Fortysomething doing an MFE and entering the industry?

Hi All,

I'm new in the forum, and I'd like to ask for some opinions please, perhaps someone knowledgeable may be able to offer some advice.

I've recently started an MFE with a view to entering the industry. Catch is, I'll be hitting my mid-40s very soon. Does anyone see this age as a show-stopper?

My background: BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science, BE (Hons) in Electrical Engineering, BA in Economic History (yes, a professional student). I have around 20 years' experience in software development, a solid 15 years or so in C++ and Unix, and another 5 in Java/J2EE applications. I have technical lead and architecture experience, having provided technical leadership to teams of up to 8 developers + 4 testers. No experience in banking or hedge funds, however, my experience is mostly telcos (and some government).

As my first love is mathematics, and I have little interest in a straight out management role at this point, I thought doing an MFE would be a good move. However, I'm concerned that I may have left it too late to break into the industry. On the other hand, I figure my solid C++/Java ought to be sellable - but I just don't know.

Could I get some opinions on whether I stand a chance here? My university assures me that I ought to have no problems, but I'd like some opinions from 3rd parties (i.e. from people without a vested interest in seeing me continue with my MFE).

Will I be taken on at the end of my MFE as a quant? Would I be consigned forever to a quant development role? As a quant developer, will I be doing more than just programming, or will I find that my end job will be no different to what I'm doing now, just in a different industry? What are the chances of doing modelling, or being actively involved in trading?

Admittedly, I should have asked this here *before* starting the MFE!

Many thanks in advance!
 
Could I get some opinions on whether I stand a chance here? My university assures me that I ought to have no problems, but I'd like some opinions from 3rd parties (i.e. from people without a vested interest in seeing me continue with my MFE).

That can't be right. Age is a factor. Young quants are often putting in a hundred hours a week and there may be some apprehension that an older person might not be able to match a younger person in stamina and energy. Age discrimination exists in the workplace generally, particularly for entry level jobs. But as Alain has pointed out more than once, regardless of age, you need your own "ace in the hole" -- some special talent or expertise that you have.
 
That can't be right. Age is a factor. Young quants are often putting in a hundred hours a week and there may be some apprehension that an older person might not be able to match a younger person in stamina and energy. Age discrimination exists in the workplace generally, particularly for entry level jobs. But as Alain has pointed out more than once, regardless of age, you need your own "ace in the hole" -- some special talent or expertise that you have.

Thanks for the response. Well, I was hoping that my development experience could mean that I wouldn't go in as an entry-level quant developer, but as someone with quite a bit of software development experience. In any case, there is already age discrimination where I am now, so I guess the question is whether it'll be worse where I'm heading.

But you seem to imply that my only option is to go in as an entry-level quant developer, competing against 20 year olds?
 
100 hours a week.. Phew! That is 20 hour a day. Really?!? Omg.. ! Scared!

There's one extreme example of an MBA (not quant) putting in a 155-hour week. Which left 13 hours for sleep and, er, leisure. In a winner-take-all society there's tremendous pressure to be better and work harder than the next man. As Alec Baldwin says in "Glengarry Glen Ross," "First prize is a Cadillac, second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is you get fired."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-AXTx4PcKI

---------- Post added at 06:53 AM ---------- Previous post was at 06:46 AM ----------

But you seem to imply that my only option is to go in as an entry-level quant developer, competing against 20 year olds?

Do you have experience with scientific computing, numerical analysis, design and tweaking of quant algorithms? Also, I doubt you will be competing against 20-year-olds. Most likely people aiming for such jobs will be at least in their last 20s.

If you're going for this, aim deliberately to be excellent in one area where others will find it difficult to match you. Alain has said this at least once and he is correct. If age is a factor you want to create the conditions where a prospective employer downgrades the age factor to secondary status (or dismisses it) -- simply because your ability in one area trumps such considerations. But if your resume is just one among scores or hundreds, then age will be a real factor.
 
Could I get some opinions on whether I stand a chance here? My university assures me that I ought to have no problems, but I'd like some opinions from 3rd parties (i.e. from people without a vested interest in seeing me continue with my MFE).
By "university", you mean the people running your MFE program? Or everyone else?
I don't have any vested interest in how you spend you time/money/life whatsoever. I would just point out that I have come across a couple of people same/older than you that did MFE. They have different reasons than yours. Money isn't a problem. Knowledge is what they are after.

One of them is a member here. Search for user "Gus". He was able to use the technical skills learned in MFE program to run a successful trading business of his own. He even got $50K from the IB trading contest.
Baruch Financial Engineering Student wins $50,000 in 2007 Interactive Broker Trading Olympiad - Forum | Quant Network

So you may want to look at the "running your business" side of this question as well.
 
By "university", you mean the people running your MFE program? Or everyone else?

Yes, it's what lecturers have been telling me. I took it with a grain of salt as maybe they don't want students to leave.

My MFE student colleagues are mostly in the 30s, but many are in their 40s, and I'm sure I'm not the oldest one there. There aren't many in their 20s. I've asked the older ones, and they don't seem to be too concerned about their age (but as they're inexperienced they may well be deluded).

I would just point out that I have come across a couple of people same/older than you that did MFE. They have different reasons than yours. Money isn't a problem. Knowledge is what they are after.

Thanks for that. To be honest, I'm not going to push additional money away, but I'm not really doing this for money either. I just want a more interesting job than simply development, and as I said I'm not all that keen on pursuing management at this point (which is what a lot of developers my age are pursuing). Also, I love mathematics.

When I was 20 I needed the money, and software development paid a lot more than mathematics ever could. I'm no longer in that boat, money isn't *that* big a factor for me now - interesting work is.

Thanks again.

---------- Post added at 10:16 AM ---------- Previous post was at 10:13 AM ----------

Do you have experience with scientific computing, numerical analysis, design and tweaking of quant algorithms?

Ah, well, not tweaking quant algorithms. If I did I guess I wouldn't need to do an MFE.

I have done some scientific computing, however.

If you're going for this, aim deliberately to be excellent in one area where others will find it difficult to match you. Alain has said this at least once and he is correct. If age is a factor you want to create the conditions where a prospective employer downgrades the age factor to secondary status (or dismisses it) -- simply because your ability in one area trumps such considerations. But if your resume is just one among scores or hundreds, then age will be a real factor.

Thanks for the advice. This makes a lot of sense.
 

Ken Abbott

Managing Director
over 40

If you can convince an interviewer you can add value, you can be 22 or 50. I've hired quants at both ends of the spectrum. The key is getting the right intro and not being too pushy. Also, if making a career switch, make sure you have a good "story" - e.g. saying you want to make more money won't cut it.

Do your homework. Read some stuff from GARP and PRMIA. Read Institutional Investor and Risk Magazine. Read Basel docs. Know the markets (and not just your day-trading markets - no trader of size is likely to take that experience seriously.)
 
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