On Monday, April 26th, as participants started their seventh week of course instruction, we hosted our eighth Town Hall with two software engineers who work in technology groups at BlackRock, Inc., the world’s largest asset management company which has approximately 1,500 technologists.
Our guest speakers shared their backgrounds in software development, the tech skills required for their roles, typical projects that they work on at BlackRock, trends in the industry and much more. Ajax Green is Vice President and Senior Software Engineer in the Investment Systems group within the Aladdin Product Group, which manages technology used by researchers, portfolio managers, traders, risk managers and investment operations.
“Try to imagine anything you can think of that would be finance related, and we build software for it,” said Ajax. “From dividing up your portfolio into asset allocations to executing trades to coming up with new ideas.”
Ajax shared how when he was first hired as a developer in 2000, he was asked to write Java code on the job but didn’t know how to, so he read the O’Reilly book about it, twice. He said he still has to learn new things all of the time and at first, it always feels like you’re never going to figure it out.
“It always looks opaque at first, and you think, ‘there’s no way I’m going to figure it out,’” he said. “You have to work on it and work on it, and one day, the door opens and you figure it out. It’s about being persistent and not giving up, and knowing that if it can be built, it can be taken apart. It’s like a puzzle: you can’t see the solution for a long time but if you look at it long enough, the solution will present itself.
My Doan, Analyst, is an engineer in Alphagen Technology group, which helps BlackRock investment groups deliver strong alpha performance to clients by providing alpha-enabling technology and model engineering services. She started as an intern with BlackRock, and has been in a rotational analyst program for the past two years, rotating technology departments every six months.
When asked for advice about working computer programming, My said: “I found that you have to systematically break down the problem: what is the problem and how I’m trying to solve it. It’s a lot of problem-solving skills, because once you learn how to solve the problem, learning the language isn’t as complicated.”
Ajax said one thing that people don’t seem to think about putting an investment in is the importance of interpersonal communications. “If you want to be successful in this role you have to be effective at communicating your ideas to other people: be able to talk in front of people, and describe your idea succinctly.”