Where are they now? Meet Kyle | mthree

Where are they now? Meet Kyle

01/09/2021

Where can mthree take you? What happens after the veteran program is finished? Get the answers to your questions in our new series of interviews.

In our ‘where are they now?’ series, we speak to some of our very first veterans and Alumni about what they’ve been up to since finishing the program. Read their stories, get career advice and discover the impact working with mthree could have on your career.

For this blog, we spoke to Kyle. He worked in the Marines as an Avionics Electrician between 2006-2009. Kyle started the veterans' program in 2019 and has since progressed to Assistant Vice President at Morgan Stanley.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I'm part of the veteran program at mthree. I was an Avionics Electrician in the Marines and I served from 2005 to 2009.

When I left the military, I was in school in New York City for a while but decided to move overseas and pursue my hobby of Muay Thai. I was in Thailand for a year and a half and then ran out of money. I also fell out of love with the sport because it’s not good for your brain!

I moved to Singapore and started working for a company called Future Electronics. They’re the largest private distributor of electronic components globally. I was in their marketing department for their passive components, which are capacitors, resistors, inductors etc.

I decided to come back to the US and pursue an education and was a math major at St. John's University.

In 2019, a recruiter from mthree reached out to me and told me about the program, the roles that you had available and the training you provided - I thought it was pretty interesting.

I'm tech-savvy and have always been interested in computers and electronics so it seemed like a good fit. I went through the training which got me up to speed with tools in Linux that I hadn't used before. It did a very good job of preparing me for the role at Morgan Stanley.

I work in production support. My team are the support for equity and the application that they use to facilitate those trades. How it works is that a client will send an order to the traders, the sales trader will receive it and figure out how they want to execute it - they do that in an application that my team and I manage.

Day to day we keep an eye on the entire infrastructure to make sure everything's working as expected. Whenever a trader has an issue with an order, we’re the first people that are contacted to fix the problem.

Our role has a lot to do with getting both sides, the dev team and the business users, working together. The user discovers the problem and contacts us, we investigate the issue from a technical perspective and see if we can provide an immediate workaround while the developer works on a permanent fix.

Could you tell us about your military experience?

I fixed all of the electronic components that go into an aircraft. For example, after a period of time, the large GPS machines need to be removed from the aircraft to do diagnostics on them to make sure everything is operating as expected.

Often they'll pull out a piece of equipment that's malfunctioning, so it was my job to diagnose it and fix it. That could involve changing components on the board or scrapping the whole thing and getting a new one.

How was the transition from the military to the corporate world?

When I got out of the Marines, I wasn't sure what path I wanted to pursue in life.

One of my clients told me about Singapore. He said he could find me some work there, it's a wealthy country which means you can make a good living there so I moved there for a while.

This experience working in Singapore meant that I had some time after getting out of the Marines to adjust to working in the corporate sector, which made it an easier transition.

There were a few differences though. Unlike in the Marines, no one's life is dependent on me fixing this part. Expectations are different too, when you say you're going to do something in the military, you better get it done!

In the corporate world, we're working with different timelines so there’s more flexibility.

Did working in the Marines benefit you in your current role?

While I don’t use much of the technical avionics skills anymore, the soft skills I’ve developed I use every day.

People from the military are very resilient and are able to adapt. As a Marine, you're put in highly stressful situations. But you’re able to adjust to the point where it’s not as stressful anymore.

When we have a trader who's freaking out because their multimillion-dollar order isn't working, they come to someone like us because we're able to remain calm under the high pressure. We’re able to execute better as we still think clearly and manage the stress well.

When you work in production support, you have high workloads so you have to learn how to manage and adapt to that stress. While the days can be long doing production support, it's far less stressful than the 12 hour days, 6 days a week a Marine would see on deployment.

That’s one of the big advantages of hiring veterans in production support, we can handle the stress and pressure well.

What made you want to pursue a career in production support?

I like solving problems and it’s something that I'm good at so it seemed to fit my skill set.

I've been taking computers apart and putting them back together since I was a kid. My grandma brought home some old work machines and I took those apart, started installing Linux and messing around with them early on.

I've found working in a Unix operating system interesting, I also run it at home on my home machine and a lot of the work that we do is on Unix boxes.

I thought it would be cool to become more familiar with how these systems work by using it every day. You learn a lot just by being in the weeds with them.

Tell us about your career journey so far

My role was created for the wealth management flow at Morgan Stanley. Some years ago, Morgan Stanley acquired Dean Witter and they started integrating those services into Morgan Stanley's infrastructure.

When they first acquired them, they were still using Dean Witter’s infrastructure to execute the trades. But as time has gone on, they're switching to using Morgan Stanley’s applications. There's a lot of work that needs to be done in order to transition them safely.

On top of that, whenever you make these large changes you'll have a bunch of problems cropping up. They needed an extra headcount in order to be able to manage the increased work that they were going to be seeing.

That workflow is continuing to increase as we've acquired E-Trade and we're integrating these different flows into Morgan Stanley's infrastructure. I've been spearheading all of that work and managing it myself with assistance from my teammates and my supervisor.

What’s your team like?

I've been blessed to have an excellent team, it's probably one of the best teams I’ve ever been on. Everyone's really proactive and you don't have to worry about people being slackers, everyone carries their own weight.

