The influence of ETH Zurich reaches far beyond Switzerland. As a top-ranked technical university, it has connections to a vast network of organizations and companies around the world, including Bloomberg. Bloomberg is an international, but privately held financial, software, data, and media company headquartered in New York City. Most recently, the ETH Studio New York – a program that connects ETH Zurich with industry and academic partners – organized the 2019 New York Security Challenge in the form of a CodeCon. Winners of the CodeCon programming contest traveled to New York City where they worked with some of Bloomberg’s top experts in cybersecurity. Vasily Vitchevsky and I (Simon Meinhard) were delighted to be among the six ETH Zurich students who won the CodeCon challenge. We share our experience, not only working with the Bloomberg team, but also actually meeting Michael Bloomberg!
ETH Studio New York sent the winners of a CodeCon programming challenge to New York City where they worked on a “real world” security challenge with Bloomberg.
Our journey began with a security themed workshop in New York in early June. Before launching into a week-long project with Bloomberg, we spent our first two days visiting companies from large banks such as UBS to large tech companies like Facebook. We covered the full spectrum including startups such as Keybase and young companies such as Trail of Bits and Square. They revealed some of their latest security projects and seemed open to showing us what they are doing and how their business culture facilitates their work. Visiting Square was particularly insightful, nine (!) engineers talked about various strategies that the company is using in order to secure their products.
Matthias Dettling, the Cultural Counselor at the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York honored our group of six with a special reception in his official residence near Central Park. After the social protocols and greetings, we had the opportunity to network with inspiring people from both New York and Switzerland.
During our week at Bloomberg, we worked on distributed network communication tracing data under the guidance of Bloomberg engineers. Distributed tracing is a method that information technologists (IT) and software developers use to monitor applications and pinpoint failures, especially for apps that include microservices - services that may run on different physical machines and communicate via the network. The goal of our work was to find out how to filter out security relevant traces before aggregation, due to the sheer amount of data. The project was ambitious given we only had one week’s time at our disposal. On the last day, the team presented our findings to Bloomberg engineers.
Even though time was tight, we still had to eat, right? So, Bloomberg engineers showed us some of their favorite places around Manhattan and invited us for food and drinks. From these outings we learned more about Bloomberg’s history and their business model. The Bloomberg office at Lexington Avenue is certainly worth mentioning. The office is located in central Manhattan - a stone’s throw away from Central Park. We were lucky to be as high as the 29th floor with a fantastic view over the New York City skyline. It was simply breathtaking. We started every morning with breakfast in the Bloomberg “Pantry”.
One of the highlights of our experience in New York, and certainly much to our surprise, Michael Bloomberg himself took time out of his busy schedule to meet with our team. Michael Bloomberg is not only a prominent businessperson and founder of Bloomberg, but he is also a political figure - the former mayor of New York City. He shared with us his personal journey about how he ended up studying Electrical Engineering and attending Harvard for his MBA instead of studying physics. Apparently, during his university days a lot of the literature in the field of physics was only in German, a language barrier that no longer exists today.
New York, known as the city that never sleeps, is astonishing! Public transportation runs all day and all night long. Culturally it is also a rich and diverse city. Ten days is far too short to experience what New York has to offer. Nevertheless, we managed to see quite a lot and had a lot of fun working and traveling together as a team. While we spent most of the time as a group, everyone had his/her personal highlight. Taking night photos of the breathtaking skyline, enjoying mouth-watering food in bakeries, walking along the high line, taking the ferry to Staten Island, listening to some local jazz, and visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art were among these highlights.
On behalf of our group, we would like to thank ETH Global, in particular Lorenz Breidenbach, ETH Zurich Alumni and Romana Mayer, Project Manager for ETH Global, and the Bloomberg team - big shout-out to Dimitrios Kouzis-Loukas, who managed us in the most outstanding way! We also would like to express our appreciation and thanks to all of the companies that took the time to show us around. It was a truly unforgettable experience!
About the authors
Simon Meinhard is pursuing his Master’s studies in Computer Science at ETH Zurich. Previously, Simon studied Communication Systems at EPFL for his Bachelor’s degree. In his free time, he likes cross-country skiing and listening to jazz music.
Vasily Vitchevsky has recently finished his Master studies at ETH Zurich in Computer Science, in the Visual Computing track. Vasily previously studied Electrical Engineering at the Technion Institute in Israel. A cat lover, he enjoys cycling, eating pizza, and walking along lakes.