Meet the Teams: Frankfurt Engineering

Bloomberg’s Frankfurt office hosts multiple engineering teams that handle different elements of Bloomberg’s data infrastructure. It’s a collaborative melting pot of disciplines, and team members often work cross-functionally to achieve their goals. They are a part of a burgeoning network of Bloomberg offices across EMEA that bolster the company’s position in areas that fall outside of its biggest metropolitan hubs.

Alex Kranz

Let’s first meet Alex Kranz, the head of Frankfurt Engineering. In addition to overseeing all of the engineering teams based in the company’s Frankfurt office, he also manages the Trading Connectivity engineering group, a subdomain of Bloomberg Engineering’s Trading & Analytics department.

Tell us about your role as head of Frankfurt Engineering.
Working locally with the different teams (and their team leaders) and helping remote managers understand more about their local employees, as well as the Frankfurt market, are large parts of my role. In addition to that, forming a strategy about how to grow the Engineering teams in Frankfurt in a meaningful way, finding opportunities on how we — as a remote office — can have a bigger impact on our global Engineering community, and providing career opportunities across the Frankfurt Engineering office are just a few of the other activities for which I’m responsible.

Briefly tell us about your career path.
I started my career in 2000 with a company called RTS Realtime Systems. From a system administration role, I moved to various leadership roles in customer service and product management, before managing its overall European activities and global Engineering team. In 2014, Bloomberg acquired RTS and I continued managing the Engineering team I had managed before, in addition to helping with the integration process of RTS into Bloomberg. Roughly 2.5 years after the acquisition, the Trading Connectivity group was formed within our Trading & Analytics Engineering department, and I’ve been managing the group since then. Trading Connectivity, which is a globally distributed team with engineers in New York, Frankfurt, Pune, and Hong Kong, handles all of our real-time connections to exchanges and brokers around the world, as well as our IOI system.

What are some of the factors driving the rapid growth/expansion of your office in this region?
Primarily, Frankfurt is a talent market we have not tapped into heavily in the past. We are investing to make Bloomberg more known as a tech company, and together with our recruitment teams, we have been able to create a buzz around Bloomberg. Over the past few years, we have been working more closely with German universities and have started offering internships in Frankfurt, which is helping us identify more talent and make students who are about to start their careers more aware of us. In addition to this, Brexit and the pandemic have made people rethink their choice of working location, and we have seen a number of instances where people are now actively looking for roles in the EU.

What’s the culture like in the Frankfurt office?
We are very collaborative. While we all work in different teams on different projects, there is often overlap between what we are doing, so we are able to help each other. Everybody knows each other and can quickly reach out to a colleague when they have a question about similar technologies they may be working on, for example.

As a group, we are always striving to be integrated with the rest of the Bloomberg Engineering organization. We started working with the other regional Engineering offices across EMEA (Lugano, Tel Aviv, Prague) to form a bigger community and coordinate activities across the offices, such as training courses. This has helped us to get to know more people who are working outside our larger offices in NY and London.

How has this culture changed with everyone working from home during the pandemic?
The pandemic has made the onboarding of new colleagues a little more challenging. While they still get to know their teams really well, it takes more time (despite a good amount of social activities) to get to know people you are not working side-by-side with every day. On the positive side, the pandemic has helped us to become more prominent across the Engineering organization. Since we were already working remotely from Bloomberg Engineering’s major hubs in New York and London, we were already used to a work situation that a lot of others around the globe were just getting introduced to. This enabled us to organize a series of talks about System Design out of Frankfurt that also featured speakers from other offices.

“We are very collaborative. While we all work in different teams on different projects, there is often overlap between what we are doing, so we are able to help each other.”

– Alex Kranz

Soni Choudhary

Soni Choudhary is a software engineering team lead who has been with Bloomberg for almost seven years. Her team works on Bloomberg’s eXecution Flow Monitor (BXFM), a distributed system for searching, alerting, measuring, and analyzing transactional data related to various electronic trading platforms which traverse Bloomberg infrastructure in real-time.

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
Within the Trading Connectivity group, my team is responsible for providing a reliable monitoring platform. BXFM enables us to keep track of approximately 120 million electronic trading messages a day from thousands of client firms across hundreds of exchanges. Each message takes a unique path across our vast infrastructure, which is dynamically determined by asset-class, business workflow, market positions & activity. BXFM enables our support/service teams, trade desks, engineering — and eventually customers — to follow a transaction through each hop over its lifecycle and provide trend analytics with metrics and order history.

