Welcome back to “Speaking in Code,” our summer blog series focusing on challenges and opportunities for women in technology and spotlighting a few women here at Trading Technologies. If you missed my introduction to the series, you can read it here.
Our first profile is on Diana Dumitru, a 15-year TT veteran who currently works as an engineering manager. Diana was born in Timisoara, Romania and received a degree in theoretical physics in her home country before coming to the U.S. to pursue a master’s in computer science at Oklahoma State University. After starting as a junior programmer and working her way up through multiple positions at the company, she recently transferred to our London office, where she’s leading the development of our newly formed European engineering team.
When did you know you wanted to work in technology?
Diana: As the human race, we’ve been fascinated with machineries for centuries. Fueled by the imagination of the industrial revolution era, it was our way of seeking perfection and obtaining validation for our own creativity. The cabal of sprockets, each one being a hybrid between a wheel and a snowflake, was for us to try and contain. The lacy and perfectly shaped figure eight present in most mechanisms hoping for perpetual motion unites machines and humans in our goal for striving toward infinity. I shared this fascination from a young age, frequently stealing my older brother’s mechanical toys to play and tinker with. As I matured, I pursued a degree in physics for the same reason. I view working with computers as an extension of creating and taming your own robot. It is the thrilling process of innovation, puzzle solving, and search for precision and perfection that made me decide to become a software engineer.
How has TT—and the industry as a whole—changed in the past 15 years with regard to female technologists?
Diana: The industry has come a long way compared to 15 years ago when I started my career. I still remember the days when we would get together for ladies lunches, since there were very few of us working in the field. We would stick together like penguins at the North Pole—it was our way of networking and exchanging information. Those days, we had no organized forums for females working in the industry.
The percentage of women has grown much higher over the years and is still growing. However, there is plenty of room for improvement. Although we have great representation at various junior and middle-management levels, there are very few women acting in senior management and executive roles in Chicago’s tech industry. My hope is that a change will follow in this area as well.
I’ve also noticed that companies have become less bureaucratic in their hiring processes than they were in the past. There used to be an entire checklist of degrees and prior experience needed in order to expand your career, both for men and women. Recently, I’m seeing a trend of competence, potential and curiosity trumping pure traditional academic and career credentials. At TT, I have watched very young and ambitious individuals take huge career leaps due to their outstanding results, sense of innovation and initiative. I am very grateful to have had the privilege of working in different roles. I have walked the entire spectrum from pure development to testing automation and software development management. Recently, I had the fantastic opportunity to move overseas to London in order to facilitate the expansion of our Engineering team into Europe. Moving to London has been a tremendous work experience, and everybody has been extremely supportive.
In what ways have you connected with other women in fintech?
Diana: Knowing first-hand the challenges of succeeding in the industry, I truly believe that educating women on this matter is key. I’ve collaborated in the past with Northwestern University on a program that taught young high school girls the benefits of obtaining a technical college degree. The events were organized by the McCormick SWE (Society of Women Engineers). And two years ago, I was approached to volunteer for the WILD organization (Women In Listed Derivatives). They requested my help to increase representation from the engineering side of the trading industry, which was even more underrepresented in terms of the number of women. One of the first things I contributed was organizing a panel discussion to educate women on the various IT positions available in the trading business, covering both the challenges posed as well as the huge rewards.
Over the years, WILD has successfully organized regular events for networking and educational purposes. They hold an annual symposium on the hottest topics in the industry that I highly recommend. Now that I have moved overseas, I am hoping to have the chance to get involved with the WILD chapter in London. As a general piece of advice, I recommend women in technology find groups in their vertical, which provide not only networking, but also a chance to give back and help other women.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Diana: One of the thrills of working in the industry is keeping up with its rapid pace. The exchange technology is constantly evolving, and as a technology creator, we are striving to stay ahead of the curve and provide our customers with state-of-the-art market connectivity. TT is currently connected to over 40 markets across the world, all while pushing the envelope by constantly refining and improving our internal architecture and functionality. The dynamics between the externally and internally driven requirements can turn software development into a swirling carrousel. But then again, some of us like a good challenge and a healthy dose of adrenaline.
I also love TT’s wonderful culture—the camaraderie, the long-lasting friendships and the incredible talent. I am so humbled by how much I learn from my peers every day, and here I’ve met some of the role models that shaped my career. The work hard/play hard environment and the flexible schedule is very stimulating to me. Being part of a team where conflicts are settled via ping pong matches in our recreation room is priceless. I am lucky to literally wake up every morning excited to come to work, especially since I get to juggle on a daily basis two of my passions: programming and trading.
What advice would you give to young women technologists entering the workforce?
Diana: Women are often intimidated to enter the technical fields. We grow up with stereotypes that seem to indicate that technology is for males. The first crucial step is to overcome your fears and give it a try. You will find out early on whether it is something you would enjoy. If you do, press on because it gets better as you develop skills and experience.
Another inhibitor to overcome is that girls typically have to catch up, as they usually start experimenting with computers at a later age. In my programming classes, I was studying alongside male classmates who were introduced to programming way before I was. But ultimately, if this is your passion, it is a matter of trusting your gut and believing in yourself and in what you are capable of. No one prevents women from enrolling in a technical degree. In most cases, we are our own worst enemy. I strongly believe that educating women on their options and potential is the best way to tear down the stigmas.