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Passion and Communication

Lopemig

New Member
I have recently received a bunch of emails from people from my old school that are struggling to get full time jobs, and since I was feeling sleepless last night, I decided to share a couple of things here.

As Financial Engineering continues to become more and more mainstream, the competition for jobs becomes ever so tight and aggressive. Not to mention how biased competition is towards the major financial institutions; everybody wants to work at Goldman, Morgan, BofA, JPM, etc… However, at the higher end of the candidate spectrum, most resumes look really similar. It seems to be really hard to differentiate oneself from the rest of the aspiring quants out there looking to be placed. I want to share my two cents on how you can differentiate yourself from the pack a little better. In my limited experience, I have identified two things that FE’s do not have, in comparison to other “non-quant” finance professionals: Passion, and Communication skills.

To me, the most important of the above is definitely passion. I see a disturbing amount of posts in quantnet and other blogs of people asking about salaries in the financial industry. To me, this widespread concern among aspiring financiers tells me one thing: there is no passion for the field. There seems to be a lot of people who met someone, somewhere, sometime who told them that somebody they know made a ton of money doing something like algorithmic trading or (worse) high frequency trading. So they have this idea that anyone with decent math skills will become a millionaire if they work in finance. I’m not going to lie, that is a very motivating thought. However, once you realize how hard it is become a finance superstar, and that the jobs you thought you wanted are actually really scarce, there is a very good chance that the interest will be gone. By then, you might be midway through your financial engineering program or even working a job you don’t like. For this guys and girls, I can only say one thing: follow your passion and not the money. I guarantee that you will lead a happy life. You will also have a better chance of becoming rich because without passion you just won’t work hard enough to “make it”.

If you are indeed passionate about finance and are willing to go the extra mile, there is one thing you can do to get on the highway to getting a job: technical communication. People fail to recognize how important the “soft” skills are in this industry. Of course it’s great to know math, stats and programing, but I have actually heard a lot of managers say stuff like “if you can explain the math in layman’s terms to upper management and clients, you are worth your weight in gold”. An effective way to build/practice your communication skills is networking. Plus, it does wonders for your career; networking will open doors that won’t open any other way. Time and time again I see people relying solely on the name of their schools to get placed. That’s a mistake, especially since most of us do not come from CMU, Columbia, or Princeton. Wouldn’t you think it’s better to take control when it comes to your own professional future? I do realize that most quants are introverts, and I also know that the vast majority of junior quants are not native English speakers. However, the Financial Industry does not care about your personality type and nationality. It is up to you to get in managers’ radars and to attend events in which you might meet ‘that person that will get you an interview’. Join the IAQF (and actually assist events), use LinkedIn smartly and, of course, use quantnet to network. Take a not-so-random walk towards growing your career
 

bigbadwolf

Well-Known Member
"To me, the most important of the above is definitely passion."

IMHO this means nothing, as a concept. It is fuzzy and not concrete because it cannot be measured.

"I am passionate about XYZ".
Yawn :D

I agree. Complete malarkey. Mention of "passion" as a pre-req figures in many US job adverts. Empty filler. I presume what it means is someone anxious to conform and willing to put in extra unpaid hours to demonstrate his "passion" and "commitment."
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
"I do realize that most quants are introverts, and I also know that the vast majority of junior quants are not native English speakers."

I believe the French schools have this to train students to speak in public etc.

It is possible to join an acting club, take lessons on public speaking, signing etc. etc.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Quick-Eas..._sim_14_4?ie=UTF8&refRID=0R1FFPRB63FDXXQEJHJ3

In fairness, many people at high levels are terrible public speakers because they have never learned it. An exception is Bill Clinton.

fear of public speaking >> fear of death.
 
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TehRaio

Well-Known Member
I agree. Complete malarkey. Mention of "passion" as a pre-req figures in many US job adverts. Empty filler. I presume what it means is someone anxious to conform and willing to put in extra unpaid hours to demonstrate his "passion" and "commitment."

is it possible to committed but not willing to be exploited?
 

C S

Well-Known Member
is it possible to committed but not willing to be exploited?

In my experience, no. People are gonna look down at you if you leave the office earlier than them. Even if you completed all your work. Even if you got there earlier than them. Funny how the mind works.
 

bigbadwolf

Well-Known Member
is it possible to committed but not willing to be exploited?

