Meet the Team: Electronic Trading Engineering

Bloomberg’s Electronic Trading Engineering team is behind one of the world’s largest over-the-counter (OTC) electronic trading (ET) platforms. It includes Fixed Income, Currencies, Commodities, Derivatives, and Equities. The platform offers end-to-end trading workflows, including price discovery, real-time analytics/pricing, and execution, and it is fully integrated with the Bloomberg Terminal and enterprise solutions. 

This team comprises ~200 software engineers spread across New York and London. Given the inherently sensitive nature of trading software, team members tackle extreme technical challenges related to latency, stability, uptime, and general software quality — all in a highly regulated industry.

Let’s meet Global Engineering Manager Pavan Avula, who leads the Electronic Trading Engineering team.

How long have you been at Bloomberg?
I joined Bloomberg as an intern 19 years ago and liked it so much that I joined the company after graduating from college. It’s been a fun, wild ride! I’ve stayed so long because I have the privilege of working with the most talented people who I also call friends. Staying this long has exposed me to various people and aspects of Bloomberg that help me represent the company in totality. It also helps me efficiently navigate the organization to get things done. Also, I think running distributed, stateful, and latency-sensitive transactional platforms at scale is software engineering utopia, and we deal with this daily.

What skills do you look for when hiring engineers for your team?
We emphasize problem-solving, attitude, communication skills, the ability to work with abstract requirements, improvisation, humility, and the willingness to listen and take feedback. We work mostly in C++, but are open to anyone who has a strong passion for programming and willing to pick up this language over time. We don’t expect candidates to have a background in the financial markets, but we look for enthusiasm about the sector — we expect you to be excited and curious about the space and willing to learn along the way. Ultimately, we choose people who are looking to learn, collaborate, take ownership, and build impactful products.

How do Bloomberg’s shared values help you foster culture on your team?
Our shared value system is based on these tenets: ownership and pride (superior work), execution (getting stuff done), empathy (for customers/peers/stakeholders), diversity & inclusion (giving everyone a voice), and innovation (what we, alone, can deliver). These values have helped our teams adapt incredibly well to the pandemic — staying positive, collaborating, navigating through unpredictable events, and being extremely productive.

“I think running distributed, stateful, and latency-sensitive transactional platforms at scale is software engineering utopia…”

– Pavan Avula

Tim Phelan, the manager for Fixed Income/Equities Trading Engineering, grew up in Dublin, Ireland but has called New York his home since 1994. He brings a unique perspective to the team, having been an engineer at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch, and other Bloomberg clients.

What makes working for Bloomberg different from working for financial services companies? What makes Bloomberg a rewarding professional experience?
The collaborative relationship between Engineering and the other Bloomberg departments (Product Management, Sales, Global Data, Analytics) really feels like a partnership between stakeholders. And Bloomberg has managed to scale the size of its organization without becoming impersonal. For example, we’ve established a group of technology “Guilds” where enthusiasts can pursue mastery in a field, and we’ve also created an Engineering Champions program for professional development in other areas. From a technology standpoint, Bloomberg has embraced open source, academic research, and an overall openness to the Engineering community outside Bloomberg.

What was it like joining the Electronic Trading Engineering team?
I moved to Electronic Trading in early 2020, around the time the pandemic started to impact global markets, which massively increased volatility and trading volumes. I certainly didn’t expect we’d have several new record volume days during my first few weeks on my new team. I was really impressed with how well our systems and teams stood up to this test.

Tim is not the only team member with a non-traditional background. Bhavya Kumari, who now leads the Foreign Exchange Cash Pricing and Execution team, didn’t join Bloomberg’s Engineering department with a computer science degree. She’s now spent more than eight years at the company.

What motivated you to start a software engineering career at Bloomberg, and how did you manage to learn on the job?
I joined Bloomberg as an intern while studying for my master’s in mathematical finance, and it seemed like the perfect place to apply my knowledge of finance and learn more about software engineering. In the first few years, I did a reasonable job but often felt overwhelmed. I had doubts about whether I could manage without a computer science background. I thought everyone around me knew everything. But, with experience and the help of a very supportive team, I realized that no one comes to a job knowing it all, and it is a constant learning process. I was able to expand my knowledge through professional development courses, videos, and collaboration with my teammates. As my confidence grew, I was able to expand my influence and was offered more responsibilities. I started taking ownership of larger projects and mentoring new team members, which I love doing. That really helped me accelerate my career.

