able to join because Valon was still getting started, and there were some visa sponsorship difficulties for me. I took a different job, but every three months I’d message our then CPO, Eric, on LinkedIn just to keep in touch. Coincidentally, on the day I decided to quit my old job, I got an email notification from Eric: “Hey, are you still interested?” And the rest is history.

Since then, the joke at the company has been that I “love mortgages.” Allegedly, that’s what I wrote in an email I sent to Eric.

Well… Do you love mortgages?

This is the third mortgage related startup I’ve worked for, so that’s where the joke comes from. I mean, I like mortgages a lot, but I don’t know if I’m ready to take our relationship to that next level…

I have gained a deep appreciation for the complexities in the space. When I initially joined Valon, it definitely pitched itself as a tech company. Which it is. But the product and operations intricacies add this additional layer of complexity that’s very intellectually engaging to an engineer. It’s something that has led to a lot of personal and technical growth.

What else do you think makes Valon stand out in the startup space?

First off, the people. Some of my closest friends in New York are people I work with, which you’d never expect. Recently, we all ventured up to Storm King Art Center together, and it was a ton of fun. Plus, everyone shows a high feeling of ownership over our product. Every element of the product, whether it’s something they’re directly working on or not, matters to every team member. Sometimes, at other places, a high bar like that can lead to stressful or toxic work environments. That’s not the case here at all. It’s so collaborative, and if there are gaps in understanding, then it becomes the group’s mission to support bridging that gap.

Secondly, the business model itself. On the day I started here, my mom sent me this article about the Better.com CEO laying people off. She’s like, “Is this gonna affect you?” I had to explain to her the nuances of the space that we’re in, and how Valon is not subject to the same market volatilities. We’re not only tied to people actively buying homes — we handle the homeownership process from start to finish. So, as long as people have homes, we’ll be fine. I think it’s very cool that the founders identified that market opportunity.

Eric welcoming Vib to the team!

How did you realize that programming is what you wanted to do?

I started my programming career relatively late. I took AP Computer Science senior year of high school on a whim. I had already gotten into college, and I had mild senioritis. I really didn’t think I’d ever have to write a program in my life. Then, freshman year of college, I took a compsci class, loved it, and immediately tried to make up for slacking off in high school.

To be clear, I always knew I was gonna do some sort of engineering. But the thing that I love about computer science is the lower barrier to build something functional. Other engineering disciplines require a lot more knowledge or capital investment to do so. I was immediately attracted to the ease with which I was able to build stuff with computer science.

A lot of people have an appreciation for the mathematics of computer science. For me, it’s always been about the product building side of things and relating what I’m building to how people are going to use it. That’s just another reason why Valon was a good fit for me; there are complex technical problems being solved, but, at the end of the day, the mission of the company is to create delightful experiences for homeowners.

What advice would you give to a young engineer trying to get into the startup space?

I would preempt that by asking what they’re hoping to get out of it. I think my personal desire was to learn, so I thought hard about exactly what I wanted to learn. I was precise about that. If I wanted to learn something hyper-specific, I probably would not have joined Valon. We’re not an ML company or anything like that—not yet. But I did want to learn deeply about how to build products, and, specifically, I wanted to build competencies within fintech. That’s why this made a good fit for me.

What was the hardest question you got during your interview process with Valon?

Okay, so, I was fresh out of college. I was asked to build what the database schema and general system design of a bank looks like. There are so many ways to go about that, and it’s tough to know where to start and what to optimize for.

But, as someone who has limited experiences with loans, it was very difficult to prioritize features and empathize with all the stakeholders. I remember using little bits of information that I had accumulated over the years, like, for example, I knew that payments didn’t happen immediately. They take time, and, at different points in time, they can be canceled. That introduces complexities around loan information.

I just remember how collaborative my interview was. I was thinking about these problems out loud, and I didn’t feel stupid for not knowing certain things. I’m glad they didn’t feel that I was, either.

Vib and some other Valon employees at Storm King Art Center together!

What are you most excited to see change about Valon in the coming years?

I’m super excited to see how the culture matures. When you’re at a young startup, things can be super fun and fast moving. But growth means the technical and cultural values start to become ingrained. We move pretty quickly, but we care a lot about correctness or simplicity as opposed to efficiency at the cost of those things. As we rapidly scale, it’ll be interesting to see what actions we take to maintain these values.

Thanks so much, Vib. Lastly, what are you streaming right now?

I just watched Tokyo Vice. Loved it.

​It was great to speak with Vib. If you’re interested in joining our team at Valon, check out our open roles.