Just about everyone who works for a wage is exploited. That's why they get hired -- the ones doing the hiring figure they'll make some money from the labor of the employee. But what we've been seeing the last few decades is ever-higher exploitation of labor (and there are a number of reasons for this). For example, look at this article on Amazon's practices in today's NYT. But this super-exploitation requires the willing collaboration of the exploited -- hence the insistence on "passion," "commitment," and "excitement." What's wanted are effusively enthusiastic serfs. I'm reminded of this scene from Office Space:

 

Lopemig

New Member
In my experience, no. People are gonna look down at you if you leave the office earlier than them. Even if you completed all your work. Even if you got there earlier than them. Funny how the mind works.
I suppose it depends on the bank/area you work.
Just about everyone who works for a wage is exploited. That's why they get hired -- the ones doing the hiring figure they'll make some money from the labor of the employee. But what we've been seeing the last few decades is ever-higher exploitation of labor (and there are a number of reasons for this). For example, look at this article on Amazon's practices in today's NYT. But this super-exploitation requires the willing collaboration of the exploited -- hence the insistence on "passion," "commitment," and "excitement." What's wanted are effusively enthusiastic serfs. I'm reminded of this scene from Office Space:

Although you have a point, I personally have never felt exploited in Wall Street. I enjoy my job, compensation and opportunities are great, and (in the bank that I work for) people keep pretty flexible schedules. No one is looking over my shoulder to check how many hours I stay in the office. Most days though, I stay later than my teammates, perhaps supporting your "commitment" and "excitement" point and the crappy employee-employer relationship. However, whenever I am working on something that I enjoy, solving a problem or figuring out the best way to model an asset, hours go by pretty damn fast anyways.

I gotta say, when I suggested passion I did not mean it should be a prerequisite for a job. I rather meant that you enjoy and love what you do. The fact that intangibles cannot be measured does not make them nonsense, or less important for your development, which is what I was trying to advice on. I have seen plenty of really smart people that have all the tangibles (good school, grades, solid skills, etc...) get rejected from positions simply because the manager did not feel their personality was appealing enough. At the end of the day, they will hire people they can spend all day in the office with. Call it what you will, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Thanks for reading, btw!
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
"Most days though, I stay later than my teammates, perhaps supporting your "commitment" and "excitement" point"

How productive are you after let's lets say 5 o clock. It's not for nothing that Henry Ford brought in tbe 40-hour work week.


The amount of time that one has to perform a task is the amount of time it will take to complete the task.
 
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vertigo

Active Member
thanks for offering your input. this is just my opinion but i don't agree with anything that you have said. your words are complete garbage. its worth listening to the others guys in this thread as their words are diamonds sprinkled with harsh truths.

you suffer from the quant mutant strain and are incredibly naive. i could tell by the first paragraph that everything to follow would be garbage. if you want to give advice to newbies about an industry, please talk about it only after having experienced GOOD, BAD and UGLY moments in that industry. your filtration seems to only incorporate GOOD moments. it is possible that there are also BAD and UGLY moments.it is also possible that they have not occurred to yet but may in the future.. having passion would not change how good at you are during BAD moments and it would be diabolical to believe that any skills you have would change anything during UGLY moments.

you really want to help people? offer them your job. they will accept it and you will be out of a job. don't do it because you felt like sparing some of your 'precious' time because you were sleepless. that is complete bullshit. the way you approached this is wrong. you are now backtracking and clarifying what you said. how many shit consultants have i buried that did what you have done? a lot.... and it took them years to realise that their crap approach was the problem.

what would i have done? I would have read advice from respected authors - mark joshi has a good guide on how to be a quant, i would read interview & finance & communication books, attempt exercises, practise interview questions. these are things that will help. i would never give a lecture to newbies about 'passion'. passion is complete bullshit. with the rest of your advice, we can drop 'passion' out of the window and onto the garbage can.

some small notes

1. being a quant does not make you different to being a finance professional. it makes you a finance professional. a child can understand this.
2. increased frequency of questions does not mean lack of passion. again, a child can understand this.
3. good knowledge of mathematics does not imply that you have poor communication skills. why would it?

one of the variants of the quant mutant strain is that you what you assume to be the world (MODEL) becomes, in your brain, the world (REALITY). MODEL does not equal REALITY. if you assume that most quants are introverts, that most resumes look similar, etc, then you will actively seek your brain to reimburse these assumptions into becoming true. your ideas will become a self fulfilling prophecy. in terms of advice they are potentially disastrous because they are subjective and not objective.

the best directors i ever worked with were the ones who challenged everything and wanted their employees to do the same. i think this attribute is the closest to 'passion' that one needs to have in finance. example: one quant i worked with derived every single model his team had implemented in the last year, some thought he was an idiot for doing so but actually he learned everything, he buggered people about the models and they thought he didn't need to. that's passion. guess what? i could hate the job that I'm in and still do that.

employees have become modern slaves in the work place because they accept the treatment from employers. if employees did not accept it, employers wouldn't exist. words like 'passion' are a way for you to admit that you are a slave. congratulations for encouraging other people to become slaves.

finance is a simple place, full of simple people. really, really simple. if you see finance as anything more than that, then you are in the rainbow and are the angel that is blind to reality. good luck on your rainbow journey, but some of us are living in reality.
 

bigbadwolf

Well-Known Member
This looks good as well:

Passion is the new workplace requirement — and one that should be resisted.
In this world, legendary figures are the ones who remain in the office for one hundred hours straight, working through their children’s musical recitals and 104-degree fevers. The idea is that workers become superhuman through the refusal of self-care.

