Recruiters are calling, but...

Okay, I called this recruiter since she wants to set me up for an interview as a structured finance developer while I'm working on this (rather mundane) M.S. Stat here in Rutgers. She says it's $100k + Bonus, which is very nice for someone like me whose last paying work was $18 an hour and who has a negative net worth.

However, I told her that my end goal is RenTec or DESCo, which need PhDs or bust (and if I'm going to do something for my career, I want to be among the best at it, not just another cog in another unknown shop). And she told me that she was working with a PhD aspiring quant, early 30s, who was only getting offered 70-80k due to no experience, but wanted twice as much because of his age/education.

I'm just wondering, from a recruiter's standpoint, if I want to make it to the top tier quant funds that define the industry, do I get work experience in the financial industry as a sort of developer/modeler and try to PhD part time, or do I just go straight through and blow off job-hunting until I have my doctorate?

BTW, I'm planning to pursue my PhD in OR when I do go for it, and not a lot of schools have good programs. Columbia has one, Stanford has one (Management Sci/Engr), Stony Brook has one (headed up by Bob Frey of RenTec in the quant finance route), and MIT has one. However, with my undergrad GPA 3.3 and the deadlines early december (won't get grades in time), what is it that a recruiter (ahem, Sir Connor) would suggest me to do?

Try to get a couple of years experience under my belt, or take my chances hoping my recommendations are good enough to make up for an 87% quant general GRE score and 3.3 cumulative GPA (3.5 major)?

Also, I'm studying for the math subject GREs, but it seems that I'm basically relearning everything from the ground up since multivar calc/linear algebra+diffeqs were in my freshman undergrad year (and my regular calc was in high school which I AP'd out of in college).
 

doug reich

Some guy
Ilya, you're asking for the same advice over and over again and hoping for a different answer each time. There's saying about that...
 
I dont know much about the US employment market, but why do you think that gaining experience from firm A disqualifies you automatically from joining firm B at a later stage? Where did you get this idea from?

100k + bonus is a good salary package for someone entering the industry with zero experience. I just wonder - why was that PhD guy not offered that position, but you who hasn't completed the Master's yet (no offence, but why would a recruiter do this unless the PhD doesnt want that role or is for whatever reason not suitable for it)?

This is my personal opinion re PhD (I dont have one by the way): finish your Masters, go out in the industry, identify which areas you and your (future) employers benefit from, and then do a PhD in such areas in a few years time - if you still want to that is.
 

doug reich

Some guy
I dont know much about the US employment market, but why do you think that gaining experience from firm A disqualifies you automatically from joining firm B at a later stage? Where did you get this idea from?

There are very fancy places that think this way.

100k + bonus is a good salary package for someone entering the industry with zero experience. I just wonder - why was that PhD guy not offered that position, but you who hasn't completed the Master's yet (no offence, but why would a recruiter do this unless the PhD doesnt want that role or is for whatever reason not suitable for it)?
A. The PhD is over-qualified.
B. The PhD is asking for too much money.
C. The PhD's ego is getting in the way.
D. Firms like to mold their candidates, and a highly-educated or highly-experienced person may be too set in his ways. See prior section.
E. They are different positions and the PhD is not qualified.

This is my personal opinion re PhD (I dont have one by the way): finish your Masters, go out in the industry, identify which areas you and your (future) employers benefit from, and then do a PhD in such areas in a few years time - if you still want to that is.
Common advice is that a PhD won't really get you ahead in the pay scale given the time invested in it. You may be doing different work, but you won't be making more money when you balance out the head start a masters or undergrad have.

Also, a PhD is tough and if you're just looking for a pot of gold, you will either be miserable or drop out or both.
 
There are very fancy places that think this way.

A. The PhD is over-qualified.
B. The PhD is asking for too much money.
C. The PhD's ego is getting in the way.
D. Firms like to mold their candidates, and a highly-educated or highly-experienced person may be too set in his ways. See prior section.
E. They are different positions and the PhD is not qualified.


Also, a PhD is tough and if you're just looking for a pot of gold, you will either be miserable or drop out or both.

Interesting. I just had a look at DeShaw's website and from what they say is that they value diversity and achievements. Kinda contradicts that they rule out ppl just because they had worked at a different firm - are you serious? I cant believe that, if you are a good, competitive candidate they will interview you - regardless of where you worked in the past. If ppl name that as a reason for getting rejected then it's probably more due to denial than anything else.

According to what OP said, my conclusion was that A cant be the case. B is likely but then I still wonder why a PhD in Quant Finance gets offered 70-80k for every role (according to OP), but not the 100k OP was offered for that role. C, D could be. D must be a US thing though (second part, assuming that you're no longer moldable at a certain age or level of education).

As for your last part - most ppl (90%) would do a PhD out of interest in an area, not necessarily for money because of the reasons you mentioned. You need to be really passionate of the area you study. I am just saying see what's out there first before doing your PhD in something you think is relevant but turns out to be a waste of time and your contribution is too marginal to be of value.

Plus, if you dont want to go for an extremely abstract, theoretical PhD I'd say learn what's out there first and then make an informed decision. Personally, I'd be more interested in doing a PhD in pricing swing or storage options than in nonlinear optimization, for instances. The former are things you dont necessarily hear or know about if you are not in or have never been exposed to an work environment.
 
In terms of PhDs, the only path I'm really considering is operations research, or perhaps statistics. Whatever it will be in, the entire point will be to apply it to something very tangible (EG the market). I'm not out to do theoretical mumbo jumbo.

EG: "If we lived on mars, and pigs could fly, my beautiful closed form equation would be true."

My interest in the PhD path are these:

1) Show that I am a "World Class Researcher" and can do "Good Science"
2) Build strong connections with professors with a strong connection to prevalent industries through doing research for them.
3) Obtain abilities that would allow me to come up with a solution for almost any practical problem.

I have no intention of pursuing abstract, ivory-tower theories. Everything I do has to have a point in terms of solving real world problems.

As for D.E. Shaw, they have many, many different strategies and divisions now. However, I'm interested in their quant division, not so much their distressed investments or private equity or whatnot.
 
Just.. make sure you perform a stellar job at Rutgers. To be honest, I have never seen anyone get accepted to top graduate programs in anything with your undergraduate marks. And please please please, don't write in your statement of purpose that the bad grades are attributed to the 'boring' courses; whining is a sign of the weak. Trust me, you will do more 'boring' courses in any PhD program.

Congratulations on being contacted by a recruiter! Don't drop the ball :)
 
In terms of Rutgers, so long as I do the work, I'll be fine. It's nothing spectacular or jaw-dropping, so it's sort of a let-down. But it'll give me a new piece of paper in a quantitative discipline. I guess I won't write in my statement that I had boring courses, but that most of the pain came from two bad semesters early on. All 3 of my recommendations will be from MIT grads at some point (BS, PhD, postdoc), so if that doesn't fly, then I put my best foot forward.

And also, I'm studying for the math subject GREs to try and help matters. If it's all a no-go, then I did my best.
 
You're just talking to a recruiter. If you really want to make a decision, do the interview, get an offer, then decide. You may not even get an offer. It's just speculation, and either way, interview practice is not a bad thing.
 
However, I told her that my end goal is RenTec or DESCo, which need PhDs or bust (and if I'm going to do something for my career, I want to be among the best at it, not just another cog in another unknown shop). .

cmon man

c-
 
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