Why PEAK6 lets engineers explore every side of the business

by Andreas Rekdal
May 14, 2018
peak6 chicago tech company
image via peak6 investments

As a trading firm with strategies rooted firmly in technology, PEAK6 encourages its team members to explore areas of interest across every facet of the business.

For some engineers, that means learning the ins and outs of trading. For Palak Jain, the road to the chief technology officer position involved working with recent college grads on career development and collaborating with senior leadership on the trading firm’s tech strategy.

We spoke with Jain about her career path, PEAK6’s technological evolution and what the firm looks for when hiring for its tech team.

 

You started your career as a PEAK6 engineer in 2009. Now you’re the CTO. What’s that journey been like?

PEAK6 was my first job out of college. As a software engineer, I got the opportunity to build sophisticated trading applications for different PEAK6 businesses. I soon started taking more ownership of bigger projects, which led into a tech lead role.

About five years ago, I started mentoring our recent college hires and chose to invest more time in their career growth. As the technology team grew, my role started to expand and I found myself partnering with other senior leaders to set strategic and technical direction for the organization. While my passion to grow the team and technology might have led me to the CTO position, I’m grateful for the support from my team and senior leadership that encouraged me to take on this new level of responsibility.

Mobility within the firm is the norm, not the exception.”

How has PEAK6’s technology evolved in that time?

We were a complete Windows .Net/C++ shop up until six years ago. Our technology has evolved a lot since then, and I can proudly say we have some cool, innovative tech that sets us apart from other fintech firms. For example, it’s pretty uncommon for a trading firm to have their execution system written in Java or to have production systems written in Golang.

 

PEAK6 puts an emphasis on letting engineers move around within the organization. Why is that?

Why not? Engineers are curious by nature and like to challenge themselves. We hire smart, versatile talent and we want to ensure that there are learning opportunities in house so that employees can grow holistically. It’s also a great way to cross-share knowledge among different teams.

Mobility within the firm is the norm, not the exception. Employees have the opportunity to join different projects and teams within the firm, as well as explore areas on the investment side of the business. This can help them broaden their knowledge and skills, and in many cases discover new passions and talents.

 

What do you look for in new hires?

Of course we evaluate technical skills, but the number one requirement we look for in candidates is that they’re culture fits. At PEAK6, we live and breathe our core values around collaboration, grit, ownership and adaptability. Having a passion for technology and continuous learning is also huge, because it’s essential for our employees to understand how the technologies we use or want to use fit into our projects and environment.

Additionally, the ability to problem solve and navigate ambiguity in a fast-paced environment is important. We look for employees who embrace change and can leverage their resources — and yes, that sometimes means Google — to drive products forward and make an impact.

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