Lisanne de Groot

Lisanne de Groot | Bloomberg

Lisanne de Groot

Technology began as something I avoided; I never expected technology to inspire me so much.

I had no interest in technology when I entered university as a chemistry major, having avidly avoided computer science in high school as I felt it was too difficult and math-oriented. I was disappointed to discover that taking a Computer Science class was a graduation requirement, but I was quickly captivated. This class sparked my desire to pursue a Computer Science minor and made me fall in love with the world of technology.

This class sparked my passion for giving students with a non-technical background the safety to explore computer science, and led me to apply to be a Teaching Assistant for the introductory class. As a teaching assistant I taught weekly classes, guest lectures, and individually tutored students. Three years into teaching I had the opportunity to be a guest professor at my university to teach the introductory class over the summer.

Following graduation, I knew I wanted to launch my career in software, and was ecstatic to join Bloomberg in 2020. I joined a typescript team working on buy-side decision support products for portfolio managers. I specifically work to build out the ability to send trades directly from a position analysis application. This has involved building a compliance action with popup screens that automatically advance and close given on the state of the compliance check. I have also taken on the process of supporting multiple asset types in our application as it rolls out to new clients, as well as worked with a team to create and maintain our UI regression tests in an effort to get 100% of our client-facing workflows tested.

I also contribute significantly in the Diversity and Inclusion spaces in Bloomberg. I run a program in my area of engineering called AIMclusion that focuses on having conversations in small facilitated groups about topics in D&I. In addition, I am also on the committee of the LGBTQ+ network, and have worked on events like the first trans allyship training, as well as being involved with the Bloomberg Women in Technology Allyship committee, which creates educational initiatives for allies to learn more about the experiences of women in technology.

Entering a software engineering role with little-to-no professional software experience left me with many challenges (not the least of which started with “what in the world is Jira”), but has also been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I’ve grown more in this role than I could have ever imagined, both in technical knowledge as well as as a person and woman in technology.

Alia Shafir featured

Inspirational Woman: Alia Shafir | Head of mobile QA, Bloomberg

Alia ShafirAlia is the head of Mobile QA within Engineering at Bloomberg in London.

She previously led engineering teams who built collaboration systems and in her early days managed data protection for an investment bank. She’s passionate about improving how we work and excels both in the world of testing and beyond. She believes the secret to success lies in good communication, a positive attitude and our ability to relate to one another. She likes to build things, solve puzzles and drink red wine, sometimes all at the same time.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I have a Business Degree with a concentration in Information Systems from Washington State University. Having started in business at university, it was really where I had my first light bulb moment for technology through an “introduction to coding” class I took. I really understood the logic and process of technology as a tool to create things and solve problems.

From university, I took a more traditional route into business via banking and consultancy but always had an interest in tech. After working for an investment bank for several years, I was offered an opportunity to run an engineering team and fully make the jump into tech. It was a bit of trial by fire and - while I made loads of mistakes - I learned a lot. I loved it and never looked back.

I joined Bloomberg eight years ago, starting in New York with a data visualisation team and ultimately moved to London where I am now - Head of Mobile Quality Assurance (QA) at Bloomberg responsible for software testing.

When I first took on the Mobile QA challenge, it was daunting. I had no background managing QA teams specifically.  In order to prepare, I spent a lot of time talking to other QA professionals, my team, my peers and asking a lot of questions. I read as much as I could find, watched videos and presentations from experts in the QA field. I focused on where we were and where testing was evolving in order to put a transformation plan in place.

Four years later, we have completely reshaped the way we do QA for Mobile at Bloomberg.  My team transitioned from manual test analysts to automation engineers and rolled out a testing framework they created using open source tools. They have developed solid technical skills and now write code as a primary part of their day. Their efforts have had a massive impact on the business as we now can test our software more frequently and with more consistency than ever before.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I have never planned my career, which I know sounds bizarre.

My career has taken a lot of interesting turns over the years, not because I have actively planned the direction, but because I have remained open to opportunities. My goal has always been to find or create interesting work, to surround myself with smart people and find ways to have an impact. I never thought about career progression in terms of titles or hierarchy. That doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious, but that ambition manifests itself in seeking new information, finding new ways to do things, and constantly trying to improve.

An example of this is when I transitioned into technical roles. I wanted to have a role in technology, but I didn’t know exactly what it could be at the time. So, I focused on meeting and talking to as many people as possible to figure out my capabilities, what was interesting and how I could get there.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

My biggest challenges today stem from two things. 1) Because I don’t have a traditional technical background, I need to work a bit harder to make sure I understand the problems we encounter and consequences of the decisions I make. It’s surmountable, but it’s effort all the same. 2) Despite my outward confidence I still feel intimidated on occasion. I’m often the only woman in the room, I don’t have a technical background, what could I possibly offer that’s better than someone else?

It turns out, there are a variety of skills that help make you successful: skills like communication, systems thinking, logical reasoning, negotiation, and empathy. So, while my non-technical background might put me at a disadvantage at first, it’s not the thing that will hold me back. All the things I need for success, I have today and just need to remember to use those skills. I’ve found that the higher you move into management, learning to effectively communicate is a secret weapon I continue to hone and employ as often as I can.

