Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


a long look back

Attention conservation notice: personal reminiscence sans advice, draw what lessons you may.

Today marks a decade since my last full day of work.

A story I liked to tell on my dad:
When I was on the decade plan in college (finished in 9 years, but had a semester's worth of advanced placement), my father would complain, "When are you going to graduate and get a job, you lazy bum?"
So when I finally graduated, and took a position on staff in a NYC programming consultancy, my father asked, "When are you going to get a real job, you lazy bum?"
The consultancy placed me in a research group at Merrill Lynch, which then hired me away, and my father changed his tune.
"Lucky bum."

As, indeed, I was, and am. My career in finance spanned The Great Moderation, which I graduated pretty much just in time for, and I brought a package of skills* in high demand and short supply just as finance was adapting techniques from mathematical physics. Not that I had any idea, it was just stuff I picked up along the way, often at work whilst in and between college (you may have gathered that I was not such a good student by conventional measures, but I was an excellent self-teacher, and I shan't deny other talents) (some of this path previously retraced, though I should note that when I first started as a programmer [cheap, dues to be paid], the only F on my transcript was Intro to Comp Sci [Algol, couldn't be bothered]). Once on Wall Street, I fell quickly on to the fast track, and just as quickly fell off, just as well (never administrated anybody or sold anything, supervising and marketing different story; more a grease monkey than a cog in the machine). So, as a model-maker for market-makers and reconciler of business and risk models, I became a postgrad student of markets, hard work but with an unheard-of stipend (even broke the 1% threshold once, back when it was lower, but only because bonus and severance collided). Yes there were accomplishments, but it would be tedious to list, or read; and while some of these were ostensibly solo, they persistently depended upon a broad array of co-workers and their diverse skills and talents, and not just within my department. But I served with distinction, among which, my last employer declared me redundant, twice over (albeit a decade apart).

So I left between the Bear Stearns and Lehman Bros fails, but didn't know it was for good. I thought I'd sit out the coming round of Musical Chairs, but further events interceded: divorce (my wife's career restarted as mine wound down), a Cipro misadventure, and Irenic wrath ... by which point my shelf life was past expiration date. But a 5-figure lifestyle on a 6-figure income left enough to last long enough (I hope), and time enough for nonremunerative but otherwise rewarding pursuits.

* maths, stats, tech writing, programming: I stumbled into APL without knowing it was a Wall St fave; nor that my homegrown knowledge was top-notch, until the consultancy shoe-horned me into an interview (2 strikes against) wherein I requested an ashtray while taking the tech exam (+ foul tips), which I knocked out of the park. Wholly unplanned but not unforeshadowed: my high school yearbook quote was "Technology has brought meaning into the lives of many technicians." Nowadays, such a mix is often prerequisite to entry-level interviews.


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