We are in the process of boosting the scalability of our system to cater to more and more businesses. Our eventual goal is to be able to monitor everything under the FIX connectivity space. Bringing all these different trading flows, each of which has distinct characteristics and specific paths, under one tool is a big challenge. But, it’s also incredibly inspiring work.

How do you foster a collaborative, inclusive environment at work?
Trust is the foundation of collaboration in our workplace. When we can put our ideas in front of others without the fear of being judged or being unheard, we feel more confident about our job and become more open to collaborating. I help my team members build trust and a sense of belonging by making them understand each other’s value in the team and respect each other’s perspectives. Setting up team goals provides an opportunity to connect with each other and to share ideas and work together to achieve them. I make sure everyone understands their role in building an inclusive team atmosphere.

How have you and your colleagues adapted to working remotely — how has work changed? What are your best tips for keeping teams connected?
Initially, I thought it would be difficult to work remotely, especially because we used to do lots of brainstorming sitting near each other in the office. I was concerned that doing that virtually would not be as effective, but we soon proved ourselves wrong. Focusing on the positive aspects of WFH helped us adapt really fast to the new working style and remain motivated. We keep ourselves well connected, hold discussions and brainstorms over video calls. We hold frequent virtual events and games, which brings all the teams in Frankfurt together and keeps us connected with everyone — not just the colleagues with whom we work regularly.

Anything else you would like to share about your Bloomberg experience?
Bloomberg’s Corporate Philanthropy is one of the most fascinating factors for me. We have so many different opportunities to volunteer and one can contribute in many different ways. We seldom find any other organization with this volume of philanthropic activities. I am really proud of it and don’t miss a chance to advertise it.

“Trust is the foundation of collaboration in our workplace. When we can put our ideas in front of others without the fear of being judged or being unheard, we feel more confident about our job and become more open to collaborating.”

– Soni Choudhary

Finn Bauer

Finn Bauer joined Bloomberg’s Exchange Trading Connectivity team in Frankfurt just under a year ago as a software engineering graduate.

Tell us about what you’re working on now and what your biggest challenge is. What inspires you most about it?
As an infrastructure engineering team, we are building and maintaining components that are used by other software engineering teams as part of their applications. This comes with special challenges, which go far beyond what is taught in university, making this a great learning experience. The systems we are working on are highly scalable and performance is important. Good design and stability are imperative so other teams can build great applications on top of our systems.

How did the training program at Bloomberg help get you up to speed on our systems?
The graduate training is great and very comprehensive. Bloomberg has a lot of clever in-house software solutions which you work with over the course of your training. This helps you hit the ground running when you join your team. Sometimes you can even introduce new ideas and practices to your team because you get the latest and greatest information from your instructors about things your team might not know about yet. You can help add value and improve your colleagues’ developer experience from day one.

Tell us about the mentorship you’re receiving at Bloomberg.
Everyone has been highly supportive of me as a fresh graduate and they want to see me succeed. My team has made great efforts to quickly get me up to speed and help me develop as an engineer. The most important aspect of that is the constant feedback I get on my technical work. This helps me improve very quickly. Another aspect of that is the support I am getting in building my network inside Bloomberg.

“The systems we are working on are highly scalable and performance is important. Good design and stability are imperative so other teams can build great applications on top of our systems.”

– Finn Bauer

Nazia Shaikhji

Nazia Shaikhji is a software engineer for the BXFM team and has been working at Bloomberg since 2014. She writes applications that monitor the system and collect metadata about millions of transactions, which helps make Bloomberg’s trading platforms more scalable.

What is it like moving to different teams within Bloomberg? How have you adapted?
I was working with the Engineering team in Pune until I got a chance to move to Frankfurt a couple of years ago. My memorable experience working with the Pune team will always be close to my heart. I joined them fresh out of college and learned so much about the whole world of finance that takes place behind the tickers moving across the bottom of the TV screen.

The move to Frankfurt pulled me out of my comfort zone and tremendously boosted my learning curve. I had lived my whole life in just one city, right from my education to my first job. But, here I was at the airport in Frankfurt with my suitcases, all set to begin a new journey! Moving to a new country was super exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Living in a new country, I felt like a wide-eyed newborn, grasping and absorbing every experience that came my way. I cannot thank the team and my manager here in Frankfurt enough. They were always very supportive as I steadily settled into my new life. Bloomberg took real care about every step of my move — from assisting me in creating travel documents, doing my taxes, arranging my accommodation, to even helping me find an apartment in Frankfurt which is — trust me — not that easy!

