Meet the Team: Sell-Side Engineering

Bloomberg’s Sell-Side engineering team works on products that give sell-side organizations an edge in fast-moving, uncertain markets. Situated within Bloomberg Engineering’s Trading & Analytics department, this team develops premium products that provide comprehensive multi-asset solutions to the sell-side that cover all front-office trading and sales-trading workflows. Because sell-side traders participate in a large number of negotiations — and they need to be able to act quickly to stay competitive — the scalable trading systems and applications built by this team of engineers have to reliably deliver high performance, while handling the high volumes that our users expect.

Peter Levesque

First, let’s meet Peter Levesque, the head of the Sell-side Engineering team, which is spread across New York and London. Levesque has been an engineer at Bloomberg for nearly 23 years, where he has spent his career building, refining, and becoming an expert in Bloomberg’s trading systems, and leading the teams that build them.

Tell us about your role as head of Sell-Side Engineering and what the team is responsible for. What are some of the unique technical challenges your teams need to tackle?
We build a trade and order management system for sell-side traders and salespeople, and the tools they need to perform every aspect of their jobs. We create the applications that allow sell-side traders to make markets, book trades, engage in electronic trading, set prices, manage their P&L and risk, and trade with the buy-side. We’re primarily focused on the front office.

Our front-office solutions, like our Trade Order Management Solutions (TOMS) and Client Management and Insight Services (CMIS), must be reliable, and that requires us to focus on high performing, fault-tolerant, and resilient systems design. We have to match the right technology to the needs of the business and factor in our ability to support and release it. This goes hand-in-hand with the need for proactive monitoring systems that alert us when things are or could go wrong before our customers notice.

The Enterprise Trading products we build are complex, and our asset class coverage is very deep, including every financial asset across Fixed Income, from bonds to derivatives. So understanding the customer workflow and their needs is critical for us.

Furthermore, systemic changes in global fixed income trading involving electronic trading, automation, and regulatory needs necessitate that we focus on understanding and normalizing the enormous amount of data we store, how it streams in real-time, and the analytics derived from it.

Briefly tell us about your career path.
My largely organic career growth through our Trading Systems teams was built on opportunity and hard work. It started on day one, being pulled out of our training program to work right away due to certain skills I had that matched a need in our Trading Systems’ feeds group. I enjoyed the challenge and the faith they showed me and tried to take ownership of whatever they would give me. After about a year, a colleague and I started our Trader Workspace (TW) function. A few years later, I became that team’s leader. I grew into managing a few other teams in Trading Systems, acquiring more ownership in our TOMS Fixed Income trading platform, from Position Management to Risk and Electronic Trading.

My big break came in being chosen to lead and build out our ETOMS (Electronic Trade Order Management Solutions) product, our burgeoning investment in electronic trading solutions. As we rapidly grew from five to 70 engineers in just two years, I had to quickly learn the importance of developing and mentoring leaders who prioritize team culture and who could rapidly expand their own responsibilities. We also had to focus on investing in architectural planning for our systems, presenting strategies to management to solicit additional investment, and learning how to pivot when things don’t go according to plan.

Since then, I’ve continued growing, and I’ve now been leading our entire TOMS organization for nine years; and a broader Sell-Side Engineering team, which merged related products for Traders and Salesperson Trading, for the last 2 years. Along the way, it has stayed fresh, as new challenges and business growth kept me on my toes. I’m excited about the products we have in the pipeline and the team we’ve built to see us through the challenges.

What’s your strategy for choosing team members? What skills do you look for when hiring engineers for your team?
The ideal thing we look for is that they are smart problem solvers. They have to be practical in their approach, competent in understanding the technology, and relentless about solving problems. Next, I want to make sure they can be flexible and adapt to changes. And it’s critical they can communicate well and work with others within our culture.

People who are successful in our team are customer-focused. They want to make a difference and are proud of what they’ve built. They add to the team culture instead of taking away from it, and they are always looking to do the right thing.

