Tim Snyder leads business tech strategies at Freddie Mac
Childhood curiosity led to an accomplished career in engineering and IT. Today he oversees projects for the one of the nation’s key mortgage institutions
Tim Snyder is business technology officer for multi-family building mortgages at Freddie Mac (McLean, VA). As one of eleven vice presidents in information technology, he has eight people reporting to him who, in turn, oversee project managers, business and systems analysts, developers, technical leads, software testers, managers and directors.
The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, known as Freddie Mac, was established by Congress in 1970 to provide liquidity, stability and affordability to the nation’s residential mortgage markets.
“In the current economy, Freddie Mac funds approximately one out of six apartment buildings in the country,” Snyder explains. “Coming out of the crisis, a lot of people have moved from owning to renting, so making affordable rentals available is a huge mission for us. Older people are downsizing and many younger people coming out of school are staying at home, delaying the purchase of a first dwelling.”
Snyder sees to it that the forty to fifty systems under him are up and running every day, processing all the new underwriting work coming in, and manages technology projects that involve the creation of new systems or modification of existing ones.
“We’re introducing eighteen new products this year,” he says. “It requires us to be nimble. Through August, we executed seventy-two projects, all of which go through a software development lifecycle.”
Snyder also works with the organization’s business side, looking out two to three years to determine how Freddie Mac’s technology assets need to evolve to stay competitive.
A curious young engineer
Snyder grew up outside Saratoga Springs, NY. In school, he was good at science and math. He understood mechanical engineering and physics, but admits he had no idea how electricity worked, and no idea what went on inside computers.
To satisfy his curiosity, he attended Duke University (Durham, NC) to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. He earned his BSEE in 1989. “Duke has a very good engineering school. I took the hardcore electrical engineering classes, but I was also fascinated by what today would be considered computer engineering,” he recalls.
Snyder attended Duke on a Navy ROTC scholarship. “It was a great way to finance school,” says Snyder. After graduation, he headed to a destroyer off the East Coast where he held positions as an electronic warfare officer, combat center officer and, finally, navigator.
Snyder is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and spent six months in the Middle East in 1991. “We were one of the few ships certified for Tomahawk missiles, so we were sometimes just a few hundred yards off of the Iraqi coast,” he says. “Whenever Saddam would start rattling his saber, we would head back up north. We were also boarding and inspecting all the ships heading in and out of Iraq.”
He left the Navy in 1993. “I got married ten days before I left for the Persian Gulf, so that motivated me to be done,” he laughs.
Engineering on the civilian side
Within months, Snyder joined Alcatel in North Carolina as a process engineer involved in the manufacture of copper cable. Then he got an offer to move to Motorola in Florida. “In Motorola, you’re usually a hardware engineer or a software engineer and I hadn’t yet decided which one I wanted to be when I grew up,” Snyder says with a smile. “I was in a group that customized radios for our government and other friendly governments, boosting signal or adding encryption for whatever agency needed them. It was a combination of hardware and software engineering.”
After six months, he returned to Alcatel as plant quality manager, getting it ready for ISO 9001 certification. “It was the offer I couldn’t refuse,” says Snyder. “I had a team of thirty-six quality inspectors responsible for all the processes for which I used to be the engineer.”
Two years later, he moved to Bell Labs in New Jersey. “It was my first real job as a software engineer,” Snyder says. “We were building underwater fiber optic amplifiers. They have the highest quality demands of any manufacturing process,” he points out. “There are components allowed on the space shuttle that aren’t reliable enough to go into these things because they have to live on the bottom of the ocean for twenty-five years. Nobody can go down to repair them, so they can’t break!”
By 1999 his children were growing up and his wife wanted to go back home to Maryland. Snyder looked for job opportunities in the DC area and accepted a software development team manager position at Capital One (McLean, VA). “They were starting a division that was going into the cell phone market as a reseller,” he explains. Snyder stayed at Capital One for seven years, including a tenure as a technical manager. He was promoted to director and got involved in a $700 million, four-year effort to redo 70 to 80 percent of Capital One’s systems infrastructure, at the time the largest successful IT project in the private sector.
An invitation to join Freddie Mac
In 2007, one of Snyder’s former bosses, who had moved to Freddie Mac, asked him to join the organization. Snyder started as senior director for a 300-person team working on some troubled release projects. He successfully restructured the team, and in 2009 was promoted to vice president. He ran all of Freddie Mac’s data centers for three years, getting more experience as a senior manager in IT.
Early in 2013, he came back to the software delivery side of the house, managing the software quality assurance and application management teams. He assumed his current role in July 2013.
Remembering his veteran roots
Snyder manages Freddie Mac’s efforts to recruit and hire veterans in software testing. Tech consulting company Sharp Decisions (New York, NY) recently launched Vocations, Education and Training for Service Members (VETS), a program that trains and places disabled veterans in software QA positions. “It’s meticulous work and you need people who can follow the rules,” emphasizes Snyder. “Sharp Decisions teaches the techniques and procedures, pays the veterans, and then places them.”
The program came to Freddie Mac in 2013. “What I really like,” Snyder says, “is that they build on the veterans’ military experience and deploy them as a squad. They’ve trained as a unit so they know each other and deal with some of the same issues. After about six to eight months, they’re ready to move to different teams as individuals. We’ve already hired our second squad.”
Reflection and projection
For someone who once didn’t know how a computer worked, Snyder has done quite well. “It’s amazing what you can learn,” he says with a smile.
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