Photos courtesy of BlackRock.
Career development is a core part of the culture at BlackRock, a tech-focused global asset manager that helps people and institutions build better financial futures.
“Career paths are integral to our customized tech talent strategy and one of the ways we are elevating our engineering culture,” says Alexandra (Alex) Khosid, Tech Fellow and Managing Director in the Aladdin Product Group at BlackRock. As part of this initiative, BlackRock has implemented a unique Tech Career Path that Khosid says showcases how technologists can move across roles over time and gives engineers an additional professional “title on the Tech Career Ladder that refers to an employee’s technical acumen and recognizes their technical contributions and seniority.” As both an engineering leader herself and a Technical Fellow at BlackRock, Khosid has helped develop the Tech Career Ladder to help navigate professional career growth.
For the company as a whole, “employees are supported in whatever career progression they are looking to nurture,” remarks Erin Xie, lead portfolio manager of the health sciences portfolios and the Head of the Health Sciences team. “There are many paths that someone can take within the firm; for those interested in a career in investing, there is ample support for the path you are interested in — whether it is research, trading or portfolio management.”
To learn more about the benefits of working at BlackRock, we chatted with Khosid and Xie about their jobs, the support they receive from BlackRock and their best advice.
Khosid: I am a Managing Director in the Aladdin Product Group, which is responsible for a large share of the technology at BlackRock. Our main product is Aladdin, a suite of applications designed to support the entire investment lifecycle. I lead the Investment Compliance technology team, a global team of engineers spread over three offices – London, Gurgaon and New York.
I started on this team about two years ago. My role is multidimensional and includes people management responsibilities, organization of development process, product ownership and engineering. Prior to my current role, I spent most of my career at BlackRock leading a cohort of engineers on the Portfolio Management Tools team. Altogether, I’ve had three different jobs at BlackRock so far, each giving me a different set of challenges and opportunities for growth. Internal mobility is a reality across BlackRock. I am also a Technical Fellow – a designation held in recognition of the expertise, leadership and mentorship of select engineers at our firm. This designation is an honor and a responsibility to make BlackRock a great place for engineers.
Our mission as Tech Fellows is to advance a firm-wide culture of technical excellence, innovation and leadership, helping make BlackRock the destination for building world-class investment systems.
Xie: I am the lead portfolio manager of the health sciences portfolios at BlackRock. I am also the head of our health sciences team, a group of research analysts I work with very closely to analyze healthcare companies and identify new opportunities in the healthcare space. Much of my work revolves around conducting in-depth research on companies, collaborating with the research analysts on research and investment ideas and making investment decisions within our portfolios. I have been in my current role since 2003. Prior to starting my investment career in 1999 as a healthcare research analyst, I was a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University focused on molecular genetics.
Khosid: It is a known fact that BlackRock is an asset management organization, but it is less known that we are also a tech company. By working at BlackRock, you get to experience both a financial institution and a tech company.
In the Aladdin Product Group, we build Aladdin — our investment and risk management technology that is used both internally at BlackRock and delivered externally to financial institutions. Aladdin is one of the fastest-growing business lines at BlackRock and creates a healthy relationship between investment professionals and technologists. On top of that, solving for a myriad of complexities across Aladdin clients as well as BlackRock through a single platform creates a unique and exciting engineering and product challenge.
Xie: The scale BlackRock is able to achieve truly differentiates me as an investor because I have access to resources that allow me to manage my portfolios more effectively. Not only do I have the support of trading, risk and core portfolio management teams, but I am also able to gain insights from investors and analysts across the globe thanks to the connectivity afforded to me by BlackRock.
Khosid: BlackRock has a small start-up feel, and we can be agile even though we are a large organization. Larry Fink, the founder of BlackRock, still runs the firm, and there are many co-founders and early employees that are still around and have worked at BlackRock for 20+ years. This nimbleness allows employees to move quickly, innovate and feel personal ownership and connection to each other and the firm’s purpose.
Xie: BlackRock was founded in 1988 and, of the founding team of eight, two were women. This was almost unheard of at that time in the financial industry and speaks to the firm's consistent focus on diversity today.
Khosid: A program that I loved being involved in this year is the Hallac Scholarship program, a BlackRock-funded scholarship program for bright, innovative and entrepreneurial students from economically disadvantaged circumstances. I had the pleasure of speaking with program participants about what it is like to be an engineer at BlackRock and sharing some of my experiences as a Tech Fellow and an engineering lead. Afterward, I had a chance to connect with a few interns one-on-one. Those were enriching experiences getting to know these bright and energetic young professionals more personally and getting a glimpse at the future of the industry.
Through BlackRock’s generosity in memory of Mr. Hallac, the corporation will ensure that financial need does not stand in the way of recipients earning a superb education.
Xie: BlackRock has many employee networks that really help to create a more inclusive culture at the firm. I personally participate in the Women’s Initiative & Allies Network (WIN) and the Asian Middle Eastern Professional Network (AMP), which provide programming and support for women and people of Asian and Middle Eastern descent, respectively. I believe that these networks, along with others like them, help different groups of people feel more supported and seen at work, which is important given how much time we spend at work daily.
Khosid: One of my favorite perks at BlackRock and specifically my team, APG, is the summer outing each year. We haven’t been able to congregate in person since 2019, but in the past, our summer outings ranged from a fun boat ride on the Hudson River in New York to a trip to a ping pong hall. Spending time with my colleagues in person outside the office in the summers is always a highlight, and we are really looking forward to getting back into the office and being able to resume team events and outings.
Xie: My favorite perk about working at BlackRock is how supportive the firm is of innovation and growing the scope of the portfolios that I manage. While I initially started managing one U.S.-domiciled all-cap fund for the firm, my investment remit is now much broader and includes off-shore funds, private investments, small and mid-cap focused funds, hedge funds and actively managed ETFs.
Khosid: In career decisions, one of the key things is understanding what matters to you most. For software engineers, is it the latest and greatest technology? Are you passionate about the domain that the software you write will support? Is it the people or work/life balance? Once you know, be patient in finding the right opportunity that meets your criteria.
Xie: It’s critical to really like what you do. You will be naturally motivated and should do well accordingly.
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