Today we’re launching “Behind the Code,” a new blog series where we present members of our Engineering and Product organizations, describe their cornerstone projects, and explore their enthusiasm for both trading technologies and, of course, Trading Technologies.
Our first spotlight is on Christian Brandalise, a senior software engineer who came to TT with a unique background. He was born in Brazil to parents who both later worked in the Chicago trading industry. His mother provided a strong family connection to trading from her work on the Chicago Board of Trade floor, while his father worked off the floor for a commercial agriculture company and traded agricultural products.
Despite this deep connection to the world of trading, Christian decided to take up aviation. He majored in Aviation Human Factors at the University of Illinois and became a commercial pilot.
So how did he make the jump from commercial pilot to TT engineer? To be cliche, he did the work. While he didn’t set out to be a trader, he admits he was a trading nerd long before he got into coding. After using a trading platform for the first time, Christian was amazed at what it could do. So when he found himself “a bit bored” with his flying career, he decided to take a boot camp and learn to code. His passion for problem-solving drove him through the boot camp and helped him secure his first coding job. After honing his skills for several companies, including E*TRADE, he joined TT.
Over the past few years, Christian has contributed to multiple high-profile development efforts and touched many aspects of the TT® platform, from widgets and other components of the TT screen to the TT OMS order management system. With this in mind, I asked Christian to tell me about some of his favorite projects.
TT® OMS and the Allocation Widget
Christian’s work with TT OMS exposed him to how an institutional order desk operates. This is an aspect of the trading business that was new to him. He was amazed by the mechanics of these operations, which manage the order flow for some of the largest funds in the world.
Christian specifically called out order bulking and stitching, which is functionality that is unheard of in the prop trading space. Both of these exist in TT OMS and extend beyond traditional order staging and order passing to give traders even more powerful options for handling orders. Bulking allows execution desks to combine multiple care orders for the same instrument and direction into a single parent care order for more efficient execution, while stitching allows the user to take multiple care orders or previously bulked care orders and stitch them into a parent care order as an exchange-listed spread, offering the ability to execute at often narrower bid-ask spreads.
Within TT OMS, Christian worked specifically on creating the Allocation widget. This integral part of the order management system enables trade desks to hold fills and allocate them to specific accounts before reporting them back to the originator.
This work brought Christian a deeper understanding of the workflow of larger professional traders and order desks. He was surprised that brokers and traders have to manage not only trades, but also pre- and post-trade order flow.
Christian was quick to note that while the Allocator widget’s functionality is complex, it’s just a widget group consisting of an Order Book and two Fills widgets. He pointed out that this—the fact that we can use existing widgets to easily create new, complex functionality—is a prime example of how well-designed TT’s code is.
Time & Sales Product Subscriptions
Another favorite project for Christian was the development of product-level subscriptions for Time & Sales. With this added functionality, the Time & Sales widget will show trades in new contracts when they are created. This is a highly beneficial attribute, particularly for options traders who create strategies throughout a session. Many customers subscribe to 100s of products in Time & Sales and use complex filters to mask “the noise.”
Christian said the challenge of adding product-level subscriptions, while maintaining superior performance, led to a deeper understanding of the TT platform because he attained a greater feel of the balance between customer demand and platform performance. While strong demand for functionality from one segment of users may justify an enhancement, that enhancement cannot take away anything, performance in particular, from the rest of the users on TT.
RTD and Excel Linking
Christian was instrumental in improving and debugging RTD, and he shared some important lessons learned through the process. After a big performance issue was identified and fixed by a teammate, Christian was able to build out better logic that improved TT’s linking from Excel to Autotrader.
For nearly eight weeks, debugging RTD was a full-time effort for Christian. He was taking RTD to a new level, and there was no established path to follow. Trial and error resulted in a performance boost with Excel linking, a “silent” install and a bundled RTD installer.
Among the things he learned through this work was that Excel gets overworked. As a result of this discovery, now Christian is working through plans to make Excel more performant when it is sending and receiving data to TT through Excel Linking and RTD. So far, his debugging effort has significantly reduced CPU usage when traders log orders and fills via RTD, and he’s excited about the work going forward.
During his research and debugging of RTD, Christian was amazed by how traders leverage Excel in their trading. He notes he was particularly surprised by how detailed futures and yield curve charts can be built in Excel with the help of RTD, and how Excel can be used for market-making.
So what can we take away from this chat with Christian? First, don’t shy away from a career in engineering just because you don’t fit the traditional mold. I’m not sure if he’s the only commercial pilot to make his way to writing code for a global trading technology company, but I’m certain he isn’t the only one who traveled a non-traditional path. Second, performance is at the core of every engineering project at TT. Christian was relentless in pointing out performance improvements and said that regardless of what TT engineers are doing, “maximize performance” is their mantra.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed getting to know Christian’s story and learning about some of the effort that goes into building and enhancing the TT platform. I learned a few things through the interview and look forward to continuing this series. If there’s something you are interested in learning more about, you can follow TT on Twitter at @trading_tech