Tech Trailblazers

Tech Trailblazer: Sam Browne

  • Name: Sam Browne

    Job Title: Tech Specialist Software Engineering

    Education: BSc Computer Science at Ulster University

    Background: I started out in a desktop support role, which included some software development for internal tools, before moving on to a full-time software development role in the telecoms world. After about eight years that company closed its Belfast office so I did a brief stint in the utilities space before joining up with a few ex-colleagues who were already at CME Group. I joined CME Group as a Senior Software Engineer and progressed through to Lead and then Tech Specialist. My role has changed through the years leading to more of an architect and oversight role rather than a core development one, although I do get to work every now and again on the coding side. That development experience has given me good background when discussing the impact of new projects or working through options with the development team.

    What does your typical day look like?

    I tend to start pretty early and get a couple of uninterrupted hours in before the morning stand-up meeting at 9.30 am. I’ll use that time to work through the inbox or maybe do some research on a technology we’re using or an area we’re looking to improve. After stand-up, there is usually some further follow-ups with the dev team on items that came up during the meeting. Then it’s some impact assessment reviews, story prep for upcoming sprints, high-level work throughs and estimations for upcoming projects – migrating our technology infrastructure to the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) being the main one now.

    What are you currently working on?

    One of the key things I’m working on at present is being part of a group tasked with improving the software development and delivery experience. Historically, we’ve had a fairly regimented change control process, but that’s seen a lot of changes over the past couple of years and the group’s been formed to further improve things, as well as layout a roadmap for teams to avail of things like daily change windows. We’re also preparing to migrate the entire post trade stack to GCP over the next few years. That’s going to be a super interesting period and will bring about some fundamental changes to how we’ve historically built and deployed applications.

    What inspired you to join this company in particular?

    I wanted to work for a bigger technology focussed company but one that wasn’t so big that you were just another cog in a wheel and one where you had a chance to have interesting discussions with like-minded colleagues about how best to solve problems. CME Group was also big enough to provide a career growth path, yet small enough to have your efforts recognised to help with that growth.

     Did you always want to work in this industry (tech)?

    Not specifically in the financial sector, but software development in general, yes. I always enjoyed building things as a kid and working out how things went together.  Software development was probably the next iteration of that. There’s a sense of satisfaction in building something that does what it’s supposed to do, especially when you see it being used handling millions of trades per day.

    What’s your favourite part about your work?

    I’ve been here nearly nine years now, so I have worked with a lot of different people over that time. There’s a massive amount of experience to lean on from a business or technology perspective. We’re also given a lot of autonomy in terms of technology and design decisions. At the end of the day, it’s predominantly down to us how we design and implement solutions. 

    What would you say to other people considering a job in this industry (tech)?

    Do it - you just don’t know where it could take you! Technology has become part of nearly all areas of modern society in such a small time that who knows what lies ahead. Whatever your passion, there’s probably a technology job out there related to it.

    How do you see this technology impacting on our lives?

    The services that CME Group provide is all about managing risk, the risk that something will go up or down in price. From the cereal we eat for our breakfast to the oil we put in our cars or the foreign currency we use on holiday, if you go far enough down that supply chain more than likely someone will have been managing the risk of it going up or down in price. We service the buying and selling of tens of millions of futures and options contracts related to managing that risk on a daily basis, so it has a pretty big impact globally.

    Who inspired you to work in this field?

    It was probably a family history of building things. My great granddad once had a bet with a friend that he couldn’t build an engine. I don’t mean buy the parts and put it together. I mean make and build it all from scratch! I have the little one-cylinder engine he made, along with the home-made lathe he had to build first to make some of the parts. Thankfully when we build new software applications here, we don’t have to get the soldering iron out first to make the hardware!

    What do you consider to be the most important tech innovation or development in recent years?

    The tech isn’t new per say, but the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is surely going to grow into all sorts of areas of our everyday lives. I’m quite into endurance sports and it’s starting to play a part there in terms of AI coaching - taking in metrics from athletes, running thousands of permutations and suggesting what training they should do today to best reach their goals. That concept of AI making decisions for us (hopefully with our permission…) by monitoring our behaviour is just going to become even more widespread.

    What tech gadget could you not live without?

    Smartphones are probably an obvious one. I was going on holiday recently and the charger wouldn’t stay connected.  It really was a “what am I going to do?” moment. Flight details, boarding passes, hotel bookings, Covid passports and forms, it was all on there. Sometimes you don’t realise how dependent we’ve become on smartphones until they go wrong! Maybe it’s time to dig out the printer again..

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