Over the years, I have learned being a developer and becoming a manager of developers requires a completely different set of skills.  Despite this, I still feel an underlying pressure to prove my technical prowess to do my job based on the cultural norms in today’s tech world.  Perhaps that will continue to evolve as we see more people like me enter this domain.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

It’s really hard to think about my own career achievements without thinking about the teams that helped define these moments for me. Because truly, at work, we’re part of an ecosystem and we don’t succeed alone.

Looking back, some of my favourite times were the hard moments where success wasn’t guaranteed. While at Deutsche Bank, my team helped open a near shore development office in North Carolina. We started with a small crew in a construction site. No running water, no formal offices. None of us had ever taken on a challenge like this before. Over the next 18 months, we built the site to 160 engineers, created the operational functions and trained everyone in Agile - before Agile was mainstream. I made mistakes, I learned, and we created something bigger than ourselves. It was exhilarating.

I also often think achievements can be found in the small moments, the breakthroughs you get rallying a team behind an idea or selling a new idea to your biggest critic. For example, my team at Bloomberg knew we needed to make the shift from manual to automated testing. We landed on an open source framework we could modify and implement. It involved learning Python and gaining other technical skills we didn’t have yet. It also meant convincing our development counterparts that not only could we become a more technical team, but we could roll out a system that actually made testing more efficient and effective. We succeeded by communicating our plan and executing on it, asking for help when we needed it and learning along the way.

When you are a leader, it’s in those moments when the decision isn’t obvious you still need to choose a path anyway and keep moving forward.  It’s these moments that really define your character as a colleague and as a leader.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Having a growth mindset has taken me further in life than any other skill I possess. I like to focus on what’s possible and where I can have an impact. I spend time learning and feel strongly that I can figure out solutions to just about anything I encounter. Having this attitude changes your entire approach to solving problems and it also changes how you interact with others. I’m open to possibilities, I’m open to being wrong and trying again and I’m listening for ways I can learn from others. Continuing to try new things, without the fear of not getting it right the first time, has paid off in so many ways. I enter most problems thinking I can do this, it is just a matter of figuring out how. 

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Remember that at its core, technology is a tool to be used to solve real problems. Problem solving is the real job and tech is the way in which we get to do that job. If you shift your thinking to that perspective, you start to realise that there are also other tools you can use to solve these problems alongside the technology and how you wield those tools that will help make you successful.

This is why when we interview people at Bloomberg, we don’t just ask them to code, we ask them to talk the problem through, to show how they use communication and logic. Can we understand their main points? Do they listen to us in return and ask thoughtful questions? Do they exhibit a willingness to learn and experiment? How does the problem they are solving create customer value? These are all skills I see in outstanding candidates and these are the kind of people I love working with day to day.

The best developers I’ve worked with over the years have continued to grow their own written and verbal communication skills. They care about solving problems and they take time to establish rapport with colleagues. They listen, they engage, they iterate on solutions to achieve the best result. These skills aren’t unique to the technology world but are sometimes overlooked in favour of the technology itself. My advice s to make sure you have a solid foundation in technology but also focus on soft skills that will help you communicate effectively. 

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I think there are fewer barriers to women in tech than there were 10 or 20 years ago. But we still do not have enough women leaders to act as role models for the younger generation. I know many companies are actively working to change this balance, but it will take time. Embracing and celebrating a variety of leadership and communication styles will help accelerate this transition.

I hope after this tumultuous year, a shift towards flexible working for both men and women will also help encourage more women to join technology companies. This isn’t a problem companies can solve alone as there are societal pressures that put the burden of family on women more so than men. Even women who choose not to have children are impacted by this imbalance. As a society, we have chosen to celebrate long working hours and time away from the home as symbols of modern-day success. Although men often feel the pressure to perform and provide, women won’t engage at all if they know they can’t meet the demands of those extended hours. If we create a working environment that supports flexibility for both genders and doesn’t stigmatise it, we will encourage more women to enter the workforce at all levels.

Lastly, through my own experience, I know that building and maintaining a professional network is important. I’ve read networking accounts for half to 80% of all hiring. This means we are more likely to hire people we know and like, not strangers. It’s very easy to interact with people who are similar, who share the same education, upbringing, work experience.  We can do better. I think we can challenge ourselves to expand our networks to include others from diverse backgrounds. I believe if our networks contain a variety of people, our hiring will follow suit.

What do you think companies can do to support / progress the careers of women working in technology?

Companies can create more flexible roles for both men and women and must ensure these roles have a defined career path and are fairly considered for promotion. In practise, this means not penalising women for choosing a flexible role or, taking this one step further, encouraging men to do the same.

