How do i describe my job?

One of the “problems” with my job, if I can describe this as one, is that it’s tough to explain my job to a layman. There are multiple levels of disconnects here, and multiple “pitfalls”, if I can call them that. So when someone asks me about my work, it gets tough indeed to describe to any degree of accuracy while at the same time being concise, and at the same time talking in Kannada.

I am a quant at a hedge fund.

My work involves coming up with trading strategies, and then developing them to a level where I can have the ultimate fighter – a computer – to trade using these strategies. Then, I will need to figure out how the computer is going to implement these strategies and this part involves some heavy engineering work. And finally I code. Ok now I haven’t been accurately able to describe in one paragraph, writing in English, about my job. How do you expect me to describe it to the layman speaking in Kannada?

Coding is a part of my job, but I’m not a coder.

I deal with financial products – equities and equity derivatives. But I’m strictly not a finance guy – as far as I’m concerned, each security is just a time series. A time series on which I can trade and make money. In fact, apart from my short stint selling interest rates swaps in London, I haven’t really done any finance. My entire view of the markets is based on my idea that a security is just a tradeable time series. I think I should do a separate post on that. Anyways, I’m not strictly a finance guy also.

One of my degrees is an MBA. A PGDM to be precise, from IIMB. But I’m not a manager also. I don’t manage people apart from myself.  I’m not sure I’ll find that interesting either – I sometimes think managing is too fighter a job for me.

And so on.

And then, I work for a hedge fund. Most people don’e have a clue what a hedge fund is. I sometimes make an approximation and tell them I work for a mutual fund. And immediately I get bombarded with questions like my opinion on whether the markets will go up or down, and about how long the recession is going to last. And then there are those who start telling their sob stories about their investments in the markets when the Sensex was at 20,000 and about how markets can’t be trusted any more.

Another level of contradiction is that I’m based in Gurgaon. All finance companies are supposed to be in Bombay, right? Surely, given that I’m in Gurgaon, I must be doing some back office kind of work?

Last night my uncle was filling up some arranged marriage exchange registration form for me. And he asked me to describe my job in a short phrase. I immediately came up with “trader” and that got quickly shot down since that would give the image of a lala sitting behind huge weighing scales. Next I tried “financial trader” and “quantitative trader”. No go.

Then I wanted the simple “quant”. My highly stud uncle himself had trouble exactly figuring that out, so fat chance anyone would appreciate that. So out again. I relaxed constraints a bit and said “hedge fund professional”. But most people wouldn’t understand “hedge fund”. “mutual fund” was no go for a written form. “quantitative analyst” was considered too country by my uncle. He then asked me my designation. “Associate” doesn’t mean anything, he said and shot that down too.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve unnecessarily complicated life for myself by choosing the path that I’ve chosen. If I were working for some software company I could’ve just written “software” over there and all would’ve been fine. The whole world would’ve understood, or at least claimed to have understood. Or even better, if I were living abroad, I wouldn’t have even been required to say that much. I’d’ve been just qualified as a “foreign huduga”, with most people not even caring for which city I was in.

For the record, my listing application records my profession as “financial services professional”, as country as it sounds. This was the only middle ground where my uncle and I didn’t disagree. And in it went. It increasingly looks like I’ll have to put fundaes to Cesares about why the stock markets have gone down in the last one year in order for them to allow their daughters to marry me. I have half a mind to start describing Ito’s lemma the next time someone asks me where the markets are headed. I’ll probably start off describing to them a random walk. And say that it’s a drunkard’s walk. And perhaps use that to change the topic. I think I might need to start practicing this. In Kannada.

I’m a quant at a hedge fund.

26 thoughts on “How do i describe my job?”

    1. i’m not sure if i’d blogged this (once upon a time i intended to), but everyone thinks i’m tam. and i have no clue why.

      1. hmmm… do u know Tamil? Somehow feels like i remember u spking the language.. but now that i look at ur last name.. it’s not very tam after all

        1. i can understand tamil. and you might recall that whenever you spoke to me in tamil i would’ve replied in english

  1. oye maga .. stop all this mental gymnastics and just say ‘IIT + IIM’ .. if they put more level, show them previous sal slip .. shock and awe only maga for all this kind of naansense

    but if you are really insistent you can also say ganitashastra matthu saftware upayogisuva bambaat vyaapari .. that will shock also

    1. those jundaes are already there in the listing form. in the educational qualifications section, i made sure that both colleges were mentioned prominently. and there was a salary column also. so that also taken care of .

      problem with your kannada translation is it will apply to some awesome trader in chickpet who uses tally!

    1. very good question. recently i got a new boss. And when i was explaining one strategy to him he said “but it is exposed to this black swan”.

      and i nonchalantly replied saying “yeah i know but we’ll have to live with it else we can’t make money”.

      later on, I was shocked at myself. my argument is that appreciating that the black swan risks exist is more than half the job.

  2. i have to agree with Bib. just go with iit+iim. or use the long kannada translation he superbly gave.
    or try something like ‘i use science to prevent big corporations from losing money in bad times’ (yeah i know thts a rather sad translation for a quant, but u gotta think from the lay-kannadiga point of view. ‘hedge’ is almost that)

    and the whole software/foreign huduga is overrated man. i am both. i dont see proposals pouring in. that too in gult land. (thank god for the trickle :) ) heck i dont think i can afford financially to get married!

    1. i sometimes say “i’m a trader. but i’m too lazy to trade myself so i write programs that will trade for me”. and when i say “write programs” i’m asked “oh, softwareaa?”. death.

      no da – thing is you are east. i think story would’ve been markedly different had you been west. really west i mean.

  3. Hmmm used to face same problem in Konkani for “consultant” – people really didn’t know what I was doing or whether I was giving some other dubious profession this name 😛 I settled for saying “working in a MNC” coz that seems to comfort most ppl! But yes, quant at a hedge fund still beats it…

    1. i suppose now it’s easy for you. everyone reads tinkle. but don’t you get the follow-up question “why are you writing comics after MBA from IIM?”

      and my company isn’t even an MNC, so that defence is also not there.

  4. Strong fundaes da! We are not the only ones facing this problem, anyone in IT sector is called ‘software’ irrespective of whether they do coding, hardware design, documentation etc etc

    1. in fact, I don’t think most of the “software engineers” do any kind of engineering work. the engineers among them are a very small proportion.

  5. Unfortunately, we all define ourselves by the job we do.

    Good post, Karthik. I enjoyed the humor in the “software” para… particularly this: “. I’d’ve been just qualified as a “foreign huduga”, with most people not even caring for which city I was in.” :)

    1. the problem is even if we don’t want to define ourselves by the job that we do, people will continue to define us by the job that we do. very unfortunate.

      and no – seriously, no one bothers about anything as long as the person in question is abroad. I remember once asking a distant relative “so where do you work?” and he instinctively replied “alabama”. if someone were to ask me that question i’d name my employer or flash out my card.

Put Comment