How 4 engineers and culture champions are growing their careers at Bloomberg

Bloomberg Engineering’s culture champions innovation. This is made possible by the different perspectives of our 6,000+ software engineers around the globe, who come from diverse backgrounds and geographies and who possess a variety of technology specialties.

Meet four of Bloomberg’s software engineers – all of whom are active members of the Bloomberg Black in Tech Community across our New York, San Francisco and London engineering teams – and see how they’ve been empowered to impact our business globally.

Our conversations with them cover their paths to and work at Bloomberg, how they’ve grown professionally, their impact in technology, the importance of an inclusive workplace, and their efforts to attract more diversity to tech. Interviews were edited for length and clarity.

NAME: Lerena Holloway
TITLE: Software Engineer
BLOOMBERG OFFICE: New York

How did you get to Bloomberg? What do you work on now?
I lived abroad for 5 years, during which time I taught English in South Korea for 3½ years. I then served in the U.S. Navy for 4 years, after which I felt the urge to embrace my technical talents. This career change turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

While finishing my MBA, I decided to apply to the Grace Hopper Program at Fullstack Academy, one of the country’s top-ranked coding bootcamps. This decision was the beginning of my path to Bloomberg, which I was drawn to for its philanthropic programs, the eclectic and dynamic nature of the Bloomberg Terminal, and the opportunity to be immersed in a culture of strong, talented software engineers.

I’m currently in the training program for new engineers. Prior to starting my training, I had the privilege of pre-training on the Commodities team, where I worked on building a map UI in React and Node.js and integrating it with a remote procedure call framework. I really enjoyed the learning process in discovering how to merge open source technologies with proprietary technologies.

Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way?
One of my mentors is Erik Anderson, the software engineer who helped created MAPS<GO> and many of Bloomberg’s chart functions. Erik has helped me a great deal in building my confidence to tackle things outside my comfort zone. He really has helped me see that I was capable of more than I thought and encouraged me along the way, which really made me more driven to put in the long hours of practice and study that it takes to get to Bloomberg.

What do you love most about working in tech?
I really enjoy the way it has evolved over the years and how it continues to change so rapidly. Working in technology forces me to continue learning and embrace my status as a ‘forever’ student. The moment we get too comfortable in this industry is the moment we are in danger of falling behind. There are so many advances and new technologies that, even after just one year, the older versions are quickly out-of-date. What I love most is that it is an industry that never gets too comfortable; it is about constantly improving the product and making applications faster and more efficient. The associated mental challenges and continuous learning excite me the most!

What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry?
Entering a male-dominated industry doesn’t come without trepidation. Knowing that people come equipped with certain biases that they themselves may not even be aware of plays a role; it is just the way we have all been socially-programmed by the media, our parents, and our communities. The tech industry is challenging by itself and people of color may have to face a few additional challenges, dealing with variations of micro-inequities, and the burden of not contributing to certain stereotypes. However, what I enjoy the most are the raised awareness and open discussions seeking to address these imbalances. It really shows how we, as a human species, are evolving our consciousness around these issues.

In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community?
Diversity and inclusion are crucial to the strength of any great organization. In order for technology to serve a wider range of users, understanding their needs and wants is very important. With the advent of globalization, this type of understanding can only be reached by increasing diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

I also enjoy sharing my experiences traveling and living abroad with my co-workers. It highlights the importance of travel as a way to break down barriers in understanding different cultures, which I believe is a pivotal step towards this objective. I am also a member of many different communities here at Bloomberg, so as not to limit the definition of myself to one particular ethnicity or background, but to expand my sense of self in order to represent the many different cultural experiences I’ve had and those I’ve adopted along the way.

NAME: Deji Akinyemi
TITLE: Senior Software Engineer
BLOOMBERG OFFICE: New York

How did you get to Bloomberg?
I was an industry hire out of a Bloomberg recruiting event in Seattle, where I met the engineers who would eventually be my managers. They were great and provided an amazing vision of the technical challenges and company culture at Bloomberg.

What do you work on now?
I am presently working on designing and building out the underlying platform that supports Bloomberg’s Asset Investment Management (AIM) compliance workflows.

Did you have any mentors to guide your career along the way?
Most definitely! I was fortunate to have an awesome mentor when I first started at Bloomberg. He was one of those engineers whose code nuances and expressiveness are like revelations. I learned a lot about my team and Bloomberg’s culture just by contributing to his code. I was also fortunate to have supportive managers who accommodated my desire to be challenged. They were able to provide interesting, tangible and business-critical projects to broaden my scope and contributions.

What do you love most about working in tech?
It has been said that engineers are the gatekeepers for civilization. Being in tech is like a calling. The work one does has a direct impact on the well-being of others. It gets more interesting when your work pushes the boundaries of what is considered possible. When this happens, there is no greater feeling than creating something new. Then you realize that, in some small way, you’ve (hopefully) helped make the world just a bit better than before.

