Welcome to Bloomberg. The company delivers data to customers across the globe in milliseconds, and relies on one thing to do so: technology. The research and development (R&D) team is responsible for developing, building and delivering the systems and functions the business depends on. Here, we catch up with Paul Williams, a senior manager within R&D, and Kassem Wridan, a software developer in the Mobile team, to find out more...
What is the Bloomberg terminal?
The Bloomberg Professional Service, better known as "the terminal", is Bloomberg's core product. The terminal delivers real-time financial information and news to more than 310,000 customers in finance and government worldwide.
"Our users rely on the terminal because it gives them all the up-to-the-minute and historical data they need - both in raw form and analysed - so they can make their business decisions wisely," explains Paul.
When it was first developed, the terminal ran on custom-built hardware, but it's now a piece of software that runs on a PC, connected to two or more monitors. "Typically a user will have a number of windows displaying data and rely heavily on the keyboard, which features short-cut keys to access functions displayed on the desktop," says Paul. The terminal features over 30,000 functions, which provide real-time overviews of different markets.
Many users of the terminal now want to access information from their mobile devices. The Mobile group builds software specifically for phones and tablets, and adapts existing software, so real-time financial data and news can be accessed and displayed on a much smaller screen.
In London there's a team of around 30 programmers dedicated to building applications for mobile devices. Demand for mobile products, such as the iPad app Bloomberg Anywhere, is growing rapidly.
Kassem graduated from the University of Surrey with a degree in Electronic Engineering in 2011. He then joined Bloomberg as a software developer in the Mobile team, which sits within R&D.
How did you become interested in financial technology?
I became interested in software development when I took some related courses at university as part of my degree. Initially I didn't consider applying for a role at Bloomberg, but a friend told me how important technology is here and suggested it would be an exciting place to work.
I did some research and discovered the variety of technology-based roles at Bloomberg, which convinced me to apply. When I attended my interview, I was struck by how happy everyone was and I realised Bloomberg would be an excellent environment to work in and develop my career.
Did you know much about finance when you applied?
No. I was a bit worried about not having a background in finance, but it wasn't a problem at all. My interview was entirely about software development, my previous experience and my motivations.
When I joined Bloomberg, I signed up for some optional courses in finance to improve my understanding of the business. I found them interesting and they've helped me perform better in my job because I can now appreciate how the applications I write will be used.
Can you explain what your job involves?
My team and I are responsible for moving the functionality available to customers on the terminal to their mobile devices, such as phones and tablets. My job involves both maintaining applications that are already available to customers by updating or enhancing them, and developing and implementing brand new functions - which is the fun part!
Can you tell us about a project you've worked on recently?
I've been involved in redesigning the look and feel of our iPad app, Bloomberg Anywhere, to make it more user-friendly for our customers.
First, our design team produced several different visual designs for the app. Then my team and I had a planning session to identify how we could adapt our existing mobile functions to fit the new designs.
There are five of us in the team, and we each went away to work on adapting and improving a particular feature on the app. For example, I worked on enhancing the message function, which now enables our customers to view their conversation history with someone, instead of just receiving individual messages.
We then reconvened and consolidated our work into a test application, which was sent to our testers and internal users to play with. It's still in the testing phase at the moment, but we'll respond to the feedback we receive and then publish it to the App Store when everyone gives the go-ahead.
What's the working environment like at Bloomberg?
It's very team-based. Every morning we have a stand-up meeting in which everyone gets together to talk about what we're working on and any issues we're facing. If I'm stuck with something, someone will always offer to pair up with me to help solve the problem, and I do the same for my colleagues. We always review each other's work too, and give advice on how we can work together to improve it.
What technical skills do you need to do your job?
If you're passionate about software development and have the motivation to learn, you'll be given the opportunity to do so at Bloomberg.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love coming to work each day because it's fun! My work is interesting, my colleagues have become my friends, and we're constantly communicating and collaborating, which makes the job very stimulating.