1.01.2005

On this Page

» Q&A: What is a Quant?
» TIP: When a perfect idea is imperfect
» TIP: Writing a cover letter that gets calls
» MISC: A simple lesson for posting online personals
» TIP: Rookie mistakes first-time managers make
» MISC: "Not the one you're looking for!"
» TIP: How you frame the problem is the problem
» MISC: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up
» MISC: Druckerism
» TIP: Borrow strength from successful projects

Q&A: What is a Quant?

(noun) A financial analyst with strong programming and numerical skills; someone who develops models/systems to assist the activities of traders and risk managers. a.k.a. rocket scientist.

A cause and effect of Quants can be seen with the rise of exotic derivatives on Wall Street: such securities bring more Quants to the industry, who in turn create more such securitie themselves.

Category: C++ Quant

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TIP: When a perfect idea is imperfect

A certain architect was commisoned to design a new church for the local parish. Something about this church inspired him, and he buried himself in his work. He attended meetings of the elders, the softball team, the Sunday school. He attended church, and watched the ebb and flow of the congregation, trying to understand both their stated and unstated requirements. This is not to say it was an easy process, for the church elders wanted to review preliminary sketches. Unformtunely, every review invariably produced many things to change. One elder was especailly contentious and could always find something wrong.

One Friday night, while the architect was taking a walk outside and looking at the trees lining his street, a new design for a truly awe-inspiring church suddenly appeared in his mind's eye. Hurrying back to his studio, he worked late into the nite drawing sketches. The next day, he returned to his stuido, confident enough in his sketches to create a scale model of the new church. This was quite a big step, for although he was confident in his design, building a scale model is expensive, and he was concerned about the elders. Nevertheless, he charged ahead nad completed his model by working late into the night. On Sunday morning, he announced he had created a new design and asked for a mtg that night with the elders.

Without a word, he faced the elders and unveiled his design. The room fell silent. Truly, this was an inspired work, fitting for the new parish. The elders rose from their seats, and proceeded to review the model. The architect waited for someone to speak, hoping that everyone would approve the design. Finally, the most contentious of the elders broke the silence. "Your desing is truly elegant," began the elder, "and will certainly make a most impressive place of worship. However, there is a problem. It's unacceptable and must be changed before any further work is done." As if on cue, the other elders murmured agreement.

Feigning a hurt look, the architect replied "What is that?" "The outdoor Jacuzzzi must go."

If you work for someone who always has something to criticize (so that he can feel he's provided valuable input), an imperfect idea may be the best idea. Since you can't prevent him from making changes and you don't wanna risk a veto, the next best thing to do is to 'control' what gets changed. Get him focused on the decoy, so you can go merrily about the execution (if you are lucky ;-)

Give before you take. Give your boss a good feeling about his input before you run with the green light he gives you. Give your idea a jacuzzi.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Manage Up

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TIP: Writing a cover letter that gets calls

via Craigslist -- Which of these two cover letters resembles yours most? More importantly, which one do you think will get the call?

Cover letter 1

James,

OK, I admit. I saw your posting just now for the Product Marketing Manager for Outdoor Adventures and Experiences just now on Craigs List, and I'm salivating. so I can't imagine a better adventure for a career than to market excitement and fun. Let me tell you 3 reasons you should consider me for this position :

  • Strong Design Skills You're ad said you were looking for someone who can design brochures and other marketing materials. I have 2 years of design, and am proficient in Adobe Illustrator and Pagemaker. I have created brochures for XYZ company, and ABC company, and have attached a PDF of my work. I'd be happy to show you my portfolio in an interview.
  • Good communication and writing skills - In my former job, I regularly led meetings that involved dozens of people. Several times a year, I would speak for my company at industry events... sometimes to audiences of several hundred people. I know how to craft a good press release and have successfully managed to get several articles into print.
  • I love experiences - I completely relate to your philosophy that life is about experiences. I love to travel, and have recently returned from 2 months in Peru where I helped feed orphan children in a small town. I've never been skydiving, but it is on my top ten list of things to do next year. Perhaps this is my opportunity.

