Hackbright Goes to Bloomberg!

When it comes to job searching, the worst part can be the guessing game. Oftentimes you’ll come across job descriptions for companies that sound vaguely familiar, but it’s hard to tell from only their website if you’ll align with their mission or fit into their company culture. How do you ever know in advance if you’ll actually like it there?

Here at Hackbright we give our fellowship students the opportunity to explore our partner companies while they are still in the program. It’s a chance to help our women, most of whom are in the midst of a major career change, to further define their interests and what they want from a work environment.

Hackbright’s current cohort, nicknamed TwelfthBright, went on an adventure to Bloomberg’s new San Francisco location to explore the office, learn about their software and projects, and meet the team. After a quick tour of their gorgeous new space in the historic PacBell building (where Winston Churchill famously made the first transatlantic phone call), Hackbright’s twelfth cohort joined Bloomberg’s Zach Haehn to talk about the team he runs in SF – R&D Software Development. Zach has been at Bloomberg for over 13 years and he oversees the entire San Francisco office.

Let me be clear – before I visited their office with the Hackbright fellows, I had no idea that Bloomberg was a financial software and data company. I had only ever heard about Bloomberg news and media. Zach’s quick and informative overview of the Bloomberg Terminal completely changed my perspective of the FinTech industry. He shared interesting examples of the Terminal’s capabilities; the huge volume of data it sees every minute, the impact of weather and storms in certain parts of the world, and even San Francisco’s own port traffic. We glanced out the window facing the SF bay, pointed out a cargo ship, and through the Terminal we were able to locate that ship and pull all its available data.

TwelfthBright was fully engaged in Zach’s talk, and not only because he is super charismatic and funny. They asked thoughtful questions about Bloomberg’s algorithms and organization, finding the San Francisco office culture relatable and open. Zach spoke about how he encourages his team to look beyond the Terminal, ask questions, and discover innovative applications of their existing software. This new location in San Francisco will be doing a lot of hiring, he emphasized.

After Zach finished speaking, the students were treated to a delicious luncheon accompanied by several members of the R&D team. Perhaps it was meant to be more of a formal Q&A, but the entire group – both our students and the Bloomberg team – allowed themselves to relax, get to know each other, and have a good time. They day ended with a high volume of chatter, laughter, and smiles all around. Before we left, they made sure to stop by the huge tank in the lobby which houses two adorable, playful baby stingrays.


Hackbright’s partner companies offer students the powerful opportunity to actually see an office, meet a team, and learn about their projects before applying for a job. These experiences help students determine what it is they are looking for in their next career so that they can make intentional decisions. As a result, they will likely be happier and more confident in their next role. Obviously, it’s a whole lot better than blindly throwing out your resume into the ether, hoping something will stick.

Want to learn more about becoming a partner company? Click here!

Want to learn more about Hackbright’s engineering fellowship? Click here!

(Video) Hackbright Mentor Steve Tjoa Talks About Music Information Retrieval in Python

Researcher and engineer (and Hackbright mentor!) Steve Tjoa spoke at Hackbright Academy about music information retrieval in Python on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at Hackbright Academy in San Francisco.

Watch the full Hackbright Academy tech talk here:

The material used for the tech talk, including the IPython notebooks, is available on GitHub.

Slides from the tech talk are available in PDF format here.

About the tech talk: Music information retrieval (MIR) is an interdisciplinary field bridging the domains of statistics, signal processing, machine learning, musicology, biology, and more. MIR algorithms allow a computer to make sense of audio data in order to bridge the semantic gap between high-level musical information — e.g. tempo, key, pitch, instrumentation, chord progression, genre, song structure — and low-level audio data.

In this talk, Steve surveys common research problems in MIR, including music fingerprinting, transcription, classification, and recommendation, and recently proposed solutions in the research literature. The talk contains both a high-level overview as well as concrete examples of implementing MIR algorithms in Python using NumPy, SciPy, and the IPython notebook.

About the speaker: Steve Tjoa is a researcher and engineer in the areas of signal processing and machine learning for music information retrieval (MIR). He currently works on the MIR team at Humtap. Before that, he worked on content-based audio recognition and recommendation as an NSF-sponsored postdoctoral fellow at iZotope and Imagine Research (acquired by iZotope). After earning a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland in 2011, Steve has been the co-instructor for the annual summer workshop on MIR at Stanford University. Follow him on Twitter at @stevetjoa.

(Video) Google Engineer Chris Palmer Explains “The Powers of Two”, Big O Notations

Google security engineer (and Hackbright mentor) Chris Palmer helps new programmers understand how to answer questions like “How much RAM does Twitter have to buy?” and “What’s the lowest possible latency to open a Gmail inbox showing 25 conversations?”

Watch the full Hackbright Academy Tuesday night tech talk here:

Check out his “Powers Of Two” slides here!

Chris talks about how to put real-world orders of magnitude on abstract big-O complexity, make back-of-the-envelope estimations, and explore how to use them to reverse engineer real-world large-scale applications like Twitter and Gmail. He explores algorithms and their complexity from a high-level view and from a low-level view, to help develop intuitions about what computers can really do.

About the speaker: Chris Palmer works at Google as a software security engineer on Chrome, where he focuses on the security of Chrome for mobile platforms (Android and iOS), and duct-taping over the foibles of the web PKI. Prior to this, Chris was on the Android team at Google. Prior to Google, Chris was the Technology Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a security engineering consultant at iSEC Partners, and a web developer. Majoring in linguistics and in French literature prepared him well for these careers, weirdly. Follow him on Twitter at @fugueish.