Why are some of DRW’s operations siloed? What are the benefits?
In shared services, we have teams with dedicated areas of specialty, such as our Unix, Networking, and Data Center teams. This dynamic exists across technology and other service groups. The benefit of having specialized teams is that there are opportunities for developing deep expertise in your subject matter, rather than spreading your learning across many areas. That said, no team member is a cookie cutter. Every engineer has their own mixture of technical knowledge, and we encourage cross-group collaboration and learning, which has sometimes resulted in people getting exposure to various teams.
We also have some embedded engineers that are focused on the needs of specific trading groups. The specialization model fits here as well. As these groups are highly nuanced in their technology needs, a generalized approach often is not sufficient.
Are we doing anything to centralize our operations? In what ways has the firm improved in this area over the years?
We've been actively moving like kinds of work to the same spaces, whether that be creating a storage group (rather than having that function split between teams), centralizing program management with project management, or creating more synthetic teams around projects or infrastructure rollouts. One other element has been hiring more embedded liaisons with trading teams. The embedded DevOps engineers serve as liaisons between trading groups and shared services, helping our centralized service teams understand the needs of the desk and the desk to understand timing and constraints around our common infrastructure environments. And finally, taking a centralized approach to our back-office software, blending it with active product management across the various middle to back-office service teams, ensuring that we have a long-term vision, rather than operating from individual silos has been extremely beneficial.
How does collaboration impact the work we do and the industry as a whole?
Our teams collaborate particularly when they have cross-functional work, such as server/switch onboarding, large software implementations, data center migrations or other technology implementations that require more than just one discipline.
One impact I have seen of inter-team collaboration is the healthy questioning that often leads to innovative ideas. I'm looking forward to having more people in our office in the near future to better enable this.
What are existing mechanisms that we use to stay connected across organizational silos?
We have made extensive use of Slack, especially this past year, and have channels for various topics that are interesting across teams, such as Storage; channels where anyone can participate and ask questions. We also have some additional hobby and interest-related channels that help people connect on a personal level as well as outside of work.
Frequent check-ins with teams and managers over video calls have been useful, and some teams have always-on video call rooms where they work remotely together. While it’s not exactly like sitting at the same desk row, it accomplishes some of the same goals.
We also have put a lot of energy into communication across the offices and firm through our Technology Hub, where individual teams can post announcements and documentation. This resource has provided a good platform for broadly sharing information in an organized fashion.
And finally, how do you and your teams keep the tech culture alive, especially while remote?
In addition to the Slack channels, we have had various remote activities. These have ranged from trivia nights, games of Among Us, weekly board game nights, and some remote get togethers. I've also put time into connecting with various teams to check in on their well-being through the pandemic, particularly those who have been operating in person through this challenging time.