Finally, I like to hire people who want to lead and are willing to assume ownership and accountability. This includes those who want to work with clients, those who want to mentor others technically, and those that want to be accountable for the execution of our projects and the growth of other engineers.

How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style is focused on building and developing talent in our organization. I want to invest a lot in their development, empower them to be successful, and hold them accountable for the decisions they make. I really want my team to scrape their knees and run with something that they are strongly attached to. With that in mind, I also make sure that the broader strategy is aligned with where the business needs to go in the future, so there’s less friction with the team being successful in executing that strategy.

What advice do you have for engineers to grow their careers?
The first piece of advice I have is: try to become very important — try to understand your domain very well and be an expert at something that’s critical to the group that you’re part of. 

The second thing is to share that expertise with everybody else and become a rep of some piece of knowledge that others can benefit from. Let others know that you’re there to help their growth as well. You’ll start building a much stronger network, and in conjunction with your expertise, a lot of doors will start opening for you.

Third, be bold. Take a lot of risks and chances. You don’t have to ask for permission for everything. Try to always find a new way of doing something or a way of implementing new technology at Bloomberg that has a payoff and gives us value.

“Systemic changes in global fixed income trading involving electronic trading, automation and regulatory needs necessitate we focus on understanding and normalizing the enormous amount of data we store, how it streams in real-time, and the analytics derived from it.”

– Peter Levesque

Kevin Yufei Chen

Kevin Yufei Chen recently stepped into a new role as the Team Lead of the Sell-Side Trader Workflow Core Services team, the same team where he started his Bloomberg career as a Software Engineer nearly five years ago.

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
Together with some of the other teams in our group, we support Trader Workspace, which offers sell-side Fixed Income traders with real-time position, P&L, risk, and offering management functionalities, along with integrations with various other workflows within and beyond Sell-Side TOMS. 

One of our biggest challenges is maintaining exceptional product quality while continuing to grow. Our system has advanced into a much more complex and distributed model compared to when it was first built 20 years ago. Today, we need to consume, aggregate, and render billions of data points quickly and accurately for our thousands of clients around the globe. Along with our product managers, we would always stay on top of the progression of our clients’ workflows and their needs for reliability. In the last few years, the team refreshed various elements of our tech stack to scale and speed up Trader Workspace. We recently kicked off our next major architecture redesign to build a more modular and scalable system incorporating technologies such as Apache Kafka and Redis to ensure performance and quality. Additionally, we are also increasing our investment in proactive monitoring, with the goal of detecting and reacting to issues ahead of client escalation.

How did you find out about Bloomberg? What made Bloomberg stand out for you?
I first found out about Bloomberg through an on-campus career fair during my sophomore year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The info session and an on-the-spot coding challenge gave me a strong impression that this big name in finance is also a remarkable tech company. Later, during my internship at an investment bank, I learned first-hand about Bloomberg’s reputation within the world of finance. The idea of leveraging the latest technologies to revolutionize a whole bunch of financial workflows made Bloomberg one of my top choices after graduating from college.

Do you feel like Bloomberg offers clear opportunities for upward mobility? Considering that, what are your career aspirations in the next two years?
Definitely. Before I decided to grow myself towards a people leadership role, I was presented with multiple paths to grow my career here at Bloomberg, especially technical leadership opportunities. One thing I’d like to highlight is our internal Champions program, a community of highly motivated engineers whose mission is to break through barriers between infrastructure and application teams, as well as empower innovations and collaborations. It is a very selective program as each Engineering department only has a few Champions. But it is a rewarding technical leadership experience.

“The idea of leveraging the latest technologies to revolutionize a whole bunch of financial workflows made Bloomberg one of my top choices after graduating from college.”

– Kevin Yufei Chen

Katie Keenan

Katie Keenan studied economics and statistics at the University of Virginia, where she was also exposed to computer science. After participating in Bloomberg’s software engineering training program, she discovered her deep interest in computer science and application development, which has driven her career at Bloomberg for 11 years. 

