The NYSE blog

One of the many enjoyable parts to my new job is when I get to meet some of my actual New York Stock Exchange colleagues from our famous office on Broad St (the TransactTools office is a 5 minute walk up Broadway.) The people I’ve met so far are a good bunch, lacking some of the harshness I’ve found from some previous organizations. Moreover some of them have huge amounts of experience being here.

As I said in my last blog entry, NYSE is in an interesting space right now, and is changing a lot what with merging with other exchanges, pushing new technologies, and the like. It’s not just the new blood that’s driving this change – it’s the people who’ve been around a while too.

Take Ray Pellecchia, for instance. He’s been with the Exchange for nearly 20 years. When he joined the firm I hadn’t even started secondary school. With that comes a lot of experience, and of course some interesting stories! But not wanting to rest on his laurels, Ray is actually one of the people driving new ideas here. One of them is the NYSE Hybrid Talks blog at .

As a newbie to the exchange, this blogs helps me get a better idea of what we’re doing, but it’s also an internet-friendly way of telling the world of the new things we’re up to. And as a final kicker, the discussions in the comments allow Ray to interact with NYSE customers, and those customers to interact with each other, in ways that were hitherto impossible.

So NYSE is certainly one of the older firms here in the US, but is embracing new business and technology practices in exciting ways. It’s going to be a fun ride!

Looking for Java developers in NYC!

As I mentioned in my earlier posting, one of my first tasks here at NYSE TransactTools is to hire some great developers. The engineering team right now is 11 people strong, but we’re looking to grow that significantly.

I’m obviously biased, but I think this is something of a unique opportunity. Clearly we’re a technology-focussed business unit, so we don’t have what can often feel like the ‘support focus’ of the IT organization of a bank, yet we’re still in the financial domain and have the backing of being part of the New York Stock Exchange‘s exciting growth. Furthermore, it’s an NYC-based finance job, in the financial district, yet the atmosphere here is dress down (and yes, we really do have a pool table in the office!)

The actual technology is pretty cool too. The core of what we do is a financial messaging engine, responsible for processing many thousands of messages per second. We’re not the only people to do that though – where we’re unique is technologically that we add some interesting functionality around the core messaging server, and also our new position within NYSE is allowing us to offer some industry-leading integration options with the rest of NYSE’s networking technology (go look at our swanky new website for more on that side.)

Most of what we do is implemented in Java. A lot of it is pretty hard-core low level networking / multi-threaded code to allow the performance we need. We also have some web work happening since all of our configuration & administration is done through Java web applications (with a fair bit of AJAXey goodness throw in.) We are moving to a XP / Scrum based development methodology. We’ve already got card walls, 2-week sprints, daily stand up meetings and some of the guys even started pair programming this week. I’m working on getting Continuous Integration going (no surprises there!) and we’re going to keep going from there.

As of today we’re looking for Java developers, specifically ones with real experience doing the kind of hard-core code that makes up the core of what we do. We’ll no doubt be looking for some less experienced folk later, but not right now.

The official job posting can be found on our career’s page. If you’re interested in knowing more, drop me a line!

Finetix Acquired!

My ex-employer as of only 6 weeks ago have been bought by Sungard – I didn’t see that one coming while I was there!

Like Marc, I predict there’ll be a bit of employee turnover from this. Although I can see how the acquisition favors Finetix and Sungard as organizations, I’m sure there are some Finetix’ers who will be disappointed by their firm losing its boutique status. If any of you are interested in a job, let me know!

Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) shell problems

Here’s a little gotcha for anyone using Ubuntu 7.04 (it might have been in 6.10 too, I’m not sure) and some amount of shell scripting.

If you refer to /bin/sh anywhere, Ubuntu out of the box points to a shell called dash and not (as would normally be the case) bash. Dash doesn’t have all the features bash has though (the flip side is that it’s a lot faster, apparently), so in some cases (including a few I just ran into) your scripts may cease to work.

The solution? Change your scripts to explicitly use /bin/bash or use the sledgehammer approach and relink /bin/sh to /bin/bash.