How do you help other non-traditional candidates find a place to belong with Bloomberg Engineering?
I do whatever I can to make our teams more diverse and our work environment more inclusive. For example, my team has people from many different nationalities, and we maintain a collaborative work environment where people respect each other and celebrate our cultural diversity. I am also an active member of Bloomberg Engineering’s diversity recruitment team, which looks for candidates in non-conventional places, like regional conferences, coding bootcamps, and diversity career fairs. And I’m on the committee for Bloomberg’s Women in Electronic Trading (WIET) community, which provides a strong support network for its members. We host speakers, mentorship sessions, and tech workshops, and highlight the achievements of our members.

Nicolas Wein, a software engineer on the fixed income securities team, selected Bloomberg two years ago after finishing his computer science degree at Stony Brook University.

You could have applied for a job at any tech company. Why did you choose Bloomberg?
During my time in college, I frequented the career fairs. Bloomberg always had the longest lines — trumping Google, Facebook, Uber, Microsoft, and any other big company you could name. It was impossible to ignore the company’s prominence. I chose Bloomberg because I saw that I’d be able to achieve my career goals working here, including learning from incredible engineering talent, being introduced to the complexities of the financial markets and trading, and having opportunities to have a real, impactful influence on the global capital markets. And I’m already achieving them.

What are some of the things you work on, and what keeps your job interesting?
I want to solve big, complex technical problems, and there is a multitude of them to tackle at Bloomberg. Working as a full-stack engineer in a speed-of-light paced environment in the midst of a constantly evolving economic climate means that I see, learn, and develop a lot of cool things. Since I started working here two years ago, I’ve developed features for one of the world’s largest fixed-income trading platforms and automated trading systems, built compliance workflows related to Brexit, and created new testing frameworks. I love delivering an impeccable client experience to the traders who use our systems and having a direct impact on global markets. Whether it’s the design of a UI, the simplicity of a trading workflow, the speed of client interactions, or the reliability of our platform, I am constantly challenged with solving interesting technical problems. That’s what inspires me.

“Whether it’s the design of a UI, the simplicity of a trading workflow, the speed of client interactions, or the reliability of our platform, I am constantly challenged with solving interesting technical problems. That’s what inspires me.”

– Nicolas Wein

Another relatively new team member, Damel Lambert-Powell, received mentorship before choosing Bloomberg upon graduating in 2018. He is currently a software engineer for the E-Trading API platform in Fixed Income Trading, which provides a FIX API for trading Fixed Income securities.

What career advice would you give your younger self before graduation?
I’ve been lucky enough to have met and been advised by some of the smartest people in the business. They’ve helped guide me on the path I’m on right now, so I think the best I can do is share some of the wisdom they imparted onto me.

First, don’t get comfortable. Denzel Washington said, “Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.” After spending some time working on a project, it’s easy to find little pockets of comfort where you have a relatively deep understanding of parts of the codebase. When you reach this point, it’s time to expand and rediscover the feeling of not knowing. If you don’t feel challenged, you need to find out what dimension — not always technical — you’re lacking and redirect your efforts to plugging that gap.

Second, responsibility is taken, not given. Take ownership; be a self-starter. When things break, take the responsibility to find out why and fix them. The more you can demonstrate you can handle responsibility, the more you will get.

Third, your reputation is your greatest asset; when diminished, it is very difficult to restore. A track record with a few consistent successes can be more powerful than a long history of sporadic wins. Pace yourself, and remember, it’s a marathon, not a race.

Tania Hamid is a full-stack software engineer working in the FX Trading Enablements and Post Trade team. She recently moved from Bloomberg’s New York office to London.

What has it been like working in two different Bloomberg offices?
Bloomberg is a global company, so there are lots of opportunities to build a global career. While in New York, I was working in the Bloomberg Law (BLAW) Enterprise Applications team. Working in different teams in different metropolises has allowed me to work on two very different products — BLAW Enterprise Applications in New York and FX Trading Enablements and Post Trade in London. I learned new technologies and expanded my skill set. I also got to work with multiple teams, meet new people, and make new friends. In terms of work culture, there is no difference between the two locations, as everyone at Bloomberg believes in and promotes the same values. Bloomberg’s HR staff and my teams helped and supported me immensely throughout my relocation. Outside of work, I’ve gotten to experience city life in two very different places.

What inspires you most about working at Bloomberg?
Every day at Bloomberg comes with a new challenge and a unique learning experience. In just five years, I’ve had the opportunity to build large-scale solutions that have a global impact. These projects have given me the chance to solve challenging and complex technical problems and gain an understanding of various product areas. Another wonderful thing about working at Bloomberg is the freedom and encouragement I get to innovate and bring new ideas to the table. Last, but not least, the chance that I get at Bloomberg to contribute to our society by participating periodically in various philanthropic volunteer activities is something I find truly inspiring.