ExperienceTHIS is a place where I know I can make a difference, and with my experience at conceiving plans and putting projects into motion, I'm sure I could impact you very quickly without spending too much time in the starting gate. I would love to meet with you in person to talk about how I can help take the adventure to a whole new level.

Cover letter 2

Dear Sir/Madam

Please accept this letter and resume for the Product Marketing Manager position as referenced on craigslist.com.

As a recent MBA graduate, I believe that I offer the skills that are crucial to this position. My background in public relations, as well as my formal education in business and marketing from the University of San Francisco will serve as a complement to your firm.

After doing some extensive research about experienceTHIS.us, I am sure that my work history and educational background will greatly benefit the future endeavors of your organization. (Did you really do extensive research on us??? - no evidence here, that's for sure) My work history coupled with my education in business administration has provided me with an invaluable sense of communication and negotiation, as well as quantitative analytical skills....

From both my professional and personal experiences, I have developed an enthusiastic, entrepreneurial, and disciplined work ethic. I possess the ability to work under pressure and rapidly adapt to changing work conditions. I excel in both individual and team driven environments. With this in mind, I am confident that my employment background, eagerness to learn, and genuine character will prove to be an asset to your company...

I look forward to discussing employment opportunities with you in the near future. I am available for an interview at your earliest convenience. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

...If you just regurgitate a form cover letter from some book you read, or the email you sent to the last company, I'm going to yawn and hit the delete key before I ever get to your resume. I feel bad doing it, but I just don't have time for blah blah blah.

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want

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MISC: A simple lesson for posting online personals

via CraigsList --

...Include a picture - no exceptions... And if your friends or co-workers see your post and laugh at you, well then the joke is on them, because they were LOOKING!

...so you don't like girls who have a freaking ounce of fat on their bodies, whatever, you're entitled to your taste. But there are decent ways to say this! For example, you might say something like, "I am looking to meet a woman who is active and enjoys the outdoors." Or you could even go so far as to say that you love working out and you'd like to meet a woman who does too. Things like this imply that you're looking for someone in good physical shape, without making you sound like a superficial asshole.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk

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TIP: Rookie mistakes first-time managers make

  • Take projects doomed to failure or cancellation
  • Schedule without reference to reality
    • The bitterness of poor quality last long after the sweetness of making a date is forgotten.
  • Micro-management: ie. save the most interesting work for themselves and give routine tasks to staff members. Devote their time to the wrong issues.
    • Good project managers know when not to manage a project.
  • Failure to communicate objectives: confused staff members still do the work, but it doesn't meet expectations, which further upsets them.
  • Failure to reward success (or recognize good work): avoid confrontations with poor performers, or worse, reward mediocrity.
  • Punish subordinates for failures caused by bad management (or too focus on mistakes)
  • Explain Sadistic HR policies with flimsy rationale
  • Fail to network with other managers (ie. a great source of information)

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got

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MISC: "Not the one you're looking for!"

via RD -- My son wanted to take his two-year-old daughter to the zoo, so I hurriedly dialed the number to find out when it opened. After several rings, a female voice, barely audible above the excited chattering of children, answered, "Hello."

"Is this the Memphis Zoo?" I asked.

There was a pause and then a small chuckle. "Not the one you're looking for!" she said as she hung up.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Jokes

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TIP: How you frame the problem is the problem

A businessman walks into a bank in NYC and asks for the loan officer. He tells the loan officer that he is going on a business trip for two weeks and needs to borrow $5,000. The bank officer tells him that the bank will need some form of security for the loan, so the man hands over the keys to a new Ferrari parked on the street in front of the bank.

He produces the title and everything checks out. The loan officer agrees to accept the car as collateral for the loan. The bank's president and its officers all enjoy a good laugh at the man for using a $250,000 Ferrari as collateral against a $5,000 loan. An employee of the bank then drives the Ferrari into the bank's underground garage and parks it there.