Please share your title, role, how long you’ve been with Bloomberg.
I first worked as an individual contributor and then Team Leader within the Equities group, which focused on stock ownership. Through this experience, I developed a passion for understanding user challenges and collaborating with others to build applications to address user challenges. About four years ago, I switched departments to take on new challenges in a new product area. In my current role, I am the Manager for the Institutional Sales Applications Engineering Group. 

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
Our group works on a product offering called CMIS,  a product that specializes in helping institutional salespeople understand their clients and leverage data to make more informed decisions. Our job is to help our users see that technology can make them smarter and more efficient. This is a new product area that establishes Bloomberg as a first mover in the market. It is challenging and very exciting as we continue to develop something that has the potential to change how people work. 

How do you keep things interesting after so many years at the same company?
Our customers are always evolving to keep ahead of the market and we need to partner with them to help do that faster and better. As a result, we are always looking to see what we can do next. I think that Bloomberg has the great aspects of a startup in terms of a fast-paced environment and constant innovation, along with the benefits of a larger technology company. We can leverage a depth of technical expertise and great infrastructure to build quality software quickly.

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?
In terms of career advice, I would share something a senior leader counseled me on early in my career. She encouraged me to think about all of the unique qualities (both within and outside of my technical skillset) that I brought to Bloomberg and focus on how I can use those skills to add value to my team.

How do you foster a collaborative, inclusive environment at work?
Something I am very proud of in Sell-Side Engineering is our Sell-Side Professional Acceleration Community (PAC). We have people from all levels and backgrounds across the department work together on the shared mission of accelerating professional and personal development in our sell-side community. We do this by creating opportunities for everyone to expand their networks, grow their career skills, and embrace diverse perspectives. We have sponsored events like ice cream socials to get to know other colleagues, speed mentoring events to build leadership skills, deep dives into financial topics to understand our customers better, initiatives to educate and promote inclusive language, as well as a weekly photo submission contest to help us stay connected while we are at home. 

How do you inspire teams to innovate? What are some examples of recent innovations?
I think when everyone is empowered to help us think outside the box to reach our goals, we generate amazing results. This means that we have to have a strong understanding of our business, our users, and our goals. Teams must understand more about what our users do every day and what motivates them. We also need to ensure our users feel they can offer their own suggestions about how we can do better. We must equally understand the larger context about how we as a company evaluate our product’s success in terms of revenue, quality, or any other category. This enables each person to think about big and small ways they can help us get closer to that goal.

As an example, our group has been focused on how we can improve our software quality. For us, this means having fewer client-facing bugs as well as resolving client-facing issues faster. Understanding this goal, each team thought about how they could work towards these goals.  We had a variety of ideas that came from individuals, as well as the result of team conversations. We were able to try many of these ideas to see what worked well and share ideas across teams over time. In the past two years, we have been able to reduce our client-facing issues by 40% and cut our average fix time by 70%, and we are still making progress!

“Bloomberg has the great aspects of a startup in terms of a fast-paced environment and constant innovation, along with the benefits of a larger technology company. We can leverage a depth of technical expertise and great infrastructure to build quality software quickly.”

– Katie Keenan

Alessandro Incerto

Alessandro Incerto is a software engineer on the Sell-Side External Market Making team. He designs and develops features for the Sell-Side Order Execution (SSOX) system, and also serves as the team’s Scrum Master.

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
My team is currently working on integrating with leading external fixed income venues. I’m helping with the design and development of the system to support all the different negotiation workflows dictated by these exchanges. I’m also working on expanding the SSOX API, where clients can code to our spec to feed prices and decisions into our Trade Negotiation system. Finally, I’m working on improving the throughput of the system by asynchronously sending requests to data providers instead of relying on synchronous blocking calls. The biggest challenge is to be able to support very specific workflows for each venue, while keeping the application generic enough for other workflows. The opportunity to create a trading platform for thousands of customers moving millions of dollars through my code inspires me every day. I have a chance to help revolutionize fixed income trading by making it more electronic and more efficient, and this always motivates me. 

