CAREER ADVICE

My Career Roadmap with Software Engineer Michael Prattipati

February 27, 2020

The Software Engineering Development Program at Citadel Securities empowers team members to solve some of the most challenging problems in finance and deploy solutions in a way that makes immediate and significant impact.

We recently sat down with Michael Prattipati, who is approaching the end of his first year in the program, as he reflected on his career journey.

If you’re interested in learning more, consider applying for our Software Engineering Development Program!

What initially intrigued you about joining the Software Engineering Development Program?

Going to school in the Bay Area, most of my internship experiences were with Silicon Valley tech companies. When I decided I wanted to explore finance, the Software Engineering Development Program stood out due to its emphasis on teaching financial fundamentals and providing broad exposure to the multitude of ways technology drives quantitative firms. I thought the breadth provided by the program would provide a solid foundation for a career in the quantitative finance industry.

How would you describe the primary elements of the program?

The program consists of two stages. The first consists of different types of training within the first two months of joining Citadel Securities. The new grad class goes through intensive training in core financial topics such as market structure, statistics, investments and derivatives, which are taught by leading professors in the industry. Simultaneously, there is also technical training in areas such as core UNIX commands, Python and C++. Finally, there is professional training which touches on the soft skills that are vital to workplace success.

The second stage of the program involves rotating across teams at the firm for several months at a time. During each of these rotations, engineers are placed in different divisions of the business, allowing members of the program to experience the breadth of fields that the firm operates in. It also enables them to assess what area of finance they are interested in and what type of technical work they enjoy the most.

About a year in, after all the training and rotations, members of the program are permanently placed on a team, taking into consideration their interests and the firm’s needs. The breadth of knowledge and contacts developed during the program tenure are strong advantages in succeeding over a long career.

You joined the program a year ago. Congratulations on the anniversary! What complex challenges have you been able to take on in that time?

I’ve had the opportunity to rotate between three teams in the past year. My first team oversaw the quantitative research platforms at Citadel Securities, where the main technical challenges involved designing large-scale distributed systems and working to profile and optimize their performance on workloads. Next, I worked with a transaction management team. There, the main challenge was learning to be robust in my design and testing processes given a massive input state space. Finally, I’m currently working with a technology research group at Citadel Securities. On this team, I encounter challenging modelling problems that expose me to exploratory data analysis methods.

What advice would you give to those who will follow in your footsteps?

First, always be thinking ahead about the portfolio of skills you want to develop and that can help the firm succeed. Make sure to try and diversify your rotations so that you can explore a wide variety of areas across the firm. Once you have a strong idea of your long-term goals, optimize your path by developing the skillset and network needed to succeed.

Second, try to get out of your comfort zone. In my experience, discomfort is often a good thing because it means I have the opportunity to learn new skills. It also provides the opportunity to adapt and acclimate to new problems. Being able to do this is an invaluable and transferrable competency that will serve you well in all areas of work.

Third, develop soft skills. Nearly everything you will work on will be in a team setting. It’s vital to learn to be organized, handle conflicts and communicate effectively. Raw technical skills can only take you so far.

Finally, I think it’s important to not forget to take care of yourself. It’s easy to ignore self-care while working in a fast-paced environment, but in the long run, good health will play a major role in sustained success. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.