Gabi Grinberg, Head of Frontend Engineering for Wix Answers, joined Wix exactly 9 years ago. We thought that his anniversary is a good opportunity for him to tell us about his unusual path at Wix.
It’s a pretty fair assumption that Portuguese speakers in Israel don’t have an endless amount of job opportunities in their native language. That’s just the way it is. But there are always exceptions, and a bit more than 9 years ago one of those exceptions quite literally knocked on Gabi Grinberg’s door.
“Someone who was a friend of my now-wife-then-girlfriend’s sister came by one day and told me that Wix is looking for a Portuguese speaker for the Customer Care team”, he recalls. “I moved to Israel from Brazil when I was 7 years old, so although I knew Portuguese, I thought I wasn’t fluent enough”.
Luckily for us, Gabi had just the right amount of chutzpah and decided to give it a try. “I had a strong technical background, so I managed to pass the interview”, he now says with a smile.
When Gabi joined Wix as a Customer Care Expert on January 1st 2012 and started helping users in Portuguese, there were about 300 employees in the company.
“Pretty quickly I realized that it was a dream come true for me. In my first few weeks I used to listen in on conversations other Experts - who were more technical than me - were having with developers, just to be able to soak the things they were talking about. And I remember having this feeling of awe towards them”.
What attracted you about what they did?
“I always had a passion for technology and at the time I studied Computer Science at the Open University. I didn’t have a school diploma, although I was a Computer Science and Software Development major in high school and got great grades. Still I didn’t have the right resume for the dev job I was searching for”.
But Gabi didn’t let that hold him back. When he was assigned with his first task at Wix - to migrate from an old platform to a new one – he suggested that the process will be automated instead of doing it manually. A few months later, after he knew how to code, Gabi came up with an idea to automate another process (which is still serving Wix’s Customer Care Experts to this day).
What motivated you to do so?
“First, I enjoyed it. And second, I guess I have this entrepreneurial drive to build things end to end. When I created something and saw how people react to it, and how much they need it - it just added up to my already existing drive. I realized that I can influence the way people do things at work. At the same time, I liked the challenge: what I was doing was an extension to what I had to do as a Care Expert, and I kept learning new things. It helped me practice and sharpen my skills. Overtime I improved my web development skills to a point where I released my own game app, which was a pretty successful logo quiz at the time. It even got to the first place on the app store!”
And that’s what made you want to move into R&D full time?
“Until that point, I planned to take on more courses in the university, but then I understood that I didn't really need it. I was already a year and half at Wix, and I felt that I was making faster progress and gaining more experience at work. I came up to my manager and told him that I feel that it’s time for me to move to an R&D position. The day after, he called me and said: ‘I spoke to our R&D managers, and apparently you were already on their radar’.
Gabi started as a junior frontend developer in the team that developed Wix Answers - our in-house product for Customer Care. He says that although he had some experience and a lot of freedom and room for creativity, he realized that he had to gain even more experience. “I didn’t know how things actually work at a tech company, and how to collaborate with other people, so I spent my spare time and my weekends learning new technologies and started implementing them within the company. This led me to gradually grow within my team until I took over the frontend aspects of our team”.
And then the team grew.
“Yes. I realized that like me, there were lots of great students working at our Customer Care team. A lot of them were hoping to finish their studies and move on to development positions. So, the way I saw it - there was a huge pool of talented people. I started mentoring a few of them and gave them small engineering projects that they could take wherever they wanted. It worked great, and then came another student and another, and eventually we became a super strong team of people who had a ton of drive and the best understanding of the challenges we were trying to solve”.
So you actually became a manager.
“Yes. It wasn’t officially announced or anything, it just evolved. No one ever told me that I was a duck, but all of a sudden I was swimming and quacking”, he laughs. “I developed this really strong agenda around students because I didn’t want to miss out on them and wanted to be part of their growth. These days I manage around 20 developers”.
It’s been 9 years since you joined. What kept you going?
“After 2 months at Wix, my manager noticed the hard work I was putting, and shortened my training period. That moment I knew that I was working at a company that sees the effort people are putting in and values it. Another thing that makes Wix attractive is the openness we have here. Anyone can do anything, and change things. The magic here is that no matter what title you have, and what role you’re doing - if there’s a problem and you come up with a solution - there is literally no one who will stand in your way. Rather, there will always be people who will understand it, support it, and help you make it happen. There’s also incredible knowledge sharing and crazy engineering challenges. I still have that feeling I had when I just joined, that we come to play the best game with the best team, and that’s what makes it fun”.
In what way did you grow, other than getting a little older?
“I went through all the major milestones in my life here. I got married here, I had my first child here, I was tested positive for COVID-19 here and recovered. I even spotted my first grey hair here a few weeks ago. On the professional level, I would say that it’s the managerial side. I knew I could sit next to a computer and write code. But to motivate others to do things, to help other people evolve, this was something I really learned here. Having said that, there’s also the tech side in which I feel that I’ve developed as well. The bar is being raised higher, we’re developing more complex systems at a much larger scale, and deadlines are becoming shorter. This keeps making me want to push forward”.