In Pune, I was part of the Exchange Connectivity team. I got to learn about how exchanges work, as well as a lot about orders, quotes, RFQ, and STP workflows and how to implement them via FIX and order management protocols. Moving to the BXFM team introduced me to an entirely different tech stack. I was suddenly dabbling in distributed streaming platforms like Apache Kafka, batch processing using Apache Spark, databases, and dealing with about 120 million transactions a day! And there is so much more to learn.

How does the collaborative environment at Bloomberg create opportunities to learn new skills and expand your expertise?
The open working space and flat hierarchy and culture in the office encourages a sense of belonging and boosts team spirit. I believe that brings a positive vibe to the working environment. I have seen some of the best solutions being created simply when one person turns around to their colleague and starts with, “Hey, I had this idea…” I think this quality is so ingrained in everyone that our innovation culture has continued to thrive throughout the pandemic, even when everyone is working remotely.

When you have a product like BXFM which makes use of technologies provided by other teams, you need collaboration. I feel the support system built by the other teams is very strong. Be it good documentation or live support via Instant Bloomberg chat. I have also found the Guilds and our internal Stack Overflow Enterprise implementation really helpful in getting an expert opinion from others across the company.

“The open working space and flat hierarchy and culture in the office encourages a sense of belonging and boosts team spirit. I believe that brings a positive vibe to the working environment.”

– Nazia Shaikhji

Chris Neugebauer

Chris Neugebauer is a software engineer on the Real-time Distribution Platform team in Frankfurt, which builds the infrastructure that supports real-time market data distribution throughout the Bloomberg Terminal, to desktop applications like Excel, and to enterprise clients.

What’s your biggest challenge? What inspires you most about it?
One of the biggest challenges we face is building up our knowledge so we’re able to release new features to our clients. This means learning about all the stakeholders, familiarizing ourselves with the technical solutions, gathering necessary requirements, communicating timelines, and much more. I learned a lot about Bloomberg and my department during the recent release of a new feature.

What inspires me most is the fact that, from day one, we had the trust of our managers that we, as new team members, will be able to deliver this project. To see the new feature running in production is inspiring. We know it will help our clients in many ways and I look forward to their feedback.

How do you foster a collaborative, inclusive environment at work?
For me, a collaborative and inclusive environment is one in which everyone feels safe to bring in ideas and share their thoughts at any time. We work as a team, where each person has a contribution to make, and that means we grow and learn from each other.

In addition to fostering growth within my team, I also like learning from others outside of my team and do this by joining the frequent meetups and talks about Diversity & Inclusion that occur across the company. I try to take in the knowledge I’ve learned from such sessions and share it with my team. One example of this was a recent meeting of the Inclusive Code Review meetup. We discussed the power of words and the different levels of communication that take place in a highly interactive activity, such as writing code together.

In some ways, I think my involvement in Bloomberg’s interview process might be the area where I can have the most notable impact. From reviewing CVs to conducting technical interviews, this area offers many opportunities to train myself, to check my own biases, and to deliberately evaluate my decision-making. With each candidate, I learn something new and I hope that my efforts will help Bloomberg to build a collaborative and inclusive environment in the long run.

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?
As part of the larger Real-time Distribution Platform team, we communicate a lot with London and New York. We’re still quite a new team in Frankfurt and have been working closely with a team in London since the first day. We’ve had two additional engineers from that team join our sprints for roughly half a year to help us with onboarding. During this time, we also visited the team in London and those two engineers visited us in Frankfurt.

Nowadays, we work more independently, but still have to communicate a lot with the teams in London and New York. Compared with some other teams, we fall into the category of a feature team, which means that we enhance applications along the Real-time Distribution pipeline. This brings its very own challenges, like understanding another team’s release process or the architecture of the other applications. The great advantage is that we have the chance to talk to many people across different locations in order to establish a common understanding and share knowledge across the teams.

What else should we have asked you about? What else would you like to share about your Bloomberg experience?
After my interviews, I was certain Bloomberg had a lot to offer, starting from the Philanthropy program to the interesting technical challenges and its engineers’ involvement in standards committees like the C++ committee or as a member of ECMA International. Since joining the company, I’ve had the chance to meet different managers across Bloomberg and each of them had great technical understanding, which made it very easy to discuss problems and solutions on all levels. As an engineer at Bloomberg, there are plenty of opportunities and ways to grow, and the company is very supportive here.

“…from day one, we had the trust of our managers that we, as new team members, will be able to deliver this project. To see the new feature running in production is inspiring.”

– Chris Neugebauer

Check out some of the open roles with the teams in our Frankfurt Engineering office here and here.