1.01.2005

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» RANT: The Signal/Noise ratio
» RANT: What keeps me away from Java...
» RANT: Where have all the architects gone?
» RANT: Another sad Jobs/Scully story
» TIP: If your all-star team isn't performing as well as your expection
» TIP: When a perfect idea is imperfect
» TIP: Rookie mistakes first-time managers make
» 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

RANT: The Signal/Noise ratio

had dropped so low (where I sit) that I had to force myself to take a cup break. Here is something I don't get...

we obviously don't eat everything we see, why do we (well, some people) have to say everything we think?

Category: C++ Quant > From The Trenches

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RANT: What keeps me away from Java...

when it comes to financial modelling?

no, it's not performance - it may be slower than C++ but could be fast enough for one's needs.

It's the lack of operator overloading. I can't imagine having to map my formulas to code, like a.plus(b).times(c.minus(d)) instead of (a+b)*(c-d)

Category: C++ Quant > From The Trenches

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RANT: Where have all the architects gone?

A collegue whispered "all the solutions we delivered seem to be driven completely from the bottom up (ie. by traders). shouldn't the approach be balanced with a healthy dose of top-down, bigger-picture designs?"

I have to admit, he is not the only one feels that way. Look at the sheer numbers of spreadsheets and you'll get the idea. Many financial architects (or ex-Architects) feel apprehensive and wonder if there is still a role for them on the trading floor.

The fact is that the word "architecture" doesn't seem to have a good rep on the floor - it often lends itself to pretty powerpoint drawings and vague hand waving. Never the less, when done right, it keeps developers from needless creativity to say the least.

Category: C++ Quant > From The Trenches

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RANT: Another sad Jobs/Scully story

Just got back from a farewell lunch. Rumor has it that the guy was forced out by one of his top lieutenants - get this - whom he hired. What does this remind you of?

(For those of you don't remember, Jobs wooed Sculley from Pepsi with "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to change the world?" Years later, Sculley changed Jobs' world by pushing him out of the company.)

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

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TIP: If your all-star team isn't performing as well as your expection

Managing is both a reward and a responsibility. Seeing you as a role model, those who depend on your leadership can be very perceptive - they observe, learn and model every move you make. Modeling is one of the primary ways that people learn and grow on the job - they watch what happens to team members when they succeed or fail and those experiences become a reference for how they perform.

Through your behaviors, your actions, your values, your beliefs and even your expressions, you are in a position of tremendous power to influence and model the development of the people around you. If your team isn't performing as well as your expection, maybe you are not modeling to them the right behavior.

  • Do you hang your self-worth and self-esteem on the corporate ladder, impressing others, and looking good, or do you pursue it through working relationship, personal integrity and exploration?
    • Do you model personal integrity by avoiding such behaviors as gossiping and lying?
    • Do you go through the day with energy, or are you constantly stressed and emotionally flat?
    • Does your staff see you reaching for something more, or have you gotten too comfortable in the nonthreatening sameness of your career?
  • Do you approach problems and setbacks as opportunities, or do you label every problem a crisis?
    • Do you model competency in crisis situations, or does fear slip into your interactions?
    • Do you effectively resolve conflicts with other people, or do you withdraw, pound the table, or slam the phone down?
    • Do you equate disappointments with sour grapes, or do you deal with it gracefully and show your maturity and objectivity?
  • Do you model positive relationships with people that are competent and supportive, or do you tear them down or talk behind their backs?
    • Do you give mostly negative feedback, belittle people in front of others or do you give praise when it's due?
    • Do you show interests in your staff's activities outside of work, or do you back off because you've got too much on your plate?

We all model the wrong behavior sometimes. After all, we're overworked and overstressed along with everyone else. But if your team is consistently underperforming, then you may be consistently modeling the wrong behavior. Maybe you are the one who needs to improve the performance first.

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

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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: 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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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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