Meet the Team: Derivatives Engineering

A derivative is a financial contract that pays cash flows or delivers other financial instruments in the future, dependent on the value of an underlying asset, such as equities, indices, foreign exchange rates, interest rates, credit, inflation, commodities, etc. In that sense, they are called derivatives because their value is derived from another underlying asset.

Derivatives, which have been used since ancient times, are crucial to our modern economy. They are traded by many market players around the world, including government agencies, sovereign funds, central banks, investment banks, private banks, regional banks, asset managers, insurance companies, pension funds, hedge funds, and, of course, corporations. Derivatives are traded millions of times a day, both as listed products on exchanges and as bespoke, over-the-counter (OTC) products in a multi-trillion dollar global market. According to the latest data from the Bank of International Settlements, there was $610 trillion outstanding notional in OTC derivatives as of mid-2021. For derivatives listed on exchanges, there was a daily turnover of about $6 trillion traded per day throughout June 2021.

As a financial data, news, and analytics market leader, Bloomberg continuously invests in its technology to keep delivering the best data and analytics to support the global derivatives market. To this end, Bloomberg’s Derivatives Engineering team is responsible for owning the full life-cycle for derivatives instruments. They build systems and products that enable clients to generate trade ideas, structure deals, connect to electronic trading platforms, capture market movements, and assess and hedge portfolio risk for these instruments.

This team sits at the intersection of finance and technology, working directly with product managers, financial engineers, and quantitative analysts to understand client and market needs. They use big data technologies, distributed computing, functional programming, and machine learning to build solutions that facilitate real-time pricing and analytics. These foundational systems get billions of hits per day and provide data and analytics to many of Bloomberg’s flagship products.

Clario Menezes

First, let’s meet Clario Menezes, who runs the Derivatives Engineering team. He joined Bloomberg straight out of university 16 years ago, and has worn many hats across his career at the company.

Tell us about your role as head of Derivatives Engineering and what the team is responsible for.
The Derivatives Engineering team provides data and analytics for a wide variety of OTC and exchange-listed derivatives. These are widely used across the financial industry and within Bloomberg’s own systems and products — including the Bloomberg Terminal, Trading Systems, Portfolio, Bloomberg Indices, Multi-Asset Risk System (MARS), Trade Order Management Solutions (TOMS), Asset and Investment Manager (AIM), Evaluated Pricing service (BVAL), Data License, and more. The rapidly growing team includes engineers in New York, London, and San Francisco.

What are some of the unique technical challenges your team needs to tackle?
We have a number of dimensions that need to be considered with nearly every technical decision we make. Derivatives range from relatively simple to highly exotic, and we are focused on building solutions that capture this variety as generically as possible, while also minimizing complexity and allowing for evolution in the future.

Briefly tell us about your career path.
My first role at Bloomberg was as an engineer on the Mortgage Backed Securities team, working on different layers of the software stack, and I then transitioned to be a back-end engineer on Bloomberg’s teleconferencing software. I then moved to Fixed Income, where I returned to full-stack projects working on Terminal applications, data, and analytics, while also developing a stronger interest in finance and people leadership. I eventually started leading teams. Just as I was starting to feel the need for a change, I got a call from my senior manager who suggested I apply for a role overseeing Training & Documentation for the whole Engineering department. I was fortunate to get the role, and a few years later, the opportunity came up to manage the Derivatives team, which is where I am today. Each role has given me the chance to develop my skills and have an impact in new ways. Despite my ever-changing interests and career goals, I’m grateful that I’ve always been able to find a way to match them to an opportunity within the company.

What skills do you look for when hiring engineers for your team?
We look for people who are passionate about software and who are willing and able to learn both technical and financial concepts quickly — no background knowledge of finance is required to join our team. We also look for people who communicate and collaborate well, show a strong degree of ownership, and embody leadership qualities — this includes deep technical and financial expertise and is not limited to people leadership. Of course, we continually look to diversify our organization.

