My Tech Career Roadmap: Tech vs Finance with Josh Woods

Welcome back to My Career Roadmap, a
series where we help you make career decisions based on the experiences of
high performers here at Citadel Securities. I’m Jonathan Blank on the Corporate Affairs team and today we’re thrilled to
sit down with Josh Woods, Head of Systemic Trading Technology here at the
firm. Josh thanks for joining us. Prior to joining Citadel Securities you had a career in the tech industry at
places like Oracle and Salesforce. Could you tell us a little bit about what what
it was about the financial services industry that piqued your interest. I’ve been interested in finance and investing for a decent amount of time. As I started
to understand the role that technology played in modern finance and
particularly market making I got really interested. There really aren’t that many
industries today where such a diverse set of cutting-edge technologies can be
applied to meaningful problems. I think like many technologists I like building
things to get used and they have to perform and they have to scale and we
certainly have a lot of challenges in this space and it’s just really critical
to the business. So that’s what really excited me about the industry. So you thought about how you wanted to build and you wanted to scale and that
led you to the financial services industry. What then particularly led you to Citadel Securities. In a single word I think really just the trajectory of the company. You know if you look at what
they done and kind of the track record and and the growth rate you know I just
thought it was really compelling and I like to look at trajectory as a whole
as a pretty important indicator. I also felt that Citadel Securities was right
sized for me after building out everything from technology organizations and startups to working at some of the biggest names in tech I was
really interested in moving to a company that I felt was kind of at this sweet
spot of being small enough where we’re really everybody could have a meaningful
impact and move the needle and I hadn’t worked at a company of that size so that
was pretty exciting. Finally, during the interview process, it wasn’t even so much
that I met a lot of experts, because you do find that in many places, but I met a lot of experts in just
different areas where I haven’t even met experts in those fields before and they
were really deep in their expertise and I’m pretty motivated by
learning so the opportunities to learn a bunch of different things I didn’t
really know much about at once was pretty compelling. We’re glad that your career trajectory brought you to Citadel Securities. So you met these
experts. You got an offer to join the firm. We’re thrilled that you accepted.
I’m sure there was some things going through your mind about the unknowns that were possible at a at a new industry and at a new firm. Can you tell us a little bit about what your expectations were for joining the firm and if there
was any challenges that you anticipated. Part of the reason why I signed up for
Citadel Securities was I knew the culture was high performance so you know
I knew it would be a challenge and probably the biggest thing that you know
I was sort of nervous about was the domain knowledge gap. You know not
surprisingly I suppose, but that was also part of what drew me here; right the new learning, the new opportunity, and while it absolutely has been a challenge
particularly in the domain knowledge space and coming up to speed,
Citadel Securities is very flat company and everybody really has access to all
the experts here so it’s a huge advantage when changing industries and
it’s allowed me to ramp up really quickly and have that kind of support. In the end it’s also not as dissimilar as I thought
from past moves I’ve made. Unless you’re working in pure consumer
technology where you are the end-user you’re probably supporting some
different industry where you know you might not know what the requirements are and deeply understand them. So there’s always that learning curve no
matter what so overall I think you know it’s very overcome-able and you get a
lot of support in terms of figuring these things out. So Josh let’s turn to your to your current role. I’m sure there’s a number of your peers who are
listening who are probably wondering what does a technology professional do
at a at a market maker. Could you just give us a sense for a day in life of
Josh woods? Like anybody’s role every day is
different but you know I would say the main themes are you know I spend a lot
of time discussing or reviewing some lower-level technical details related to
some project. You know everything from architecture to handling of some
specific optimization or issue. I also work closely with various teams
who use or drive requirements for our trading platform. So you need to
ensure quantitative researchers have the right capabilities to meet their trading
needs. We have to ensure all the compliance requirements are met. I
think we also spend a lot of time dealing with critical issues. One of the aspects that’s exciting about working here is
we’re building something that’s truly important to the efficient functioning
of markets around the world. It’s something we take really. We’re here to address any issues. And I spend a lot
of time working on our higher level technical strategy and the team
composition. How do we be more efficient? How do we attract and retain
the top talent and and grow people in the right way? So I think in those senses
it’s not it’s not so dissimilar to you know the day to day life of a
technology manager at a traditional software industry. That’s really helpful to know some of the similarities. Now that you’ve been here for two years
could you tell us a little bit about the differences though between working in
the the tech industry and a tech role at a financial services firm. There are two things that stand out in particular. The first is I’ve never really worked a
place where everybody’s so intensely focuses on the specific results we’re
trying to achieve day-to-day. Everybody’s just really laser focused on
on achieving the same objective. The second is how cross-discipline we have to be to actually achieve that objective. Even at this kind of right size scale you know everybody’s working with a bunch of different
people and a bunch of different roles; which is really exciting for me. Josh we’ve discussed how Citadel Securities is a high performance culture.
Can you outline for us some of the primary skills that have allowed you to
thrive and to succeed in this high performance culture? Does the acquisition of new skills count or is that like asking a genie for unlimited wishes? It
absolutely counts. I think beyond that some things I found valuable are first to try to build a mental model
or framework for as many areas as possible so you can make better
decisions and bridge the gap between disciplines. If you’re a Software
Engineer this might mean knowing enough about hardware to optimize for some
specific condition or help infrastructure with capacity planning. If
you’re a manager it might mean understanding how a talent organization
works. How the recruitment process works so that you can help them do their
job better and thus help you. The list goes on, but generally the more lenses
you can view a particular problem through the better off you are. The
second is that you should continually cultivate your curiosity and just
continuously learn. I’m sure there’s a spectrum of how curious people are
naturally but at the end of the day I think this is a very learnable behavior
and you could always be asking more questions and trying to understand how
people think and do their job and being a lifelong learner is absolutely a
conscious decision and unless you’re really fortunate nobody’s going to
manage that for you so something you have to really actively pursue finally
above all and you know something that ties all these things together is to
commit to a goal and just pursue it with absolute determination. Josh, thank you. I think the main takeaway that you’re telling us is that we either need to
commit to being lifelong learners or commit to trying to find genie in a
bottle. Absolutely. We’ve covered your past. We’ve covered your role over the
last couple of years. Tell us a little bit about what’s next for Josh. What are
some of the milestones that you’ve set for yourself or that you’re thinking
about for your career for the next couple of years. I think earlier in my career I thought a lot about kind of the typical like title or level
type models milestones, but after hitting some of those more what I
think about today are kind of ongoing type goals. I really think about you know
how can I help others to provide more leverage overall. I mean that’s everything from building better teams to developing talent to understanding how
to position somebody so they could do their best work. I think a
lot about decision making process and track record. So every time I make a decision I ask was the outcome good? What’s the scale of the impact? Where did
I miss? And where wasn’t I able to provide the right influence to get the
company towards the right decision and for myself personally I think a lot
about am I continuously improving. And at what rate am I improving relative to the past. It goes back to what I mentioned about trajectory and just always trying to avoid I guess being promoted above my
level of competence by continually learning. So those are the things I
really think about most from a career management perspective versus any particular end state. It’s one part that and focusing on
the here and now and delivering on what’s in front of me. We appreciate the time and we’re sure you have to get back to the here and now of your work so
thank you so much for joining us for My Career Roadmap. We’re definitely going to
ask you to come back so we can check up on some of those milestones that you
outline and if anyone else has questions for Josh Woods about a day in the life
of a technology professional at Citadel Securities let us know your questions in
the comments section.

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