And yes, despite going point-haired, I haven’t escaped from the land of build monkey.

April '07 Music purchases

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to buying music. Despite the rather excessive amounts of technology infiltrating my lifestyle, I still refuse to buy music online. Never mind the crippling DRM, nor the fact that the quality isn’t as good, I like the ritual of opening up the wrapping, looking at the sleeve notes, and all that. So every now and then I’ll buy a whole bunch of new records from Amazon or even do the very unfashionable thing of going to a music store.

Today I decided to make the most of the late-but-finally-here Spring and walk the 15 blocks up to Union Square to go to the Virgin Megastore there. Unlike me I actually went with a shopping list. This is always a bad sign because there’s no way I’m able to stick to just that, and sure enough I came home 13 CDs the wealthier. There’s a story to some of them, so I thought I’d share them here.

April AlbumsThis Tuesday night I had one of those classic New York City moments that remind me why I live here. I was at D.B.A., a fantastic bar on 1st Ave, at the geeky social night I run. We were getting towards the end of the evening, and for some reason I forget (I was 4 pints of Fullers London Porter in by this point) the lady next to me struck up a conversation. On asking why she was down in these parts (she was a midtowner) she said “Do you know Jesse Malin? The girl with me is his sister. He’s playing a gig tonight just around the corner.”

As it happens, I do know Jesse Malin. He’s an alt-country singer that my friend Mike is always going on about, and I’ve listened to some of his stuff a few times. Mike says he’s great live, so I inquired as to whether there were tickets still available. There were, so 15 minutes later myself, a couple of my colleagues, Jesse Malin’s sister and her friend were all at the Mercury Lounge on Houston Street. Mike wasn’t lying – Jesse’s a great live performer.
The record of his I’ve heard before is The Fine Art of Self Destruction, but apparently his new album, Glitter in the Gutter, is pretty good too so that was my first purchase of the day.

Jesse sounds quite a lot like Ryan Adams – not surprising really since they’re good mates and collaborate a fair bit. This same Tuesday my dad blogged (yes, my dad blogs!) about getting into Ryan Adams. Apparently I had something to do with this, so I thought I’d better return the favour. Dad’s always talking about Thea Gilmore, so she was purchase #2. Virgin only had her latest album, Harpo’s Ghost, in stock so I went with that.

My Dad and my friend Mike above actually have a scarily similar music taste. Another artist they both talk a good deal about is Lucinda Williams, and specifically her album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. #3 for the basket.

I think another reason I was in such an alt-country-shopping mood was that I was listening this morning to Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris’ All the Roadrunning, a purchase of mine last year. This reminded me I wanted Harris’ earlier work Wrecking Ball, so that’s #4. As an aside, I think this is the first time I’ve ever had to go to the ‘country’ section of a music store!

Starting to move genre’s now are purchases 5 & 6 – I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning & Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, the joint 2005 releases from Bright Eyes. I’ve never bought any music by Conor Oberst (who pretty much is Bright Eyes) before, but I’ve heard these are 2 good introductions. I’m going to be seeing Bright Eyes play next month with Gillian Welch, which should be a great gig…

…as should Kings of Leon, who I’m going to see in June. The first time I heard any of their music at all was when I saw them live in Boston in 2003 just as they started hitting the big time with their first album. I’ll be going to the gig this year with my NYC best mate Tatiana who took me to the gig 4 years ago, so it will be good going to see them again with her. Kings’ third album, Because of the Times, was released a couple of months ago and I’m pretty excited to listen to it after their brilliant first 2 albums.

On my possible gig list for the year are Modest Mouse, who I’d never heard of a month ago. I’ve heard some of their tracks now and they sounded good so today I picked up their latest release, We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank. The fact that The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr is now part of the band makes this less of gamble.

On the other hand, Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible is a complete unknown to me. It’s always to good to have one semi-gamble in any music purchase!

Another little gamble is Jarvis Cocker’s solo album from last year, Jarvis. I never bought any albums by Pulp when they were big (but then again, I have a habit of waiting for britpop acts to break up before actually purchasing their music) but I bought this album based off of one of its singles. And heck, it’s Jarvis Cocker, it’s about time I bought something from the guy that upstaged Michael Jackson at the Brit awards.

