FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Laura Tobak, Product Manager at Bloomberg
Laura started her career in Fintech at the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, initially having no idea what a hedge fund was. Over seven years at Bridgewater, she was able to explore different paths, spending the last four years there as a Product Manager focused on their client-facing technology - a research library and portfolio construction platform. After that, Laura spent a number of years in crypto, focused on building trading platforms. She recently joined Bloomberg, where she is currently working on the company’s new product BQuant, a cloud-based data science platform.
Bloomberg’s goal is to democratize access to financial information. Laura works in the Office of the CTO, which is the company’s future-looking technical and product arm and operates similar to a well funded startup, quickly iterating on product ideas to get the best product to market as fast as possible. This team envisions, designs, and prototypes the next generation infrastructure, hardware, and applications for the Bloomberg Terminal, with projects covering machine learning-powered products, cloud computing infrastructure and strategy, quant data science solutions, open source stewardship, natural language processing, and more.
Laura’s product of focus, BQuant, is for quants and data scientists to analyze financial markets, use Bloomberg’s financial datasets and services, and share the results of their research with Portfolio Managers within their financial institution by publishing it as interactive applications that can be shared internally via the Bloomberg Terminal. She is responsible for the foundational capabilities that allow users to create, manage, and consume these applications.
Laura believes people who work in product management are in a unique position: they have their hands in every part of the process - ideation, design, development, etc., and yet they are never the subject matter expert. This presents an exciting opportunity in that there is always more to learn and someone to learn it from. She thinks the best Product Managers are those who make a concerted effort to learn as much as possible about each of their areas so they can be partners as opposed to just managing the output of their work.
What Laura is most excited about in Fintech this year is the democratization of everything; currency, data, and information. From distributed ledger technology to AI, she believes there are many technologies emerging that make it easier for anyone to get access to anything. Over the coming years, Laura thinks we can expect to start seeing these technologies integrated with products we use every day, not just specialized solutions.
A quote from “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand that has always stuck in my mind is: “She had never allowed herself to question the future, for a question would have been an admission of doubt.”
More on Laura
Where you currently live: Brooklyn, NY
Living arrangement: Own an apartment in Park Slope, where I live with my miniature
dachshund and too many plants
Hometown: Westchester, NY
Favorite hobby: Horseback riding
Favorite show to binge: Succession
What's the best job decision you ever made?
Joining Bridgewater. The guidance and mentorship I received there was unparalleled. The
people and culture at Bridgewater have shaped my career, how I think, and who I am.
Can you tell us about a time someone encouraged you to try a task or take on a project
you didn’t think that you would know how to do/or be good at?
When I first transitioned to tech at Bridgewater, I knew nothing about how enterprise-grade
technology gets built. I was given a simple project to integrate data from another department’s database into our platform via an API they had exposed. The kick-off meeting included very senior managers and I was leading it. I did everything I could to get out of it. I even seriously considered going home “sick,” but a friend asked me if I thought I’d learn anything in the meeting. Of course I would, as there was so much for me to learn about everything. Then, she asked me why I wasn’t excited to grow in my role and to understand more about the process and the product. Of course, this was exactly what I wanted, so I stumbled through the meeting (and learned what an API was).
What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the
I chose the wrong grad school program. I didn’t understand my learning style and chose a
program that offered the best job opportunities post-graduation as opposed to choosing the program that would give me the best chance of actually getting my Ph.D. Through the process, I learned a lot about the culture I need to succeed and what type of environment best suits my learning style.
Do you have any productivity hacks? What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain
a work/life balance?
In terms of productivity, someone once told me to touch every email only once, which really has helped me prioritize / keep track of everything coming at me. With respect to motivation, I love to see ideas come to life. From an initial written proposal to
mock ups, or from the beginning of a web app (or API) to the final product, it’s exciting and
invigorating to see how these things are realized. I am honestly awful at maintaining work-life balance on my own. Growing up at Bridgewater, I let work consume my entire life, partly because it’s ingrained in the firm’s culture and partly because I am naturally inclined to throw myself into my work. Bloomberg has been quite refreshing in that the culture really emphasizes work-life balance in a way that makes it difficult to let work become your whole life.
4:00 am: Wake up and press snooze 3 times
4:15 am: Force myself to get up, throw on some clothes, grab my dog, and start the trek to
wherever I managed to find street parking yesterday
4:30 am: Drive to the barn while listening to podcasts I’m probably retaining only half of
5:45 am: Ride my horse! (while my dog gallivants around the property)
7:00 am: Drive back home to Brooklyn, trying to beat the traffic and the GPS ETA
9:00 am: Jump in the shower while Bloomberg Anywhere loads on my Mac
9:15 am: Catch up on emails, IB and/Slack messages, etc.
10:00 am: Zoom meeting with the UX team to discuss the plan for recruiting participants for our user research
11:00 am: Zoom meeting with internal stakeholders to get feedback on the roadmap I presented at last week’s team summit in London
12:00 pm: Make myself some lunch and take my dog for a quick walk
12:30pm: Some heads down time to work on a couple RFCs for new features
2:00 pm: Backlog grooming meetings with all my teams
4:00 pm: 1:1s with different Engineering leads to discuss ongoing and upcoming projects
5:00 pm: Zoom meeting with UX team to discuss feedback on designs for a new feature
6:00 pm: Hop on the Peloton for a quick workout
7:30pm: Make dinner while catching up with a long distance friend on the phone
8:00 pm: Watch TV
10:00 pm: Bedtime! (finally)