I fly a desk...

Sam Harris

Space Systems Engineer
Hi,

My name is Sam Harris. I grew up in a one red light town in South Carolina with dreams of being an astronaut. I went to the US Naval Academy which is about as intense as a Hedge Fund interview all day every day (plus extreme physical activity). After two years there, I realized that I liked the machines more than the missions (much like Quant vs Trader) and decided to switch to the Air Force so that I could be an Engineer (the Navy doesn't have any careers in engineering or analysis). My undergrad was Electrical Engineering.

Right now, I'm stationed in Albuquerque, NM where I design tests and develop measures for certifying new systems: mostly spacecraft. I haven't given up hope on being an astronaut, but it's a lot easier to make $5mil than to make it into outer space through the US Government. 1 in 100 applicants for Test Pilot(TP)/Flight Test Engineer(FTE) school are accepted. 1 in 100 TPs and FTEs are accepted to NASA. 1 in 100 Astronauts actually get to go into space.

The worst part is they're all qualified. It's just a combination of bureaucracy, politics, and sheer luck that gets you to the top. In the mean time, the job itself is kinda' boring. The problems we solve are not that challenging, and by the 8yr mark, you have to do a ton of management stuff on top of science and engineering. I'm banking on space travel becoming commercialized and getting into space that way. But, then I'll need that $5mil :-k

The rub with the military as a career is that the really cool jobs involve tremendous personal sacrifice and force living in rough conditions. The luxurious jobs (like mine) are pretty boring. I want challenge and luxury, which is largely why I am drawn to being a Quant.

So now I'm about half way through Columbia's MSOR, Methods in Finance, which is very similar to their MSFE degree (9 of the 10 classes in MSOR, MiF are in MSFE and the 10th class is a compilation of two MSFE classes). I'll be flying out to NYC for the National Financial Mathematics Career Fair at NYU on the 26th.

I love online classes, but what I really miss is community. No one at work cares about finance, so I can't talk about that. However, they are a bunch of analysis and math nerds, so Monte Carlo Simulation techniques at the water cooler is a big hit!

So I'm here to make some online friends.
 

Andy Nguyen

Member
Hi Sam,
Now I know who you are on GD ;)
Pretty cool stories about the Navy, Air Force and the career tracks they have. I hope to meet you in some of the NYC talks, several of them coming up are organized by Quant Network.

You probably will see a lot of us at the NYU Career Fair. If you see Quantnet members there, be sure to say hi to them.

I don't know any program has an online community like the Baruch program. Quantnet is for all students in NYC programs and beyond so I hope that you will make this your online community.

Look forward to reading your stories.
 

Sam Harris

Space Systems Engineer
Of the virtual FE communities out there that I've found, this one seems to be the friendliest. That is greatly appreciated!
 

Andy Nguyen

Member
Andy, I thought you don't have access to the forum from work :D
I do but I don't visit it during work. I sometimes visit during lunch from my laptop using wifi in the cafeteria and post if something catches my eyes ;)
So I can only check it before work and when i got home.
Of the virtual FE communities out there that I've found, this one seems to be the friendliest. That is greatly appreciated!
We'd like to keep it that way too, Sam.

By the way, in a few years, you can change I fly a desk to I run a desk
 

Muting

Member
Hi, Sam:

Nice to meet you. And I am looking forward to seeing you in NYU career fair.

Of the virtual FE communities out there that I've found, this one seems to be the friendliest. That is greatly appreciated!
You are right. I think a friendly environment is a much better way to promote efficient communication and discussion and prevent posting from turning to cursing and spamming.

I am curious about one thing. How much knowledge obtained by you before you joined the online courses is helpful to promote your understanding towards financial engineering? Among those who had focused on physics or math, much of their knowledge like stochastic calculus, ODE/PDE can give them much advantage towards understanding FE. What about eletronic engineering?
 

Sam Harris

Space Systems Engineer
What about eletronic engineering?
I only had one probability and statistics course in my entire undergrad curriculum. The calculus and physics aspects of EE are crazy hard. You have to love it. I didn't.

