Software Engineering at Coinbase vs. Robinhood

Dec 4, 2021

If you're a software engineer interested in joining the booming fintech industry, you have undoubtedly heard of two of the current fintech giants: Coinbase and Robinhood. Both companies are actively hiring new engineers at the moment, but which should you choose?

Both Coinbase and Robinhood are financial technology or fintech companies. This means their business models focus on using technology to apply innovations to the finance space. FinTech companies serve many different roles, whether it be financial trading like Robinhood or Coinbase, tax calculations, accounting, digital lending, and more.

There are many different roles available at fintech companies like Coinbase and Robinhood. Some of the most common are:

  • Blockchain Developer
  • Cybersecurity Analysts
  • Financial Analysts
  • Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Deep Learning Scientists
  • Product Manager
  • Quantitative Analysts & Data Scientist
  • Risk & Compliance Managers

In many ways, these two companies are very similar. Unless you have a strong preference for a cryptocurrency exchange or working in a more traditional stock exchange, it may feel challenging to choose between the two. So, in this article, we'll take a closer look at each company to give you a better idea about what it means to work as a software engineer for each. Let's get to it!

What is Coinbase?

Source: Coinbase

Coinbase (or Coinbase Global, Inc.) is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States. The company is notable, amongst other things, for being a primarily remote company. In fact, there are no physical headquarters. Coinbase was first formed in 2012 by American businessmen Brian Armstrong and Fred Ehrsam. It is driven by a mission to make cryptocurrency trading more accessible and transparent for everyone. While it initially opened its doors with Bitcoin trading, it now allows users to trade hundreds of different cryptocurrencies.  

Interested? Check out open Coinbase jobs here.

What is Robinhood?

Source: Robinhood

Robinhood (or Robinhood Markets, Inc.) is an American financial services company based in Menlo Park, California. The company is famous for providing its customers with access to stocks and ETFs (exchange-traded funds) without commissions. Not only that, it is well-known for its mobile app that was first released in 2015. Now, in 2021, Robinhood reports over 30 million users that regularly use their services. Like Coinbase, the company is driven by a mission to democratize financial trading. While it is most famous for traditional financial trading, Robinhood has recently moved into cryptocurrency trading.

Interested? Check out open Robinhood jobs here.

How Coinbase Hires Software Engineers

Bitcoin vs Altcoins
Photo by André François McKenzie / Unsplash

As we mentioned, Coinbase is actively hiring for many roles, especially software engineers. The company is also very transparent about its hiring process and provides many in-depth details on its corporate blog. First and foremost, hiring managers at Coinbase evaluate their SWE candidates based on their corporate values. These are:

  • Clear communication
  • Efficient execution
  • Act like an owner
  • Top talent
  • Championship team
  • Customer focus
  • Repeatable innovation
  • Positive energy
  • Continuous learning

Given the rapid growth that the company is actively experiencing, they also expect their engineering teams to sustain a high level of performance. Coinbase is a mission-driven Fintech firm. Therefore, software engineers need to align with their mission to democratize the crypto market. Finally, as you can probably already guess, Coinbase wants those engineers with the passion for being on the front lines of Blockchain technologies. Currently, the company is actively hiring backend engineers to help further develop the infrastructure for their many crypto trading products. These engineers will be tasked with many challenging and large-scale engineering problems.

Coinbase Software Engineer Interview

Geom by Anna Golde

With all that being said, what does the Coinbase interview process look like? Like many tech companies, the Coinbase SWE interview consists of several stages. Each stage has its particular focus. While your engineering performance will be evaluated at every step, hiring managers will ultimately judge your candidacy against the company's cultural values.

The Coinbase SWE interview stages are:

  • First, candidates speak with a member of the HR department regarding their role,
  • Then, there is a single round of pair programming, lasting at least one hour,
  • 1 - 2 rounds of interviews with engineering managers,
  • 1 - 2 more rounds of pair programming problems,
  • 1 -2 rounds of system design interview problems,

While software engineering candidates need to perform well in every stage of their interview to get an offer, the company reports that most struggle with their pair programming rounds. As such, be sure to prepare for these ahead of time!

What Coinbase is Looking For in Software Engineers

Geom by Anna Golde

In many of their job postings, Coinbase lists some of the following requirements for their SWE candidates:

  • Experience with designing, developing, scaling, and maintaining production services. SWE candidates also need to have experience with developing service-oriented technical architecture.
  • Candidates need to write quality code that is well-tested and maintainable.
  • The best SWE candidates need to bring a passion for Coinbase's mission to democratize the crypto-economy.