We all look after each other and try to share as much knowledge and information as we can. Everyone appreciates finding a trick to resolving problems quickly so we teach each other things.

While our work is somewhat delineated, we're still well versed in all of the infrastructure so everyone can solve any problem. As a team, we break up the work to make it easier for us to manage and it helps prevent two people from looking at the same issue.

The people are very welcoming and they appreciate when people ask questions to get a good understanding of how things are working.

There's a lot of opportunities to grow too. For example, my manager has recently been promoted into a new role which means there’s an opportunity for someone in my team to go into my manager’s old role. When one of us moves up the ranks, everyone else follows.

With this development of the wealth management flow, we're going to be getting an extra headcount and that person is going to be working very closely with me. That's going to put me in a position of leadership relatively quickly in my career at Morgan Stanley.

How would you describe production support to someone that has never heard of it?

I tell people that traders use a trading application and I make sure that the application is working. I'm the first line of defence when it doesn't work and a lot of my role revolves around monitoring systems to make sure they're behaving as expected.

There's a lot of proactive work and trying to automate mundane tasks you do on a daily basis to minimize the toil. I work with our development teams to improve systems and work through bugs that are more complicated.

A lot of the time, we're the ones that discover the problem. We’ll send it over to the dev team to fix it and we’ll figure out the appropriate way we can work around this without requiring a new feature.

What's been your biggest highlight so far?

About a year into my role, my boss took paternity leave and one of my teammates moved to a different application support team. We had a new hire but he was too new to assist at that point. So on our team, it was just me and another guy.

It was a tough month but we handled it very well. It allowed me to grow. My boss at the time was the one that would delegate the work to everyone. When he was out, I filled that role and to this day I'm delegating work to my team. When my boss came back, my other teammate gave me credit for the work that I was doing which was appreciated.

That was a major achievement for me because I wasn't certain after a year that I was capable of managing as much as I did. We pulled through and didn't have any major complaints and handled it all well.

How much did mthree help you with your career?

I think the training was excellent because it was a great introduction to all of the tools that I use on a day to day basis. Without the training from mthree, there are lots of things I wouldn’t know how to do so early on in my role.

We look through infrastructure logs to figure out what different machines are doing. Let’s say we're looking at an order manager, you'll have 1000s of lines in these logs stating what the machine is doing.

You need to figure out how to find all of the relevant information and one of the tools that we use for this is called grep. It's a command-line utility where you can search through a text file for all of the lines of text that match the string that you feed the grep. A lot of times it would be an order ID, for example. We'll search through the logs for an order ID and we’ll get back results that aren't easy to read. You need to pipe that output into another tool in order to be able to read it quickly.

With mthree, you'll learn how to redirect that output into another application. These are basic tools that you have in this environment but when building Linux machines as a kid, I never had to use grep.

Being introduced to this was extremely beneficial because it would be hard for my team to explain grep and input-output redirection on the fly – especially in an outage scenario. This kind of basic familiarization that you get with mthree training is crucial. I don't know that I'd be successful without it to be honest.

Do you have any recommendations on how people can improve that skills?

With mthree the training touches lots of topics, enough to get you acquainted with everything. There are lots of books I would recommend reading through that give you a thorough understanding of the tools you’ll use in your role.

I read an O'Reilly book called Mastering Regular Expressions. I've never heard of a regular expression before the mthree course. It's like grammar for a string and whatever matches that grammar it will return to you.

You don't have to put in the direct match that you want. You just put in whatever fits this pattern. It'll match this regular expression that’s used in the grep tool.

We go over it in the mthree class in a basic way, where you just grep for whatever is matching the string - but you can use it to match a whole lot more than that.

I recommend once you know what tools you’ll be using, read the books to learn more about how to use them. To this day, my teammates will come to me with questions and I'll show them the relevant regular expression that would help them find what they're looking for.

Are there any mistakes that you've done during your career that you can avoid?

I've made plenty of mistakes but the problem isn't exactly the mistake per se, it’s what you do about it.

A better way to look at it is you have to ask a lot of questions and expect that you're going to make mistakes. What you want to do is always make sure that you're able to explain and articulate why it is that you made the decision that you did.

The problem that you'll run into is not having a reason why you did something or even trying to cover it up which I would not recommend. It’s much better to have clear communication and be honest about things.

If you don't know how something works, figure out someone who does or just let someone know that you're not sure how that works and ask them to explain.

What characteristics do you think helped you to succeed in your career?

I've been pretty good at building rapport amongst the variety of people that we speak to and I think that's overlooked since it’s not an easy metric to track.

The Wealth Management Team sits on a different floor than the rest of the equity traders and so a lot of the time I would go upstairs to see how they're doing. I’d ask them if they're running into any issues and make myself available to them.

I think rapport building is very useful. A big part of this role is being able to effectively communicate. There's plenty of times where I didn't know how to fix a problem immediately but just keeping the user updated and letting them know that I’m working on the problem it helps a lot.

Another thing is to take lots of notes! Write notes that you can come back to later when you have a better understanding of things, that's when it'll stick. Don't expect to be able to understand and recall everything the first time so jot it down so you can come back to it later because there's going to be a lot that you won’t have the capacity to recall at a later date.

We’re currently running a veteran-exclusive cohort for Mainframe Engineers, take a look at our roles here.