Bloomberg’s Consumer Media Engineering Team is responsible for applications and systems that deliver market-moving news, data, audio, and video to Bloomberg’s consumer audience and syndication partners. This team is faced with the challenge of continuously modernizing Bloomberg’s audience experience with new technologies in an ever-evolving media landscape.
Let’s first meet Pooja Malpani, head of the Consumer Media Engineering Team. She brings her 20+ years of experience in software development and engineering to bear on improving the performance of Bloomberg’s media channels.
Tell us about your career path.
I pursued a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Computer Science out of passion for the field. I worked at some small companies early on, and then spent about a decade at Microsoft, working on communications media, and a few years on entertainment media at HBO before coming to Bloomberg. Almost all of my roles have involved working with cross-discipline partners like Design, Product, QA, News, and Marketing.
What’s your strategy for choosing team members, particularly in terms of diversity?
In my experience, an ideal team is one that has a good combination of junior hires (relatively recent grads who are starting a CS career or those who are returning to work after an extended break), mid-level developers, and experienced folks. This allows for the experienced folks to mentor the less-experienced, while also bringing in fresh perspective from the outside. The kinds of problems we have to solve are often complex, and the best solutions come from a combination of different ideas. Unsurprisingly, heterogeneous teams outperform homogeneous teams due to diversity in thought, ideas, and approach.
How do you inspire women?
This is something I feel strongly about. As somebody who hasn’t seen many (often, any) women in meeting rooms throughout my career—let alone role models—I want to do everything in my power to be one for others. I don’t shy away from coaching opportunities. It could be mentorship, sponsorship, career guidance, resume review, mock interviews, a tech deep dive, or pair programming. I also love learning about new ways to inspire women and other underrepresented groups to pursue STEM careers.
What skills do you look for when hiring engineers for your team?
For junior and senior engineers, strong CS fundamentals are necessary. This doesn’t mean an academic CS background is required, but it is important that they have tinkered with tech and can demonstrate enthusiasm for learning and problem solving. For senior roles that need a specific skill like machine learning or SRE, I look more for domain expertise. Senior candidates should be able to demonstrate design thinking and why they make the choices they do (e.g., how they think about metrics, monitoring, alerting, testing, scaling, response times, UX, etc.). Besides core technical skills, they should be willing to collaborate and work with a diverse team and add to its culture.
What are some of the factors driving the rapid growth of your team?
We are launching new products and have continued ambitions to aggressively grow our business and adoption. The Consumer Media Engineering team serves not just our external users, but also internal stakeholders, including Product, Marketing, Philanthropies, Editorial, Ad Operations, and other engineering teams. We have to ruthlessly prioritize, which means we forgo some very interesting projects. As we expand, it creates room to deliver on some of those underserved, but very relevant areas.
How do you foster culture on your team?
We do this a few different ways. Our decision-making process is well-known in the group, and we strive to share context along with decisions across the board. This leads to a culture of transparency, which also makes it easier to set up feedback systems. Besides team health surveys and manager 180 reviews, feedback is shared and sought during various one-on-ones, team meetings, sprint retrospectives, town halls and demos. We celebrate successes publicly and talk about failures and what we’ve learned from them through blameless postmortems.
Just as we have teams put their heads together for projects, we have working groups for non-work initiatives like organization-wide events, onboarding of new hires, and fostering Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. These working groups define goals, success criteria, and conduct sprints (planning, prioritization, estimation, execution, retro, etc.) to handle and address tickets just like a regular project. The members in these working groups rotate every three to six months to ensure that, over time, everybody has a chance to weigh in directly and impact the culture of our organization.
How has that changed with everyone working from home during the pandemic?
Most things translated very well to a remote work situation. Our team events could easily accommodate our colleagues across London, New York, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. Similarly, mentorship pairing allowed for cross-team interaction, where we otherwise may have tried to pair local mentor-mentees. As information access across locations was the same, everybody was on equal footing. It will be great to see if we can keep our improved processes for documentation and written information sharing up after we return to office.
Software Engineer Patty Liu joined Bloomberg after earning her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). She delivers various features on Bloomberg.com and ensures a world-class experience for the site’s consumers.
How did you find out about Bloomberg? What made Bloomberg stand out?
My mom is a stock broker, so she always told me about the Bloomberg Terminal and Bloomberg News. I had wanted to pursue a career in journalism, communication, or finance, but decided to switch to Computer Science back in college after some exploration. So, when I was doing my job search, I felt the wide range of Bloomberg’s products resonated with my background. I’m excited to work on technology that is fueled by media and financial data.
The technology stack attracted me, but it was the people who really made Bloomberg stand out. Throughout my interview process, all the interviewers were very friendly and happy to answer any questions I had about their teams, the company culture, and various other topics. Moreover, the manager who interviewed me was a woman who has been at Bloomberg for about 15 years. She shared her career journey with me, which I found inspiring.
How did the training program at Bloomberg help get you up to speed on our systems?
As our team is a web team, we use a lot of open source, which makes our tech stack distinct from many other Bloomberg Terminal teams. However, the training program still taught me some valuable lessons. For example, I learned about the underlying services behind the calls we make for tickers and companies on the web.
The value of the training program did not only include technical skills. I also made connections with my training peers. We have been to company events and explored the city together, as some of us were new to New York. While I decided to return to my pre-training team, I participated in the job fair and got a chance to talk to people on different teams and shadow their daily work, which gave me exposure to multiple engineering teams across Bloomberg.