As for background, interestingly enough I have gained all of my "statistical intuition" from the workplace. I work in a headquarters that is responsible for establishing and policing policy for remote detachments. These detachments have analysts working on specific programs, but the brainiacs are sent to headquarters and put in one branch called Test Support Evaluation. Everyone here has a Ph.D. or M.S. in applied math or statistics or ops research or engineering. We are a geek haven in a largely butch organization. So, we are a community of analysts and math is the language from water cooler discussions of test design techniques to e-mail quizzes on f-tests to our actual job: designing tests, creating measures, analyzing results, and ensuring accurate reporting of results to decision makers.

The sad thing is that when I move to my next assignment (and I have to move on) I will no longer be an analyst. I've fallen in love with analysis. It's so cool to be able to look at a mountain of data and learn its story. I've also been amazed by how many fallacies there are in the way we instinctively observe and act in our respective environments.

Clear point: You drop a bomb three times and it hits the target all three times. How confident can you be that if you drop that bomb in combat it won't fly off and hit a nearby school or mosque? Ask any pilot and they'll be impressed. "Hell, three times in a row! That's awesome!" But you only have 33% confidence in a 95% accuracy. Moreover, it's far better to instead of measuring "hits" to measure distance from the absolute target. This provides distributions of distances which--through the use of inferential statistics--can more accurately model how accurate the weapon will be. Furthermore, considerations must be made for where error really enters the equation. If it drops from an aircraft and glides in at an angle, the error will not be distributed circularly with respect to the ground. The error may be two dimensional Gaussian in the reference plane perpendicular to the flight path, and that must be projected onto the ground.

About the best thing I do is I'm currently researching massive error analysis. Even if we can get a weapon to be accurate 99% of the time, that 1% failure is somebody's innocent family and I'm not comfortable with that. I'm presenting at the Air Force Operations Research Symposium in two weeks on this subject and on Simpson's Paradox and how aggregate analysis (especially with the use of point estimates) can be so horribly inaccurate.

I'm really looking forward to three things about my new career:
(1) Not working with 100% American Republican Christians.
(2) Not working on weapons.
(3) Meritocracy.
 

alain

Older and Wiser
I'm really looking forward to three things about my new career:
(1) Not working with 100% American Republican Christians.
(2) Not working on weapons.
(3) Meritocracy.
HAHAHA... the new career will be very similar in a lot of ways

1) You might not be working with American Republican Christians but you are probaly are going to be working with Republicans period

2) you will be immersed with Financial Weapons... :D
 

Yuriy

MFE Alum
Clear point: You drop a bomb three times and it hits the target all three times. How confident can you be that if you drop that bomb in combat it won't fly off and hit a nearby school or mosque? Ask any pilot and they'll be impressed. "Hell, three times in a row! That's awesome!" But you only have 33% confidence in a 95% accuracy. Moreover, it's far better to instead of measuring "hits" to measure distance from the absolute target. This provides distributions of distances which--through the use of inferential statistics--can more accurately model how accurate the weapon will be. Furthermore, considerations must be made for where error really enters the equation. If it drops from an aircraft and glides in at an angle, the error will not be distributed circularly with respect to the ground. The error may be two dimensional Gaussian in the reference plane perpendicular to the flight path, and that must be projected onto the ground.

Very interesting :) thanks for sharing! Now I know where to go if things don't work out for me in Finance :)
 

Sam Harris

Space Systems Engineer
HAHAHA... the new career will be very similar in a lot of ways

1) You might not be working with American Republican Christians but you are probaly are going to be working with Republicans period

I would think that academia would drive liberalism, but I guess wealth drives conservatism. It's funny how conservatism is the only thing that the rich and the poor have in common. I was under the impression that New York was very Democratic.
 

Andy Nguyen

Member
I was under the impression that New York was very Democratic.
NY and NYC in particular are predominantly Democrat towns but the last ten years or more, we have two consecutive Republican mayors and governor until Spitzer came into office early this year.
I think the Wall street crowd is pro anyone who is business friendly. Spitzer used to be Wall Street's biggest enemy. I'm not sure how friendly he is now.

I'm nonpartisan and pro-business ;)
 
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