December 10, 2021

Elena Branchini on helping candidates find a home at Plaid

Madeline Perretta

What is your role?
I am a technical recruiter. I support back-end engineering at Plaid. This includes hiring for all of the back-end teams that we have in the engineering organization such as data platform, developer efficiency, and all the core services teams. I also partner with our EPDS Group to recruit technical program managers. 

Describe what you do in a few sentences.
I am a full cycle recruiter which means I am involved in every step of the recruiting process! I source candidates, lead initial screenings, meet with candidates throughout their interview process, and extend offers to the engineers and program managers who we feel are a fit at Plaid. I also work closely with my hiring managers to identify the needs of their team so that I can best support their hiring goals.

How does your work impact people’s financial lives?
Our mission is to unlock financial freedom for everyone. In order to further our mission, we need to build a team of hardworking and driven people who care deeply about making the financial ecosystem more equitable. As a technical recruiter, I am responsible for finding top engineering talent to help us achieve this mission. My role in having a positive impact on people's financial lives begins with hiring great people to work at Plaid.

What do you love most about working at Plaid?
My team. And my manager! Actually, a big reason I joined the Plaid team was because I was really excited about the opportunity to learn from my manager, Chris Ahsing. You spend such a significant amount of time with your manager and team, so it is very important that you feel supported. Having a positive relationship with your team impacts how you feel about your work and how you show up each day. I feel really lucky to work alongside such incredible people. In recruiting it is often difficult to find a team environment where collaboration is a core component. At Plaid, the recruiting team genuinely cares about one another and wants each other to be successful.

What sets Plaid apart from other places you have worked?
As I mentioned, I think the Plaid team is really special. I also feel that Plaid has created a positive work environment. We are very intentional with our cultural initiatives and our core Principles, which drive the company forward. Plaid is a place where you can be your authentic self and express how you feel. For example, our CEO, Zach Perret, hosts weekly chats with the entire company where you can ask any question that is on your mind. I value having this openness at work and do not take it for granted. 

Why should people come build with us?
Okay, so I have an analogy about this...ha. Plaid powers roughly 80% of all fintechs. When you think of this number and Plaid’s role in shaping the future of financial services, it is pretty incredible. During my conversations with candidates who want to learn more about Plaid, I always propose two choices and it happens to be centered around food. Fintech is like a pie. There are many companies or rather, slices, that exist today focused on particular spaces within the fintech ecosystem such as accounting, personal finance, cryptocurrency, and more. However, Plaid is unique because we are not a slice, but rather the full pie. Our infrastructure has enabled so many fintechs to build amazing products, which is why Plaid can be considered the fintech pie.  At the end of the day, would you rather have a slice of pie or the entire pie?

What Plaid Principle resonates with you the most and why?
My favorite Plaid Principle is, learn and grow together. As a recruiter, I am always looking for ways to improve and to continue to have an impact.

Can you share a bit about how you approach recruiting?
I take pride in my ability to build relationships. As a recruiter, I am here to coach candidates through their interviewing process and to set them up for success so that they feel excited about the opportunity to join Plaid. During candidate conversations you discuss so many  topics that are a mix of professional and personal, so naturally, you create a bond. Of course I prioritize technical aptitude when I am hiring, but I also consider who the person is beyond their work life. I believe that testing for soft skills and learning about someone’s principles are really important and can make a huge difference in hiring. At the end of the day, every person who joins Plaid will help shape our culture and environment. We run a very thoughtful interview process to ensure we are bringing in people who will add impact and feel empowered to do their best work. 

Finding people who are also committed to furthering our mission is key. I feel passionate about helping candidates feel they have a home here. I always take time to understand what a candidate wants because Plaid needs to be a mutual fit. 

Let’s rewind to life before Plaid. 

Tell us about your path into recruiting. What was that like? 
Let’s start from the beginning! I grew up in Italy and although my family is still there and I love Italy, I always knew in my heart that I wanted to move to the United States. I remember traveling to different countries and feeling that the world was so big and I wanted to explore more of it. In college, I studied to become a translator because I hoped it could give me the opportunity to live outside of Italy. I was also an exchange student in California and loved my experience, which only reinforced my desire to move.  Although I enjoyed being a translator after college, and it did allow me to temporarily travel, I was still focused on moving to the United States. When a recruiter position came available to me in the Bay Area, I jumped at the opportunity. 

Can you tell us more about the position?
Well, I found a recruiting job when I was living in Italy that was for one year in California. Let me preface this by saying, I spoke some English and didn’t even know what the word recruiter meant...ha. I remember my LinkedIn account was also in Italian and I only had two connections. Some people may view these things as roadblocks, but for me, I only saw the future I had always dreamed of. So, I worked with the agency to build my resume out and after I applied I got the job! The next stop was moving to San Francisco. When I first started my job in the recruiting space, I had a lot to learn, but I enjoyed every second of it.

Weren’t you nervous to move across the country to take a job you knew little about?
Of course! But, in life you need to take some risks.  During that period of time, I felt that I had nothing to lose. Worst case scenario, I could always go back to Milan. I already had a small network in California from when I was an exchange student, so it felt right. Although the position was for one year only, I was determined to work hard to stay as long as possible and since moving here I haven’t left.

Talk to us about being a recruiter. How did you know it was a fit?
I always joke that recruiting found me. My goal was to move to the United States and taking that recruiting job years ago, gave me that opportunity. The longer I have been in this position the more I have realized how much I love it. However, I will say that it has taken me some time to find where I am most happy as a recruiter.

I know that I thrive in a fast paced environment because I very much resonate with the principles and values that come with building a company from the ground up. I have also learned that working at a larger company and being on a team with an army of recruiters is not appealing to me. I like having strong relationships with my team and seeing the impact I make. My favorite part about being a recruiter is having your candidate join Plaid then seeing them excel in their role. It is a special feeling to know that I played a role in bringing them to the company.

Plaid is a high-performance environment, how do you unwind?
Personally, I try to set boundaries. I tend to want to work all the time and have a high bar for myself, but I think setting boundaries and understanding your limits is really important. To separate from work, I love spending time at the gym. This is time for me to focus on myself and to clear my head. I also enjoy going for runs. I view running as moving therapy. When I am running I feel a sense of calmness as I let my body adjust to the back and forth motion. Everything just feels great because you're moving, you're outside, and you're grounded.

What's the best piece of advice you've received?
Slow down in order to move fast. To be successful we look for ways to be more efficient so that we can increase our level of execution. However, in this rush of trying to accomplish as much as possible, we lose sight of where to focus our attention. When my inbox is full of unread emails and I have unopened slack messages, I feel this sense of urgency to respond to everyone. However, this feeling doesn’t necessarily make my work better, if anything I am more likely to make mistakes or to not follow the correct processes. I have learned that it is most impactful to take those extra minutes, breathe, and remind yourself that you have the time.