Bloomberg’s Asset & Investment Manager (AIM) Engineering team builds and manages the company’s buy-side trading platform, a premium product used by large financial institutions around the globe. Firms such as Hedge Funds, Asset Managers, Pension Funds and Private Wealth Managers need sophisticated technology platforms to manage their investment decisions. Every day, they use the AIM product for research, analytics, creation of models and strategies, optimizing their trading workflows, as well as managing risk and compliance. The team is constantly innovating to make the platform more robust and scalable, while also building next-generation trading tools for the industry. With a fast-growing business and evolving needs of our customers, the team has doubled in size over the last three years.
Let’s meet the team’s Head of Engineering. Pratik Karia joined Bloomberg as an intern 13 years ago, and he now oversees development on one of the company’s most vital products.
Tell us about your career path.
During my internship, I was amazed by Bloomberg’s fast-paced environment and people-centric culture. Being a computer engineer, I was really attracted by the large-scale data and latency challenges Bloomberg dealt with. Since joining full-time as a junior programmer, I have had multiple roles at the company, including programmer, senior engineer, tech lead, and a manager across different groups within the company. I have never had to seek a role change and my growth and movement across the firm have been largely organic. Mobility is a huge part of our culture.
What’s your strategy for choosing team members?
I firmly believe that you need to have the right attitude before you have the right skills. Aptitude and culture-add are probably the most important aspects of this job. A large part of our day-to-day involves collaborating with other engineers, product teams, and clients – you need to wear multiple hats almost every single day.
From a skills perspective, we look to hire people who are good problem solvers and not just good programmers. We have had a lot of success in hiring engineers from a wide variety of majors such as Computer Science, Physics, Math, Music, Mechanical Engineering — all who happen to be great programmers and love solving complex problems. We strive to build an inclusive culture with people from various backgrounds and experiences.
As a manager, I encourage my team to be open to new ideas, constantly trying to challenge the status quo, and looking for opportunities to learn from one another. It is incredibly important that every person we hire adds something new to our team, and can come in to challenge our thinking so we can get better as a group.
What are some of the factors driving the rapid growth of your team?
Over the past ten years, we grew from being like a startup inside Bloomberg to being a profitable and successful business, which has now become a focal point for the company. The company aspires to be a technology leader in the buy-side industry and continues to grow and invest in the AIM business. Large clients are looking to Bloomberg to be their technology partner as they tackle challenges in automation, machine learning, and system scalability.
A large part of our growth has also been driven by the refactoring and rebuilding of our infrastructure to embrace a more open architecture and API frameworks that leverage several open source technologies. We are constantly looking for ways to modernize our platform and opportunities to innovate, both from a product and systems standpoint.
After several years working on the AIM Engineering team as an engineer, Mani Ramezani has spent the last seven years in a management role.
Tell us about your career path.
I began my career at Bloomberg developing software for communicating trades between investment managers, brokers and dealers, and their custodian banks. I was immediately hooked by the impact the team had in facilitating the movement of money across the global financial markets and our work with regulators to increase transparency in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. I worked on several large scale projects across teams, gaining invaluable insight from our customers into how the financial world operates. My experience managing cross-department projects and mentoring other engineers to grow made me realize that I wanted to pursue a leadership role.
What are you working on now? What’s your biggest challenge?
One of our top goals is to increase the level of automation on our platform that clients can achieve for their trading and investment operations. We want a no-touch workflow for a typical trade, but ‘typical’ doesn’t exist because the processes can vary wildly for each market and country. In order to feel comfortable with an automated workflow, clients have to trust the accuracy, availability, and performance of our system. Above all else, we have to be able to detect issues before they have the potential to affect our clients.
What’s your best advice for recent college grads joining Bloomberg Engineering?
My advice for a recent college grad is to resist the urge to pick a specific specialization or career path prematurely. What you find interesting now could be far from what ends up becoming your passion, so stay curious and pursue opportunities to try new things before forming strong preferences.
Team Lead Smitha Thomas runs a diverse squad of engineers dedicated to building the best platform for managing data assets.
Briefly tell us about your career path.
I first pursued a bachelor’s degree, and subsequently, a master’s in computer science. Along the way, I had a brief stint in the IT services industry as well as exposure to a research career at the Network Security and Applied Cryptography Lab at Stony Brook University.
I saw Bloomberg as a technology company solving the needs of the dynamically-changing financial markets. I was thrilled to join the AIM team and contribute to building systems that helped the largest financial managers manage their investment process end-to-end. As my experience and interest in the domain grew, I sought opportunities to build new systems that demand scale and performance, and I moved to a team that was building a market risk platform. As I moved teams one more time to pursue the path of engineering leadership, I came back to AIM in a different team specializing in large scale data management.
What are you working on now?
As part of AIM, we provide our users an understanding of the state of their assets via a suite of risk and return analytics. Customers manage large numbers of holdings on our platform and a simplistic data view is insufficient for them to derive insights to guide their investment decisions. They need the ability to classify the data along the many facets of these large data sets, and they need to do this in very bespoke ways. We are building a highly scalable, low latency, rule-driven classification infrastructure that can process billions of data points and power various visualization applications in a matter of seconds.
As a Team Lead, how do you foster a collaborative, inclusive environment?
It has always been clear to me that we care about building a balanced team where people feel a sense of belonging and experience opportunities to learn, grow, and flourish. Towards this end, I help my team understand the value that each person brings to the table by tailoring ownership areas to match their strengths with growth opportunities. While this culture is supported by leadership and embraced by the teams, I am also very conscious of the disparities in representation of people along axes of gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, etc. in the technology world. I empathize with the disparity of their experience in the tech world. I believe that small adjustments can add up and shape the culture of the team and eventually improve the work environment.
