Interesting Data Gigs # 15: Software Engineer (Infrastructure) at Column

The most interesting Banking-As-A-Service Company of the Decade

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Hello Data people.

First, a quick note for you: I’m a little late for the edition of the week. This email should arrive to you on Saturday, but unfortunately, I couldn’t do it.

So, in order to be fair with you: I will analyze two more roles this week.

Enough of complaints and let’s get straight to the meat.

Today, I will be taking a new route with this edition: I will be talking about an infrastructure-focused role, but with a bunch of data behind as well.

I will be discussing a career-defining role in a company that from my perspective: it’s the Banking-As-A-Service organization of the decade, and let me use this article to help you to decide why you must apply to be part of this team.

The role itself is called Software Engineer (Infrastructure) and it’s inside a company called Column.

Let’s tell you why I’m particularly excited about Column

But you should be wondering what the heck is Column, right?

There is a very good short description of it:

Column N.A. is the first nationally chartered bank created to serve developers and builders, offering financial capabilities in a developer first way.

Our mission is to enable you to have the full power of a nationally chartered bank in as lightweight a format as possible. We have built our own ledger, core, and direct integration into the Federal Reserve.

Our goal is to expose these capabilities to you in a simple, powerful and developer-friendly way.

Column is a company building a simple, secure, and straightforward API to provide banking services to other companies. 

If you have followed my work for a while, you should know that I love APIs companies.

From my perspective, this is the future of infrastructure, and Column is a perfect example of it.

Let me put it this way:

Any financial-focused startup or company, needs a chartered bank in the backend providing, for example, the ability to save deposits in a bank account with federal deposit insurance, which is the only way to get to access the payment rails system controlled by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

This means that many of the companies you see out there, building financial services like credit cards, debit cards, and online banking; actually, need a chartered bank behind them.

Some examples?

 Cross River Bank’s partners

So, you get the idea of the things that Column is building here, and of course the potential for making literally billions.

I will just share here some of the numbers behind these banks here:

Of course, Cross River Bank and Column are direct competitors in this space.

But, I see Column very differently here.

It’s being built on a great foundation

Let me tell you why:

  1. Column is co-founded by William Hockey and Annie Robertson Hockey, a husband/wife team that is perfect for this. William was the Chief Technology Officer for Plaid until 2019, building side by side with Zach Perret into the global company, they are today, and Annie is an ex-Bain and Company consultant with an MBA from Stanford

  2. Column is built from the ground up with a strong foundation: William and Annie bought the Northern California National Bank, a 15 years old bank with $300 Million in deposits for $50 Million. Why does this matter? Because this bank is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) which means that it’s a nationally chartered bank. So, right now, a company building a financial product doesn’t need any “middleman organization” to build it (companies like Modern Treasury & FiServ). Instead, they can use Column for everything: both as a bank for FDIC-insured checking and savings accounts and the set of APIs to build services like bank accounts management, ACH processing, debt financing, and the newest kid in town: the ability to reveal incoming wire transfers received in error

Matthew Halpern, one of the members of the Engineering team at Column, wrote this about it:

The wire reversal API was built at the request of a customer that was feeling the operation burden of manually creating outgoing wire transfers to return unexpected incoming wire transfers. Now they simply make an HTTP request referencing the incoming wire transfer and Column takes care of constructing the right reversal transfer that can be tracked like any other outgoing transfer on the Column platform.

Historically, wire reversals, known as “Reversal of Transfer” or a “Reversal of a Prior Day’s Transfer” in the wire protocol specification) is an activity performed entirely within a bank.

It is a technical and underspecified piece of the wire transfer protocol specification. We have observed a large variance in the wire reversals that we receive from other banks and we have leveraged that experience to build something robust for our users.

So: this probes they are building the right things for the right customers.

Column is bootstrapped

One of the favorite characteristics of Column is that it’s a fully bootstrapped operation and it’s owned 100% by the team.

If you go on LinkedIn or to our careers page, you can tell that we are a pretty small team and don’t hire a lot. In fact, we don’t really want to hire that many people – we really dig our team size. No, it’s not because the business is not growing, it’s not because we don’t have money, and it’s not because nobody wants to work here!

We just do not believe building a huge, profitable company in our space necessitates hiring a ton of people. On the contrary, we think having a small, aggressive, fast team means we can grow bigger faster.

