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» RANT: Idea Thief at work
» RANT: Settle for less C++ or less Finance experience?
» Heard in the Trench...
» RANT: Symptoms or Root Cause
» RANT: Why is the boss the last one to know?
» RANT: New feels Old
» TIP: Loyalty - all you need is a vision
» RANT: Verbal Judo
» TIP: The Yin and Yang of Managing
» RANT: Fires at work

RANT: Idea Thief at work

This was the type of thief that could steal the initiative, the moment and the words right out of your mouth.

Coincident or not, idea thieves appear bright until you hear them speak, probably because light travels faster than sound!

A collegue say, "that dude is a thief. He shouldn't steal." I say, "of course he should. After all, he's a thief; that's what thieves do. They steal."

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

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RANT: Settle for less C++ or less Finance experience?

Abraham Lincoln once told a story of a neighbor who found himself in a tight situation. He was traveling home one dark and rainy night. There were few bridges in the country and he came to a stream that he would have to ford. But because of the darkness and the rain, he couldn't see well enough to know just where to cross.

Lightning flashed and he saw his way for the briefest moment. But the man was perplexed because there seemed to be more thunder than lightning. The poor man just stood at the edge of the stream in his confusion about how to proceed. He finally prayed, "O Lord, if it is just the same to you, give me more lightning and less thunder."

The story reminds me of the time I was trying to fill a Quant developer position. After weeks of phone interviews with no luck, I came to realize that applicants fall in one of two categories

  • Applicants that have strong C++ experience and average financial knowledge. A high percentage of them comes with a formal Computer Science degree.
  • Applicants that have strong financial experience and average c++ knowledge. They tend to have a formal Applied Mathematics degree and/or CFA.

It became clear to me that I had a decision to make

  • Continue to hunt for the perfect candidate (strong C++ & Fiannce), or
  • Work with my current pool of applicants

Time was not on my side so the first option was out. The second option presented a "less thunder or less lightning" kind of dilemma: less C++ experience or less Finance? It was an easy decision since the hiring was for a large painful project with a series of radical changes in technical direction & leadership.

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

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Heard in the Trench...

_Sometimes when something so competely funny, I find that my own laughter just isn't enough._

(talking about a sloppy collegue)

Me: He's like King Midas in reverse. Everything he touchs turns to spagetti.
Coworker: Lucky for him he's not in the Mafia biz: you fuck up once, you lose two teeth.


Coworker: I'm not normally a religious man, but if you're up there, save us, Superman!


Me: Feel better getting that off your chest there?
Coworker: I'm a whole new man.

Category: C++ Quant > From The Trenches

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RANT: Symptoms or Root Cause

It's been problematic for us to crunch large volume of numbers with Excel/VBA. Instead of refactoring the task to a seperate analtyic server, most of us have wasted considerable amount of time fighting 'fire' (deliver patches), only to find yet another burning at our backside...

You would think that the goal of patches is to prevent the sheets from "burned" beyond repair (or to buy some time for the analytic solution), but it now seems like people are actually getting comfortable with this approach. The common consensus seems to be that it's a problem with the VBA code, not with the approach. In other words, we as a team have mistaken symptoms for root cause.

I recall the the story of a police officer investigating an accident. Referring to a woman lying unconscious in the street, he asked, "Who was driving the car?"

"I was," a man replied.

"How did you happen to hit her?" the officer inquired.

"I didn't!" he said. "As I approached the intersection, I saw that she was trying to cross the street. So I stopped for her and she fainted."

Are we making the same mistake that the officer made?

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

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RANT: Why is the boss the last one to know?

Elephant and Mouse were best friends. One day Elephant said,

"Mouse, let's have a party!"

Animals gathered from far and near. They ate, and drank, and sang, and danced. And nobody celebrated more exuberantly than the Elephant. After it was over, Elephant exclaimed,

"Mouse, did you ever go to a better party? What a blast!"

But Mouse didn't answer.

"Where are you?"

Elephant called. Then he shrank back in horror. There at his feet lay the Mouse, his body ground into the dirt -- smashed by the exuberance of his friend, the Elephant.

Such a dance by the boss is often feared by a team lead when his project is slipping behind schedule. He inclines to go to the boss with this status update, but he's afraid that the boss will instead take it as an opportunity to step in, even though he's capable of making it work.

Worse, the boss's dance will make him look incompetent in front of others, preempt his function, diminish his authority, and foul up his other plans. After all, solving such problems is exactly what he's there for.