Talking of artists who I never bought anything by when I was a student (which is the time I should have done), it’s also good to finally get some music by The Cure in my collection. It wasn’t on the shopping list, but their Greatest Hits was on sale, so now I can fulfill my desire to listen to The Lovecats whenever I so fancy.

Going back to Britpop, its somewhat embarrassing to admit, but it was indeed Oasis’ Roll With It that broke indie music into my life (don’t worry, it was a phase, I swear, urrrmmm….) Anyway, 12 years on, I saw (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? also on sale, and I couldn’t resist. Just don’t tell the hipsters in my neighbourhood, please.

Wow, only one to go. Barring one of the Bright Eyes albums, this is a surprisingly Electronica / Dance – free selection for me. Normally I pretty much split myself evenly between guitar-based and electronic music. There is one final entry though to redress the balance, Air’s new release Pocket Symphony. I’ve not heard a single track off of this album, but they have never let up from the genius of their first album Moon Safari, so I doubt this will disappoint.

Well, that’s about it. 13 albums in one go, that’s a pretty decent chunk of music to get into. It’s going to be fun listening to it all!

Starting at NYSE TransactTools

I’ve mentioned this briefly in a couple of posts now, but I have a new job. Finetix was a great introduction to a financial software career in New York City, but my new role at NYSE TransactTools (or TT as I’ll refer to them from now on) was just too good to pass up.

So who is this new bunch I’ve got involved with? Until about 4 months ago, TT were a fairly young independent software company producing messaging software for financial institutions. Historically, most of their customers use this software for talking to each other in a protocol called FIX. The most typical scenario for this is when buy-side firms (investment funds, that kind of thing) want to send trading requests to sell-side firms (the investment broker/dealers like Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns. ) That’s by no means the only scenario, but it gives you an idea of the kind of the environment I’m talking about.

4 months ago TransactTools were acquired by the New York Stock Exchange. This is part of NYSE’s growth into new business areas. The interesting thing for TT is that they have big financial backing now, a whole new business stream to draw from, and yet are able to carry on working in the dynamic environment they were used to as a startup.

This alone was pretty compelling to me: the opportunity to work for a product firm and apply 5 years of experience in consulting to a longer-term game, to stay in finance, and yet work in an environment I far prefer to that of a typical Wall Street bank. However there was more.

Firstly, a member of the senior management team here is a guy called Murray White who I’ve worked with before and massively respect. He’s a bit of a handful sometimes, but one of the brightest and most honest guys I’ve met in my career. In short, he’s a great mentor. The next thing is that I’ve been given the opportunity to lead the development team here at TT. It’s not just a matter of taking on existing management responsibilities – I’m also being encouraged to bring in my own ideas and help shape this team into one that will be able to rise to the new business challenges. Of course, a lot of these ideas will be XP / Scrum practices, as appropriate.

There are of course a lot of challenges in taking on this new role. One of the biggies is that this is the first time I’ve worked at a software product firm for 5 years, and the way such organizations work with regard to release management is quite different to that of an IT organization with only 1 or a few customers. I’m sure I’ll be blogging more on this in the future. Also, leading a team as a permanent employee is somewhat different to that as just a consultant, so I have things to learn there too.

All in all, I’m very excited by this move. It is a huge opportunity for me, and a chance to approach software delivery from a different angle to that I would take as a consultant. I certainly plan to continue blogging, but the tone and content will probably change somewhat. Expect more rants and questions than usual!

I’ll end mentioning another big task I have to start with – that of hiring some great individuals – but I’ll be talking more about that another time!

Monkey Business?

Blur in iTunesBeing the Britpop fanboy that I am, I have a few albums by various Blur spin-offs, namely Gorillaz, Graham Coxon and The Good, The Bad and The Queen. One strange thing about this: in my iTunes library of more than 200 albums, these 3 all appear next to each other in my standard sorting view. Curious…