While these are not required to become a software engineer at Coinbase, the company lists the following as "nice-to-haves:"

  • Software engineers with experience in rapid-growth startups or companies.
  • Candidates with previous experience with A/B testing or other performance-growth experiments.
  • Developmental experience with the Blockchain. Ideally, with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.
  • Given the engineering needed at Coinbase, the company likes to see experience with decomposing a large monolith into microservices.
  • Finally, experience with Golang, Ruby, Docker, Rails, Postgres, MongoDB, or DynamoDB would go a long way.

How Robinhood Hires Software Engineers

Wall Street
Photo by lo lo / Unsplash
“The talent that we hire today will build the products of tomorrow and will further drive us to fulfill our mission.” -Vlad Tenev, Co-Founder and CEO

Like Coinbase and many other tech companies today, Robinhood relies heavily on its cultural values to evaluate software engineering candidates. These values are:

  • Safety First: Robinhood is a safety-first company, meaning they place a significant emphasis on the reliability and security of their trading platform.
  • Participation is Power: Robinhood seeks to democratize the financial sector using its platform. This means the company works to give everyone the perks and access that traditionally have been exclusive to the wealthy and elite traders.
  • Radical Customer Focus: Robinhood is a customer-first company. Regular customer feedback is the cornerstone of product development at the company.
  • First-Principles Thinking: Being the kind of company it is, Robinhood values the scientific process. As a result, the company is willing to make big bets when presented with the appropriate evidence.

Robinhood is a young company. It has also grown rapidly in recent years. This growth doesn't show signs of stagnating anytime soon. And this hyper-growth-oriented mindset extends to their hiring process. This means that software engineers at Robinhood need to be culture builders, curious thinkers, and innovators.

Robinhood Software Engineer Interview

Geom by Julia Gnedina

The interview process for a software engineer can take 2-4 weeks at Robinhood. The software engineering interview is slightly simpler than at Coinbase but still consists of several stages.

  • First, there is a phone screen with a recruiter or hiring manager at the company. This could last approximately an hour. Generally speaking, the phone screen will consist of behavioral questions.
  • Then, there is a technical phone screen with an engineering manager. This stage will be focused on your technical skills. Candidates will be asked to complete some technical or coding problems.
  • Finally, candidates will be invited to a series of on-site interviews. These consist of 4-5 different meetings with various engineering managers and other hiring managers. It is during this stage that the company most strongly emphasizes its values.

What Robinhood is Looking For in Software Engineers

Geom by Anna Golde

In many of their job postings, Robinhood lists some of the following qualifications for their SWE candidates:

  • Track record of software engineering experience,
  • Previous experience with planning and leading large-scale technical projects,
  • Strong technical skills,
  • Aptitude at prioritizing technical tasks,
  • Capacity to handle elaborate engineering problems,
  • Proven track record of developing & applying new business processes,
  • Substantial knowledge of relational databases and transactions,
  • Strong intuition for REST API design.

While the following qualities are not needed to become a software engineer at Robinhood, the company prioritizes those candidates with:

  • Experience with using Python/Django or Go,
  • A proven track record of developing large scale systems,
  • Experience with PostgreSQL (Robinhood's primary data store),
  • Experience with Redis and Memcached (Robinhood's caching layer).

Coinbase vs. Robinhood

As you can see, both Coinbase and Robinhood are very similar fintech companies. Both are driven by a mission to democratize financial markets.  However, a significant difference between the companies is in the particular financial market they are involved with. While Robinhood is moving into the crypto space, Coinbase is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States. Robinhood, however, focuses on the trading of stocks/ETFs.

So, if you need to choose between the two, you should first decide which you'd want to work for: a stock exchange or a cryptocurrency exchange. Beyond that, there are many similarities between the two companies, as we mentioned. Let's take a closer look at the software engineering role at Coinbase and Robinhood:

Coinbase

Source: Coinbase

Software engineers at Coinbase will be contributing to the latest and greatest in cryptocurrency systems. Operating under the mission to make the cryptocurrency accessible to everyone, software engineers will develop real-time applications with high frequency, low latency updates. They will also manage secure, dockerized, and cloud-based infrastructure.

What Coinbase Software Engineers Will Be Doing:

  • Develop new technical services for product and business problems using Golang,
  • Design scalable systems using cloud-based tech,
  • Contribute to long-term visions for maintaining and scaling Coinbase backend systems,
  • Work alongside engineers, designers, product managers, and senior leadership to bring company product and technical vision to life.