I often hear that it’s hard to hire qualified women leaders because they are a scarce resource. I struggle with the word “qualified”. There are many ways in which to succeed in a job. I wonder if some skills are overvalued for these leadership roles. Are we rejecting candidates because they don’t meet a set of impossible criteria because they come from a different background or have followed a different path? I would challenge companies to think critically about what they mean by “qualified” and start to hire with diversity (in all aspects) in mind. A diverse leadership team will have a massive impact on their ability to hire and retain future generations of technologists from all backgrounds.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Promote more women into leadership roles. Not only will they provide a different voice at the table, their seat at that table means there’s a path for all women. This in turn will help attract the younger generation of women to join and provide a stronger support system for these women when they get there.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

My recommendations for women are the same resources you’d recommend for men. Find blogs or newsletters who write in a style you connect with and on topics you care about. One thing I would passionately encourage is networking.

As a woman and mother, I feel pulled in many directions and these out of work-hours events are not a frequent option for me. So, it’s about making time for networking in a way that works for you, just like you would to go to the gym or your hobbies. That means going to lunch or coffee, or agreeing with my partner to watch the kids so I can make it to an evening event. There are many ways to do this both internally and externally and some organisations like Women in Agile London regularly run phenomenal networking events. The Lead Developer has a collection of in person and online workshops and often hosts conferences during the day. If you can find these events locally, you will build connections with interesting men and women in our industry.

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here

Roseanna McMahon

Roseanna McMahon | Bloomberg

Roseanna McMahon

After studying Computer Science and Maths at the University of Bath, I spent 4 years working as a Developer for a front office system at Nomura.

I recently moved to a position at Bloomberg where I am a Software Engineer in a Trading Systems team. I am primarily a Python developer, and outside of work I tutor both privately for students getting ready for exams but also for anyone picking up Python as a new language, whether that be just for fun or with a look towards a future career.

I am passionate about encouraging more women into STEM - particularly my field of software development! To aid this I have taught on several CodeFirst:Girls courses - teaching the basics of python development to classes of up to 40 women. Following this, I am now a mentor for the second ever set of CodeFirst:Girls fellowship courses providing advice and encouragement to a new set of instructors as they take on two more classes and a research project. I am also a STEM ambassador which enabled me earlier this year to be featured on the ZNotes podcast to talk about my experiences as a women in computer science. STEM ambassadors also led me last month to talk to primary school children as part of their 'maths week' celebrations where I spoke about where maths can take them in the future.

Throughout university I attended the BSC Lovelace Colloquium each year and I was inspired by the women I saw speak there. I'm flattered now to have the opportunity to share how exciting and varied this career can be, and I am now a mentor with Stemettes, currently paired with a girl who I hope I can be a role-model for as she starts her computer science journey.

Nalini Khattar

Nalini Khattar | Bloomberg

I am a highly passionate and innovative finance technology professional with 16 years of experience across multiple geographies, technologies and domains. After completing my post-graduation in Masters of Computer Applications from one of India’s esteemed Universities, consistently ranked at top of the class, I started working as a research engineer in Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT, a government of India undertaking). At C-DOT and later at Aricent Technologies (formerly Hughes Software Systems, USA), I developed a strong interest and skillset in networking technologies. I had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects across India and the USA and was promoted twice in 4 years when I became a Senior Technical Leader responsible for the architecture of multiple projects. I moved to the UK after getting married and following a year-long engagement with a start-up in the telecom sector, I started working for Bloomberg with the Realtime Market Data Feeds EMEA (RMFE) team in the Engineering Department.

Natalia Pryntsova

Natalia Pryntsova | Bloomberg

I always knew that a) I want to be an engineer b) I want to make some money to be able to support myself.

Back in Russia in 1994 becoming a software engineer was the answer for both "a" and "b" so I studied and graduated from Aerospace Instrumentations Uni in St. Petersburg in Computer Science.

After graduation there were many exciting years of getting hands-on, practical and variable experience in software development. I worked for consulting companies, outsourcing software houses, insurance companies and banks. That period gave me loads of experience and now I understand why answer to any design and architectural question is "it depends". The trick is no know what it depends on.

In 2015 I joined my current place of work, Bloomberg.
I joined as .Net Senior Developer and after two years moved to be a team lead and use C++ as main language. As you can imaging going from .Net 2018 stack to C++ 1998 stack was not an easy transition but with support of my team and company it was successful.

Currently I am running a team in Portfolio Management in Bloomberg. I really enjoy it because the product we are developing is very popular and we see the impact quickly but also there is space for new design ideas and technical innovation.

Becky Plummer

Becky Plummer | Bloomberg LP

Becky Plummer

Becky Plummer is the software engineering team leader responsible for content collaboration applications for the Bloomberg Terminal and the Global Head of the Engineering Champions Program. Becky made a name for herself as a software engineer by creating the trade confirmation alerting system that was fully crash recoverable for the Bloomberg Fixed Income Electronic Trading platform. She created the Engineering Champions program in 2011 to empower developers to influence change and collaborate on improving the development environment tools. Finally, she has run both small scale implementation projects as well as cross engineering projects including hundreds of developers. She is a graduate of University of Maine and Columbia University with a Master’s degree in Computer Science. Joined Bloomberg LP in New York in 2006 and moved to London in 2014 to gain a global perspective.

Talks and news articles:

TEDx Compiègne: Prediction for 2050 : Innovation because of women
BBC: What if there were more women in tech?
Telegraph: Without more women in technology…
Huffington Post: Beyond Ada...