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My career at Bloomberg from graduate to global head of HR

From computer science to dairy farming to engineering to HR: Ken's career has developed in unexpected ways. He gives insights into working at Bloomberg.
We like graduate candidates who have faced adversity but persevered anyway.

Though I lead human resources at Bloomberg LP, my background is actually in engineering. My interest in computers and software began at an early age. When I was in secondary school, the first personal computers were only just coming out. You had to be a real hobbyist – and maybe a bit of a geek – to be into computing. My school didn’t teach computer classes, but there was a computer science club. As president of this club, I even taught myself how to code. I knew I wanted to learn more about not just software, but about the whole picture of how computers really worked, which is why I chose to study electrical engineering at Cornell.

An interesting hire

In 1986, gap years weren’t very common in the US, but I knew that I wanted to do something completely different after graduating with my bachelors degree. So for six months, I worked as a dairy farmer on a kibbutz in Israel. I grew up in the City of New York, so living in Israel was a completely unique experience – and a risky one at that.

When I returned home, I realised I wasn’t on the radar of the larger employers in New York because I had bypassed the traditional graduate recruitment process. On a whim, I applied to Bloomberg, which was still in its start-up phase. Most of the places I had interviewed at viewed my time on the dairy farm as a waste; Bloomberg asked, ‘When can you start?’

To this day, Mike Bloomberg, the founder of the company, instils in us that same philosophy around hiring: we like to hire people who are smart, hard-working and collaborative – and who have an interesting background and aren’t afraid to take risks. We like those who have faced adversity but persevered anyway. My advice to graduates is to find a unique way to make yourself stand out.

Since Bloomberg was in its infancy when I applied, it wasn’t visiting universities to recruit new employees. Looking back, if I had gone through the typical graduate route and not taken time to work on a dairy farm, I might never have encountered Bloomberg.

Cracking the coding project

In my 30 years at Bloomberg, I’ve moved from working in engineering to leading technical operations to my current role as global head of human resources. A constant throughout each of these positions has been an expectation to stretch myself. For example, soon after joining Bloomberg, Mike tasked me with writing technical support software for our customers. I was unfamiliar with the software, so I didn’t think this was something I could do. But lo and behold, I managed to work it out, which is a testament to Mike’s leadership.

I was given an incredible amount of responsibility early on and was able to work on some very important projects, which is an opportunity Bloomberg continues to give to employees today. This helps employees to feel empowered when they complete these projects, because they realise how they’ve accomplished more than they ever believed they could. We never think that young graduates straight out of university can’t do great things; they just need to be given the chance.

Trading places

Moving away from engineering and into leadership roles has required me to brush up my organisational skills. In the process, I’ve had to let skills such as coding fall to the wayside a bit – but I am learning Python at the moment! Transitioning into leadership roles made sense because I already knew many of the people with whom I’d be working. It’s part of the culture at Bloomberg to believe that employees can accomplish things far beyond their academic background.

The first thing I do now when moving positions is get to know my new area before doing anything else. In the past, I made the mistake of thinking I knew better than others – but that’s never going to be the case in a new job. It’s important to spend time speaking to people, learning about the department and earning people’s respect before you start working with them properly. As a manager, I also delegate, share credit and give my teams the environment they need to flourish – which are all things I learned from Mike.

Here and now... and beyond

In HR at Bloomberg, we are responsible for driving our business goals through our people – and we do so by partnering with our businesses. I tell my team that even though it’s not what we do directly day to day, our goals, like those of our businesses, are to sell more Bloomberg Terminals and to write better software. In HR, it’s important that we understand our impact on the workings of the whole business.

Mike asked me to head up HR because I understand the company culture, and because he knew I could bring my technology and customer service background to the role. We are currently looking at ways to use artificial intelligence to carry out the more menial HR tasks, which will leave our people with more time and resources to accomplish more complex, meaningful and strategic work. I don’t see AI replacing HR at all though; I think it’s exciting because these types of technology will make people’s jobs more challenging and interesting.

Seeing how far technology and my career have progressed in the past few years is fascinating. Every new challenge has been an exciting opportunity. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I know that Bloomberg will be a part of it.

The global head of HR at Bloomberg, who joined the company as a graduate
Ken Cooper
Job title: 
Global head of HR

1986 Graduated from Cornell University with a degree in electrical engineering

1987 Joined Bloomberg as a software engineer

1991 Completed an MBA at New York University’s Stern School of Business

2001 Promoted to lead technical operations

2003 Became the head of trading systems and spent two years in Bloomberg’s London office

2006 Became head of human resources

2008 Returned to manage technical operations

2015 Moved back to head human resources

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