Coinbase Company Perks & Benefits:

Insurance & Health:
  • Dental Insurance
  • Disability Insurance (STD: 60% of salary up to $2,500 per week; LTD: 60% of salary up to $12,000 per month.)
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Gym Membership Reimbursements
  • Health Insurance
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSA)
  • Life Insurance (Guardian: 2 x salary up to $500,000; Anthem Blue Cross: flat up to $25,000)
  • 18 Weeks Maternity Leave
  • 18 Weeks Paternity Leave
  • Unlimited PTO
  • 12 Weeks Paid Sick Time
  • Vision Insurance
Home:
  • Adoption Assistance ($10,000 annual / $20,000 lifetime (combined with the Fertility benefit))
  • Bereavement Leave
  • Fertility Assistance ($10k annual / $20k lifetime (combined with the Adoption benefit)
  • Phone Bille Reimbursement ($125/month)
  • Remote Work Possibility
  • 6 Weeks Paid Family Leave
Financial:
  • 401k (50% match on the first 2% of base salary)
  • Roth 401k
  • Flexible Spending Account (Parking and Transit, Healthcare, Dependent Care, Vision&Dental)

Robinhood

Source: Robinhood

As a software engineer at Robinhood, you will develop backend services, technical infrastructure, and data storage for financial trading products. Doing so would give you an inside look at the financial systems of the US and elsewhere while developing your domain knowledge. When it comes to engineering at Robinhood, the company is chiefly concerned with its unique scalability and reliability challenges.

Software Engineers at Robinhood typically work within three different departments. These are:

Product

SWEs on the product team are tasked with the end-to-end user experience of the Robinhood platform. These engineers work closely with product managers and designers.

Data

The engineers on the data team are responsible for working with Robinhood's infrastructure to collect, clean, and organize financial datasets.

Infrastructure

Finally, the software engineers on the infrastructure team provide the backend necessary for Robinhood products. They are also responsible for maintaining system stability and reliability.


Robinhood Company Perks & Benefits

Insurance & Health:
  • Dental Insurance
  • Free Breakfast (5 days a week)
  • Free Dinner (5 days a week)
  • Free Drinks
  • Free Lunch (5 days a week)
  • Free Snacks
  • Gym / Wellness Reimbursement ($100/month)
  • Gym On-Site
  • Health Insurance (Health insurance with 100% premium covered for you and your dependent children)
  • Health Savings Account (HSA)
  • Life Insurance
  • Maternity Leave (16 weeks)
  • Paternity Leave (16 weeks)
  • On-Site Fitness Classes
  • On-Site Mother's Room
  • PTO (20 days)
  • Sick Time (Unlimited)
  • Vision Insurance
Transportation:
  • Company Shuttle
Home:
  • Adoption Assistance
  • Fertility Assistance
  • Paid family leave (Up to 20 weeks)
Financial:
  • 401k
  • Roth 401k
  • Tuition Reimbursement

Why Fintech Is Important for Software Engineers

Wall St at night
Photo by Jeffrey Blum / Unsplash

There are many different industries that software engineers can choose from. However, the Fintech industry is very appealing for many reasons. There are countless opportunities with dozens of innovative companies, not just Coinbase and Robinhood. Most have built platforms used by hundreds of thousands or millions of users. This means that their engineering teams are using the latest and cutting-edge technologies. Needless to say, these companies have some of the most exciting work environments when it comes to software engineering.

Along with cutting-edge technologies, Fintech companies like Coinbase and Robinhood use agile development frameworks, cross-functional teams, and innovative work cultures. Not only that, but the FinTech industry is exploding in growth. This is especially true for Coinbase and Robinhood. Coinbase, for instance, has hired nearly 1,500 new staff in the past year, growing the company by 137%. Robinhood has seen a similar, if not greater, level of growth in recent years. The company has gone from less than 300 employees to almost 3,000 since 2018. And, make no mistake: this hiring boom shows no signs of stopping going into 2022.

Ace Your FinTech Interviews With Exponent

Do you have an upcoming interview at Coinbase or Robinhood? Here at Exponent, we have plenty more resources to help aspiring software engineers practice for and ace their upcoming fintech interviews:

💬 Study up on previous SWE interview questions

📖 Read through our company-specific interview guides

👯‍♂️ Practice your behavioral skills with our interview practice tool.

👨‍🎓 Take our complete Software Engineering interview course.

Anthony Pellegrino

I'm Tony, a freelance journalist, writer, and content marketing strategist. I write about interview prep and career planning for Exponent, but I also write about climate change, tech, and, politics.

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