By    |    August 10, 2020
In college, Nakul Dureja built a chess engine that could beat him at chess. Now he is laser-focused on winning by generating insights from data.

Nakul Dureja knew programming was in his future when the chess engine he built for a class project succeeded in beating him at chess. Nakul joined PEAK6 in 2015, after completing his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering (and later, his master’s degree) at Georgia Institute of Technology. Nakul is a true leader of technical direction, who really owns and drives significant products and platforms for the organization. Here’s what he had to say about the inevitability of change, problem-solving and his (currently paused) plans to travel to Africa, South America and Antarctica before his next milestone birthday.

Right now:

I’m a senior trading platform engineer at PEAK6 Capital Management and I lead the applications dev team. My team is responsible for any tool a trader might use—to find good ideas, to analyze and visualize them, to make those trades, as well as, the overall user experience of our platform.

Why tech:

You can represent all the knowledge in the world in 1s and 0s. I also love building things, which got me interested in programming as an undergrad at Georgia Institute of Technology. I designed a chess engine—a program that can play chess with you. It was a class project for a data structures and algorithms course. When it was able to beat me in a game of chess, I understood the potential of programming.

Proud tech moment:

We’ve been working for a couple years on a common trading platform—written in Go and Java, with a Python API and user interface in React/JavaScript—to allow tech and traders to work together to building complex trading tools. It helps traders find, visualize and analyze new ideas, then create automated trading strategies from those ideas. Think of it like Legos or building blocks. Our users can combine them to make more complex things, allowing people to do what they’re best at. The reaction has been very positive as it allows them to do things they weren’t able to do before. Now, everybody understands what the system can do but not necessarily how to do it. That’s our next challenge to solve.

Tech evolution:

When I started at PEAK6, I worked on the predecessor of our current trading platform. We spent a year revamping it to be faster and easier to maintain. In June, we retired it for good. Change is the only constant in technology. We need to constantly evolve as the problems we’re trying to solve change; our markets become more (or less) efficient; and new sources of liquidity come and go.

Next challenge:

I’m interested in machine-learning. How do you write a program that can generate insights from data? I recently completed my master’s degree with a specialization in machine learning. Now I want to explore more practical ways to apply it.

When I’m not working:

I like to travel. My goal is to visit seven continents before I turn 30. So far, I’ve hit four: North America, Asia, Australia and Europe.

Tech for the greater good:

Universal low-cost education: education gives people an effective tool to raise themselves out of poverty, and create a more equal playing-field. In developing nations, it’s often easier to access the internet than to get to a school with great teachers. Technology can play a bigger role in this. I’d like to use my tech skills to advance this cause.

Best part of my job:

The people—I’m surrounded by smart, helpful people. I learn a lot and it’s never boring. There’s always a new problem to solve and a new way to tackle it. There is also ample opportunity for leadership, knowledge-sharing and skill-building. As soon as I joined I was paired with a mentor, who continues to be my mentor to this day. I now have opportunities to mentor others and help them become more effective—both as technologists and leaders.