What’s your strategy for choosing team members, particularly in terms of diversity?
I value diversity in all its forms. One of my key goals is to create an inclusive environment where team members feel supported in ways that propel them to do their best work. In turn, this helps us deliver great products for our customers. Surrounding this is a focus on hiring talented individuals who are keen to work on the challenging problems we are trying to solve.

What are some of the factors driving the rapid growth/expansion of your team?
Our team supports many different product lines within Bloomberg, each one of which is seeing growth and adapting to changes in the financial industry. This requires us to constantly invest in developing new features and evolving our infrastructure to meet future needs.

How do you foster culture on your team? How did that change while everyone was working from home during the pandemic?
My direct reports and I frequently discuss our team’s identity and role in supporting Bloomberg’s businesses. A core part of that is ensuring we are creating a positive environment for our team members, be it through team outings to celebrate milestones, volunteer events through Bloomberg’s Corporate Philanthropy team, or team hackathons. During the pandemic, I asked my team to form a committee to oversee programming around social connections and wellbeing. This led to a number of virtual happy hours, volunteer events, a team-wide HaxBall tournament, and more.

“Derivatives range from relatively simple to highly exotic, and we are focused on building solutions that capture this variety as generically as possible, while also minimizing complexity and allowing for evolution in the future.”

– Clario Menezes

TJ McCabe

Software Engineer TJ McCabe is a newcomer to both the Listed Derivatives Core team and Bloomberg. He’s currently finishing out his first year, working on a big project that allows him to dive deep into many Bloomberg services.

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
My team is primarily focused on the back-end, but right now I’m developing a visual web dashboard as part of a larger initiative to re-architect our options workflow. We’re using open source technologies like Apache Kafka to parallelize options processing, and this internal dashboard will centralize some of the data flowing between many of these parallel channels, providing a bird’s eye view of the whole pipeline. I’m really excited to be developing the standard that any future front-end work in the Listed Derivatives Core team will be based on.

I’ll be diving deep into each microservice in our domain to incorporate as many of their relevant pieces as possible into this single, unified dashboard. I really appreciate being able to learn about most of our services while working on one central project.

What do you feel is an advantage to hiring more people with career experience outside of software engineering and financial analysis?
I’m one of many non-traditional tech hires at Bloomberg in that I don’t hold a Computer Science degree. I studied economics in college and worked in customer validation, or beta testing, for a few years before making the leap to software engineering. After earning my stripes at a developer bootcamp, I was hired by Bloomberg in early 2021.

My previous work and educational experience has allowed me to bring a unique approach to both what I’ve built at Bloomberg and how I interact with the team. For instance, I’ve already tapped my customer validation experience while writing design documents for the web dashboard to ensure it will be user-friendly from the outset. My survey-writing experience has also come in handy when polling my team, department, and training class about planning social activities. If every non-traditional tech hire has even a slightly varied background, that adds a significant amount of unique skills to our overall skill set in the team and department.

Tell us about the mentorship you’re receiving at Bloomberg.
The mentorship experience on my team has been really eye-opening. I joined the Listed Derivatives Core team at the same time as another trainee in my internal training class and we both received great structured instruction and daily individual mentorship sessions from the beginning. As we learned more about the team and its role within Bloomberg, my mentor encouraged each of us to follow our own technical path and pursue the team tasks that we were most interested in. I was really impressed with the amount of thought and care put into the process. Overall, the mentorship has felt encouraging and individualized, which feels really positive for my professional development.

How does the collaborative environment at Bloomberg create opportunities to learn new skills and expand your expertise?
The collaborative environment is fully baked into Bloomberg’s culture and has already empowered me to drive impact in Bloomberg well beyond my own team. For example, my first initiative after joining the team was to implement metrics across our suite of apps. At its core, this is already inherently collaborative, since it involves working with the various Bloomberg teams that own metrics and metrics reporting.

In addition to that basic collaboration, however, this project also gave me the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to a codebase entirely outside of my team’s purview. I ended up working directly with the Java Guild to implement new features in their metrics library. As a result, anyone at Bloomberg who uses the Java-based metrics library now has access to the new features I helped develop. It’s been a very rewarding experience.

