Author Topic: Considering a career change to finance.  (Read 5333 times)

throwaway_20150315

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Considering a career change to finance.
« on: March 15, 2015, 03:52:45 PM »
Hi guys. I'm currently a software engineer at a defense contractor, but I'll be getting my Master's in Computer Science in December and was planning to make a career change at that time.

The reason I'm thinking finance (specifically high-frequency trading) is because I really love math and want to be on the cutting-edge of computer science. The other places I can think of to get that would be being a full-time PhD student and a couple of the Silicon Valley companies. Getting a PhD was my plan when I started the MS, but it requires a desire to focus on a single problem for 6-12 years that I lack. As for Silicon Valley, I'm planning on applying to a few and they're strong options, but I'm not sure I like the West Coast-vibe they all strive for.

I've heard terrible things about the long working hours on Wall Street, but that's not much of a concern for me because I already spend 60+/hrs a week coding between my job, grad school, and hobby projects. Besides, I'd be spending all that time learning from really smart people, I'd be working similar hours at Google, and I'd be well-paid.

The curent companies I'm looking at applying to are Citadel, Two Sigma, and Jane Street, but that's flexible. Citadel's on that list because it's historically significant. Two Sigma's there because a friend of a family friend is a VP there. Jane Street's there because a friend interviewed there and it has the best employee reviews on Glassdoor, but it's the most iffy since I have a grudge against functional languages that are not Haskell. Any suggestions from people
who already do this kind of work would be appreciated.

My main worry, besides the occasional doubt that I'm not good enough to even get a job there, is that if I disappear into a hedge fund or prop shop and don't like it, I'd be stuck there for at least a couple years, before I could leave without looking like a "job hopper".

Anyone here have any comments or things I should think about? Working in finance or as a computer scientist is definitely not a prereq for being insightful, but if the poll from "Who are the Mustachians?" is accurate, then finance and SW should be about 1/4 of you.

chasesfish

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2015, 07:04:36 PM »
Is there something that you think you'd specifically enjoy by moving industries in computer science?

This probably isn't the best place to get advice about working a 60+/hr a week job.  That sounds lousy to me

throwaway_20150315

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2015, 08:02:29 PM »
Is there something that you think you'd specifically enjoy by moving industries in computer science?

I mostly just want to write cutting-edge code, work with people who are smarter than me, and constantly pick their brains for things I don't know. Defense contracting as a whole doesn't do much on the cutting-edge and has a very punch-clock feel. My current employer was almost entirely chosen because I wanted to be near the place I planned on getting a PhD from and wanted to spend a year or so in industry after getting my BS before disappearing back into academics.

This probably isn't the best place to get advice about working a 60+/hr a week job.  That sounds lousy to me

I'm definitely aware of that. I was mostly trying to get a different opinion than I would get elsewhere.

NathanDrake

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2015, 09:46:01 PM »
Depends on where your interests are, but there's a lot of defense work that is cutting edge if that interests you. Perhaps switch jobs within industries or your company. What particularly is so fascinating about high frequency trading? There are smart people that work in a wide variety of industries, and the smartest probably aren't willing to put up with the lifestyle of working at a high frequency trading firm.

Also, as a side note, the long hours aren't necessarily the worst part about working at a financial firm. Many people that complain about the work seem to dislike the the frequent schedule interruptions and lack of consistency in work schedule. Sure, you may have worked 60+ hours before. But have you worked 60+ hours in an environment where at any given moment you have to cancel other plans?


Sayyadina

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2015, 12:25:04 AM »
I'm probably one of the last people to suggest you go for a PhD when your heart isn't in it (both my, and my husband's family is full of academics, including us... although we split for much better jobs in industry)... but if it's taking you 6-12 years to get a PhD, you are definitely doing it wrong.

I'll take it back slightly if you're trying to work at the same time... on the other hand, if someone isn't paying you to get your PhD, you're still doing it wrong.

dios.del.sol

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2015, 07:59:12 AM »
I'm probably one of the last people to suggest you go for a PhD when your heart isn't in it (both my, and my husband's family is full of academics, including us... although we split for much better jobs in industry)... but if it's taking you 6-12 years to get a PhD, you are definitely doing it wrong.
I'm not into making judgement calls like this on the lives of others. If you're doing otherwise valuable things with your life, and that makes the Ph.D. take longer than 6 years, I see no problem with that. I raced my bike during the Ph.D., earned a national championship, and shared great experiences with teammates who are still some of my best friends. I was just reflecting recently that it was one of the times in my life I've been happiest. It was almost like a temporary early FIRE.

boarder42

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2015, 08:50:16 AM »
Look into TradeBot systems in KC.  this guy practically invented the high speed trading game.  He sponsors my charity event every year.  And he is looking for traders who can also program.  Very high upside job.  you would only need to work 3-4 years there to be set for life most likely

mskyle

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2015, 08:54:42 AM »
High frequency trading is probably pretty bad for the financial system as a whole. You can do interesting statistical stuff in finance that's not at *quite* such a high level of wankery.

hodedofome

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2015, 10:51:21 AM »

High frequency trading is probably pretty bad for the financial system as a whole. You can do interesting statistical stuff in finance that's not at *quite* such a high level of wankery.

If you are basing your opinions of HFT from Michael Lewis's book you're doing it wrong.

