The burden of keeping the C++ language fresh and relevant is tasked to hundreds of engineers who make the trip to ISO Standard meetings three times a year.
Nathan Myers, a principal software engineer, and Robert Leahy, a senior software engineer, attend each meeting knowing that which companies send engineers is less important than the work of the engineers themselves; it’s the engineers doing the work who have the most influence.
At least, that’s the case for Myers and Leahy, who work at MayStreet, an 8-year-old company that develops high-performance software and analytics for global capital markets. Together with their relatively lean team, Leahy and Myers help more than 50 clients make sense of contemporary markets and turn data into actionable trading insights.
Since joining MayStreet in 2018, Myers has re-architected the infrastructure of one of the company’s core offerings, Capture, so that a single server host can log and collate all public New York market activity. Meanwhile, Leahy has spearheaded multiple projects, including MayStreet’s Network Sniffing and Processing solution, which creates “drop copies” (real-time copies of all activity on an order entry session) by sniffing data from the network. He’s also created a standards-complaint, highly flexible and transport-agnostic Financial Information Exchange (FIX) engine.
Beyond that work, MayStreet sends Myers to committee meetings for the ISO C++ Standard three times a year, where he has worked since 1993 on, mostly, the Standard Library. Myers said he works with many attendees from larger companies than MayStreet at these committee meetings in building up the C++ community. But according to Meyers, contributing to the committee requires more than the backing of a corporate giant.
“The work makes an impact in the form of a constantly improving development environment, and in forming close relationships with people, worldwide, that are pushing the boundaries of what is possible,” Myers said. “Reserving enough time to stay current and participate in the wider community helps ensure the quality of the work we produce at MayStreet.”
Walk us through a day in the life at MayStreet. How does your role contribute to the greater company mission?
I came to MayStreet to write code. I spend most of my time doing that. That means writing code, writing tests, exercising new features, specifying new features and roughing in documentation for new features. Sometimes it means designing new products, explaining new features to customers, or discovering why something isn’t working for them, and what would work instead, possibly involving a new feature. I spend very little time at the office in meetings.
What makes C++ such an integral part of your job? Why do engineers rely on it?
I have been coding C++ professionally since 1988. The C++ language has grown and evolved as I have grown as an engineer. Today C++ is growing faster than ever before — attendance at conferences and the ISO meetings is exploding — as the language adapts to become more useful for today’s problems, and tomorrow’s.
What trends do you see evolving in the programming space?
Finance offers some of the most challenging problems for computers and software. Its unique challenges mean there is still vast room for innovation to solve new problems, or to solve old problems in wholly new ways. Some of these developments may become part of a future ISO standard. The ways that people use big data in finance lend themselves to a different way of thinking about how to manage it that existing tools, libraries, and methods do poorly. Changing how data is organized can still enable solutions thousands of times as fast as had seemed possible.
Changing how data is organized can enable solutions thousands of times as fast as what had previously seemed possible.’’
What is one trait you look for in engineering candidates?
Beyond competence, curiosity and a sense of responsibility, I look for a passion for simplicity. Anyone can make a thing more complicated, and do one thing more. I like to see an aim to make things simpler, yet able to do much more.
Tell us a little bit about an exciting project you’re working on for MayStreet in 2020.
We’ve recently announced the SEC as a client, which will be a big part of the team's 2020 workload. As with our other large projects, this will require engineers with strong technical skills, dedication to process and the ability to work as part of a team. A project like this provides the opportunity to develop never-before-seen solutions, which is not only a source of technical excitement, but also provides a unique opportunity to really make a difference.
Explain one or two ways you are giving back to the engineering community outside of work.
The past two years, I’ve given talks on the Networking TS (the staging platform
for bringing networking support into a future standard) at CppCon. These talks have allowed me to share knowledge I gained through real-world work here at MayStreet. This year I’ve started attending meetings of the ISO C++ Standards committee. Contributing to the evolution of the language itself is an honor and allows me to share the latest in the world of C++ with my colleagues.
Contributing to the evolution of the language itself is an honor.’’
What are your strategies for balancing outside projects and committee responsibilities with work deadlines?
Beyond the usual time management techniques, MayStreet allows for schedule flexibility. I prefer to arrange my days such that I have a few hours of work under my belt early, and then once people get to the office, my work becomes more collaborative. I also find that getting out there and engaging makes you more productive as you absorb and apply new techniques and experiences.