Are there any particular technologies that interest you?
Machine learning, especially around the areas of natural language processing and understanding. The best technologies are those that feel so completely natural and intuitive that you may forget that you are interacting with a machine. Ironically, it is extremely difficult to create such a system. Applications of ML have the powerful potential to change the way we all interact with technology, if not the very nature of the machines we use.

What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry?
There are very few of us in the tech industry. This truism begs us to ask why, as demographics don’t support this reality, as 10% of all college graduates and computer science majors are people of color. It’s sometimes hard not to feel excluded when there are very few people who look like you in the places that you are or want to be. There is often a significant effort required to go from ‘person of color,’ to ‘person,’ to ‘extremely capable person’ in the minds of others that people of other backgrounds do not face.

In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important?
Antifragility is a term coined by bestselling author Nassim Nicholas Taleb that describes systems that thrive in the face of volatility, shock or adversity. It represents the next step beyond robustness and resilience. I believe that, by their very nature, antifragile systems are diverse. Events that could take down a monoculture are often integrated and used for the greater good by an antifragile system. Diversity and inclusion promote antifragility by fostering teams that are tolerant, supportive, engaging and dynamic.

How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community?
I am one of the co-founders of the Bloomberg Black In Tech (BBIT) Community, which is composed of individuals in technology roles across Bloomberg – in engineering, product management, data science, etc. BBIT’s singular goal is to make Bloomberg the best place for minorities in tech across the industry. We host regular events to foster professional and personal development and create a fun, safe space. We work very hard to engage, support and empower the community at large through mentoring, recruiting, and outreach events on college campuses and at tech conferences with significant minority representation.

NAME: Akin Mousse
TITLE: BQuant Specialist, Desktop Build Group
BLOOMBERG OFFICE: San Francisco

How did you get to Bloomberg? What do you work on now?
I spent the first five years of my career at leading French banks where, among other things, I designed and implemented technology to automate processes on trading floors. Bloomberg found me on LinkedIn and recruited me to our London office in 2013. I’ve now worked in our San Francisco office for five years.

I’m currently a BQuant Specialist in our Desktop Build Group. In this role, I educate our clients’ quantitative financial researchers, analysts, and data scientists to leverage BQuant, our interactive data analysis and quantitative research platform and new Bloomberg Query Language (BQL). To do this, I first have to understand our clients’ workflows and determine how and where our quant research solutions can help them derive value. Often, we can help clients reduce the amount of time and manual labor spent reviewing financial statements. We can incorporate probability and statistics that help clients make faster and more accurate decisions on their financial strategies. Many times, I create the specifications, design a custom application for a team of about 20-50 users, test the app, and implement it at the client site. Finally, I help train users to program in Python in order to leverage BQuant.

Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way?
It has been challenging finding a Black professional mentor. David Mitchell, a team leader for our market specialists, has been a huge inspiration for me. We both started our careers in finance and moved to tech, so I feel like we have much in common. I appreciate how he reaches out periodically to check in on me. I admire his leadership of Bloomberg’s Black Professional Community and am really impressed by his career trajectory and the network he has built. It’s really important to see a person of color in a senior position because it makes that rank seem attainable for the rest of us.

Sandra Lee, who works in Bloomberg’s Product Oversight Office, has also been an influential mentor since we first met in 2016. She’s been with Bloomberg for more than 20 years, and she has helped me understand Bloomberg’s culture and navigate internal networks. I often use her as a sounding board to help me articulate my vision and get a second opinion. On a personal level, she shows me the value of work-life balance.

What do you love most about working in tech?
I love being in a position where I’m learning something. Technology is perpetually evolving, and you always need to be on your toes to remain competitive. I will often think about a complex engineering challenge that I am trying to solve, and will have a candid conversation with a colleague or I will read an article, and then a solution will emerge. I then implement it and it is so satisfying when it works. I also like that tech has tangible results.

Are there any particular technologies that interest you?
I am really excited about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). I love the idea that technology can show us patterns that humans cannot otherwise see because we cannot scrape through large volumes of data as quickly. From there, we can extract specific insights that influence our decision-making.

My interest in AI and ML led me to complete a graduate-level certificate program at the University of San Francisco. While I’m not using these skills in my current role, I’m excited that Bloomberg is doing cutting-edge work in natural language processing and other areas related to ML and AI. I’ve also joined Bloomberg’s Machine Learning Guild so I can stay connected to this technology; otherwise, it is hard to stay on top of it when you don’t apply it on a daily basis.

What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry?
One word: R-E-P-R-E-S-E-N-T-A-T-I-O-N! We need to see peers and leaders who are people of color. When I don’t see people of color in leadership positions, I feel like it’s less possible to attain success. When I see Black leaders, I get a lot of motivation and affirmation that it could be me one day.

