Episode 38

Inside IBKR’s Internship Program – Keys to a Successful Career (Part 2) 

By:

Senior Market Analyst at Interactive Brokers

In this second part of the summer internship podcast series, IBKR’s senior market analyst Steven Levine engages three of the company’s interns about their aspirations, interests, and reasons for selecting the program. The result is a fascinating look at how the company’s hands-on projects benefit these interns’ longer-term goals, as well as illustrates what makes IBKR’s resources, and ultimately its operations, successful. This is a must-listen for anyone seeking an internship or applying to work at IBKR to get an inside feel for the firm’s rich culture, values, and career opportunities.

Listen to Part 1 here.

Summary – IBKR Podcasts Ep. 38

The following is a summary of a live audio recording and may contain errors in spelling or grammar. Although IBKR has edited for clarity no material changes have been made.

Steven Levine

Hello, and welcome back to IBKR Podcasts and our special series on this year’s internship program. I’m Steven Levine, senior market analyst at Interactive Brokers, and if you haven’t yet listened to the first part of this podcast – we had a great discussion with HR management – human resources director Michael Kerrigan, generalist Irina Yakovleva, as well as our chief data officer Ilya Degter, about their insights into the company, its success, and the internship and hiring process. I really do urge anyone interested in interning or applying to work …. you really should have a listen. A lot of great information there, a lot of great insights….

But for now – we’ll be speaking with three of our summer interns: Danielle Vetere, who’s working on hybrid ESG-HR projects – that’s environmental, social, and governance, and human resources. There’s a crossover in her responsibilities with those projects; Mira Lukazik, who’s interning in our legal department; and Amol Gharpure leading a software engineering initiative. So, they’re going to give their first-hand accounts of their experience.

So, welcome, all!

Mira Lukazik

Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Amol Gharpure

Thank you so much, guys, for having me here.

Steven Levine

Thanks very much for being here and taking the time! Thanks very much!

So, you are all part of a pool – the largest pool of interns, I understand – in the history of the program, which was officially launched, I understand, four years ago – in 2018. So, this is kind of making history, actually, right? But, you know, I wonder – why did you select IBKR as the place to do your internship? Did you have any other opportunities in other places? Let’s start with Danielle. Danielle, why Interactive Brokers? Was it the only place, or were there others?

Danielle Vetere

I did have a few opportunities this summer to do other internships, but they were actually internships I had done before. Last summer, I worked for a couple of smaller businesses. One was a smaller travel agency, and one I worked for a business that the woman ran out of her house. And I’m not talking down on those businesses at all. They were both run by women, and I have utmost respect for those women. And they offered me my job back this summer. However, I was looking for something a little bit bigger, and they understood that as well.

Steven Levine

They wanted you back….

Danielle Vetere

They did want me back, they did.

Steven Levine

But you had to say, ‘No’.

Danielle Vetere

I did have to say, ‘No’. And actually, when I went back to school last fall, they were like, ‘I almost wish you guys were remote so that you could stay and help us.’ But, yeah, I was looking for something a little bit bigger, so luckily I landed the internship position here at IBKR.

Steven Levine

That’s great. Well, congratulations! Really, congratulations to all of you! Amol – what were your opportunities like outside of IBKR? Were there other opportunities? And why IBKR? Why this company? And software engineering?

Amol Gharpure

Now being honest … I didn’t tell anyone that I had other offers, but I had other offers before thinking of joining IBKR. So, I’ll tell you what the other offers were. It was from a pharma company, based in Stamford [Connecticut], and one was a startup somewhere in SF [San Francisco], and it was a remote job.

So, throughout other interviews that I gave, I found the interview that I gave at IBKR was very precise. So, if you know about tech interviews, so we have to do a lot of LeetCode, you sort of have problems and just come down and code there. So, it sometimes boils down to your luck. If it’s a hard problem, you’ve never seen that problem, you won’t be able to solve it in an interview, no matter how clever you are. So, most of the interviews are like that. It’s purely luck. But here at IBKR, the first interview I gave, and it was one of the best interviews I’ve ever had.

Steven Levine

Really?

Amol Gharpure

So, he [the interviewer] was very direct with me … what he wanted to know, and the technology stack was already defined … so, ‘Java will be the focus, and we’ll only be asking questions about Java’.

And yes, we did go through some LeetCode questions, but he was more focused about making my code production-ready and error-free. So, even if you give any input to it, it should not break. Even if it generates the wrong answer, he doesn’t care about that, but it should not break the system. So, that’s what I liked. So, I still failed at a couple of test cases, but he was more focused on the error handling, and the things I did.

