As a California native and aspiring software developer, Jenna MacCarley always thought she’d work in Silicon Valley—but meeting with an HRT campus recruiter at a career fair convinced her a job in New York just might be the right move.
“I was impressed with the people I met and drawn to how fast-paced and exciting the niche trading space was as compared to a big tech company,” she says. “So I upended my notion of what my life would look like and moved to New York.”
Five years later, Jenna is not only continuing to grow in her career as a core developer at HRT, but she’s also now helping students gain valuable experience by running one of our tech internship programs.
Here, Jenna talks about overcoming imposter syndrome, how developing her communication skills has helped her career, and her book recommendation for women who want to get ahead.
Tell us about your career journey, and what inspired you to work in software development.
I didn’t grow up thinking I would be a software engineer, but I loved the internet and was on it from a very young age, running my own Hello Kitty–themed GeoCities website, among other things. It wasn’t until I took an intro programming class in college that I got excited about the potential for a career in the tech space. (Not to mention, all of my friends were going off to cool jobs at these flashy tech companies. It was hard not to get caught up in the hype.)
What are you responsible for as a core developer?
There are a handful of teams you can be on as a core developer that focus on different aspects of the trading or research platform. I’ve been on a few different teams over the years, but these days I’m focused on the options asset-class trading infrastructure. That means I collaborate with our algorithm developers to bring up new markets or types of trading, working on both the market data and order-entry side of the platform.
I’m also leading the company’s core summer internship program. This involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make sure interns have the training, projects, and environment they need to be successful.
How does HRT help nurture and develop young talent?
The company has been pretty successful at organically developing talent through the autonomy and freedom that employees are given. Very early on in my career, I was assigned some challenging projects that touched many aspects of our systems and made me quickly rub shoulders with important developers and decision makers at the firm. These days, we also have more structured development opportunities like frequent tech talks, access to industry conferences, and more.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?
This is cliché, but the biggest challenge has definitely been dealing with imposter syndrome. It’s taken me years to feel that I’m really able to stand up for tech or organizational principles I believe in and realize that I don’t have to be an expert in everything to have a valuable opinion. I don’t think there’s a quick solution to this problem—just don’t stop learning and asking questions, and find mentors who are able to support you both emotionally and in your career decisions. Eventually you’ll feel like you belong.
In what ways does HRT support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), both internally and through its hiring practices?
We have a DEI committee that focuses on new recruiting avenues and communications, as well as updating our employee benefits to be more inclusive. I was heavily involved in our first Women’s Tech Summit in 2021, where we engaged directly with awesome students from around the world. And this year, we hosted a BIPOC Tech Summit. These events are intended not only to educate through talks and workshops, but also encourage people to the industry who may have never thought a career in finance or tech could be for them. On top of this, we have employee resource groups (ERGs) within the company that host various well-attended events and fund related charities.
Before HRT, you were a longtime teaching assistant at Carnegie Mellon University. What skills or lessons did you learn from your TA days that you still apply to your career today?
I learned about how to present technical information, which is critical in the real world! From PowerPoint presentations to requests for comments (RFCs) to code reviews, you’ll always need to communicate your technical ideas, and often it’s to an audience that knows little of the details.
How important is it to gain internship experience in software engineering?
An internship is your first glimpse into how the real world operates and should be thought of as an interview on both sides. It also gives you the opportunity to gain valuable experience working with a large codebase—something they don’t teach you in school. That’s why having internships was critical for me; it was also the stepping stone to other opportunities later on.
What’s one positive change you’ve made to your workday routine since COVID?
I’ve really enjoyed and benefited mentally from the hybrid work setup, working from home part of the time while still coming into the office regularly. I’m able to focus deeply at home, while also having time for self-care without the commute. But I still get the benefits of coming into the office and having great discussions face-to-face with my team. It’s the best of both worlds!
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
This is quoted from a book, but I’ve heard versions of it over the years: “Don’t expect others to spontaneously notice and reward your contributions.” It means that in building a career, you need to be documenting and making your contributions visible to others, and also look at these from the perspective of your manager who may be overseeing many people on a daily basis. If you are clearly stating your contributions and career goals, you’ll make your manager’s life a lot easier and you may get further in your career as a result.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?
That last quote was from a book called How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith, which we read as part of our Women’s ERG book club. I also read newsletters like Matt Levine’s Money Stuff, which gives a great breakdown of finance concepts. Finally, I’m reading/listening to the novel Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson.