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Applying to MFEs after a professional sabbatical

Hey guys,

I'm looking to apply to a couple of NY-based MFE programs (Baruch & Columbia). I have about 18 months work ex at a sell side electronic trading quant desk at a BB (straight out of an internationally known 'target school'), and am a CFA Level 3 candidate. I have had to take a professional sabbatical owing to a family illness. During this sabbatical (>6 months) I have been doing a lot of self-study (on algorithmic trading) with a view to building a retail algo trading system. I have been somewhat successful in building a custom backtesting system based in Python, but haven't gotten to point of doing any live/paper trading as yet - that is to say there is no trading track record to speak of as such.

Ultimately the motivation to do an MFE at NY stems from the desire to work at a quantitative trading/research role on a buy-side firm on the Street for a few years (I'm based outside the States). While I understand the MFE is by no means a sure-shot route to a trade/research role, I am confident an MFE would embellish my current skill-set (lacking in areas such as risk management, which I realized while working on my custom retail trading rig) to a point where I can be a viable candidate for such roles.

I wanted to get this forum's opinion on -

1) whether it makes sense to apply for the MFE at this current point in time, as I have currently not been employed for the past 6+ months (by choice), and have perhaps little tangible output to show for it, i.e. are explained gaps in employment looked upon unfavorably in MFE applications? Having said that the independent project I have been working on is very much relevant to the career trajectory I see myself going on post an MFE.

2)the role an MFE could play in switching to a buy-side role at the Street, with what has essentially been a couple of years sell-side quant experience - having read up extensively upon the Quantnet forums I have a fairly realistic idea of the kinds of jobs one could typically expect post an MFE, but having been contacted by a couple of head-hunters on behalf prop trading firms (in my home country) during my sabbatical gives me the impression that my current skill-set isn't too far off from what such target firms would look for.

Any additional reality checks would be much appreciated :)

Thank you all for your time.