Meet Kaiju: Albi Gjino, Lead Backend Developer
While many companies are interested only in the immediate results, Kaiju has a longer-term vision. The aim is to develop a new breed of technologies that upend the status quo and lead the industry.
At Kaiju Capital Management, we have a commitment to excellence at every level of our company. This commitment extends to people who aren’t as visible to the outside world. Among these are our technical professionals, who keep the ship running smoothly.
Tech teams, to borrow a theatrical flourish, are the stage directors of the modern financial firm. They build systems and enable AI, allowing traders and analysts to perform their jobs seamlessly. Talented technology professionals have never been more prized within the financial sector. In the brave new world of digital trading, those with the most functional, intuitive tech have the edge.
As tech roles in finance are often less well-known, we want you to meet our talented technologists and learn what brought them to Kaiju Capital Management. We’re kicking off a series of Q&As by introducing you to Albi Gjino, our lead backend developer. Based in Tirana, Albania, Albi has a passion for developing custom applications from the ground up, and we asked him to explain what drives this passion and how he applies it at Kaiju.
Q. How did you get into software development? Was it a long-term plan or was there more of a story there?
A. Software development runs in our family. My closest relative when I was little, my uncle, was the founder and director of the IT department at the University of Tirana. He probably got the first personal computer in Albania, back when we were still in communism. Besides playing games, his sons and I would make very simple QBasic programs that drew shapes on screen, or performed calculations based on text input. I found it fascinating how computers could perform such difficult mathematical calculations in a split second, and how dependable they were. In addition, my father, a mathematician, was head of the cryptography sector of the Albanian Army. When the first two mainframes came to Albania, one was assigned to my uncle's department and the other to my father's.
I got deep into programming around the beginning of high school when we could afford a proper Windows PC in our home. I made some software for the Albanian market that my father would provide to institutions in cooperation with my uncle's company. One of them was made to browse the Albanian legislation, and the other was phonebook software. This was before cell phones, and we got the phonebook database from the sole phone operator in Albania, so it was immensely useful as a searchable listing of all Albanian phone numbers. When I saw people find and organize in seconds what would have otherwise taken them hours, I was sure that "talking to computers" was to be my role in life.
Q. One of your earliest jobs was with the General Directory of the Civil State (GDCS) in Albania. What did that job involve, and why did you move on?
A. My first job out of the university was at the GDCS. This was the time in history when the Civil Registry was moving from paper registers to a computerized database system. There had been many delays in the digitization of software and the company that was managing the process was in need of an additional hand. Therefore, for a time, I moved from my initial supporting role in the government to a programming role at the company contracted by the government to build the software.
The software, which we rushed to deliver on time, was used to digitize paper registers, fix editing issues, and build a clean national database. This database was later imported into the final system that came from the Austrian government. Our hard work was no longer considered useful. My role as software developer ended, and I decided to seek a more challenging job.
Q. Your next job after that was with Vodaphone. How was it transitioning from working for the government to working in the private sector?
A. Vodafone had a much more complex and efficient infrastructure than what we had in government. Here, I was introduced to multi-terabyte databases, extensive logging, hours-long ETL (extract, transform, load) and reporting jobs. In government, our goals were pre-set. We were not supposed to exceed them. In the private sector, we could set our own goals and exceed them. We were never short of challenges.
The collaboration between sectors also was more prevalent, which enabled us to revolutionize many aspects of the work. After a couple of years at Vodafone, I wanted bigger challenges. I decided I wanted to develop systems again rather than administer them. Still, the two-year stint broadened my perspective. I came away with deep knowledge of relational database systems, their optimization potential and their limits.
Q. How did you end up working for Kaiju Capital Management?
A. I had a couple of friends who were working remotely for American companies. They praised their organizations’ efficiency, use of new technologies, and compensation. My jobs in Albania, on the other hand, had become routine. And then once-exceptional compensation was not keeping up with the times. I decided to give North American companies a try. Working remotely for these companies, I discovered a whole new world. Compensation was stellar, and I had the opportunity to develop experimental technologies. What’s more, optimized organizing systems led to fast, streamlined progress.
Three years after I began working as a freelancer for U.S. and Canadian companies on a per-project basis, I ran across an interesting job listing posted by Kaiju’s Chief Technology Officer, David Schooley. I had grown a little tired of working on short-term projects and was looking forward to something long term and greater in scope. As it turned out, that is exactly what Kaiju was offering – a chance to help turn a small fund manager into an industry juggernaut. I was lucky enough to get the job.
Q. What has Kaiju given you the opportunity to do that you might not have been able to do elsewhere?
A. At Kaiju, I’ve found a balance. There are periods of intense work and others that are more relaxed. I've learned a lot about the stock and derivatives markets. I've worked with a plethora of technologies and had opportunities to experiment with algorithms and optimization techniques. Kaiju has given me the chance to expand my knowledge base beyond the scope of my current job.
At Kaiju, keeping up with new tech developments and evolving practices is highly encouraged. We also are encouraged to expand our knowledge base by interacting with a professionally diverse team. We each have very different roles and technical backgrounds, but we communicate frequently, exchanging ideas and perspectives.
Q. People who don’t have much technical experience can have a hard time communicating with those who do. How do you approach communication with non-technical people to make it easier and more understandable?
A. While I’m a software developer by profession, I am a generally curious person, and regularly engage with the world from a non-technical perspective. Insider lingo can make people feel intimidated or left out. I like to use non-tech parallels as communication tools.
Here’s an example: my father-in-law taught me how to build drywall. He explained the construction process in detail, including the reasons for each step. He discussed the components of drywall, and the need to build in resistance to humidity and temperature. He gave me examples of what can go wrong. In the end, I understood the engineering logic. I could picture each step. I use this as an example of how to visualize complex technologies.
Q. Where do you see Kaiju going as a company in the future and what do you see as your role in that?
A. Ever since I was little, I saw computers as reliable friends rather than lifeless machines. I saw them as immensely powerful, with language and even a mindset you have to learn, understand, and appreciate. I see Kaiju becoming a place where humans and computers collaborate closely to bring out the best in each. Our experienced traders use their knowledge and intuition to define rules and scrutinize results, while the computer uses pinpoint precision and speed to analyze the market.
I see my role as that of a translator, taking human needs and converting them into the language of computer systems.
Q. What does Kaiju do differently that other companies should learn from?
A. While many companies are interested only in the immediate results, Kaiju has a longer-term vision. The aim is to develop a new breed of technologies that upend the status quo and lead the industry.
At the forefront, you will find proven professionals, a well-oiled machine with innovation and efficiency.
Lastly: at Kaiju, our ethics and respect for one another is second to none. Employees around the globe celebrate each other's cultures and backgrounds. This mutual respect has created a friendly climate. Our focus is on the success of the company as a whole. Our efforts and contributions are appreciated and encouraged from the top. Here we can be our best and give our best.
Photo by Ricky Flores
Daniel Bukszpan's reporting and commentary on finance, technology, and politics has been published in Fortune, The Daily Beast, CNBC.com, and other outlets. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.