Two Sigma has long cultivated a culture of learning, intellectual curiosity, and continuous improvement. This culture takes many forms, from informal study groups to sponsoring—and avidly participating in—external conferences. It’s an important way to help us stay abreast of new ideas and technologies to maintain a competitive edge. Being inveterate geeks, we also like learning new things.
In this spirit, Two Sigma has built up a robust Engineering Education program over the years. Its goals are to prepare the company for the future, help developers grow their knowledge and careers, and to help people master internal tools and technologies one couldn’t learn about anywhere else. As a result, engineers at Two Sigma are empowered to hone their skills in areas well beyond those for which they might initially have been hired, enabling them to take their careers in many directions.
This article provides a brief overview on our Engineering Education program: why we offer it, what kinds of classes we offer, and how engineers at Two Sigma can expect to benefit from our focus on continuous learning.
Why we do it
Two Sigma’s Engineering Education team provides training and resources that support the daily productivity and continued technical and intellectual development of our engineers. The team’s mission is to help colleagues keep up to date and continuously grow their skills, as well as to help address four important organizational challenges:
- Rapidly integrate new Engineers into Two Sigma, so they can be as effective as possible, as soon as possible.
- Continue to boost their productivity in a scalable and sustainable way, as our technology stack grows and evolves.
- Over the longer term, inspire engineers to innovate and grow, so they’ll be ready and able to keep Two Sigma at the cutting edge.
- Build a strong community to support feelings of engagement and empower meaningful collaboration.
What we teach
Engineering Education’s programming focuses on four basic pillars: training, documentation, community, and external engagement.
In our training classes, Two Sigma practitioners teach their colleagues about technologies that are specific to the company; often the people leading classes on proprietary systems are the original developers—those who know them best. Additionally, we offer classes on how Two Sigma uses open source tools like containers or Kubernetes that have been customized to suit the company’s particular uses. Importantly, we don’t reinvent the wheel when we don’t have to; in some cases we provide access to outside resources, such as Codeacademy or Google Cloud Training, to help people get up to speed.
The Two Sigma Engineering Education team has designed and offers instruction in nearly 50 courses to date, in the following categories:
- Foundations classes help new joiners get off the ground quickly. They focus on getting engineers acquainted with the Two Sigma development environment and helping them understand how we store data.
- Software Quality instruction focuses on helping new engineers learn and apply best practices in areas like testing, reliability, and documentation.
- Web and Visualization is a series of specialized offerings that explore the details of Two Sigma’s web, dashboard, and visualization platforms.
- Modeling and Trading for Engineers brings new engineering hires up to speed on the investment side of the business. Two Sigma aims to hire the smartest people in their respective fields, believing that for those with no background in finance, we can teach them what they need to know.
- Data Analysis Tools training explores the details of Two Sigma’s modeling and trading platforms.
- Technical Learning Paths (TLPs): In-house experts have curated resources for people who wish to learn more on technical subjects, such as programming languages or security concepts, that aren’t specific to Two Sigma.
Scaling learning through self-serve technical documentation is another key component of Two Sigma’s Engineering Education program. Our goal is to get engineers as excited about writing effective docs as they are about producing great code. Really.
Our internal consulting services and documentation classes focus on teaching engineers how to write for multiple audiences, structure content for reuse and search, and integrate documentation with development. The Documentation Toolkit supplies templates, checklists and guidance on the how and what of writing at Two Sigma.
As we see it, engineering education isn’t only about developing technical skills. There are other critical, if sometimes subtle, aspects of Two Sigma’s culture, norms, and practices that new employees need to learn in order to be productive and comfortable at work. The company offers the following initiatives to jump start productivity, encourage a supportive environment, and help build strong networks:
- The Pal Program: The Engineering Education team created this program for all new joiners at Two Sigma. “Pals” are peers of the new hire who help them acclimate to life at Two Sigma over a four-week period.
- Work in Progress (WIP): An extension of the Pal Program, this is a series of talks that allows new joiners to share projects they’ve been working on since joining the company. At each WIP session, the entire community of new joiners and their Pals get together to learn what their colleagues are up to and showcase early achievements.
- Hacker Lab: Two Sigma has dedicated maker space at its New York and Houston offices where employees from any area of the company are free to drop in and hack away at their creations. We think of Hacker Lab as a “gym for the mind,” where engineers and others can stretch their abilities in a fun, social atmosphere. Past projects have included hooking up an old teletype machine to the internet, building a robotic air hockey table, and building a NASCAR simulator.
- Instructor Coaches: The Instructor Coach program consists of a group of experienced Two Sigma “coaches” who support ~80 Engineering Education instructors throughout the year by providing feedback on instructional content and delivery, and helping them improve their effectiveness at delivering content in a way that captures and maintains students’ attention.
As much as we pride ourselves on the innovation that takes place within Two Sigma’s walls, helping our engineers stay abreast of broader industry developments is still of paramount importance. In addition to cultivating close relationships with academia, Two Sigma sponsors dozens of conferences, meetups, and similar events. We also encourage engineers both to attend them and to present at or submit papers to them. Subsequently, we also host an ongoing series of post-conference lightning rounds and deep dive talks, to help transfer new knowledge and key learnings broadly around the company
This focus on external engagement is yet another way to help Two Sigma engineers gain awareness and understanding of the bleeding edge of many different technologies—and in some cases, to define it themselves.
Two Sigma views robust continuing education as crucial to helping our engineers hone their abilities, and to helping the company remain competitive. With a robust program based on technical trainings, community, documentation, and external engagement, Two Sigma engineers will find no shortage of opportunities to learn, to teach something new, and to connect with each other.