“The collaborative environment is fully baked into Bloomberg’s culture and has already empowered me to drive impact in Bloomberg well beyond my own team.”

– TJ McCabe

Li Zhang

Li Zhang is a Team Lead for the Interest Rate Core Analytics team. She has been working at Bloomberg for fifteen years. She’s spent the last few years working on the LIBOR transition, a global movement of financial markets away from using LIBOR (London Inter-Bank Offered Rate) as the interest rate benchmark to using alternative “risk free” benchmark rates.

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
Ever since Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Chief Executive Officer Andrew Bailey delivered a speech announcing the death of LIBOR during an event hosted at Bloomberg’s London Office in 2017, many teams at Bloomberg have been working on the LIBOR transition. My team has been involved in this effort since the fall of 2020.

It is one of the biggest business initiatives I have experienced since I joined Bloomberg. The scope, complexity, and impact of the project calls for in-depth understanding of our existing support, detailed research and meticulous planning, adaptability to the evolving market, as well as strong collaboration among engineering teams, quant teams, and the business. The inspiring part of the project is that all of us are working together towards a common goal. We see how people from different teams and departments collaborate and strive to find solutions.

The business, engineering and quant teams talk to each other constantly about the best way forward given what’s known so far, as well as our time and resource constraints. This presents an opportunity for different teams to bond and build longer term relationships, which will benefit and increase collaboration in the long run. Time-to-market is very critical for this project. How we achieve it while limiting new technical debt is not only a challenge, but also a unique experience that helps us build our decision-making skills.

How do you keep things interesting after so many years at the same company?
Bloomberg provides opportunities for people with different areas of interest, as well as different backgrounds. I had an electrical and computer engineering background and joined Bloomberg without any knowledge of the financial markets. For me, I have always been intrigued by the complexity of the vast derivatives markets. From a business point of view, the market is constantly evolving and we are regularly faced with challenges in coming up with solutions to expand our product coverage to Terminal clients. On the other hand, offerings made to enterprise clients call for us to build infrastructure and frameworks with scalability, flexibility, and extensibility. These challenges have kept things interesting for me throughout my fifteen years with the company.

What advice do you have for people from underrepresented groups who are pursuing a career in tech?
Bloomberg provides opportunities to people with different backgrounds and strengths to make an impact. In order to pursue a career in tech — or any area for that matter — I think a few attributes may help people in underrepresented groups develop a more successful career. These aspects include curiosity, a sense of responsibility and ownership, as well as making yourself heard. Curiosity comes in when you are interested in finding solutions and solving problems. Bloomberg engineers thrive at being curious about how to build upon what we already have to make the products even better. The sense of responsibility and ownership nurtures leadership, either in management or in technology. When part of an underrepresented group, making yourself heard is especially important and will also help people understand your aspirations and goals.

How have you and your colleagues adapted to working remotely — how has work changed? What are your best tips for keeping teams connected?
Initially it was a bit challenging and stressful for everyone given the uncertainty of the situation. We tried to adapt to the new way of working by making connections online, including more frequent online scrum meetings and online game sessions. The Derivatives team also set up coffee roulette, HaxBall tournaments, and online lunches and dinners. I feel these steps helped all of us get used to the new norm of working from home during the pandemic.

I believe the team is more connected when we can expand the topics of our conversations beyond just our projects and work. For example, my team has been discussing different topics each week, ranging from one’s bucket list to one’s go-to snack while working from home. Another great way to connect is through games. While in office, we played various card and board games. During the pandemic, we set up a weekly online game session with one of our sibling teams. It’s been a lot of fun and definitely has made our teams more connected.

What else would you like to share about your Bloomberg experience?
I am a shy and introverted person. I was told that the first impression I gave to people was more on the “serious” side (but I don’t think I am). I am grateful to work at Bloomberg and meet many great people with drastically different personalities and backgrounds. I think these differences and how we make the best of our differences is what makes an organization thrive.

“Bloomberg engineers thrive at being curious about how to build upon what we already have to make the products even better.”

