The answer is pretty simple:
Whatever you make of it.
Clockwise beginning from top center: Adam Waksman, Ozen Hussein, Mike Bowen and Deval Patel
“I was always a tinkerer – even as a child,” says Deval Patel, an engineer within Aladdin Engineering at BlackRock. In the beginning, that tinkering meant building his own games and programming robots. But ultimately, those interests led him to engineering school – where he honed his craft of “enabling people to operate at a higher efficiency.”
He’s been at BlackRock since 2016 and has never stopped innovating – building a career path tailored to his specific interests and skillset within the firm’s broader tech landscape.
Finding your path
Deval’s story is one like many. Coders, engineers, programmers – a large majority of whom don’t have formal backgrounds in financial services, but an undoubted interest in the industry and a drive to make it more resourceful.
Ozen Hussein, for example, is an Engineering Manager on the Aladdin Wealth team who joined in 2013. “BlackRock ran a campus recruitment event at my university,” he says. “What was interesting was how much they cared about technology – and that it was a revenue generator for the firm.”
That technology he’s talking about is Aladdin, BlackRock’s tech platform that unifies the investment process. Aladdin is a powerful toolkit for institutional investors – and it was a critical factor in Ozen deciding to speak with BlackRock senior leaders at the event. Pretty quickly, he found himself hooked.
“They encouraged a deeper understanding of finance and highlighted the opportunity to learn and innovate within the space nonetheless.”
Once he joined, Ozen discovered that, like modern tech innovation, learning never ends. From navigating the industry, to advancing knowledge and leadership skills, BlackRock invests heavily in growing people’s careers and places a strong emphasis on lifelong learning.
Proof: It even says so in our Principles, urging each employee to be a student of technology, the markets and more.
“I truly feel my path to leadership was laid by a constant desire to learn as a student of technology,” says Mike Bowen, a Director within Aladdin Engineering who joined in 2009. “Learn as much as you can about the space you are in while maintaining a constant curiosity of where tech is heading, the trends at play and how they can be applied to solve interesting challenges.”
Paving your path
Fast-forward a decade or so, Ozen and Mike can tell you that much like there is no one career path at BlackRock, there is also no one tech path – even in leadership, which can vary widely for every technologist. To best meet the needs of our technologists, BlackRock offers two different ‘tracks’ to leadership, helping our people capitalize on their strengths and advance their careers on their own terms.
The Technical Track “is more focused on architecture and delivery of technology,” according to Adam Waksman, a Senior Director within Aladdin. “Folks on the Technical Track can range from being pure architects or individual contributors to being team leads who manage people as well as lead technical design.”
The Enterprise Track, Adam adds, “is more focused on organizational impact and driving change through people. Typically, enterprise leaders benefit from having been successful developers or individual contributors at one point and now focus their attention on business needs, the cross-cutting dependencies of the organization and how to make their people successful.”
What does that all mean? Take Ozen: He’s an enterprise leader. His day-to-day entails team planning, delivery, contributing to team culture, technical roadmaps, technical decisions, architecture, code reviews – to name just a few elements.
The Technical Track, on the other hand, is all about being a subject matter expert. “You’re the owner of a particular system or technology,” Ozen says. “Hands-on coding is generally still part of your role, maintaining technical standards on the team and giving technical direction.”
While the two tracks may sound distinct, they can – and often do – intersect. In fact, most tech leaders at BlackRock fall somewhere in between, depending on their vision for their career. Adam is “currently 80-90% toward the Enterprise side. I’ve played the role of Principal Engineer at a past company, and I’ve moved into management twice in my career, once moving back to an IC Architect role in the middle.”
As a technical leader, Deval likes that “you’re not shoehorned into a singular way of working or forced to pick a side. The ability to add to our strategy from a technical perspective, to push the envelope on scale and still be able to progress like a traditional people manager is in certain ways unique to BlackRock.”
The road (slightly) less traveled
The other beauty of being a technologist at BlackRock is that not all roads lead to Aladdin. There’s an overt emphasis on internal mobility, encouraging employees to build a dynamic career where they can work in a variety of different types of roles and areas across our global firm – and exposing them to many other facets of the business in the process.
Which means: Over the course of your career, your trajectory as a technologist can span the entire organization (if you want it to) – from Aladdin Wealth Tech or Analytics & Modeling, working heads down on advanced tools and models for valuation projects, to the Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and Index Investments group, solving complex technical challenges for the more finance-related scope of the business.
And to help you build out that distinct career path – Enterprise or Technical, Aladdin-based or otherwise – you have development programs and resources at your disposal.
“BlackRock offers a plethora of tech leadership programs,” says Mike. “On any given day, you’ve got access to mentorships, reverse mentorships, groups, networks and training resources.”
More than words
Simply put: What BlackRock offers its technologists is opportunity. Per Mike, “There’s no shortage of ways to challenge yourself.” The firm employs “some of the best and brightest people” in the industry – folks willing to “share their time and experiences unselfishly.”
It’s a recurring theme here – this tech culture that’s not only innovative and diverse, but also one Ozen calls “friendly, challenging and nurturing.”
And let’s not forget collaborative. Deval believes BlackRock operates more like a smaller startup rather than a large corporation of almost 20,000 global employees. “Everyone is encouraged to seek out subject matter experts to discuss ideas and questions, as well as ask for advice.”
At the end of the day, it’s a One BlackRock experience. How you want to show up, and how you want your career to flow, is up to you.