How did you find out about Bloomberg? What made Bloomberg stand out for you?
Along my journey to become a computer scientist, I gained a particular interest in the world of finance, which led to my decision to pursue a second degree in economics. In my financial classes, I became familiar with both the Bloomberg Terminal and Bloomberg News. When looking where to start my career, Bloomberg immediately stood out as the perfect combination of both my majors. I chose Bloomberg because I wanted to work in financial technology, and I was very interested in joining the team that builds this amazing product.

How did the training program at Bloomberg help get you up to speed on our systems?
The training program was crucial for me. It not only helped me get up to speed on Bloomberg’s systems, but also enabled me to grow as a software engineer. I gained a deep understanding of how the Bloomberg Terminal works and picked up the skills to be part of any Bloomberg Engineering team. The program took my C++ skills to a whole new level and really set me up for success. 

What do you wish you knew about software engineering careers before you joined Bloomberg? What’s your best advice for inspiring new college grads who have recently joined Bloomberg?
I wish I knew just how thrilling a career in software engineering can be. Solving challenging problems on a daily basis ensures every day is unique. Developing and designing a trading system is an amazing experience, and it has been so interesting with regards to both the technical side and the financial aspects of it. I would tell those new to Bloomberg to take advantage of every opportunity to learn and make an impact, even if it’s outside your core responsibilities. There are going to be many occasions when you can go above and beyond, and I say do it! This will help the team, while also pushing you to grow and to be successful.

How does the collaborative environment at Bloomberg create opportunities to learn new skills and expand your expertise?
If something is characteristic of this company, it’s that everyone wants to help you and they are actually willing to go out of their way to do it. Working together with knowledgeable colleagues has helped me create a network that I can leverage to overcome every obstacle.

I have expanded my technical skills by getting help from other engineers in my team, neighboring teams, or even through company-wide chats. Our Sell-Side Quality Squad has helped me grow my knowledge about coding best practices. I have also grown my financial knowledge thanks to the Product team always being there for me. I have developed my leadership skills by helping and mentoring others. Thanks to the collaborative environment at Bloomberg, I am a better engineer, a better leader, and I have more knowledge of the financial world.

“If something is characteristic of this company, it’s that everyone wants to help you and they are actually willing to go out of their way to do it.”

– Alessandro Incerto

Angela Liang

Angela Liang works with proprietary and open source technologies to help build TOMS applications for Money Market traders on the sell-side. She also serves as her team’s Scrum Master and as a leader in WISE (Women in Sell-side), a group that supports women in her field at Bloomberg. 

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
I have been working on redesigning and implementing MMKT reporting functions to replace a set of old functions that display daily trade summary for different traders and securities. The function was implemented more than 20 years ago and the biggest challenge was to understand the legacy code and try to redesign the system on top of the existing framework. We have to analyze all the use cases and function behaviors. At the same time, we are redefining the function by centralizing all the information to make the workflow more consistent, user friendly, and efficient. The intricacy of legacy code is a big challenge but also an inspiration for us. We are learning from the pros and cons of existing software to choose the right technology and apply the right design philosophy to ensure the scalability and usability of future software.

What do you wish you knew about software engineering careers before you joined Bloomberg? What’s your best advice for inspiring new college grads who have recently joined Bloomberg?
Before I joined Bloomberg, I used to think that coding languages and technology are the most important factors to a project’s success. But after I joined my team in Bloomberg, my team lead taught me that the technology stack is not the most important factor. It’s the design philosophy that powers the functionality of software. Bloomberg is the best place to learn about all kinds of software design challenges. You can find solutions to a variety of problems faced by software engineers: how to ensure the request reaches the receiver, how to execute requests that touch the same memory space safely, how to design databases that can be easily extended in the future… These are important design lessons that can be taught at Bloomberg, where there is enough traffic and data to start with. For a new grad, it’s more important to learn about how to solve design problems to ensure system stability, scalability, and quality user experiences before dipping into the vast pool of technologies.

“Bloomberg is the best place to learn about all kinds of software design challenges. You can find solutions to a variety of problems faced by software engineers.”

– Angela Liang

Check out an open role with our Sell-Side Engineering team here.