– Li Zhang

Samuel Kola

Samuel Kola is a software engineer in the Derivatives Pricing Technology team in London. He’s been working for Bloomberg for two years now, and currently works on scalability and testing.

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
We are always looking for ways to continue enhancing our technology to allow for more scalability. I am actively involved in quite a few projects like this at the moment.

One of these is the introduction of a datastore to our architecture, which allowed us to independently scale horizontally and vertically. Doing this helped increase our overall performance by several orders of magnitude. The main idea behind our introducing this datastore was to stop large amounts of data from being passed across services till it reached its final destination. Instead, we now store it at the point of creation and pass around a small key to identify the data when it’s needed.

There were many challenges in this project, as we not only had to ensure the reliability and availability of this datastore, but also had to create fallbacks and developer tools to allow for easy debugging. I was very excited to work on this project as it allowed me to learn a lot about the whole process involved in creating a reliable service.

I am also involved in the LIBOR transition project, which involves a huge test migration and the re-architecture of our microservices. Exciting times!

How did you find out about Bloomberg? What made Bloomberg stand out for you?
I found out about Bloomberg while looking at a list of top 100 jobs. After filtering for engineering companies, I noticed Bloomberg on the list, which was odd to me as I had never really thought of Bloomberg this way. I had only been familiar with Bloomberg News.

What made Bloomberg really stand out to me was its philanthropic values. I know it sounds like a scripted answer but when I saw that Bloomberg donates the majority of its profits, I was like, “Wow!” I immediately knew I wanted to work for Bloomberg. It might sound sappy, but I come from Nigeria, and have witnessed first-hand the effect that poverty has on individuals and their livelihood, so this is something very personal to me.

What do you wish you knew about software engineering careers before you joined Bloomberg?
I wish I’d taken more design courses and did more projects in university. I was mostly interested in fancy algorithms and coding competitions, which, in reality, are not all that practical day-to-day when your goals are to design software that is easy to maintain and evolve.

“What made Bloomberg really stand out to me was its philanthropic values… I come from Nigeria, and have witnessed first-hand the effect that poverty has on individuals and their livelihood, so this is something very personal to me.”

– Samuel Kola

Alex Leung

Alex Leung is a Team Lead for the Derivatives Data Streaming Applications team in San Francisco. He’s been with Bloomberg for seven years. His team works constantly to improve the quality of derivatives market data.

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
Our biggest challenge is trying to develop new systems that can either replace or coexist with existing and proven applications, while continuing to maintain the quality and reliability our clients count on.

Derivatives market data comes from OTC sources, and needs to be ingested and processed in a near-real-time, streaming fashion. To this end, we are focused on leveraging open source technology whenever possible, including distributed systems frameworks and streaming platforms like Apache Kafka/Kafka Streams, Apache Spark/Spark Streaming, and Apache Flink. We’re also using machine learning techniques for things like time-series outlier detection.

What inspires me most is working with smart and driven engineers that are willing to help from all over Bloomberg. The more people I encounter, the more I find people who are approachable and willing to help. As an added bonus, I am also able to learn about the financial markets along the way, which has been something I’ve been interested in for quite some time.

What is it like moving to different teams within Bloomberg? How have you adapted?
I’ve worked for two teams within Bloomberg, first in Equities, and now in Derivatives. The change going from Equities to Derivatives was a big shift for me. My team in Equities worked mostly with Bloomberg’s traditional tech stack — C/C++, relational databases, etc. This provided me with a solid foundation and I was very lucky to have worked in the New York office, where I was able to make some great friends along the way.

My family and I then moved back to the Bay Area where I joined my current team in Derivatives. As I mentioned above, my role in Derivatives includes more work on open source and distributed systems — a big shift from the traditional, non-distributed tech stack I was used to. Adapting to this big change required me to spend a lot of time consuming books, blogs, and internal and external talks to come up to speed.

