Tech MDPs

Houqi Li

Hometown: Chengdu, China

Alma mater: University of Wisconsin-Madison

Major: Computer Sciences, Applied Mathematics

Current Role: Associate Software Engineer (Chicago)

When did you start the MDP program and what was your role?

I started the program in Jan 2020 and my first role is Data Engineer in Data team in Workplace. It was an internal role focusing on data pull requests and building a platform to keep track of the user and retirement plan data.

What led you to this current role?

In my first role, I did a stretch project with ChartBuilder, a tool to build charts following Morningstar design guidelines. I discovered my interest in front end while working on that project and got familiar with Morningstar Base Charts, a chart library used by ChartBuilder and managed by my current team.

What is a typical day in your current role?

I turn on the laptop at 8:30 and check my email and missing conversations in Teams. I also check my tasks on the JIRA board and any pending code reviews. I pretty much work on my tasks alone for the rest of the day. I occasionally reach out to my teammates if I have questions. I also keep an eye on Teams, so I don’t miss their conversations.

Did you participate in any stretch projects?

Besides ChartBuilder, I have also worked on a stretch project with the Morningstar Ideas site. It’s a global platform aiming to connect all Morningstar employees and foster collaborative, creative, and innovative thinking. I worked with a few other MDPs and we felt proud of creating this company-wide platform. It was also a good opportunity to sharpen my front-end skills and paved the way to my current role.

What advice would you give your first-year self?

Be proactive and take advantage of the MDP program. Look for the second rotation earlier and network with more MDPs.

How was it like starting your MDP role in a virtual setting?

I started my second role virtually. My teammates are super active on Teams and we have many conversations every day. That makes it easier for me to ask questions because I know I will get a response quickly. My team also has a 30/60/90-day plan for me. The transition went smoothly, and I didn’t feel it was very different from starting the role in the office.

How has Morningstar helped you in this pandemic?

Morningstar hosted town halls every month and this kept me updated on the latest company plan and updates. I’m also glad to hear from senior leaders across the organization.

One piece of WFH advice?

Be sure to take a walk when the weather is nice.

Lavanya Kannan

Hometown: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Alma mater: Purdue University

Major: Computer Science and Mathematics

Current Role: Associate Software Engineer (Chicago)

When did you start the MDP program and what was your role?

I started on September 2020 and I was placed on the Managed Portfolios team as a developer. It’s a predominantly front-end focused role with opportunities to work on a couple back-end tasks.

What is a typical day in your current role?

I usually start my day at around 8:30 by catching up on emails and teams conversations I might’ve missed. We have a daily call in the morning at 9 where everyone gives their updates on the progress of their work. This is a chance for team members to bring up any blockers, get help and discuss any ideas for improvement. Apart from that we have calls for tech sessions, and other sprint ceremonies but usually most of my time is spent working on tickets on my own or with another developer. Our squad really takes advantage of pair coding. When I have a little extra time, I like to set up coffee chats and attend MDP events that interest me.

Did you participate in any stretch projects?

I am currently working on a stretch project with the other MDPs on my team. It involves creating an internal surveying tool for MIM analysts to measure their beliefs about a variety of asset classes.

What advice would you give your first-year self?

I still haven’t completed my first year with Morningstar but something I wish I started doing earlier is setting up coffee chats. Starting virtually made it a bit more difficult to do this as it felt more formal but I quickly learnt that everybody here is happy to chat and share their experiences!

How was it like starting your MDP role in a virtual setting?

It was definitely a little strange not being able to see my team or other MDPs in person. Especially in the beginning, I felt like I was missing out on something essential by not having those casual conversations you would in the elevator or over lunch for example. But setting up coffee chats and attending virtual MDP events have definitely helped overcome that feeling of being disconnected. In terms of working with my team members, they are all active on teams and are usually quick to respond to my questions and concerns and that has definitely helped a lot! Having weekly check-ins with my manager to voice my concerns and trying to chat often with the rest of my team has also helped me stay connected.

How has Morningstar helped you in this pandemic?

The town halls and consistent communication about the situation and the plans to safely return to the office was extremely helpful for me to make decisions. It was good to know that Morningstar was putting our safety and comfort as a priority.

One piece of WFH advice?

I tend to get distracted by the messes in my apartment and have the urge to clean or fix it immediately. Having a workspace that faces the wall or faces away from the rest of my apartment has been really useful for me. Also, try and get some fresh air if you can! Going for a walk in the morning really helps me get in the right headspace.

Sabrina Tay

Hometown: Singapore

Alma mater: Case Western Reserve University

Major: Computer Science and Economics

Current Role: Associate Software Engineer on Data Service Fixed Income squad (Chicago)

When did you start the MDP program and what was your role?

I started in the MDP program in my current role in July 2020

What led you to this current role?

I’ve been on the team for almost 9 months now and still finding myself learning new things with each project. Since my team is pretty small there are so many different aspects to learn about, I have not felt bored or that I was doing the same thing on my team since I started.

What is a typical day in your current role?

Our standup is at 10am, and typically we do not have many meetings through the day so often for the rest of the day I’ll just try to handle tasks by myself but reach out to senior developers to check if what I’ve been doing is correct. When it comes to learning new processes we often will pair program where I and a senior dev will work together over zoom to review what needs to be done and to help me start on the new task. I’ll often also take breaks and do small chores around my apartment when I feel like I’ve been sitting down for too long. I’ll also try to cook some lunch to save money and get to do something else that I enjoy during the work day!

Did you participate in any stretch projects?

I have been part of the Morningstar Ideas stretch project for a few months now. It’s been a fun time getting to know more people at Morningstar beyond my team and getting to talk to more experienced people in the program. It’s also been a great way for me to see if I enjoy web development instead of just jumping straight into a role. I have learnt a ton from it and it’s given me more ideas on where to look for my next role.

What advice would you give your first-year self?

Just be open to talking to anyone! Everyone’s very friendly and looking to help (especially other older MDPs)

How was it like starting your MDP role in a virtual setting?

Starting virtually was definitely a challenge, and not being able to meet the team in person makes it more difficult to find a connection with them but everyone is very understanding of the situation. All the senior developers and my manager are aware of the difficulties in onboarding virtually, so they are extra patient with our learning. It was also important to talk about the frustration with my manager and the other developers I was working closely because then they knew where I was coming from and the struggles I was facing. They also made sure to recognize our progress and let us know we were still doing well despite having to start virtually.

How has Morningstar helped you in this pandemic?

Having a very flexible plan to go back into office was helpful for me to not feel anxious about needing to be in the office when it didn’t feel completely safe. It was good to know that Morningstar had our health in mind and was putting safety as a priority.

One piece of WFH advice?

Do not be afraid to ask questions to anyone! Everyone knows it’s a struggle and everyone is willing to help. Of course, look into your question by yourself first but if it’s taking too long it’s much more worthwhile to seek help from someone who could solve it much quicker!