Well, it’s been almost a year since an update, and I have a new job as of August, which says a lot about my last job at Citadel.
It was a great opportunity and I loved my boss, but it was tough to work 10 hour days and the company culture was toxic at times (no concept of team, just a bunch of individuals), so ultimately when something came along that I really wanted to be a part of I decided to make the jump. It’s super refreshing to go from an on-call rotation which had two people in it to one that has eight - and since I left a 1,500+ person company to join a ~150 person company, that should tell you a lot more about the concept of team vs individual.
Would I work in finance again? Possibly, but I think it’d have to be for a smaller company. I’d definitely work with my boss and a few of the other engineers I worked closely with again though - they were great. I was also grateful to get to learn some cool new tech like Vertica and brush up on some older but still solid tech like MS SQL.
Now I’m at Confluent and I’m an SRE helping to build out their brand-spanking new cloud product (kafka as a service) and I love it. I’m 100% remote (still in Chicago) but I’ll be heading to the bay area a few times per year to sync up, bond, etc.
I’ll talk more about what we’re doing and how we do what we do after the product starts to gain more traction, but for now I wanted to talk a little more about Citadel. Perhaps the strangest thing is that I went from a place where I was widely regarded as an expert to a place where I’ve got as much to learn as anyone (perhaps more). This is something I’ve noticed after talking to a lot of friends in similar positions that I’m not alone in - great engineers strive to always be learning because we know what it means to fall behind and become complacent.
Sure it was nice to be looked up to, (especially by people who are industry heavyweights in their own right), but it also felt weird. Like, you’re 20 years older than me - I shouldn’t have to be explaining the benefits of configuration management to you. Or, you’ve been doing this for 30 years - how can you possibly not be implementing (or at least know about) separation of concerns or high availability? It’s fascinating how once a company starts to hit its business stride, the tech can fall by the wayside because as long as it’s “good enough” there’s little to no incentive to improve anything… Maybe that explains what happened to Equifax.
That’s the other big problem with a lot of companies - not picking on just Citadel here - they think of their business in terms of “the money makers” and “the cost centers”. This is a very antiquated way of thinking about employees and job responsibilities IMO. You can’t really say that that trader who happens to know a good strategy and executes on it well “earned” his millions when all the tech he’s relying on to make that strategy execute successfully took just as much (if not more) time and skill to build out. It’s just as ridiculous to ask the trader to set up a hadoop cluster as it would be to ask the data engineer to set up the trading strategy, isn’t it? (Actually in my experience there’s a much better chance the data engineer could set up the trading strategy than the trader setting up the hadoop cluster, but I digress..) So if everyone has a part in the success of a particular business outcome, why not reward everyone equally?
I don’t have a great answer to this problem - clearly there is an industry wide problem - but I do like the models that are coming out of some companies like buffer where everything is transparent, and more importantly, their rationale behind how much they pay each person is also open for review and discussion to anyone.
My final observation on the job change is this - recruiters, HR people, and anyone out there wondering how to build a great team - you can’t care enough about your employees’ well-being. Only a few people are motivated by money and nothing else, and in my experience, those sorts of people don’t necessarily produce the best-quality work anyway, nor are they the most driven.
What really drives GREAT engineers (and all employees actually) is the ability to learn AND apply what they already know to drive real business value and make a difference. I’m beyond thrilled by the transparency at Confluent and the knowledge that if I want to make a change I’ll be able to do just that. I don’t think this has to apply to just startups, either - I think big transparent companies are going to become the norm in the next couple decades.