Two weeks later, the man returns, repays the $5,000 and the interest, which comes to $15.41. The loan officer says, "Sir, we are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out and found that you are a multi-millionaire. What puzzles us is, why would you bother to borrow $5,000?"

The man replies: "Where else in New York City can I park my car for two weeks for only $15.41 and expect it to be there when I return?"

Framing his parking problem as a loan one, the man clearly has the last laugh. Problem framing is similar to when you frame a picture - you presume that the viewer will examine everything within that border. But before you frame the problem, you must not only consider what objectively makes up the problem itself, but also what subjective tendencies influence your view of the situation. Recognise and gather information about a problem so that all contingencies are accounted for and all subtleties considered. Uncover the various assumptions, both conscious and unconscious, that are typically made about problems.

Diagnose before you prescribe. Frame problems effectively so that your line of sight is aimed straight at the solution. Ask youself, "Am I looking for a parking space or a loan?" In the end, your ability to frame problems will be of museum quality and your success will be greatly enhanced.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Street Smart

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MISC: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up

An eagle was sitting on a tree resting, doing nothing. A small rabbit saw the eagle and asked him, "Can I also sit like you and do nothing?" The eagle answered: "Sure, why not." So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the eagle, and rested. All of a sudden, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it.
Lesson I: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground in a large field. While it was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on it. As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, it began to realize how warm it was. The dung was actually thawing him out! He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Lesson II:
  • Not everyone who ****s on you is your enemy.
  • Not everyone who gets you out of ** is your friend.
  • And when you're in deep **, it's best to keep your mouth shut!

A turkey was chatting with a bull. "I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree," sighed the turkey, "but I haven't got the energy." "Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?" replied the bull. "They're packed with nutrients." The turkey pecked at a lump of dung, found it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fourth night, he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. Soon he was promptly spotted by a farmer, who shot the turkey out of the tree.

Lesson III: Bull**** might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk > Jokes

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MISC: Druckerism

Peter Drucker, considered Greatest Management Guru, dies at 95.

Bloomberg -- ..."He makes you think,'' Jack Welch, then-chairman of General Electric Co., told the magazine, while Intel co-founder Andrew Grove declared, ``Drucker is a hero of mine. He writes and thinks with exquisite clarity -- a standout among a bunch of muddled fad mongers."...

Drucker came to the U.S. in 1937 as a freelance journalist. He had worked briefly in banking and held a Ph.D in international and public law from Frankfurt University. Just two years later, he won acclaim for his first book, "The End of Economic Man," which skewered fascism and was reviewed by Winston Churchill in the Times Literary Supplement in London... Drucker, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1943, taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Bennington College and New York University before joining the faculty of the Claremont Graduate School in California in 1972. The School of Management there took his name in 1987... Drucker had vowed in 1932 to leave Germany if Hitler came to power. He acted on that promise in early 1933 after he watched a Nazi official take over a university faculty meeting to fire Jewish professors and bar them from the campus. Drucker was sickened by most colleagues' timidity, and he resigned from his newspaper, even though a Nazi party representative offered to promote him...

Some of my favorite Druckerisms

  • Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
    • Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
    • Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.
    • Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.
  • The best way to predict the future is to create it.
    • The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.
  • The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.
  • The purpose of a business is to create a customer.
  • knowledge workers don't produce a thing. They produce ideas, information, concepts. Therefore he or she must concentrate on who will use these as outputs and work with them to that end.
  • I'm not a bit concerned who is right. That's why I don't belong in academia.

Peter Drucker is concerned with what works.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk

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TIP: Borrow strength from successful projects

This is one of the reason standards like XML works, with no resistance from competing vendors

  • No excuse for resisting SGML: there had been 15 years of SGML, so there was a really good set of knowledge as to how markup and text should work, and
  • Resisting URLs would be suicidal: Web had been around for five years, so we knew how URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) worked, and
  • No excuse for resisting Unicode: Unicode had been around, so we knew how to do internationalization.

XML just took those solved problems, packaged them up neatly and got consensus on it all.

Category: C++ Quant > Fix the Job You Got > Working Smart

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