How to get an Entry-Level Job in Prop Trading
After my story about messing up and loosing bucks, I gave up day trading for a living and started looking for a job in the industry. The process took me approximately two months, more than 20 interviews (on site and phone calls) across more than 10 companies. Some of them didn’t reply, some of them interviewed me and one of them gave me a shot. This story enlightens the industry, process and routine surrounding passionate candidates seeking for a job in the field. It took me a year (+-) to write this story, but the principals remain the same. Here are some global insights.
Background Is Not Important
That’s right. If you want to work in the field, you will. The question is how hard are you willing to play in order to get there. I come from Computer Science background, so I had to prepare. I did tons of courses in Coursera. From Finance and Investment Management to Computational Investing. I’ve been one of the first participants in Numer.ai and Erasure Quant, an early participant in Quantiacs, Quantopian and QuantConnect. Finance nowadays is actually very related to Computer Science. I think one day every trader will have to know Python at least at some basic level. Those websites will help you learn a wide variety of concepts.
Recruiters in the field expect Economics/Finance graduates. Most of them don’t know how to handle people with non directly related degrees such as Mathematics, Computer Science and Physics. Many times they think it’s a mistake, or some other job in the same company but other department. To me it’s just numbers and playing the most interesting game out there. Keep on insisting, when the right people get your CV, you will actually shine. The best traders I have seen actually had no formal education or majored in something else. Mr. Market is the best teacher of all.
I started looking for a job as a Junior Trader/Quantitative Analysis and was slapped in my face when I got the first mental math exam. That was embarrassing. I did a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Computer Science, and BAM BAM you got me. Our brains are muscles, you probably have heard that. Well it’s real too, the moment you don’t practice mental math, you get rusty, embarrassingly rusty. Do your homework, cut the naive toughs of being a super hero and being able to solve anything just if you are required. From my personal experience, we are not ready, unless we are in shape. Go solve some puzzles, or look for another industry. Luckily, Chandini Jain did an amazing collection of mental math test websites. So stop reading this and immediately proceed to the brain gym.
Keep On Practicing
Familiarize yourself with the industry. Many times I’m somehow able to tell recruiters about new things in the industry. New companies, technologies and competitions appear all the time. As mentioned before, brain gyms are super important.
One of the most important things that helped me was trading experience. I have been trading for the past 10 years. At the beginning it was FX on MT4/5 for approximately 7 years. Then I moved on to equities and options with Interactive Brokers. The first 7 years can be labeled as gambling. I had no plan/system/methodology but at least I was trying. Employers like that. Don’t expect to get in just because you have grades/fancy institution, nobody cares about that. Results matter the most in this business. Show your statistics/trading journal. Always show that you are really interested in this job, otherwise you are just bluffing and you will be spotted.
Companies You Do Not Fit
I tried to apply for a Data Science/Quant/Machine Learning positions at various companies. Couple of years ago I didn’t get a response from Google, J.P. Morgan, and others. Luckily, this time I got a standard “at the moment your qualifications…” email from Google which actually seemed real. J.P. Morgan even contacted me twice by two different people. Large companies are sometimes too slow to act, consider that and always be patient.
Companies That Do Not Fit You
One of the companies had made it their goal to make the interview tough as hell. Literally they just started embarrassing me for not remembering some formula and trying to solve the problem not the way they wanted. Luckily I saw it before jumping into this pit.
Another recruiter started the phone call by telling me that my CV was unorganized and clumsy. He mentioned that it is not clear what I’m looking for or what actually I’m good at. That’s a good example of recruiters that don’t get it. Finance has changed, it is now Computer Finance. The same recruiter got a nice response as two weeks later I got an offer with the desired role. You should have heard his response. Suddenly my CV seemed clear and pricey. Clearly this company is not for me. I hope recruiters learn some day that they may have high precision but their recall suck.
Finance has changed, it is now “Computer Finance”.
Another company was afraid to give me a chance as they were too afraid that I would learn and run away. This company is blind to the changing industry. People change jobs and positions more than ever. Actually, I think that the longer you stay, the lower your survival rate is. I am familiar with people older than me in the industry. All they talk about is how the air is denser and how important is to be valuable. They seem to neglect the importance of versatility and speed of confronting changes.
Industries change too fast. People that rely on old-school abilities are doomed. One trick pony workers work for enterprises. The problem is that even mighty enterprises get shaken from time to time. Anyway, good luck holding the roof during next storms.
Immediately identify your future manager. Know the people you gonna work for. Most importantly understand who is your direct boss. See if you have common stuff and interests. Most of the time I took a job with managers that seemed cool and eventually turned out to be asses, or were replaced by other asses.
I have to be honest and say that I have issues respecting managers. It is super hard for me to respect managers that I actually do not respect. In my 5 years of industry experience I remember two managers that I did respect. And by respect I mean professionally as I do respect all people no matter what. The issue is that managers nowadays as Peter Thiel noted are trained by MBA programs to be officers in enterprises.
Your next boss could be an officer of the enterprise.
The officers are dealing with politics and licking while employees get the job done. This hierarchy of some lucky, usually less educated, vulgar and greedy manager ruling passionate engineers is ugly and disgusting. This issue was covered in any S&P company and probably will never end. And the problem is of course the employees that should rule but don’t want to. The technical people, hands-on junkies are too goal driven to build stuff. This void lets the game players in. They run the show not because they are good, just because there is no one else to take that spot. Please mind the gap.
I got the job, got the experience and met amazing people. A good company will have first of all good people. Good people are kind folks that like to share, teach and laugh about anything. Practice, be prepared and never stop looking for opportunities. Finding a job is a job. Eventually you will get there, if you want to.
Feel free to contact me: kreimer.andrew(at)gmail.com