But when I gave this interview, I had another offer, but then I had one more interview with my manager [at IBKR]. So, he had a project in his mind when he was interviewing me. He had his questions based around that project like: Have I done this? Have I done that? Do I have experience with it? And after coming here — I’m working on the same project right now — he had had a vision even before he knew I was going to join. So, I felt that a great chance, and obviously finance is the field to be right now. I’ve been in [the] fintech industry for [the] last four years, so I was already inclined towards being in this company.

Steven Levine

That’s really great! And I’m sure listeners will also be keen to hear what the interviewing process is like here at the company, and in the tech space, in coding. And it’s also terrific to hear that … I mean, you both had other choices, or offers, but you chose our internship program over them, so, I mean, that’s really great to hear. And Mira – now, I understand you’re returning – after doing an internship here a couple of years ago? Is that right? So, what’s behind your internship?

Mira Lukazik

It was summer 2020. I just graduated high school. And I was planning on going into data science, so I was looking to possibly get into that field, even though I didn’t really have a lot of knowledge to do an internship that’s just purely data science and coding. So, that’s why I wanted to get into IBKR, ’cause, that’s kind of in that space.

Steven Levine

And you’re interning in the legal area now? Is that right? Why the change?

Mira Lukazik

In that two years, I kind of re-evaluated my goals, and after a year-and-a-half of college and data science, I kind of decided it wasn’t exactly where my passions lied. So, I started re-evaluating and came to the conclusion that I really liked a lot of my law and society classes. So, that’s when over winter break, I decided to kind of pivot careers and get into law and pre-law. So, that’s when I reached back out [to IBKR HR], and I asked if there was any way I could possibly get involved with anything legal at IB and kind of see how that works. And then [HR] set up a meeting for me with Elaine Mandelbaum, who’s the general counsel here and is amazing. And then she was kind enough to let me join her team. So that’s how I came back to IB.

Steven Levine

Is It corporate law?

Mira Lukazik

Yeah, I’m in corporate law right now, but I do think that my data science background helps me a lot, because so much of this company is tech-focused … and there’s a really big programming department. So, I feel like that’s kind of helped me get better integrated. And then also while I’ve been here, I feel like I really got an insight into what a lawyer’s day-to-day is like, which is what I wanted – just to make sure that this is really what I want to do. And I think for my experience here, it is what I want to do.

Steven Levine

That’s really terrific, because I’ve been hearing a lot that one of the great benefits of our internship program is this hands-on experience that you get – something practical, you can take it with you, basically no one can take it away from you, right? I know you, Danielle, and Amol, you’ve both got projects you’re doing here. What’s your experience like, Danielle?

Danielle Vetere

So, I work for both the HR department and the ESG department.

Steven Levine

Ok.

Danielle Vetere

So, a project that I’m working on that kind of falls under each that’s combined for them –

Steven Levine

I’m going to stop you for a second. ESG is “Environmental, Social, and Governance’?

Danielle Vetere

That’s correct. Yes.

Steven Levine

Ok. Great.

Danielle Vetere

So, basically what I’ve been doing for them that’s combined is I’ve been benchmarking. So, I compare IBKR ESG-related criteria to competitors. So, my managers gave me a concrete list of competitors, and I based my research off of that, and I compare employee benefits offered by IBKR compared to, you know, the benefits offered by our competitors. And then I compare employee resource groups offered by our company to the employee resource groups offered by our competitors, and I’ve basically been creating a bunch of Excel sheets to show that research and that work for them.

Steven Levine

Great! How do we look?

Danielle Vetere

We look pretty good.

Steven Levine

Great.

Danielle Vetere

I think so.

Steven Levine

That’s all we can really ask for. That’s great! So, let’s talk about how you see your personal and professional career path, say, 10 years into the future. What ideally would you be doing? What does it look like to you?

Danielle Vetere

Well, my dream job has always been to be a stockbroker. That has been my dream job for a really long time. In college, I was a finance and economics major, and from my first finance class I just knew that that’s what I wanted to do.

Steven Levine

So, how doesthis particular project fit, or align, with those goals that you have?

Danielle Vetere

I just overall have found it so interesting that we didn’t learn a lot about ESG in our finance-related courses in college. We did a couple of projects with them, or if we were given stocks to study, they would throw in a little question about ‘what is the score of this company’, but we never really focused on it that much. But I’ve heard, and after participating in this internship, I’ve seen for myself, that ESG – Environmental, Social, Governance – has been becoming increasingly popular and important in the business world. So, I feel like it’s going to become even more important in college courses. So, people will start to learn it. So, I feel like it’s going to just become a regular part of everyday business – whether you work as a stockbroker, or in the stock market, it’s just going to become a part of that world.

