Palak Jain, senior director of platform engineering, has been with PEAK6 since graduating from college in 2009. Since joining PEAK6 as an engineer, Palak’s technology roles have spanned building trading applications, to working with recent college grads on career development as an engineering manager, to collaborating with senior leadership on the trading firm’s tech strategy as the CTO of PEAK6 Capital Management. Most recently, she has planned and directed the development of complex software-as-a-service financial technology products.
I started as a software engineer, having just completed my master’s in software engineering. I soon became a project lead, and started taking on ownership of bigger projects. As the technology team grew, my role expanded and I had opportunities to partner with senior leaders to set strategic and technical direction for the organization. About seven years ago, I started leading bigger teams and projects. My mentors at the company suggested that I was ready to be the CTO of one of PEAK6’s portfolio companies, and helped me have confidence that I could succeed in that role. This encouragement and focus on my development enabled me to go from a college grad to a CTO role in under 10 years.
Recently, I moved out of the CTO role into a broader role that enables technology across the business and its portfolio companies. In my current role, I build tech platforms that can be leveraged across PEAK6 businesses, and am responsible for the expansion of our fintech offerings. I also am responsible for innovating and modernizing back-office technology to be used by our clients, in order to improve real-time financial trading clearing and process trade executions.
The lack of hierarchical boundaries at PEAK6 really supports growth and taking initiative. From Day 1, I was able to speak freely to senior leaders of the firm. I knew I had a seat at the table and could utilize and share my knowledge and experience with everyone from our new hires to the C-suite. I’ve received support and mentorship from the beginning, and it has definitely shaped my career in very positive ways.
We were a complete Windows .Net/C++ shop up until about 2012. I can proudly say we have evolved a lot since then, and now have some cool, innovative tech that sets us apart from other fintech firms. For example, it’s pretty uncommon for a trading firm to have their execution system written in Java, or to have production systems written in Go. We also have moved to cloud infrastructure. It’s been fun to be involved in that progress.
PEAK6 puts emphasis on letting engineers move around within the organization. Mobility really is the norm, not the exception. We have such a diverse portfolio of companies— from real sports to e-sports, finance to insurance. That variety and complexity of challenges means that I’ve never had to work elsewhere to grow my skills and expand my role. For example, when you move from a proprietary business to a customer-focused software-as-a-service business, you face totally different challenges. This broadens your knowledge and skills, and in many cases enables you to discover new passions and talents.
Tech for the greater good:
I am a huge supporter of initiatives that encourage women to go into technology. I’m an active member of the Illinois Technology Association Leadership Council, and a mentor for the Women Influence Chicago Accelerator, which promotes the advancement of female technologists.
Best part of my job:
I love that we live and breathe our core values around collaboration, grit, ownership and adaptability. Having passion for technology and continuous learning are also strong shared PEAK6 values that really resonate with me. I am grateful to be a part of an organization that has not only backed me in every step of the way as a woman technologist, but is also actively running many development programs for women. It is not easy to succeed in a traditionally male-dominated industry, but if you look around at PEAK6, you find many examples. The credit goes to our co-founders, especially Jenny Just, who is a true inspiration. Her presence at the top of the organization and her continual advocacy means that respect, equality and equal opportunity flows through to everyone in the company.