We’re only six engineers (seven if you count me…but I’m a weekend code pusher), which may sound wild to people. But we think we probably ship at a similar velocity to a 50 person engineering org. Don’t believe us - check out our product and see what we’ve shipped as a team! We most likely will only hire a couple more engineers the rest of the year.

It’s also selfish. We simply think small companies are way more fun to work at. We can get more done and have more fun doing it. But there are potential tradeoffs.

We are mostly in-person, we work damn hard, we take our jobs very seriously and we have to be pretty scrappy. This means our company is not a fit for many people – actually we’re probably not a fit for most people!

However, we believe there are rare people for whom we are the perfect company to work for. 

All this tells you to know one thing: if you join this team, you will be challenged, but I truly believe this is a career-defining move here if you have the chance to be part of this scrappy crew.

Column has direct access to the Federal Reserve

You should be wondering what this means, right? This means that the company has a direct connection to the Federal Reserve’s payments rails known as FedWire:

Column, through its Wire API, has access to FedWire, 22 hours a day, 6 days a week.

Here’s an example:

curl '' \ -XPOST \ -u : \ -d routing_number="121144269" \ -d account_number="1234567890" \ -d "wire[beneficiary_name]"="John Smith" \ -d "wire[beneficiary_address][line_1]"="101 Market St" \ -d "wire[beneficiary_address][city]"="San Francisco" \ -d "wire[beneficiary_address][state]"="CA" \ -d "wire[beneficiary_address][postal_code]"="94105" \ -d "wire[beneficiary_address][country_code]"="USA"

This provides instant access to companies to this system. This is one of the reasons why companies Brex and Plaid are using Column for their services.

Brex and Plaid are two of the most prominent Column’s clients, which speaks itself for one thing: Scalability

You can read this in Brex’s website footer:

Uninvested Balances in your Brex Cash Account will initially be aggregated with Uninvested Balances from other Brex Treasury customers and deposited in a single account at LendingClub Bank, N.A. or Column, N.A. (a “Clearing Bank”), Members FDIC.

And Plaid’s Zach Perret shared about Column:

So, this is a true statement of what a company could accomplish with Column.

Let’s talk about the position

The description of the position is very simple and straightforward:

Let’s dissect it in pieces:

We're a lean and experienced team

Yes, it’s true: the members of this team are very, very experienced in the financial industry.

For example:

  • William helped to build Plaid from scratch

  • Lukasz Strzalkowski worked seven 7 years at Square before coming to Column

  • Henry You worked at Blend (building infra for banking), Facebook, and Goldman Sachs

  • Brian Wang worked at Facebook (inside the Merchant Payment Platform) and Affirm (inside the Banking backend)

  • Praful Mathur worked at Affirm (Banking APIs

  • Matthew Halpern worked at Google (Tech Lead for the Google Payments Platform) and ConsenSys (Tech Lead development of the Ethereum client)

  • Mitchell Fierro worked at Google ( as part of the Technical Infrastructure Business Operations team), CloudKitchen (Core infrastructure engineer), and Amazon

  • and many more

You get the idea: these folks are playing here, they are literally building the bank infrastructure from scratch

We write mostly Go

I love this choice here: Golang is perfect for this kind of API-driven products.

We generally prefer candidates with at least five years of production coding experience at a high-caliber and high-velocity team

Again: A+ team in the house.

Doing my own research, I found 2 interesting things:

  • It seems that Column is using a combination of bare metal servers and Amazon Web Services. Just see the SSL check for

  • They deeply care about the security of the system

Let’s discuss simple 3 ideas on how to approach this job application (THE REAL MEAT)

Idea # 1: Get familiar with the API

You will be working in an API-driven company, so it’s a must-have to play with the API. The documentation is very good, so feel free to pick one particular topic and test it.

Idea # 2: Read this document called “Fundamentals of the Funds Transfer Process”

This document is a must-read for anything working in something related to banking and electronic transfers in the U.S.

It’s a short but necessary read, at least from my perspective.

Idea # 3: Improve your Golang and DevOps skills

If you are already a Golang developer, good: practice, practice, practice.

If you have never developed anything in Golang, just pick some resources and work with them.

The same with DevOps. The team is very small, so they should rely a lot on the automation of things, especially anything related to Infrastructure.

These are some of my favorite Golang/DevOps resources:

Don’t take this lightly.


Good luck with the application, my friend.

Interesting reads of the week

Final words

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Marcos out.

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