Steven Levine

It’s interesting. I know there are a lot of ongoing global efforts being made to integrate these ESG factors into the financial markets – but let’s switch tack a bit here, go back a bit – because I’m also interested…. Amol, what’s your experience with your project been like? I mean, the language of coding and technology is kind of something like .. it’s a foreign language to me … but, please, I’d love to hear what you’re doing.

Amol Gharpure

I’m part of the statements team. So, at the end of the day, after the books closed, suppose you have a stock – suppose a Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) or Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) stock – that stock will have a certain value when it closes around the day, and at the time you might have 100 stocks, and by the end of the day you might have 50 stocks.

Steven Levine

OK.

Amol Gharpure

You sold something. And your value is calculated based on that. So, the statements are generated at the end of the day for each customer for whatever asset they have. And, so, the earlier model we had, it was a relational database, where one-to-one mapping was there. We had a primary key. But as in previous years, there were some challenges that we faced with querying the data, so we had to query a lot of tables and different data and then build it up together. So, we moved to a denormalized scenario, where we put [the] entire data in an XML format and just compressed it and put it in the database. So, what that did was it solved a couple of performance issues. It made the thing fast because you just have to do one query under it … you get everything what you have. But it made our storage expensive, so as we went ahead – we had around 300GB of data per month for the period summaries that we gathered. So, it has a month-to-date, year-to-date – kind of lifetime data for an account.

Steven Levine

Ok.

Amol Gharpure

So, my project was to optimize the storage. Obviously, there were performance tradeoffs, and the first part of the project [in the] first couple of weeks was just more of feasibility testing. [For example] Even if we do this…. Are we able to do this? First thing. Now, if we’re able to do this, are we able to do it in an efficient way? So, that’s where the performance monitoring came in. So, we were able to do it, and we developed a different model — how we’re going to do it. So, instead of storing the period summaries for each day of the month, which is going to pick [for example] ‘this is the last day’, and yeah, you have this. So, the next, if you want something from the middle of the month, we just get it, and we just add the daily summaries, and build the period summary on the fly. So, basically, we’ve reduced the storage by 20 times. And data by saving a lot of space. So, that’s one of the major things. So, right now, the project is in testing kind of phase, because it’s a huge change, and there are lot of services that will be impacted. So, there are a lot of people who use that period summaries data. So, we’re in the testing phase of it right now.

Steven Levine

So….yeah, I mean, that sounds great. I mean, it sounds very intricate, and you would have to be very … I would think … organized. I mean, are you working very closely with your manager or mentor? Or is there a lot of independence? I mean, how much independence would you say there is on this project? Or is it more like being micromanaged or something by your manager?

Amol Gharpure

There’s no micromanagement at all. So, yes, he told me, ‘This is what you have to do. These are the Confluence pages. Read through it if you have any doubts.’ So, there are some people in India, and some people here, so I communicated with them. Mostly towards the end of the day, he used to ask me, ‘Do you have any problems? Are you facing any problems? Issues? And what is your progress like? What are you doing today?’ So that’s it. We just discussed … 5-10 minutes. And if I’m stuck at something, then we would just sit together and code, or he would just show me … what does he want me to do. [At] First, because [I was] not able to actually visualize what we’re trying to do, so it was a little difficult for me to dive into the code, so he gave me a little walkthrough on what we’re trying to achieve here. So, it was really great.

Steven Levine

That’s really awesome. I mean, it seems like you’re basically leading the project?

Amol Gharpure

I’m leading the project, because I’m the only one doing it. So, I’m the captain and the team.

Steven Levine

That’s really great! And I’m assuming this fits in with your long-term career goals? Your personal and professional development?

Amol Gharpure

Yeah, so I really like coding and like new technologies. So, here at IBKR, my manager and my team have been exposing me to a lot of new things, which I didn’t have any exposure before.

Steven Levine

That’s great. I mean, it’s always a plus, right, when you want to learn new things – and personally? Is this like a dream job for you?

Amol Gharpure

Personally, I want to be at a top position at a big company, or have a kind of startup of my own, if I have that idea, which I don’t have clearly right now, but probably down the line when I get more information and stuff. And professionally, I want to be a consistent top performer, whatever I do – if I’m managing people, if I’m coding, if I’m even doing some testing or stuff, I just want to be the top performer.

