To Akuna Capital's CTO, challenges are the best parts of the job

June 19, 2017

As CTO of a fast-growing derivatives trading firm, Chris Smith knows a thing or two about performance optimization.

Akuna Capital’s trading systems have to withstand unpredictable moments of volatility, during which data throughput can be 10 times higher than usual. At the same time, those systems need to be faster than those of Akuna’s competitors without becoming prohibitively expensive to run.

To Smith, having the chance to solve those challenges alongside colleagues from diverse backgrounds is precisely what makes Akuna a great place to work. In his words: “There are no cookie-cutter molds here.”

What technologies power your business?   

Cutting-edge, proprietarily developed technologies in software (mostly C++, Python, C# and JavaScript) and FPGA drive Akuna’s platform forward. Using the latest low-latency network hardware and high-performance servers with acceleration allows us to be as agile as possible in an extremely competitive and ever-changing industry. We use in-house data analysis and modeling tools to enable simple, clean access to researchers, traders and developers for hundreds of gigabytes of captured data a day.

What is the best part of working for Akuna as a senior developer?

There are no cookie-cutter molds here — you will have the opportunity to learn from a diverse group of people and experiences from inside and outside of the finance industry. A number of employees at Akuna have worked at trading firms before and have learned a lot from that, but we still try to take a different approach where needed. Senior technical people get to own a piece of the system, drive its priorities and interact with the business and traders.

What are the most important tech developments you’re watching right now?

Akuna is passionate about staying ahead of the latest tech developments — specifically next-generation FPGA, GPU and SoC technologies and advancements in the networking space. We’re also constantly evaluating the latest compiler technologies as we strive to eke out every bit of performance in the low-latency areas of our strategy. The other side of the coin is receiving, storing, processing and evaluating huge amounts of data at scale from multiple sources — two very different problems with equally exciting technologies to explore.

What sets your team apart?

Collaboration and open teams with no silos. We have created an environment that gives employees the ability to change teams easily should they wish to advance their skill set or grow in another area. We also have dynamic priorities, and we are able to change course quickly based on market or business conditions. Our size helps that. We’re neither too small to take on a number of large, complex projects nor too big to change direction quickly.

What do you look for when hiring for engineers?

Apart from robust technical skills, we are big on ownership across all aspects: engineers and quants who have the “x factor” and who are willing to go the extra mile. An interest in solving interesting technical problems and having the initiative to find new ways of solving existing problems are great traits that make for a successful engineer.

 

Image via Akuna Capital. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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