Who Says Software Engineers Can’t Farm?

July 18, 2022

Tia Butler is a Software Engineer on Cboe’s Regulatory team. She’s also a farmer, a physicist, a woodworker and a cooking instructor.

In her day job at Cboe, Tia writes surveillances for our markets that help identify bad actors. If the code she writes identifies any suspicious actions, Cboe’s regulatory investigators and analysts can use the data collected to investigate further. Tia has been with Cboe for about three years, finding the company after following a different path than the one she originally set out on.

Tia studied chemistry and physics as an undergraduate and was on her way to begin a PhD in Physics. Before entering her PhD program, she took an internship at a hedge fund where she discovered her love for market regulation and back-end programming.

“Initially, I wanted to go into physical chemistry or research, but I really love hands-on work that can be put into practice immediately and you just don’t get that with research,” Tia says. “So I decided to pursue a career that felt more aligned with the work I enjoy. I love that in my role here, I can see the immediate impact of my work.”

Outside of her time at Cboe, Tia wears many hats that embrace her appreciation for hands-on work, chemistry background and entrepreneurial spirit.

Last year, Tia and her husband purchased a 76-acre tree farm in Harvard, Illinois – about an hour and half northwest of Chicago. Together, they’re converting it to a silvopasture, cleaning up trees that have died while keeping as many as possible, so their future farm animals have a shady spot to rest. They’re also building a home on the property to more easily tend to the farm and care for their future farm animals. Once the land is in good shape and Tia and her husband live there full-time, they plan to primarily raise chickens, ducks, pigs, goats and grow vegetables.

Both sides of Tia’s family own farms in Mississippi where she spent many of her childhood summers, so building one of her own has long been on her to-do list. However, Tia’s vision for this farm is a little different, as she hopes to incorporate mutual aid into the farm business to donate produce to people in underserved communities on Chicago’s South side and in the Harvard area.

“Growing up in Englewood, I never had to worry about having a grocery store with fresh produce but in the past 30+ years of my life I’ve seen it become more and more disenfranchised, along with a lot of other neighborhoods throughout the city. So I always wanted a way to help people in communities who have limited resources,” she says. “Food inequity is a major problem in Harvard, as well. There’s only one grocery store within several miles, so the store continues to raise its prices while neglecting the quality. I see this farm as a way that I can use my skills and resources to give back.”

In addition to building her farm, Tia teaches virtual cooking classes that shows people how to make a full meal from start to finish. She also enjoys woodworking and creates gnocchi boards that will be available for purchase, along with her homegrown potatoes, as part of her gnocchi-making class.

To top it all off, Tia’s husband keeps bees and collects the wax for her to refine and formulate into salves, lip balms and lotions.

“I’m actually allergic to bees, so I can’t do the wax collection,” she says. “But using the wax to create different products is a great way for me to keep my love of chemistry in my life.”

A true Jack of all trades, there’s never a dull moment for Tia, who loves having so many outlets to flex her creative muscles.

“Doing things that are creative, or otherwise different from my very technical career, is so important to my work-life balance,” she says. “I find that managing my time well to make room for these pieces of my life helps me feel fulfilled and keeps me engaged in my role at Cboe.”