How do you foster a collaborative, inclusive environment at work?
Engineers have a lot of great ideas. However, unless they’re in an environment where they feel safe to express themselves, these ideas may never see the light of day. The ideal environment may be different for each individual, so I try to get to know each person as well as I can in order to find what makes them feel comfortable to be creative and share their ideas. I personally like having smaller groups and one-on-ones where it can be a safe place to chat about various topics, work-related or otherwise. This requires a “listen first” attitude that, as a recent Team Lead, is still very much a work in progress!

How does the collaborative environment at Bloomberg create opportunities to learn new skills and expand your expertise?
There are so many resources at Bloomberg from which one can learn new things. You do not need to look very far to find Guild meetups, deep dives into different technologies, and presentations on all kinds of technical topics. It’s easy to find other teams solving similar problems who you can learn from and collaborate with. Also, we are highly encouraged to both attend and speak at conferences and meetups where you can find people from other companies sharing ideas and knowledge. When I first joined the team, I was told that signing up to speak at a conference would be the best way to learn something — in this case, Kafka. From my experience, I can say that advice was spot on!

What do you think a team must have to be effective and healthy, particularly during this time of disruption?
During this challenging time, communication — and perhaps over-communication — is key. A lot can be lost in translation if just communicating over IB and/or email. Your co-workers are not mind readers. I think it’s best to overcommunicate things, and when in doubt, jump on a Zoom call and talk it out. It’s much easier to read and understand people if you can see their faces.

“Derivatives market data comes from OTC sources, and needs to be ingested and processed in a near-real-time, streaming fashion. To this end, we are focused on leveraging open source technology whenever possible, including distributed systems frameworks and streaming platforms.”

– Alex Leung

Gosia Waszak

Gosia Waszak is a software engineer in the Derivatives Pricing Library Team, which is responsible for {DLIB <GO>}, the platform that allows clients to structure and price financial derivative products.

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
As the financial industry is moving towards the replacement of IBORs, we want to be prepared and support pricing and analytics of the contracts relying on the IBOR fallbacks within our derivatives library. The complexity of this project lies in the fact that incorporating a new type of underlying asset touches pretty much the entire pipeline of our functionality, as well as existing interfaces with other teams. This requires a deep understanding of how various services interact with each other, but also a close collaboration within the derivatives engineering department in both London and New York, as well as our quant and product teams. Despite the challenges this presented, it also gave me a broad exposure to the various parts of our system. I also enjoyed the level of responsibility and freedom in design decisions entrusted with me so early on.

What is it like moving to different teams within Bloomberg? How have you adapted? 
Prior to my current role, I worked within the Financial Engineering team in Product. This team delivers independent valuations of complex financial derivatives and structured products to Bloomberg’s enterprise customers. It was a great experience that gave me the opportunity to build my knowledge of derivatives pricing — in particular interest rates and credit derivatives — something that helps me immensely in my current role.

Bloomberg is a big enough place that you can keep finding new challenges, development opportunities, and learning experiences. Where there are no existing avenues or structures in place, people are open and accommodating enough to fill the gaps. After I transferred to my current role, I was given an abundance of resources to help me adapt quickly, including training and mentorship.

You’re very involved in a variety of D&I initiatives. Tell us about why this is important to you and some of the things you’ve played a role in to make our workplace more inclusive.
I have been fortunate to be involved in a number of D&I initiatives during my time here. I am part of and volunteer for Bloomberg Women in Technology (BWIT). My involvement has ranged from organizing events that helped to promote diverse hiring, to working with a partner charity to find Bloomberg employees to mentor and encourage high school girls to discover and pursue careers in STEM. Initiatives like this are really important to me. Less than 20 percent of computer science graduates are women, and I think it is important to tackle the issue early on, before the girls are even thinking about applying to university. There are many girls who will never enter this field because they did not know it was even an option.

Within Bloomberg itself, I mentor new hires, and also encourage and support those in my network who are seeking a career transition.

“Bloomberg is a big enough place that you can keep finding new challenges, development opportunities, and learning experiences.”

– Gosia Waszak

Check out some of the open roles with our Derivatives Engineering team (here and here).