CAREER ADVICE

My Career Roadmap: Core Engineering with Bob Van Zant

January 31, 2020

Our engineers set out to solve some of the most complex technology challenges in the world with a wide range of computational techniques.  For that reason, we bring together elite Engineers to design, develop, test, and deploy elegant solutions that help us identify and execute on opportunities in financial markets. In order to provide you with the opportunity to learn from their careers, we sat down with Bob Van Zant, a Software Engineer on the Core Engineering team, in this edition of My Career Roadmap to help you understand how Software Engineers make an impact on our firm and their own careers.

What did your career look like early on?

I don’t think I took the conventional road to the firm and the world of financial markets. As background, I have been writing software with a commercial value since I was 16. I went onto college in the San Francisco Bay Area and decided, primarily based on the dot-com boom at the time, that I should continue working in the Bay Area at a startup. I joined a startup named IronPort working on anti-spam products until Cisco acquired IronPort. I continued at Cisco for a few years.

After IronPort, I worked on the platform team at Eventbrite and got the opportunity to build tools like high volume event entry systems. I also helped build the software that Eventbrite uses behind the ticket scanning devices you see at events like major concerts or music festivals.

Then, as many do in Silicon Valley, I joined the founding team of a funded startup. There, we built security software for Fortune 500 enterprises.

What initially intrigued you about joining the Engineering team?

While I did not know much about Citadel or Citadel Securities at the time, I knew what mattered to me – being in an environment where I could make a significant business impact with technology.

Heading into the interview I assumed that the firm might be behind the technology curve. Instead, I found my interview panel to be top-notch technologists across a variety of disciplines. I met people that pushed me to think about and solve problems in areas I had never even thought of and at impressive scale. I learned about the firm’s commitment and experience in stretching technology every single day in order to remain a leader in this ultra-competitive market.

When reflecting on my interview and deciding whether or not I wanted to make the switch, I concluded that, yes, I could make a significant business impact. In addition, I realized I’d be surrounded by people who are as passionate and committed to executing at the highest levels as I strive to be. I saw that in the interview and I see it every day at the office.

After you joined the Core Engineering team, were you surprised by anything?

I was surprised by how fast people operated. People get things done way faster than I had seen previously in my career. People here are simply committed to delivering improvements to the business on an almost daily basis.

I was also surprised by how helpful and supportive my colleagues have all been. During my first days, weeks, and continuing into today, I can walk up to anyone in this company and reach out for guidance or help; knowing that one of my colleagues here will drop what they’re doing and help. It’s amazing.

What, in a nutshell, is Core Engineering?

We have a huge variety of roles on our Core Engineering team. We build software and systems that enable other software engineers to quickly, reliably, and securely build, test, and ship their trading strategies to production.

In essence, we enable the business to crank out internal products and produce output. The software systems we create underlie all the products that the product developers build. Core Engineering is about building these underlying systems and platforms. If you like working on these kinds of systems Core Engineering is probably a great fit for you.

What’s a day like for you as a Software Engineer on the Core Engineering team?

Naturally, we write a lot of code. A fair amount of our time is hands-on-a-keyboard telling a computer what to do. We have a modern tech stack and we develop against state-of-the-art hardware.

Coming from product companies, I’m used to hopping on a plane to go meet with my customers. At our firm, I can just hop on the elevator. We spend a lot of time interacting with other teams in the firm, such as the quantitative research team. We work with them to identify problem areas, to co-develop solutions, and to keep them engaged in the development process.

If you are a great engineer without financial industry experience don’t let that prevent you from jumping into Citadel.  If you are anything like my teammates and me you’ll love the challenge that entering a new industry provides.

Learn more about our Engineering opportunities: https://www.citadel.com/careers/open-positions/software-technology/