This phenomenon isn’t merely depressing; it’s outright dangerous. In 2013, a twenty-one-year-old intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s London office died suddenly. He had been working until 6 AM for three consecutive days. In the summer of 2014, a long-haul truck driver overturned his vehicle on the New Jersey Turnpike, severely injuring comedian Tracey Morgan and killing a companion of Morgan’s. The truck driver had not slept in more than twenty-four hours.

Less headline-grabbing are the more mundane degradations that overwork and sleep deprivation visit on the body: increased rates of illness, anxiety, depression, even coronary heart disease.

All of these instances — from sudden, untimely deaths to worn-out immune systems unable to fend off another cold — are the consequences of the extent to which we’ve allowed work to dominate our lives. Outside the pantheon of high-earning super-workers, everyone is getting less sleep and working longer hours. In industries from medicine to long-haul trucking, grinding schedules that colonize ever more of our waking (and sleeping) hours are a point of pride. This is the case despite the fact that studies continually show that overwork is counterproductive.

There are numerous reasons for the disappearance of the forty-hour workweek, but journalist Sara Robinson singles out work cultures that promote worker passion as one of them. She sees this culture taking root first in the defense and then in the tech industries in late twentieth-century California.

...

With passion as a new workplace requirement, it needed to be measured in some way, so that the passion of individual workers could be compared and used to mete out rewards and punishments. Enter the managers, who resorted to the laziest, most easily graphable, least imaginative way possible to gauge this intangible quality: hours spent in the office.

This intractable policy remains largely in place today. “We just don’t know any other way to measure [workers], except by their hours,” an office manager sighed to a team of workplace consultants in 2014. This exasperation was aired a year after the consultants did a study of the same workplace, which revealed that employees were more productive when encouraged to take intermittent breaks and were (gasp) “permitted to leave as soon as they had accomplished a designated amount of work.”

Passion as measured by hours has put the workweek on a course of runaway inflation, to the point at which people are actually shortening their lives and endangering otherssometimes in sudden, tragic form — in pursuit of an ever-elusive ideal of capitalistic individualism.
 

TehRaio

Well-Known Member
Nothing to say regarding Networking and communication, I applies everywhere so I guess if students, who are about to graduate, don't know that already: then there is something wrong and you really should think about getting a job where you can build on the skills you already have.

I understand @Lopemig intent but whenever I read of "passion for the job", I can't help but feel, as many here, that we are really talking about how many unpaid extra hours are you willing to do to propel your career? how many hours are you willing to sacrifice away from home and family? (for those who already do, or who like me plan to). I'm always reminded I don't find it very smart to work a 50, 60 or 70 hours week on a 40hrs salary, a bit of math ought to be done to figure out why I automatically talked of "exploitation".

This resonates a lot with people who despite, and this is refreshing to see, being at the higher end of the wage spectrum still see employer-employee relationship for what it is: a struggle.

For me it's a matter of whether you wanna play this game by rules straight outta pop culture: work "hard" (meaning longer than most) and reap the (financial) "benefits". the employer cares about passion because of the quantity (and possibly quality) of work you're going to put in. I just wish, at least the Karl Marx in me wishes, the employer would also care about the impact on the quality of life their employees lead outside work when they go "the extra mile" everyday. I'm sure it does happen but I suspect it's rare . . .

I also suspect most people don't have that passion but, hey, they have to feed themselves. the office space clip @bigbadwolf posted is dead on. you have the example of an employer who puts an emphasis the character played by jennifer aniston being able to "express herself", as if he cared about her as a person, but wants her to conform to the unwritten rules that will allow her to keep her job (and maybe get "ahead").

if most people who are employed don't have passion (my postulate), and if it's not a job prerequisite: I'm, then, tempted to infer that it's also not a good indicator to getting a job in itself. This leaves us to how this would pass as a good career advice to people trying to get in this industry.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
In the Nordic countries (which have the reputation for being productive, at least in principle), the emphasis is on work and life balance. In the Netherlands, for example people typically work 8.30-17.00 with 30 minute lunch break. Dinner at 6!

H.F. knew it as well

Henry Ford said of the decision: “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either ‘lost time’ or a class privilege.” At Ford’s own admission, however, the five-day workweek was also instituted in order to increase productivity: Though workers’ time on the job had decreased, they were expected to expend more effort while they were there. Manufacturers all over the country, and the world, soon followed Ford’s lead, and the Monday-to-Friday workweek became standard practice.