And you know what the team lead ends up doing: afraid of the elephant dance, all the dirt gets swept under the rug (for as long as the team lead thinks he can solve it alone.)

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

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RANT: New feels Old

  • When you first get a new job, you get that Superman "S" on your chest and want to prove your invincibility. You take on all comers and solve all problems, until you realize you are so busy solving everybody else's little crises that you really don't do any of the new, good, dedicated creative work that made you feel invincible in the first place.
  • Employers look for analysts with specific experience, which as time goes on tends to increasingly fix an analyst into repeating the same old crud day after day and year after year.
  • When presented with "new" opportunities, your experience kicks in and "new" feels "old".

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

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TIP: Loyalty - all you need is a vision

Leaders need loyal followers, but loyalty is hard to come by these days. What distinguishes great leaders from merely good ones is the ability to inspire loyalty in different ways.

Remember Spartacus, a Roman gladiator/slave who led an army of slaves in an uprising? They defeated the Roman legions twice, but were finally conquered by the general Marcus Crassus after a long siege and battle.

In the movie, Crassus tells the thousand survivors in Spartacus's army, "You have been slaves. You will be slaves again. But you will be spared your rightful punishment of crucifixion by the mercy of the Roman legions. All you need to do is turn over to me the slave Spartacus, because we do not know him by sight."

After a long pause, Spartacus stands up and says, "I am Spartacus." Then the man next to him stands up and says, "I am Spartacus." The next man stands up and also says, "No, I am Spartacus." Within a minute, everyone in the army is on his feet...

The loyalty of Spartacus's army was more than just to Spartacus the man, but also to a shared vision - be free men.

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

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RANT: Verbal Judo

What to say when you find yourself faced with low key confrontations at work?
  • I like you - You remind me of when I was young and inexperienced.
  • I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter.
  • I'd explain it to you, but your brain would explode.
  • There ought to be a picture of you in the dictionary under persistence.
  • I don't have an attitude problem. You have a perception problem.
  • Am I getting smart with you? How would you know?

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

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TIP: The Yin and Yang of Managing

One day there were flood warnings out in this small town and the sheriff went around telling everyone to get to higher ground before the river overflowed its banks. One man heard the sheriff riding by his house with the warning coming over a loudspeaker and said to him: "I'm going to be okay here. I put my faith in the Lord."

The next day the town was flooded and the water had reached the second floor of the man's house. A rescuer came by in a boat and said to him: "Come on. Get in the boat. The water's going to go higher." The man refused saying: "I'm staying here. I'll be all right. I put my faith in the Lord. He'll save me." The third day the water was still rising and the man was on his roof. A rescue helicopter came by and saw the man and the pilot shouted down. I'll drop a rope so you can pull yourself up." "Don't bother," said the man, "I'll be fine. The Lord will take care of me." A little while later the man drowned.

He walked up to the pearly gates of heaven and he was angry. When he saw St. Peter he said: " What happened? I put my trust in the Lord to save me, and I drowned!" St Peter said to him: "We sent you the sheriff, a boat and a helicopter. How come you refused all three?"

In the man's mind, he either took the advice of the rescuers, OR he trusted in the Lord, to use his terms. He resisted because he saw no way to connect the two. If you've been around the barn a few times, you should be familiar with the sitiuation

  • As a manager, I need centralized coordination and decentralized initiatives.
  • How do I support team development and reward individual achievement?
  • As a system architect, how do I balance between stability and change?
  • How do I reduce our headcount while improving quality?
  • Can I be stubborn and flexible at the same time? Analytical and intuitive? Careful and audacious? Playful and determined?

None of the above can be best solved by choosing one over the other, as both conflicting points of view are true. The on-going, natural tension between them can be destructive, but when properly managed, they can be channeled into a creative synergy that leads to superior outcomes. aka. one man's meat is another man's poison.

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

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RANT: Fires at work

  • Firefighters are often glorified in the work place when they extenguish that urgent issue, whereas the person who gets things done in advance, on schedule and seemingly without effort isn't working hard enough. True firefighters have the right skills not only to put the fires out, but also keep them out. Reward not quick-fix solutions, but fundamentally sustainable ones.
  • If there is a fire within your opponent's team, the strategic politican immediately matches it w/ another type of fire outside that team. When set a fire, make sure the wind is not blowing your way.
  • When working on multiple projects, it can be quite tricky to keep multiple irons in the fire and strike while the irons are hot, due to scheduling and context switching.

Category: C++ Quant > Random Walk

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