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Reid Vacek: Investing in people to accelerate Macquarie's cloud-native migration journey

Since joining Macquarie eight years ago, Reid Vacek has carved a career path from UNIX System Administrator to Head of Cloud and Platform Engineering and the company’s Principal Engineer for the Americas. Reid recently accepted Macquarie’s Gold Winner award in Pluralsight’s Cloud Transformation Training category and says its investment in people has been at the heart of enabling Macquarie’s cloud-first approach to technology.

In 2023, Macquarie Group was a Gold Winner in the Cloud Transformation Training category in technology training provider Pluralsight’s annual Best in Tech awards.

Reid Vacek, Associate Director in Macquarie’s Houston office, was invited to accept the award on Macquarie’s behalf. He believes it shows the impact of investing in people's growth, which has played a central role in accelerating Macquarie’s cloud-native migration journey.

Our greatest strength is our people, and investing in their skills and knowledge empowers them to drive innovation and create new opportunities. Nurturing our team propels our ongoing journey with cloud technology and enables us to be more agile and future-ready.”

His own career has benefited from the support and training offered by Macquarie. He has progressed from UNIX System Administrator to Head of Cloud and Platform Engineering and Principal Engineer for the Americas.


Finding a career in technology at Macquarie

Reid never envisioned a career in tech. He originally planned to become an accountant before switching to a degree in Management Information Systems.

After graduating, Reid spent three years gaining hands-on experience across UNIX systems, data centres and hardware at Hewlett-Packard.

In 2015, a recruiter reached out to him about a role as an Executive in UNIX Operations in Macquarie’s substantial Houston office. With over 600 people, the Houston office serves as a global energy hub for Macquarie’s Commodity and Global Markets team who provide capital and financing, risk management, market access, physical execution and logistics solutions across commodities, financial markets and asset finance. 

It was around this time that Macquarie had become an early adopter of cloud among financial institutions.

Encouraged by a friend who recommended Macquarie as an “exciting” place to work, Reid decided to make the move, spending two years in the role before becoming an engineer in the Virtual (VMWare) team team in 2018.

In 2019, another opportunity presented itself.

“I became the first person on Macquarie’s central Cloud team in the Americas, as a Cloud Consultant when our region of the organisation was starting to migrate platforms to the Cloud,” Reid explains. “It was something I was interested in but hadn’t had much exposure to, allowing me to use developer and solution architecture skills.”

"It’s a great example of how Macquarie empowers you to build your skillset in order to take the next step on your career path. Through learning programs embedded in my day-to-day role, I was given the chance to try something new," he says.

In 2022, Reid was appointed Cloud Manager before subsequently taking on his current role as Head of Cloud and Platform Engineering and Principal Engineer for the Americas as we pursue our public cloud-first strategy.


Building on Macquarie’s expertise in the Cloud

Together with the broader Technology function at Macquarie, Reid’s team drives a cloud-first approach across all of the organisation’s business groups, from retail banking to asset management, advisory and capital markets and commodities and financial markets.

“The cloud offers increased resilience, agility and security and improves the developer experience, which benefits Macquarie as a business,” Reid explains. “We are building on our growing expertise in this area.”

“My team manages the in-house-built cloud control plane, constant updates, threat modelling, and ensures security and policies are in place because risk and compliance are a huge priority in tech,” Reid says.

“As we are migrating to the cloud, we’re also looking for ways we can optimise workloads in the cloud to not only increase performance and decrease cost, but also how we can utilise new technologies that consume less power”.


A transformation mindset

Reid says the one constant in technology is change, which requires a transformation and learning mindset.

You need to both embrace change and enable it. Change allows us to create new things and improve existing ways of doing things.”

“Macquarie is constantly looking to innovate and move forward, to stay ahead of the curve,” he says. “We’re asking ourselves how we can redesign and re-architect the future.”

“Right now, we’re looking at a strategic next-generation control panel for the Cloud and using tools such as Crossplane and Argo. We’re also unlocking new features and creating a roadmap for the future,” he explains.

Reid’s time is divided between strategy work, leading his growing team of cloud and platform engineers, and facilitating hands-on tech development.


Building an engineering mindset at Macquarie

Macquarie believes everyone who has an interest should have access to learn about the cloud, and the possibilities it brings to increase performance and resilience, decrease costs, and improve developer experience.

There’s a focus on building a strong engineering culture within Macquarie, and Reid says breaking down silos between coverage areas and working collaboratively across teams is part of this.

“We’re connecting more between groups, learning from each other, making changes, and looking at automation.”

“We have formalised meetups we call ‘Engineering Office Hours’, creating a comfortable space with subject matter experts from different fields where we can ask questions and share experiences,” he explains.

Other initiatives include “Cloud Tips Tuesdays”, while Reid and his team have also taken full advantage of Macquarie’s ongoing investment training, setting aside time weekly to learn new skills and gain new formal certifications through third-party providers including Pluralsight.

“We’ve also formed study groups to share our information and different ways of learning, so our people feel supported as they take on new certifications,” Reid explains.

Macquarie encourages its teams to never be afraid to ask questions and pass on your teachings to the next in line. Teaching others not only embraces your own learnings but grows innovation and the culture.


New challenges

Reid says that after eight years, it’s the variety in his work that keeps him at Macquarie.

“There’s something new to learn every day,” he says.

He believes Macquarie enables entrepreneurship and prioritises accountability, with management and colleagues willing to support those who put their hand up or have good ideas.

“Macquarie invests in its people.”

Part of this is facilitating a good life-work balance, with flexible hybrid working that Reid says has allowed him to juggle a young family.

“There’s also the chance to take advantage of mobility, whether that’s moving cities or countries, changing teams, or gaining new skill sets and pushing towards new horizons.”

“Every couple of years, I have been able to learn something completely new,” Reid says.

When Reid started at Macquarie, the organisation was just starting its journey to the cloud.

“Being forward-thinking, early adopters of the cloud set Macquarie up for success,” Reid says. “But the journey doesn’t end here. There are always more opportunities to push the limits of what’s possible to grow, optimise and stay secure”.

“You can’t do it all in one leap. It's incremental,” he concludes.

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