What do you wish you knew about software engineering careers before you joined Bloomberg?
I wish I had known about different career path options earlier. Bloomberg’s organizational hierarchy is fairly flat compared to other technology companies, which gives you the freedom to explore your career path and to focus on your personal growth. I struggled a little initially with getting started to put together a roadmap. However, I am glad that I was able to meet with and get feedback about career advice from different people inside and outside my department.
While the “where do you see yourself in three, five or ten years” question is scary for recent grads who join Bloomberg, it is always a good thing to keep asking yourself, as it encourages you to create a personal roadmap. If needed, work on it with your team lead or manager. In addition, seize the opportunity to meet people and step out of your comfort zone. It may be a mentorship opportunity provided by the company or a volunteer event arranged by Corporate Philanthropy. Don’t be afraid to set up a quick coffee chat to meet someone and get their advice.
How does your involvement with Bloomberg’s D&I Communities impact your life? What are some of the activities you’re involved with?
I am actively involved in the Bloomberg Women in Technology (BWIT) community, where I have the opportunity to meet other aspiring women technologists.
I regularly attend their events. For example, I attended an “#IamRemarkable” workshop hosted by Pooja. It was one of the most inspiring workshops I have ever attended, as it showcased some surprising data about women related to job search, negotiation, and more. Participants got the chance to share their stories and every single one was unique and touching. After the workshop, our sub-group created a chat and occasionally posted things to keep in touch. People even shared internal job listings. I kept the sticker and my worksheet to remind myself of the powerful takeaways from the workshop and the many things I tend to forget when imposter syndrome hits.
Software engineer Wenxin Chai has been with the company for more than 10 years. He works on the Bloomberg consumer mobile app on both Android and iOS.
How do you keep things interesting after so many years at the same company?
The rapid evolution of mobile technology keeps me engaged. Bloomberg’s mobile team is constantly adopting the latest mobile technologies available. The first smartphone I worked with was a Sprint PCS handset with a black & white display capable of about 4×40 characters. I still remember that I was so shocked when I first saw a Japanese mobile phone that could play video, back when most U.S. phones were still monochrome. Today, the majority of consumers are using Android and iOS mobile phones and tablets. Our consumer mobile team uses React Native as our development framework.
Tell us about the mentorship you’re receiving at Bloomberg
As a senior hire, I didn’t go through the training program, so it was even more important for my mentor to get me up to speed with Bloomberg’s systems and technologies. From how to use Bloomberg Terminal to enter internal tickets to how to set up a development environment, he was always my go-to person for questions and discussions in my early days with Bloomberg. I subsequently served as a mentor to some other developers who joined Bloomberg, as I heartily appreciated the help I got from my own mentor.
What’s it like working on a team that’s spread across multiple geographies? How do you find the different parts of the team work together?
My team has a long history of having team members in different countries. I am based in Princeton, New Jersey, while most of my other team members are based in New York City. But I also work with teammates who are based in Tokyo, London, Canada, and more. Communication is the key. Physical distance is not an issue at all. I particularly enjoy working as a pair with developers in Europe. Due to the different time zones, I can open a pull request at the end of my day and expect it to be reviewed and to get feedback early the next morning.
What else would you like to share about your Bloomberg experience?
Working on our consumer mobile team has given me the chance to play around with some fascinating consumer mobile devices. How many of you have used a Handspring Visor (an alternative mobile device running Palm OS)?
Betty Lam is a team lead who manages the Marketing Engineering and Public Cloud Engineering teams. She’s been with Bloomberg for 11 years.
Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
My role was recently expanded to include the Public Cloud Engineering team. It is a challenge managing new teams and finding creative ways to work well together. The opportunity also allows me to expand my technical skills in a domain area of interest. It’s inspiring to learn from so many subject matter experts as we work together to provide solutions that we hope will benefit multiple teams and products.
How have you been able to manage your career at one company for more than a decade? What advice do you have for others who might be on a similar path?
Having worked at multiple companies in my career prior to joining Bloomberg, I certainly did not expect to spend this much time with a single employer. But I have never had a boring moment during my eleven years at Bloomberg. My experience has spanned multiple teams and roles. My advice is to be open to change and don’t be afraid to take on new challenges. Sure, it feels uncomfortable at first, but you will learn more about yourself, you’ll organically expand your network, and you will learn more from a technical perspective.
What advice do you have for people from underrepresented groups who are pursuing a career in tech?
My advice is to focus on why you chose this career trajectory. This is the advice I received when I was the only woman in my major as an undergrad, and also the only female programmer in my first job out of college. Don’t get discouraged. Take advantage of opportunities to learn new skills, whether it’s an online course or by attending a conference.
What are your best tips for inspiring direct reports?
I learn so much from my direct reports. They inspire and challenge me. As a lead, my role is to help them realize their potential. I want them to develop their own style and approach, not simply mimic mine. Regardless of their tenure or role, I believe it’s important to be conscious of how they are building their reputation, as that will persist regardless of what team, role, or title one gains throughout their career.
What do you love about working at Bloomberg?
There’s no other company that so explicitly focuses on applying its profits to improving every aspect of our daily lives. It’s also a tech company that clearly cares about its people. I have come across the most hardworking, smart, and kind colleagues here at Bloomberg.