HFT in an of itself is not necessarily bad. Without it we'd still be trading with phone calls to expensive brokers. Some might be predatory but not all of it. They are the new market makers.

ragnathor

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2015, 11:12:34 AM »

High frequency trading is probably pretty bad for the financial system as a whole. You can do interesting statistical stuff in finance that's not at *quite* such a high level of wankery.

If you are basing your opinions of HFT from Michael Lewis's book you're doing it wrong.

HFT in an of itself is not necessarily bad. Without it we'd still be trading with phone calls to expensive brokers. Some might be predatory but not all of it. They are the new market makers.

HFT makes a profit at the expense of many individual investors (or mutual/index funds, whose customers are individual investors). There is absolutely no contribution to society from HFT, it is scraping tiny profits at the expense of everyone else because they have faster computers and faster technology and access to information. There are plenty of occupations that are no better, but you are deluding yourself if you think you are doing HFT for anything besides the money and ego.

mozar

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2015, 05:31:35 PM »
I can't comment on HFT but that's an old rule about job hopping. If your skills are in high demand I wouldn't worry about staying somewhere longer than a year. If you are under 35 you can always chalk it up to "youth" and "finding yourself"

BlueHouse

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2015, 06:24:35 PM »
I think if you worked 60 hours per week on Wall Street you would be considered a slacker.   Get to the office an hour early, stay through lunch, stay an extra 2 hours at night. That's less than what most people work these days.

hodedofome

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Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2015, 07:21:11 PM »

HFT makes a profit at the expense of many individual investors (or mutual/index funds, whose customers are individual investors). There is absolutely no contribution to society from HFT, it is scraping tiny profits at the expense of everyone else because they have faster computers and faster technology and access to information. There are plenty of occupations that are no better, but you are deluding yourself if you think you are doing HFT for anything besides the money and ego.

This type of thinking is rampant among the ignorant. It spreads from CNBC and others that don't understand how markets work.

Back in the day my grandpa paid 3% each side of the trade. His order went through a broker, on to a market maker/specialist who was supposed to maintain an orderly market. The specialist was given all the order flow so he knows where all the buy and sell orders were. He had his own account he could trade for, and don't you think he was looking out for #1? Market manipulation was rampant because one guy knew everything about a market for AAPL. If there was a bunch of buy orders at a price $1 below the current price, the specialist could put in a bunch of sell orders from his own account for guaranteed money that would buy those shares $1 away. These guys made bookoos of money for themselves and pocketed huge spreads at the expense of my grandpa. FBI investigations into massive market manipulation was a regular thing.

Fast forward to today. I put in an order for any liquid stock and maybe the spread is a penny or two. I pay a few bucks per trade with super tight spreads and HFT is a huge part of that. Almost instantly they are matching up my order with someone else (or themselves) and pocketing a penny or two for their service. Because they provide a service to the market they are "seeing" the market order flow just like the old market makers and specialists did. I'll gladly pay these prices compared to my grandad.

Until we implement something better, I'll be just fine with HFT making a penny or two off of me. It's much better than 3%.

http://www.mercenarytrader.com/2014/04/dumb-tourist-michael-lewis-flash-boys-review/
« Last Edit: March 16, 2015, 07:27:53 PM by hodedofome »

WhatIsFrugalAfterAll

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2015, 08:35:03 PM »
I worked in HFT and finance for 5 years. Have any questions?

I well tell you, generally there is more cutting edge cool code working for random startups (say the next yelp or the next facebook) than at HFT firms. Most HFT firms are a lot of stress, and constant fight to stay in business.

If you are in Chicago I would say CME is a better place to work then a HFT.. but really, I left finance. Pay isn't worth the stress IMHO.

To clarify - I worked 5 years in finance, and never did a > 40 hour week. You don't have to work 60 hours. Kind of a myth. Certain companies will push it, many won't. Plenty of places will give you a good work/life balance. But overall, traders are scum of the earth.

Mister Fancypants

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2015, 09:06:28 PM »
@hodo...

I've been a software engineer on wall street for over a decade and half, at bulge bracket I-Banks, day trading firms, and boutique HFT's.

First from someone who has done this for a living, forget your articles and Michael Lewis... HFT is not what provides liquidity and has lowered commissions, ECN's that facilitate trade matching compared to floor based market makers/specialists are what has reduced the cost of trades, HFT's leverage those just like all the low cost online brokers... HFT is a just a greed profit machine... Sorry...

As far as the hours depends on the shop, some places I worked less then 40 hours a week others I out in 50+, depends on the desk I supported and the global presence and my role... YMMV.

Cutting edge code... Silicone Valley and the NYC startup scene is far more cutting edge then HFT... If you like to crunch numbers being a quant is cool, but it is not bleeding edge... it is using older stacks to create new algo's...

You have a lot of false expectations of what a wall street techy does... you are going to burn out very quickly hoping for huge pay days that may or may not come if you don't really look into what the trenches are like.


Otsog

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Re: Considering a career change to finance.
« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2015, 01:14:24 AM »
^ +1

The argument that HFT encompasses all digital trading is one of the more baffling defences. I truly don't get it, nobody actually believes that and nobody is arguing to ban digital trading.


http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/03/michael-lewis-flash-boys-one-year-later

Michael Lewis just published an update.

'The Invisible Scalp', love that line.