At PEAK6, we’re redefining what it means to be an investment firm. We’re driven to see solutions others don’t — and capitalize on opportunities others miss. At the heart of our trading operation is our sophisticated, proprietary technology. Palak Jain is a Software Engineer Manager and one of the wildly talented technologists who help make PEAK6 one of the top trading firms out there. Read more about her story, why she’s a rising star and her advice for other women in technology.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in technology?
Ever since high school, I knew I wanted to get into Comp Science. I was always fascinated with robots. I loved playing video games and I started coding games pretty early on. I always believed there’s so much technology can do and, for me, it was an obvious career choice.
Why did you choose to work for PEAK6?
Well, at first I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Like most developers, I didn’t naturally gravitate toward financial services. However, I was intrigued by what they offer as an organization and as a career. Technologically, they’re pretty sophisticated and I liked the challenge of working on something where your work is out there, on the front-lines. Plus, as a prop trading firm, I work directly with the end users so I get immediate feedback, which is something I like. And because it’s not a huge team, I saw the opportunity for growth. So I took a leap.
Fortunately, it’s was a great decision. I have been here for 7+ years now and the reason I chose to stay is because of the opportunities presented to me. Learning and growing are extremely valued here. We get the freedom to try new things and work on new technologies. My role has changed almost every year and my mentors and managers have always pushed me to take on new challenges. I am now a Software Engineering manager and manage/mentor new talent and continue to pass on what I have learned over the years.
What obstacles have you encountered as a woman in tech and how has PEAK6 empowered you to overcome them?
Very early on in my career, when I was getting my master’s, I was part of an organization where women had very clear barriers. I saw men getting more challenging projects and their ideas and opinions carried more weight. I hated it. Fortunately, my experience at PEAK6 has been the exact opposite. There’s a gender blindness here that’s oddly refreshing. Perhaps it’s because the firm was co-founded by a woman, Jenny Just, but there has always been equal opportunity for everyone at PEAK6. I have been able to speak up or share my opinions from Day One. I feel merit and hard work is what is valued here above everything else.
What have you learned in your career, especially at PEAK6, that you will take with you forever?
For starters, never be afraid to try new things. Our business thrives on new ideas and that’s taught me that you have to take on new challenges and put yourself out there. Of course, it has also taught me that it’s okay to fail. As I’ve begun managing teams and working with new graduates, that’s one of the hardest lessons to learn. Everyone wants to be perfect — especially when a lot of money is on the line — but if we don’t try and be willing to fail then it’s hard to move forward professionally and personally. Lastly, be adaptable. Especially as a technologist and the pace at which the tech world is changing, it’s really important to be able to handle change if you want to continuously grow. Plus, that adaptability is how you learn to try new things!
What advice would you give to other women looking to advance themselves in the tech field or be involved in this initiative?
Most importantly, never underestimate yourself or think there is less opportunity for you simply because of your gender. There are tons of opportunities out there – from boot camps to online hackathons, conferences, internships, etc. – all of which are amazing ways to grow your skills as well as collaborate, network and get career advice. Plus, there are so many places out there committed to helping women grow and advance, PEAK6 being one of them.
We’ve developed a female internship program for women to come work for us and see how it is to work in a Fintech firm. We’ve also organized a Kids Coding Camp to encourage kids, especially girls, to get into this field at a very young age. I, myself, have given talks to women across various campuses and schools and I tutor high school girls, encouraging and showing them different career opportunities. And, finally, to any woman who’s unsure whether this is the right field for her — I would urge you to be passionate about learning and know that if you believe you can do anything, then technology is a worthwhile path for you to achieve that.