Meet the Daves: Q&A with Lena Pugliese

Wondering what it’s like to work at a fintech startup building out the future of banking and helping the 4 in 5 Americans who live paycheck to paycheck thrive? Read on to get to know Lena Pugliese, Lead QA Engineer at Dave, and keep an eye out for more Q&As featuring Lena’s fellow Daves.

Lena Pugliese joined the Dave team in April 2018 from a payments and inventory management software company where she was a QA manager. She also worked in several other startups throughout Los Angeles. When he’s not squashing bugs in the Dave app and rolling out new features, Lena enjoys staying active and traveling. Lately she’s been enjoying classes at Circuitworks and recently visited New York City.

Lena, let’s kick off by having you tell us more about yourself. What is your role at Dave and how long have you worked here?

I’m a Lead QA Engineer at Dave and I just hit my one year anniversary here actually! It was honestly the quickest year I’ve ever spent in a company. Time flies when you’re having fun. When I came in I don’t know what employee number I was, I think 26. Now we’re at 50+ so seeing the company grow that quickly has been a crazy experience.

What was it about Dave that initially drew you to the company?

When I heard about Dave I really liked both the concept and the brand. I was super intrigued by the company’s mission from the get-go because I know what it’s like to be terrible at budgeting. Then there’s the brand — the bear and the app made me think this is a cool concept. And it’s different. Fintech is the combination of finance and tech, which we think of as such serious industries, or scary even. This was fun and colorful.

Then when I actually came in and interviewed I’ve never seen so many people so truly happy. It’s not an atmosphere where everyone can’t wait to go home at the end of the day. It felt like a breath of fresh air. We even say it feels like a little family. Everyone’s here to work hard and support each other.

Since starting what are some of your favorite tools and processes that you’ve learned about?

I came in as the first QA engineer and was excited by how much the team here cares about quality! I really appreciate the flexibility of our growing team and the thirst for learning new tools and techniques. This also goes for the company as a whole — we are constantly evolving and learning.

My favorite process that I learned here has been setting and measuring objectives and key results (OKRs) — our goal-setting process at Dave. OKRs help us set big goals and then find measurable ways to work towards them. Our CEO came to me in the second month I was here and got my input on company OKRs around QA. Having every department recognized like that as part of the company-wide goals makes your work feel really meaningful and helps with transparency. At any point you can see what everyone in the company is working on and how they ladder up to the company’s goals.

So transparency is big at Dave! What are three words would you use to describe the culture overall?

Transparency is definitely one of them! The three words that come to mind are transparent, innovative and fun. The OKRs make it so there are no secrets. If something isn’t going well we can talk about it and figure out how to fix it together. When it comes to innovation, our engineering team department regularly shares new things they’ve read about or tried. But it’s more than just tech tools — we recently learned how to pick a lock! We have meetups called 1 Up Wednesdays where we learn a skill from one of our coworkers and they don’t necessarily have to be just professional skills.

Fun is the last word — and that’s because of that family environment that I picked up on when I first interviewed at Dave. Everyone’s really friendly and hangs out together. There are team outings and unofficial happy hours. That kind of environment makes it feel like I can always go up and ask someone for help when I need it.

Speaking of fun, there’s a Slack channel here called #ladydaves. I’m intrigued — tell me more!

Yes! So a little less than half of our team are women, with many of them on the engineering team, which unfortunately can be rare in the tech world. So the #ladydaves Slack channel started as a way for us all to connect. One of our developers set it up and it’s a way for us to share articles and events or even just a Beyonce song on a Friday. It’s been cool to have the channel to quickly connect with other women on the team.

Dave’s mission is to help people thrive paycheck to paycheck. Can you tell me about your biggest money mistake? And your biggest money triumph?

When I first moved to LA I was trying to figure out how to pay rent and bills. I was 20, so my mom had been doing that. After one of my first paychecks I bought a $400 purse because I had an actual job and felt like I could treat myself. But then I realized I had a cable bill due that completely wiped out my bank account. I only had $20 in my account after I bought the purse and had to ask my mom for money. She was not happy for about a month after that.

Lately I’ve been much better and of course use our app to keep track of expenses. I’ve gotten into a habit and it helps. My biggest money triumph is something I got into a little more recently than I’d like to admit — it’s a savings account that actually has money in it. Sometimes it takes a while to get there, but now I’m taking care of it!

Natalie Rix

Natalie Rix