What first attracted you to Optiver?
I had an idea I’d like to do something quantitative or pricing related. I soon realised I’d need computing knowledge if I was to solve the types of problems that really interested me. I joined Optiver about halfway through my Computer Science degree. The problems that Optiver was trying to solve attracted me, and it seemed like an interesting place to work.
What does your role entail?
I work in our Korean market team. I spend my morning with the Traders, talking about what has been happening, ensuring the trading platform is running smoothly.
As I’ve become more senior I’ve taken on larger pieces of development work, some deployment, analysis and evaluation, code reviews for colleagues, discussing new projects on the horizon. It depends where we are in the development cycle. The majority of my work is in C++ because it’s so effective from a latency perspective, and a little in Python for some of the data work.
What skills are important in your role?
At a Graduate level here, the level of ownership is huge. There’s a focus on doing great development work and delivering something on time that solves a real business problem that we’re facing. What makes them so interesting is the business context. It’s definitely a plus to be interested in the domain. Not everyone will have that when they first join but being curious to learn will definitely help.
Solid development skills are critical and it’s important that you enjoy being challenged. Knowing data structures, understanding the value of different languages and how they impact performance. We might be a little less technical than a pure technology company, as our challenge is more about understanding the needs of our traders and developing the right solutions.
Who do you work with?
This is one of the areas we differ to many technology companies. Because of the large volume of components in our system, we work in small units, and most applications will have only 2-3 Developers working on them. My main stakeholders are traders. I work very closely with them which is nice because we can deeply understand the problem they’re trying to solve and we can get quick feedback on our ideas.
The biggest problem you’ve solved so far?
I’ve enjoyed a lot of the projects I’ve worked on. Last year we were upgrading our auto traders, and I was responsible for rewriting the code in our trading strategies. There were many intricacies to consider how we wanted it to behave, and how we would get the most value out of it. Considering if it was going to be fast enough or accurate enough; that was really fun.
Favourite part of working at Optiver?
It’s not just about here’s a problem, solve it and then it’s done forever. It’s more like here’s a possible solution, and how can we make it even better. What are the potential upsides and downsides to alternative ideas. We’re really about continuous improvement and lots of iteration. After you’ve made an improvement it’s nice to be able to point to the results and know you were responsible.
I also like the people. It’s a friendly place to work, and I’ve learnt a lot from my colleagues.
What challenges did you face initially?
When I first started, I worked more autonomously than you would in other places. It is a lot of responsibility for someone just starting out, and it is quite a challenge. We didn’t have a formal graduate program then, so that made it tougher to integrate into the company. Things have improved now; we have a buddy program and a Head of Technology Education who oversees the Graduates and manages their experience in the first 12 months.
Any advice to potential candidates?
Optiver is a great place if you enjoy a challenge, working autonomously and you are really keen to learn. You may not know much about finance, but if you’re curious about the industry it is a pretty great place to work. In terms of interviewing, try and be relaxed so we can see the real you. No one is looking for perfection.