DRW employee explores intersection of technology and business in lecture

Tuesday, September 20, 2016 - 10:46pm

Matt Godbolt, a senior software engineer at the financial trading firm DRW, charged that the convergence of business and software engineering has never been more prominent than it is right now at a lecture on campus Tuesday evening

Godbolt addressed a crowded electrical engineering and computer science classroom filled with primarily EECS undergraduate students, discussing his career path and the financial trading field.

He told the crowd he never envisioned establishing a career at a trading firm, saying his first job as a video game engine programmer was more aligned with his childhood passion for video game design.

However, he said after his shift to financial trading, he found many similarities between his new field and video game programming. In both fields, he said, an absence of resources often acts as a catalyst for innovation during the problem-solving process.

“I feel like creativity blossoms when you have a restricted environment,” he said. “Back in the day, video games were certainly a restricted environment when you had a PlayStation One or Dreamcast. They were very underpowered machines, but people expected good quality games.”

Godbolt also highlighted that his transition from video game engineering to financial software engineering was a natural fit due to the similar challenges faced by both spheres, such as with their consumer bases.

He described a consumer environment for video games in which people constantly demanded higher quality graphics, more explosions and convincingly anthropomorphic characters. Simultaneously, he added, the software was behind in advancements.

As a financial trader, he also encountered desires for speed, quality and enhanced performance in the business world, paralleling the obstacles faced by a video game designer and a financial trader. Both, he said, require strategic planning in the face of competition.

“All sort of businesses have access to the same kinds of technology, and they have the same basic ideas of what should and should not be bought and sold,” Godbolt said. “It comes down to who can do it the fastest; who can make the best decisions and who can make it the quickest.”

As well, just as video game engineers must adapt to ever-changing design landscapes, financial traders must also focus their energies on optimizing business performance. As an example, Godbolt pointed to his firm’s current efforts to reduce the duration of time between the identification and acquisition of a stock.

Engineering junior Jonathan Lizardo said he was impressed by Godbolt’s unconventional career path.

“It’s cool that this guy started working on games and now he’s working in finance and trading derivatives,” Lizardo said.

Godbolt advised students pursuing careers in engineering to focus on the common thread of problem-solving between disciplines. The fundamental job of an engineer, he said, is to identify the root of a problem and persevere until finding a solution.

“Many people give up a little too early and they never fully understand why things do or don’t work,” he said. “You should be willing to get to the very bottom of the issue, until you’ve solved the problem not just for yourself, but you’ve also made it better for everyone else.”