What’s it like working with seven of Bloomberg’s D&I Communities?
My involvement with our internal D&I Communities, like Women in AIM, Bloomberg Women’s Community, Bloomberg Women in Technology (BWIT), and Bloomberg’s Pan-Asian Community — which represent various aspects of my intersectional identity — started out with finding similar experiences in order to feel supported, and soon grew into driving change in the representation and experiences of the members of these communities.
What advice do you have for people from underrepresented groups who are pursuing a career in tech?
First of all, thank you for being the role models you have already become by not letting stereotypes affect your decisions and boldly pursuing a tech career where your path may not have been easy. But, please also realize that, while you may feel compelled to make a difference for the community you represent, this is the responsibility of the tech community at large, so do not get bogged down by this. Lean in on the communities that you identify with for support in navigating your career and its various demands. Finding the right mentors and sponsors is critical and can help propel your career in the tech industry, so seek opportunities for this.
Software Engineer Meshach Jones joined Bloomberg because it allows him to develop his engineering skills, while also building on his understanding of business and finance.
Briefly tell us about your career path.
I originally pursued a software engineering degree, but ended up adding a dual degree in business administration. I was fortunate enough to do both software and business-related internships. After an internship in consulting at Deloitte, I joined Bloomberg. I currently work on the AIM compliance team. Our team develops a platform that allows our customers to evaluate a myriad of rules for market monitoring and anomaly detection during real-time trading.
What are you working on now? What inspires you most about it?
Currently, I’m investigating options to refactor our current messaging middleware with open source solutions to help us continue to scale our throughput rates. I’ve also been doing research on the application’s messaging patterns, what this call graph looks like, and how to transition to a directed acyclic graph. Both of these projects are critical components for increasing the scalability and distribution of our systems. The most inspiring aspect of this project has been researching a variety of technologies, while also being given autonomy during the process to make real, lasting design decisions.
You joined Bloomberg shortly after completing your CS degree three years ago. How did you find out about Bloomberg?
I originally found out about Bloomberg after having some first-hand experience with the Terminal. During my time at university, I sought out one of our campus’ Bloomberg Terminals to look up analyst reports. I was amazed by the vast amount of data and resources available, and decided that Bloomberg would be a great place to combine my backgrounds in CS and business.
What are your career aspirations in the next 2 years?
Given the flat structure within Bloomberg, there are various paths to progression. Within AIM, our teams are very open to new ideas and approaches, which allows individuals to learn new technologies and skills. AIM is a growing business with continuous expansion, leading to new teams being developed regularly. This creates opportunities for individuals regardless of where they are in their career journey. I’d like to focus on using technologies such as Docker and Kubernetes to improve our scalability, testing, and distribution. I’d also like to revisit technologies such as Apache Solr to develop new solutions as part of the AIM compliance product.
Financial Software Developer Alexandra Paduraru works on portfolio management, where she is helping to build a next-generation decision support offering.
How did you find out about Bloomberg?
I discovered Bloomberg by participating in a diversity recruitment event held at the Bloomberg office in London. During the event, I had the opportunity to learn about technology at Bloomberg, as well as the company culture. Doing research on the company afterward, I was impressed with the Bloomberg Terminal and its sweeping impact on the financial sector.
What are you working on now?
In a buy-side firm, portfolio managers have the greatest impact on the performance of the funds they oversee. As such, they require sophisticated tools to support them all the way from the ideation to implementing the best strategies geared to maximise their investors’ returns. I am part of this exciting team that has been challenged to build the next generation portfolio manager workspace that is fully integrated with Bloomberg analytics, trading capabilities, and portfolio monitoring. This new product empowers decision-makers to come up with their investment models, rebalance their portfolios, and perform an in-depth analysis of the funds they manage.
What was the training program like at Bloomberg?
In addition to the technical aspect, Bloomberg’s training program helped me jumpstart my network. Since all the new joiners are assigned to the same training class, I was able to immediately have a close-knit set of colleagues within the company.
Software Developer Alex Lo is learning new tools and addressing scalability so the AIM platform can grow and evolve smoothly.
You’ve been at Bloomberg for 5 years. What’s kept you here?
Coming from a more hardware-focused background, the challenges in Bloomberg initially seemed very different. However, as I progressed, I found there were parallels between the problems I had encountered in hardware and the ones at Bloomberg. Where I would previously be trawling through assembly code to identify incorrect compiler output, now I was analysing a distributed system to identify timing issues between services. Instead of worrying about how to rig some hardware to test our code automatically, I’m now trying to automate and coordinate the large-scale testing of our services. All of this gets me pumped, and makes me think about how I can apply what I already knew to AIM, and what I can do to make it even better.
What’s your biggest technical challenge?
I’m working with my team to address scalability and state management issues by evolving the current system, without any downtime or loss of functionality, while being mostly invisible to clients aside from the benefits that we intend to deliver to them.
How are you calling on your different skill sets in your everyday work?
As our teams build out new trading systems, one area I’ve been able to help with is integrating containerized builds into our development workflow, and showing others how to make use of continuous integration and continuous delivery methods like Jenkins and Docker. This has been challenging as Docker is still pretty new to me.
My manager was quick to recognize my technical contributions and nominated me for the tech champion program at Bloomberg, which recognizes accomplished developers. Our role is to ensure that best practices are followed across the department, to look for ways to move our technology forward, and to be the experts in Bloomberg technology. This has also given me the opportunity to make InnerSource contributions to projects outside my team.