In my experience, people of color aren’t taken as seriously by their peers unless there are other people of color in leadership positions. I personally feel like I need to be better than anyone else in whatever I’m doing. I don’t want to give any opening for the quality of my work to be questioned. For that reason, I often spend extra time double-checking my work in order to make everything is perfect. No one asks me to do this, but I feel I must. This adds a dimension of extra stress because that workflow is not scalable or sustainable and can lead to burnout.

In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important? How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community?
Life is so much more fulfilling when you can interact with people from different backgrounds and ways of life. At work, a diverse team can help prevent tunnel vision when solving challenges or meeting client needs. Everyone comes with baggage and biases that sometimes makes communication uncomfortable, but this ultimately leads to rich learning experiences.

I’m always trying to recruit and advocate for more underrepresented minority candidates, because we are only likely to stay at Bloomberg if we continue seeing more diversity on our teams.

NAME: Jonathan “JC” Charlery
TITLE: Senior Software Engineer
BLOOMBERG OFFICE: London

How did you get to Bloomberg?
I was on my way to interview with a different company during the career fair at Howard University, when I ran into Kerry Joseph, an engineer who was recruiting for Bloomberg. We got to chatting about the company and he invited me to an info session later that night. What struck me was how down-to-earth and genuine he was. He wasn’t trying to sell me anything; he just talked about his own experiences at the company and how the job allowed him to grow.

In talking about his own background, we discovered we were from neighbouring islands in the Caribbean so we shared a cultural background. Having that conversation, and seeing and hearing someone like me at Bloomberg who had such a positive experience is what really sold me on the company.

What do you work on now?
I’m on the Local Development team in London, which is part of our Developer Experience (DevX) group. Our team creates and supports the tools and workflows that allow engineers to develop and test their applications locally on their laptops using whatever tools they prefer, instead of relying on a limited shared environment.

Did you have any mentors or influential managers to guide your career along the way?
Zac Rider, who leads our Real-time Distribution Platform engineering team, and Becky Plummer, a software engineering team leader in DevX (and my current manager) are two of the most influential managers I’ve had during my tenure at Bloomberg. They’ve provided me with many opportunities for growth and helped me build up my confidence in my own abilities. They were instrumental in putting my career on its current trajectory.

Femi Popoola, a technical team lead in London, has also been an amazing mentor to me. We’ve spoken about many different topics related to personal and technical growth, like knowing which opportunities are right for you and how to manage them, to understanding when you’re ready to take on a new challenge (hint: you’re never going to be “ready,” but don’t let that stop you).

What do you love most about working in tech?
I love the rate at which everything changes in the tech industry, and the ease of being able to get involved.

The tech industry evolves so quickly that you’ll miss it if you blink. In the last 20 years or so, we’ve gone from having one dedicated phone line per family and maybe having a computer for the household to us all having a computer in our pockets and everyone having a phone. All the information this puts at our fingertips has made it much easier for anyone to become involved and even to transfer into tech-related fields from any profession.

Are there any particular technologies that interest you?
Docker and container technologies are particularly interesting to me. The ability to simulate an entire environment and have repeatable declarative processes have really changed the way we think about development, testing, and stability of our systems.

What are some of the unique challenges that people of color face getting into tech / within the tech industry?
Without seeing other people who look like them or can stand as a role model for them, people of colour tend to get discouraged from entering the tech industry. It is hard to continue being self-motivated or to believe you can achieve something if all the stereotypical icons don’t represent you in any way. It’s why Kerry stood out to me so much. He was West Indian and able to succeed in the tech industry. This isn’t spoken about often, but it creates a real psychological barrier for many people. Being able to connect with someone who shares your heritage or cultural background, and being able to see yourself in that person, are some of the greatest motivating factors.

In your opinion, why are diversity and inclusion important?
Diversity and inclusion are very important as they provide different perspectives. Having someone who can see something in a different manner and who brings their own background and experiences can help elicit a new style of thinking and new direction when it is needed the most. When all options have seemingly been exhausted, something which may seem intrinsically basic to someone can actually be just what is needed to get things moving again.

How do you personally promote diversity and inclusion with your teams and/or in the community?
I’ve spoken at events aimed at promoting and highlighting diversity and inclusion, as well as been a representative, speaker and mentor at both internal and external events aimed at empowering underprivileged youth to encourage them to pursue careers in STEM and grow their networks. This includes serving as a mentor to both university students and secondary school students.

I have been an advocate for and given advice about different ways to recruit effectively at select Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) across the U.S. I’ve also attended university career fairs where I directly engage with students, serving not only as a company point of contact for them, but also sharing my experiences with them. I talk to new hires about my career progression and serve as a mentor to help them navigate the company’s culture.

Finally, I serve as a point of contact within Bloomberg Engineering’s community of Black engineers in London and help our partners in HR and our global D&I team develop additional relevant, targeted events for this community.