March 17, 2007.
An Interview

What’s ThinkDen?
It’s just a cute name. I’m actually a freelance IT consultant helping investment banks implement change since 1999.

What is your specialty?
The Calypso Trading System.

In what context?
I’m basically a senior analyst/developer who tries to bridge the gap between IT and business in the complex arena of front and back-office implementations of Calypso.

Why Calypso?
Calypso is growing rapidly and the supply of experienced Calypso specialists is extremely tight; banks are finding it difficult to secure the expertise they need to implement Calypso within the required time-frame. I expect this trend to continue for some years to come, as legacy trading systems are replaced with more modern and flexible solutions. Flexibility, intelligence and scalability is extremely important as financial transactions become more complex and the pace of change more rapid.

What areas do you cover?

More precisely?
In 4 years working with Calypso I’ve touched on so many topics, it’s hard to say. I’m an IT guy, with a good connection to business. I guess one big advantage is understanding what business wants and translating that into things that a software developer understands; bridging the gap between IT and business.

Even more precisely! Do you have examples?
Currently I’m working with senior management to set up a new front-to-back implementation of Calypso for credit and interest rate derivatives. This involves defining basic management procedures: requirements, code, config, environments, testing, rollout, etc.

But you are also a developer, yes?
Yes. Usually I manage a team of developers, and as such also write lots of code, unit tests, mostly in the context of agile development. We try to keep a flat hirarchy, where everyone can best leverage their talents for the team and the project.

What’s your management style?
Hmmm. Management by Chaos? Seriously, though… I think it’s important that everyone knows what is expected of of them, where we are going. It is important that the priorities are known and delivery dates are met. So active communication and close interactions are the key; understanding what each one is doing, but leaving as much freedom as possible. Finally work has to be fun, so in between shouting and screaming, comic relief helps. My blog is mostly just humorous takes on management and life in an IT project.

What did you do before you became an IT consultant?

I was an experimental condensed matter physicist for 6 years after getting my Ph.D. from The University of British Columbia in 1993. I’ve worked in Denmark at Risoe National Laboratory and in France at CENG and ILL.

Isn’t that a bit of a jump from Physics to Banking?
Not as big as it might seem. In fact there are many physicists (and mathematicians) in banking. Physicists are trained to solve problems and find solutions where there are no cookbook recipes at hand. They are often experienced programmers and have a very solid advanced mathematical background. For example, in my research I used the maths of statistical mechanics, which looks suprisingly similar to financial calculus. Finally, I’d mention that in physics one is forced to think analytically, which is a competitive advantage in any complex project.

What to you do in your spare time?
What spare time!? OK. We are very concerned with the environment and have changed our lives to reduce our impact on the globe and support ecological activities as much as possible. One dilemma we have is that we love nature and spent our holidays in remote areas of the world like Africa or the Amazon. We try to support ecotourism directly, but also are aware that flying around the globe at a whim is not exactly good for global warming. But on the whole we balance our emissions, and are a strong believer that supporting local ecotourism helps counteract the pressures from our consumer societies to deforest the globe for the sake of soya, corn and paper.

Thank you for this interview