And it means you have more time to buy stuff.
 
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bigbadwolf

Well-Known Member
In the Nordic countries (which have the reputation for being productive, at least in principle), the emphasis is on work and life balance. In the Netherlands, for example people typically work 8.30-17.00 with 30 minute lunch break. Dinner at 6!

H.F. knew it as well

Henry Ford said of the decision: “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either ‘lost time’ or a class privilege.” At Ford’s own admission, however, the five-day workweek was also instituted in order to increase productivity: Though workers’ time on the job had decreased, they were expected to expend more effort while they were there. Manufacturers all over the country, and the world, soon followed Ford’s lead, and the Monday-to-Friday workweek became standard practice.

Things have changed since the time of Ford. We live now in what the theorists describe as a "post-Fordist economy" -- i.e., an economy with a hollowed-out manufacturing base, with a focus on service jobs that are typically low-skill and low-wage (like that depicted in the Office Space clip). The kind of productivity needed for assembly-line jobs -- manual dexterity coupled with wide-awake attention to minutae -- isn't needed for the service sector jobs. The economic rationale for the 40-hour week thus having disappeared, employers can now work employees to the bone. And do. And the imbalance in supply and demand of labor mean that it makes economic sense to burn out employees and replace them with new cadres of young, "enthusiastic," and naive workers rather than treat them with consideration. It's strictly business, nothing personal.

Employers have also found that it's cheaper to have employees regulate themselves rather than being (expensively) supervised. Hence the emphasis on "passion," commitment, and enthusiasm. The Italian theorist Bifo Berardi put it brilliantly:

It seems that the young pilot Andreas Lubitz who hurled himself and the airplane, packed with innocent people against the rocks of a mountain, concealed the medical certification of depressive pathology from his employer, Lufthansa. This is bad of course, but totally understandable: turbo-capitalism does not like workers who go on leave for health reasons and most of all it dislikes references to depression.

Depressed, me? Don’t even mention it. I feel fine, I’m perfectly efficient, happy, dynamic, energetic, and most of all competitive. I go jogging every morning and I’m available for over time. It is the philosophy of the low cost airlines, you know? And the philosophy of the perfectly deregulated economy where everybody is demanded to give ceaselessly the best, in order to survive.
 
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pingu

Well-Known Member
...The economic rationale for the 40-hour week thus having disappeared, employers can now work employees to the bone. And do. And the imbalance in supply and demand of labor mean that it makes economic sense to burn out employees and replace them with new cadres of young, "enthusiastic," and naive workers rather than treat them with consideration. It's strictly business, nothing personal.

Employers have also found that it's cheaper to have employees regulate themselves rather than being (expensively) supervised. Hence the emphasis on "passion," commitment, and enthusiasm...

How appropriate:

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=...=iZGX4piWAEXj8W3oTHu5JQ&bvm=bv.99804247,d.cWw
 

Alex KT

New Member
Hey @Lopemig ,

Don't worry about the other jaded guys here. You completely right.

People who are excel in their chosen fields will always have career capital to use. Whether it's leaving work early, taking vacations, getting promotions and more pay, it's easy because you have career capital and the firm needs you there.

It's great that @bigbadwolf mentions the Amazon NYT article, because a careful read shows that the top performers will have whatever they want. The rest of the food chain... Not so much.

As a trader I'm able to take an hour long lunch break for Thai boxing class.. Why? It keeps me happy, keeps me making PnL for the team, what's not to like.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
As a trader I'm able to take an hour long lunch break for Thai boxing class.. Why? It keeps me happy, keeps me making PnL for the team, what's not to like.

Keeping fit is good, especially if it's Asian martial arts which keeps the mind fit as well.
 
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Tom Sun

Active Member
IMHO this means nothing, as a concept. It is fuzzy and not concrete because it cannot be measured.

I think what he meant wasn't that interviewers should measure a candidate's passion, but rather as the candidate, you should know that this is what you want to do, or else you will lose steam.
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

THE SECOND COMING
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

...
 

bigbadwolf

Well-Known Member
I think what he meant wasn't that interviewers should measure a candidate's passion, but rather as the candidate, you should know that this is what you want to do, or else you will lose steam.

There lie the roots of unthinking and unyielding fanaticism. Maybe with a glutted job market it would be best to leave it rather than pound one's head obdurately against a brick wall.

Terry Eagleton has come out with a new book, from which this essay is excerpted:

Like pessimism, optimism spreads a monochrome glaze over the whole world, blind to nuance and distinction. Since it is a general mind-set, all objects become blandly interchangeable, in a kind of exchange value of the spirit. The card-carrying optimist responds to everything in the same rigorously preprogrammed way, and so eliminates chance and contingency. In this deterministic world, things are destined with preternatural predictability to work out well, and for no good reason whatsoever.
 
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