Steven Levine

So, whatever it is, be the best.

Amol Gharpure

Be the best at like work hard, learn new things, and be the best at it.

Steven Levine

Yeah, that’s great! Mira – for you, too, do you think what you’re doing in the legal department is, like, ultimately, how you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years? What does that look like for you?

Mira Lukazik

That’s a big question. But I think, hopefully, I will be able to be a lawyer by then and work in law. I’m not really sure what department or what category of law I want to do just yet. I feel like I have a lot of other things to experience before I get there. But I’m really interested in politics and international affairs, or global affairs. So, ideally, I would love to be practicing law in kind of a global space and maybe working more internationally rather than just in one designated location.

Steven Levine

Yeah, these are all really lofty goals and absolutely something you can do. So, the projects that you’re working on now at IBKR – how exactly are they lining-up with those personal and professional goals that you’ve laid that out very, very well? I mean, what do you expect to achieve from this particular internship that you’re in now? Specifically – in terms of practical skills or knowledge that you can take with you. What would that be?

Mira Lukazik

For practical skills and knowledge, I think I wanted an introduction into financial law and corporate law, which I’ve definitely been getting. I’ve been doing some research projects on different regulators … like I’ve been doing a project on corporate compliance and what the SEC, OFAC, CFTC, and all the other regulators have been saying. So, I definitely have a lot of that in my mind now. I also broadly wanted to just learn more about the legal sphere, and I definitely have learned a lot more about upcoming financial regulations and policies and everything around that. I also kind of wanted an insight into how litigation works, because really the only thing I knew before this was what you see on like Legally Blonde or Suits.

Steven Levine

You can learn a lot from these movies, I think. Even Reese Witherspoon really spells it out very well….

Mira Lukazik

Yeah, that’s a great film! Love that film. But now I really get to see … I’m working with some lawyers on some potential cases and kind of preparing the data and getting transcripts for phone calls about it. So, I find that really interesting. So, that’s definitely a skill I’ve taken away. Another skill, which is kind of … I feel like this improves throughout your whole life … but kind of reading a really a lot of documents and then kind of whittling it down to just the important parts of bullet pointed. I feel like that’s kind of been like a new challenge with all of these financial terms that I didn’t necessarily know before I started and then….

Steven Levine

So, you can pick out the important pieces of some larger text just to home in on exactly what the points are that are necessary for you to communicate, or take away?

Mira Lukazik

Yes, exactly. And I think … the last part was I’ve learned more about investing and the stock market. I feel like before I started, I had a pretty rudimentary outline of how it worked, but now that I’ve been here for longer, [I] feel like I’ve learned a lot more. Recently, I worked on something that involved margin accounts and margin trading.

Steven Levine

Sure, yeah, it’s not easy to learn.

Mira Lukazik

And I wasn’t aware that existed before, so that was really cool to learn about.

Steven Levine

That’s really, really terrific, Mira! It really does sound like everyone here has had really great, practical experiences that seem to fit with the … the bigger picture of what you want to do in your life – at least how you imagine it, your future career. So, it’s so great to hear! And I do wish you all the best with what you’re doing.

Danielle, thank you!

Danielle Vetere

Thank you so much for having me.

Steven Levine

Mira, Amol, thank you so much! I had a really great time doing this!

Mira Lukazik

Thank you very much for having me.

Amol Gharpure

Thank you so much, guys. It was really fun.

Steven Levine

That’s awesome! And thank you all, again, for taking the time to do this. I think we really did get a fascinating look at how these hands-on projects, these experiences here at IBKR, have benefited your longer-term goals, and were really, just enormously valuable at the end of the day.

And for our listeners out there, again, if you haven’t yet listened to the first part of this podcast – we had a great discussion with HR management – our human resources management – as well as our chief data officer, about their insights into the company, its success … this internship program …and the hiring process. And I really do urge anyone interested in interning or applying to work …. you really should have a listen. Again, a lot of great information, a lot of great insights….

And for those of you looking for more trading education – please visit the IBKR Campus. It’s at ibkr.com, and there’s a wealth of material there. We also have other podcasts that delve into a broad range of topics – from market commentary, to macroeconomics, monetary policy, a diverse array of trading products, including options, bonds, cryptocurrencies, stocks, ETFs, futures, and more, along with other engaging conversations about the company, including from our founder [and chair] Thomas Peterffy. All our IBKR Podcasts are available at tradersinsight.news, as well as on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, as well as other, popular streaming audio channels.

And until next time, I’m Steven Levine, with Interactive Brokers.

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