Experiences

Bloomberg: The Hidden Technology Giant

Bloomberg Courtyard at 731 Lexington Ave (Bloomberg)

The Bloomberg Courtyard at 731 Lexington Ave (Bloomberg)

When I told my mom that I would be interning at Bloomberg this summer her first response was, “Oh, so you’re going to be bringing him coffee and shining his shoes?” I gave a wry smile, and then politely responded, “No, I’m going to be working at one of the best technology companies in the world.”

When I arrived each morning at the Bloomberg offices in Midtown, Manhattan, I was always enamored by the cavernous, curved glass and metal lobby spanning the two sides of the building. It houses the main pantry which is filled with a continuous supply of snacks, drinks and coffee. On one side it has one of the world’s only curved escalators, and on the other they film a segment of the news every day. The activity is electric.

The openness and buzz of activity doesn’t end with the lobby. Each floor has an open floor plan where everyone, regardless of their position, sits at a desk as a part of a long row of tables. There are no substantial dividers between desks, fostering many lively discussions. People are encouraged to go over to other people’s desks, when appropriate, to discuss problems they are working on. There is an audible hum of conversations, keyboard clacking and the occasional passionate debate about the pros and (mostly) cons of C++.

Curved Escalator (Bloomberg)

Curved Escalator (Bloomberg)

What further impressed me was the responsibility I was given with my project in the Software Infrastructure group. It was not a toy project, but a meta-build system that generated Makefiles and Microsoft Visual Studio project files from our directory structure, increasing the productivity of over 80 developers. At the end of the day, I designed and architected the underlying implementation and public facing APIs from scratch.

Having complete ownership of my project was great, but at the same time came with some downsides. I put in long hours and hard work to meet the deadlines, feeling compelled by the strong focus on creating the best product possible. Bloomberg’s emphasis on the product and to be the first to market also led to moments where proper code design was passed over in favor of deploying a feature. This led to more work maintaining the system in the long run. It induced a slight paralysis to change anything for the fear of breaking a component. Occasionally original bugs even morphed though misuse into features that then had to be supported.

Typical Bloomberg Floor Layout (Business Insider)

Typical Bloomberg Floor Layout (Business Insider)

The internship wasn’t just work. There were a lot of fun events where we mixed and mingled with the 85 R&D interns and 300 other interns at the company. We had our opening event at the 79th Street Boat Basin Café, and were taken to a Yankees game with our mentors. The best event of all was the company-wide summer picnic on Randall’s Island, featuring lots of delicious food and fun activities.

Also, every week, a senior manager spoke to the entire intern class about their experiences in the industry and at Bloomberg. When concluding they frequently ended their talks inviting us to reach out and continue the conversation. One week, after a good talk by the CTO, Shawn Edwards, I decided to take him up on his offer. Almost immediately I had arranged a meeting and was able to talk to him about anything. Despite my questions on company culture, proper engineering design and general advice, the most meaningful part was when he asked me how I would engage more college students with Bloomberg on campus and actually listened to my response.

After seeing the focus Bloomberg puts on their product and solving hard technical problems, they have, at least in my mind, shifted from being merely a media and financial services company to one of the great technology companies.

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