Exploring Technology Progress Is Passion Driving Leadership Success
CTO at Shift Markets
Shift Markets, where Anthony DiSanti serves as CTO, is a turn-key solution forex brokers and crypto exchanges. Anthony shared with me what he likes the most about his CTO position and which technologies have the biggest futures in FinTech development. He also explained the challenges he faces in his practice and how he constantly upgrades his knowledge for the sake of better business.
Anthony told me that he really enjoys learning new technologies and exploring the progress the FinTech industry is making as a whole:
“It’s fun to face challenges and try to identify innovative solutions to them. That really moves us ahead of our competitors, both in terms of our redundancy and resiliency, to fault tolerance within our system, as well as just the speed at which we can deliver new services.”
Anthony moved the team toward things like immutable data, reactive control flows, and using React on front-end with Redux and Redux-Observable for managing API interactions and driving state mutations. Also, he enjoys working in the crypto space and using new technologies to overcome challenges that he’d never seen before, so he pushed his team in that direction.
Overall, the company is very flexible in allowing developers to use the technologies with which they feel most comfortable with a specific focus on moving toward serverless implementations. According to Anthony, it’s worth implementing every technology that pushes the product closer to a serverless architecture.
For example, Anthony and his team are now using a MySQL-compatible relational database, but instead of maintaining dedicated MySQL servers for every client, they’ve migrated Aurora Serverless. Similarly, they encourage developers to move from older technology stacks, such as LAMP, to more modern stacks, like Python, Node.js, or C# running in containers on Fargate or ECS.
At the same time, Anthony encourages developers to pick up new languages and get cross-trained in technologies that are used across the team:
“We try to make sure that people are working to their strengths. Those strengths are going to result in us getting the highest quality software with the least defects in the fastest development time possible.”
Challenges of serverless and multi-language approaches
Anthony says the most annoying challenge for serverless architecture is the need to deal with licensing issues:
“If you’re licensed for an individual server, you really can’t deploy into a serverless architecture without running into challenges with the definition of how that license works. We do occasionally have to use those special snowflake servers that sit on an EC2 instance and represent a particular licensed product.”
Also, when a team chooses their own tech stack, they encounter trouble when they lose a developer with a unique skillset. They need to find someone to learn the tech, and there’s no magic bullet for that.
But Anthony reports that the biggest strain is integrating with legacy systems. He has no ability to control the large collection of distributed systems, their architecture, or the versions of code that everyone else is running. This makes development a great challenge.
Teach, then learn
Anthony has found that one learns something best by teaching others, and it’s very fulfilling for him to see his former students and mentees join the company. That’s why he values knowledge sharing of all stripes and promotes it within the company. For example, they try to have monthly company-wide training sessions to cover critical topics such as blockchain, equities trading, exchange product, and the crypto market. Seeing the big picture in the financial domain allows engineers to stay focused and understand customer pain points.
To boot, Anthony never stops upgrading his own perspective in terms of technologies and the financial space. Among the means of keeping his knowledge relevant, he maintains friendships with other developers and tech leaders whom he highly respects.
“Often, we have a lot in common outside of our professional work. Whether it’s liking video games, or being interested in certain news, or having certain interesting political conversations with each other. Often, that takes the format of a debate where we’re disagreeing about something and ultimately, [we’re] both a little wrong and a little right, and we learned something from that conversation.”
Beyond that, there are some more traditional means of self-educating. It’s interesting how Anthony refers to books:
“A lot of people like books. Books can be helpful when you are looking at a space that has been very well explored. But for the newer technologies, they move so quickly that the books are going to be a little less relevant.”
Exploring progress, growing business
According to Anthony, one can benefit from following new technologies and being introduced to new techniques by subscribing to conferences they wish to attend on YouTube. He pinpointed Strange Loop as a very good functional programming conference to start with as well as JSConf, CSSConf, Black Hat, and DEF CON.
The tech giants, he says, provide rather interesting and noteworthy updates. For instance, the Amazon Web Services channel publishes a lot of great talks as well as individual twenty-minute primers on new technologies. They release new technologies nearly every week, so the channel is quite prolific. Google has its Google Developers channel, where they’ll talk about updates to Firebase and Stackdriver and all of their technologies from the front-end through to their back-end in the Google Cloud Platform. Also, Facebook Developers is a great channel.
“You’re obviously not going to sit down and watch 50 hours of video. In fact, you might not watch any of it, but you just scroll through, see if anything’s useful, add it to a playlist and when you have some time, you watch them.”
The most important thing Anthony found for using this technique is that when one is watching one of these videos, they’re to open the laptop and start using the technology hand in hand with what they’re watching. It helps to evoke interest, moreover, doing is the way that Anthony always finds the best to learn.