Pro gambler with CS PhD, resume and other advice sought

dbad

New Member
I’m a late-30’s pro gambler with a PhD in CS that, due in large part to coronavirus, is starting to look at other opportunities and I find the idea of quant research at a prop shop or hedge fund to be right up my alley. About a month ago I started putting together a resume and working through some interview problem collections, but as I’ve asked people some of the same questions I’ve gotten wildly variable answers.

First off, here is my resume:
Academically, I went to public tier 1 schools but not targets. 4.0 GPA, lots of STEM extracurriculars, service and academic awards. In HS I won a national championship in a math competition and later did ICPC in college but never went to world finals. PhD is recent (last 5 years) and used Monte Carlo simulation to solve the strategy for an unsolved game.

Between the masters and the doctorate I was a semi-notable professional poker player. After online poker’s black Friday about 10 years ago I went back to school but to make money on the side picked up casino advantage play. That turned into a full time job and directly resulted in the problem I solved in my dissertation. I have some notable accomplishments in advantage play, but it’s likely that coronavirus may make pro gambling no longer viable for me. I also have several recent projects that involve development of game theoretic optimal strategies, equity modeling, and even predictive modeling using genetic algorithms and large data sets.

I’ve heard that prop shops love former pro gamblers, and I’ve got the feedback from several people that my resume/background is great and 400k+ job offers are going to fall at my feet. After reading many forums and books, though, I have my doubts, and I also have a potential job offer coming soon in a different area.

I’ve read quant researcher job postings, most of which seem to explicitly state that prior finance knowledge is not required but what am I realistically going to be asked to do during an interview given my age & background?

On the technical side of things, I’d say 2/3 of the questions in Heard on the Streets chapters on purely quantitative & logic questions and statistics questions I’m fine with. Brainteasers and quick calculations are not an issue. If it involves calculus, diff eq, trig, linear algebra, transcendentals, complex numbers, Markov chains, or stuff with more formal statistics (t-test, covariance, linear regression) then it’s usually outside my scope and I’m not sure I can get back up to speed on those in a reasonable amount of time. Buffon’s Needle is a great example of a problem outside my scope currently. When it comes to coding, I can do most LeetCode medium problems, can code a BST or merge sort on the fly and know my OOP concepts and Big O pretty well, but likely wouldn’t be able to whip up a dynamic programming algorithm in an interview.

For however good my resume may look with the academic achievements combined with the gambling background, I don’t think I’d come close to performing at the level of a recent target school grad in an interview, but at the same time I’m not sure I’d get the same questions or if my performance would be assessed in the same way given the PhD and experience. I don’t have any problem discussing any of the projects I’ve done or my gambling background in detail, but what’s the likelihood of me getting through a technical interview given my comfort level with questions as described above?

I’ve been looking at firms like SIG, RenTech, Optiver, DE Shaw, and several others. Of the major cities, Chicago is ideal, but if it’s a particularly good fit I don’t really mind anywhere. I have direct application info for most firms, but would it be advisable to use a headhunter in addition to or instead of applying myself? I know that some firms don’t use HHs, while some firms ONLY hire via HHs.

Via a personal connection I likely have a data science job offer coming at a big company in tech/sports. The job is interesting, good benefits, the work culture and perks are cool and similar to those that I've heard from prop shops/FAANG. The major pros of this job are that it’s in my current city (which I like and it’s safer/less stressful to stay put) and work/life balance would be very good including being able to work from home sometime. The big con is that the salary may only be in the $125k-$150k range and no idea what the ceiling is but definitely far less than a finance career.

I’m really enthusiastic about the possibility of being a quant researcher at a prop shop/hedge fund but there are other important concerns such as my family. I’d hate to pass up on a $150k/year sure thing during a pandemic only to get rejected everywhere, be two more months without income, and forced to choose between even worse options.

The million dollar questions for me are how likely is it that I’ll be able to get a job as a quant researcher in finance, what would my likely salary offers be, and if I applied to a dozen firms today (directly or via HHs) how long before I have an offer (if any)?
 

quantsmodelsbottles

Active Member
If you’re a PhD in CS I don’t think the good shops that only hire PhD’s (TGS, PDT, SIG) will badger you with the bullshit brainteaser questions and rather would ask about your research experience and pro-gambler experience (a huge plus that sets you aside from the other top-tier PhD’s with a high profile resume like yours, not sure why you’re downplaying this). Undergrads, even with the medals and top school, have to prove themselves, you’ve already proven yourself with research record. Besides it’s not that hard to learn the basic classical stats and calculus that they ask especially for a PhD in CS.
 
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