Profile

Bjarne Stroustrup

Managing Director, Technology

Introduction

Bjarne Stroustrup is a Managing Director in the Technology Division of Morgan Stanley in New York, a visiting professor in computer science at Columbia University, and the original developer of the programming language C++. Bjarne authored "The C++ Programming Language," which has been translated into 19 languages and is one of the most widely read books of its kind. Bjarne has received numerous honors including fellowships from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and was elected member of the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE). In 2013, he was elected to the Electronic Design Hall of Fame. Bjarne is also a distinguished research professor in computer science at Texas A&M University. He holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge.

What motivated you to leave academia to join Morgan Stanley?

I wanted to get back to solving real-world problems. This was very important to me. I had gotten too far away from my roots and I wanted more realistic problems than I was dealing with in academia. I am getting those challenges here at the firm. I find myself motivated by the important and varied technical challenges that are presented, and by working with a technical community that is among the best skilled in the world.

Describe your current role at the firm and your responsibilities.

I look at our technology with an eye to improve them wherever possible for better performance, more reliability and better security. I survey the technology at the firm and try to sort out what is common and what is different among the various groups. Individual business groups have their individual needs, so I attend a lot of management meetings in order to learn more about what is going on inside the firm.

Like any firm, we use a variety of technologies, from the most modern and advanced to some that are in need of improvement. We need to constantly renew our tools, techniques and code bases. I suggest improvements to our technology where innovation offers the most advantages.

What is the most fulfilling aspect about your work?

Perhaps the largest role I have right now is public speaking. I travel and speak at public and private conferences, events and universities, interfacing with some of the more than 10,000 developers at the company worldwide. One of the things that has amazed me is how global the company is. I have visited Morgan Stanley developers in Budapest, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Shanghai and London. The give and take we have in those talks is always mutually stimulating.

How would you describe the firm’s culture?

What became apparent to me very quickly was the importance of relationships. No matter how smart you are, there is always somebody who can help—with some technical topic or just navigating through the organization. Especially in my core domain—coding—there are people in the firm I need to talk to and depend on because they know more about the practical application and how the technology is used here.

Where do good ideas come from?

Generating good ideas is not so much a process as an exercise. You look at problems and you play with them until solutions start to appear. Trying to do that alone, in isolation, is inefficient. I find my best ideas are expressed with other people on their white boards as we discuss the problems, why they are there, and what can be done to alleviate them. Often, even when you have what appears to be an ideal solution, it cannot be applied because of the practical constraints of a particular problem. Those constraints may include cost, time to market, reliability, special requirements from the client, and so on. For good ideas to work, they have to respond to their constraints.

How has your experience outside of the financial services industry affected the way you approach your role at the firm?

The people I work with are extremely sharp and very focused on the problems they have to solve right now. One of my responsibilities is to make them look up from their immediate tasks and get them to look ahead to where we want to be several years into the future. We are going to generate a flood of good, new ideas.

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