Airwallex, one of the most exciting tech start-ups in the billion-dollar ‘unicorn’ club, was founded in 2015 to help companies manage cross-border revenue and financing. ‘Our vision is to become the operating system that helps businesses grow and scale globally,’ says co-founder and CEO Jack Zhang. Airwallex has since expanded rapidly across Asia Pacific, EMEA and the US, and has grown to over 500 employees – and Zhang credits Slack, the platform-based messaging system, for centralising communication within the organisation and creating a culture of transparency during the company’s growth journey. To sync with enterprise partners and customers, Airwallex relies on Slack Connect, the secure way to work with outside organisations.
‘Having a way to communicate freely and openly share our vision, goals and long-term objectives in Slack is the fundamental way we’re successfully scaling the company worldwide,’ Zhang says. To facilitate efficient workflows, connect in real time and empower an open, tech-driven culture across 12 global offices, departments across the company rely on out-of-the-box integrations and Slack channels, virtual spaces for sharing messages, digital tools and files. ‘Everything from the hiring process through to our global communications is handled in a Slack channel,’ says Craig Rees, Airwallex’s Vice President of Platform Product and Engineering. ‘Slack opens up the entire organisation.’
‘One of the great things we have done is use software like Slack to enable our teams around the world to create a culture of openness.’
Scaling global talent acquisition and onboarding in Slack
To keep up with its rapid growth, Airwallex has turned to Slack to streamline the interview process and welcome new starters. ‘Since we’re growing so quickly and the scope of roles changes dramatically, the talent acquisition manager leverages Slack to stay aligned with the business and ensure we’re heading in the right direction with each new hire,’ explains Gajia Parsons, Airwallex’s Vice President and Head of Partnerships and Ecosystem.
The talent acquisition manager starts by creating a Slack channel for each role. ‘We share who we like in the pipeline, what we’re thinking about during interviews and how we can support each candidate,’ Rees says. If anyone’s short on time, they drop their notes into the channel using the Google Drive app for Slack. ‘I love how you can grant permission to edit or access a Google document right in Slack,’ Rees says. ‘That saves me hours.’
No matter where they’re based, interviewers use the Lever app for Slack to officially record information, then sync with the hiring group in the Slack channel. ‘Once we get down to the final few, we can chat in their dedicated Slack channel, which is so useful since we’ve got interviewers around the world,’ Parsons says. They can also use the Zoom app for Slack to discuss matters further. ‘We often use Zoom to generate a meeting right from Slack,’ Parsons says. ‘Anyone can jump into that call and continue the discussion.’
Previously, new starters would have a tough time catching up because of a lack of information discoverability. Now, newbies join the #onboarding Slack channel, which has everything that they need to hit the ground running, including a best practices handbook on how to utilise technology such as Slack. ‘New employees know exactly where they need to look for everything,’ Rees says. ‘The speed of onboarding at Airwallex has increased because we have such a clear-cut process in Slack.’
Key Slack apps such as JumpCloud and BambooHR have helped Airwallex to roll out new offices and onboard at record speed. Similar to the Okta app, JumpCloud connects Airwallex’s HR department with IT to automatically align every new employee with relevant Slack channels, skipping past the tedious task of manually adding them to each one.
‘With Slack, we can build more meaningful and robust relationships with external parties, because it’s easier to share ideas and thoughts without waiting for the next meeting or phone call.’
Fostering stronger external connections to grow the business
Leading Airwallex’s commercial partnerships team, Parsons works on a range of global initiatives, including product integrations, and connects with partners to develop joint go-to-market offers that create value for mutual customers. When she came on board in 2018, Airwallex had already been using Slack for two years. As Slack channels are searchable, it’s easy for Parsons to find the messages, files, channels and people that she needs to catch up. ‘Sometimes the most important aspect of an external business relationship is the history, and anyone can get up to speed on the project in Slack,’ she says.
For larger and more complex partnerships, such as those with Xero, Klarna, Shopify and Amazon Web Services, Airwallex has announcement channels, such as #Airwallex-Xero, where the team shares big news items, launches and questions that are relevant to the entire group. The team also has more specialised channels for things such as joint PR announcements and product integrations. ‘Whether you’re the main stakeholder and account manager or you’re more peripheral to the relationship, you can still join the banter and ongoing conversation,’ Parsons says. ‘Slack helps people to come closer together, faster, at all levels of the relationship.’
Airwallex and its partners often refer customers to each other in their shared channel. ‘It’s so much easier to pop into a Slack channel than it is to send an email,’ Parsons says. ‘Plus, everyone else has access to the situation, so if I’m off for the day, someone else can hop in and take action.’ Sometimes, moving on new leads needs to happen fast. ‘A customer might be referred by a partner and request we look into them quickly,’ Parsons explains. ‘We spin up a Slack channel, invite the relevant people and onboard the customer in under an hour, including supporting them through their first transaction.’
Channels are also helpful for streamlining technical workflows for Rees, who oversees the platform product group globally, as well as the Australian engineering team. ‘We set up a Slack channel for platform implementations, which allows the product and engineering teams on both sides to interact and ask questions as needed,’ Rees says. ‘It’s brilliant, and the ease of partnership is amazing.’
‘Switching to Slack Connect helped Airwallex build deeper, more meaningful relationships with partners and customers around the world.’
Promoting an agile, open and transparent culture
Since the early days, Slack has helped Airwallex to not only grow its business, but scale a transparent culture. ‘We openly encourage people to speak up in a free and safe environment, and constantly reflect so we can keep improving,’ Zhang says.
This applies to departments across the company, from product development to HR, and it empowers teams to move quickly and work together to solve problems. Take the incident management team, which manages the majority of issues in Slack. ‘We’ll go back and forth in Slack and Zoom to find a solution, with anywhere between five and 30 engineers,’ Parsons says. Because everyone knows how to properly leverage technology, they can take the initiative to tackle any challenge that comes their way.
‘Slack is important for us because we’re growing so fast and bringing new people on so quickly,’ Parsons explains. ‘Everything is going faster and faster: our product is changing, the industry is evolving, payments and financial services are changing. Slack’s allowed us to stay connected and keep up.’