A Day in the Life of a Lead Software Engineer

CQF alumnus, Phil Breen, is a Lead Software Engineer in the Front Office Investment Group at T Rowe Price. Phil has a PhD in Applied and Computational Mathematics and has published a number of papers for peer-reviewed journals and conferences on topics including Computational Astrophysics and Machine Learning. Phil started working in quant finance at Citco Fund Services. He then took on a number of roles across different industries, before joining T Rowe Price. We spoke with Phil to learn more about a typical working day.

I work at T Rowe Price as a Lead Software Engineer, where I’m involved in building out a cloud-native next-generation portfolio management system. The platform is intended to become the sole tool that a portfolio manager needs and has many capacities including reporting, modelling, and order entry. It supports multiple business units including equities, fixed income, and multi-asset, as well as cross-cutting business units like ESG and trading. My role currently focuses on building out support for our fixed-income business unit.

08:30 AM – 10:00 AM:

I usually start around 8:30 am by checking emails and getting set up for the day. On occasions, I start much earlier if there is something I need to get finished before the start of business. After checking emails and messages, I run through my calendar for the day and make notes of any preparation work needed. If there isn’t anything too urgent and I don’t need to finish anything left over from the day before, I usually try to use this time to finish off smaller tasks that I may not get a chance to do once the day gets going.

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM:

This is when my team's daily stand-up happens, everyone gets together to discuss what they are currently working on and it gives everyone a chance to raise any issues or concerns they might have. We usually try to keep it brief (10 - 15 minutes). If more time is needed to discuss anything further we arrange a follow-up meeting, which often immediately follows the stand-up if there is time. 

Now it’s time for a bit of investigative work, our reporting performance isn’t quite where we would like it to be and we know there is an increase in data volume coming. So, we need to identify the area in which we can improve, this leads to a list of possible options. Some of these can be taken care of quickly which we try to address promptly. For the larger items, we carry out quick cost-benefit analyses and plan accordingly.

12:00 PM – 14:30 PM:

It’s time for lunch and to get outside for a bit. I usually try to get outside for a short walk. The weather isn’t always on my side living in the United Kingdom, but it’s nice to get out and about.

14:30 PM – 15:00 PM:

Since we are focused on building out functionality for Fixed Income, we work in close collaboration with dedicated business unit engineers. We have sync meetings twice a week to discuss the work we have in-flight and do a bit of preliminary planning of upcoming requests.

15:00 PM – 16:00 PM:

Time for a pairing session. As a senior member of the team, I always try to do as much pairing as I can. It’s a great way to distribute knowledge and build relationships with teammates and colleagues. Within the wider platform team there are a range of skills/experience and our platform is also open to contributions from other teams. Within the company, there are plenty of opportunities to share knowledge.

Today, I’m helping someone introduce a new report which requires complex business logic. It’s not a use case we have had to support before so a number of changes to our reporting service were needed. I guide the engineer through where change needs to be made and give them advice about testing. 

16:00 PM – 17:00 PM:

One of our main initiatives at the moment is to support modelling and order entry for Fixed Income with our platform, so we meet with a trader to discuss their current workflow. These meetings can be incredibly insightful, giving us a chance to discuss the status quo and the relative importance of current functionality, and it also provides an opportunity to identify areas for improvement. 

17:00 PM – 18:00 PM:

Now it’s time to catch up with team members pertaining to a few higher-priority issues that have been in flight during the day to make sure we are on track. If any issues have arisen we make sure to have a plan in place to address them so the necessary people have been made aware. If everything is in a good state, I usually finish up around 18:00 pm. 

Find out more about Quant Finance Careers

If you are interested in becoming a lead software engineer, explore the CQF Careers Guide to Quantitative Finance. Learn more about the skills needed and average salary you can earn in North America, Asia, and Europe for key career paths in quantitative finance.