a profession u enjoy, with decent {income+barrier}

Background — discussion with an older fellow developer about helping our high-school kids select a major.

Example — Look at Aunt Gennifer. She changed her profession around age 40 to find a less boring job, and paying more.

Example — grandpa has an ever-green interest in his research field, but most researchers in this field are not well-paid (it’s the least commercial field of research). In terms of income, I think grandpa’s medical and pension benefits are in the the top 1%.

Example — me. I entered trading-engine-dev circa 2007.

  • It pays well above the average professional salary across all professions. (I was told U.S. family doctors earn about 150k only.)
  • Market depth is excellent — look at my post on NBA salary.
  • The constant pressure to upgrade and learn is perfectly acceptable to me. In fact, I seek opportunities to maintain my learning pace
  • I don’t find it tiring or boring. For a few years before 2007, I told myself “I don’t want to remain a developer for life” but had a U-turn.

For most people, it’s hard to find a profession that’s not boring, not too tiring, and pays well, a field you could keep plowing till retirement, if you ever retire.

In fact, such a field is likely to be /oversubscribed/ — too many hopeful new entrants but few would get in and fewer would survive 😦

A large number of individuals have a meaningful and rewarding “hobby” but can’t make a decent income from it

  • tweaking with computers and gadgets
  • visual arts # including photography
  • literary arts
  • performing arts #including music
  • sports, games #including board and electronic
  • cooking

##define good life: job,health,family..

I will not list generic and vague items like cash asset or health.

  •  job
    • #1 factor — sense of security that I can always get a job. Ashish Singh is the first one to point it out
    • engaging, challenging job, learning something meaningful, not like java/SQL again.
    • some complexity
    • [$$] reasonable commute
  • [$$] not so much time spent on home maintenance
  • enough time to spend with kids
  • enough time for exercise
  • [$] yoga classes + other classes
  • [$] healthy diet
  • grand parents frequent visits? Very hard
  • kids not falling behind in school
  • passive income? LG2 but the more the better
  • appreciating property? LG2
  • [$ = money can “buy”, to some extent]

2H life-changing xp# income,home location,industry…

Here’s a real story in 2010 — I was completely hopeless and stuck in despair after my Goldman Sachs internal transfer was blocked in the last stage. I considered moving my whole family back to Singapore with an offer, and start my job search there. I was seriously considering a S$100k job in a back office batch programming job. Absolutely the lowest point in my entire career. After licking the would for 2 months, I started looking for jobs outside Goldman and slowly found my foot hold. Then in early 2010, I passed a phone screening and attended a Citigroup “superday”. I spent half an hour each with 3 interviewers. By end of the day, recruiter said I was the #1 pick. I took the offer, at a 80% increment. In the next 12 months, I built up my track record + knowledge in

  1. real time trading engine components, esp. real time pricing engine
  2. fixed income math,
  3. c++ (knowledge rebuild)

I have never looked back since. Fair to say that my family won’t be where we are today, without this Citigroup experience. With this track record I was able to take on relatively high-end programming jobs in U.S. and Singapore. I was able to live in a convenient location, and buy properties and send my kids to mid-range preschools (too pricey in hind sight). Obviously I wanted this kind of job even in 2009. That dream became reality when I passed the superday interview. That interview was one of the turning points in my career.

Fast track to 2017 — I had a 20-minute phone interview with the world’s biggest asset management firm (Let’s call it PP), then I had a 2-hour skype interview. They made an offer. I discussed with the recruiter the proposal —

  • I would relocate to California
  • I would get paid around 200k pretax and possibly with an increment in 6 months. PP usually increase billing rate after 12 months if contractor does well.
  • Unlike investment banks, PP has long-term contracts not subject to trading desk profits, so this contract is (supposedly) more stable. In a few years, I would consider buying a home in California
  • recruitment agency CEO said he would transfer my visa and sponsor green card.

If I were to take this offer, my life would be transformed. (I would also have a better chance to break into the  high tech industry in nearby silicon valley, because I would have local friends in that domain.) Such a big change in my life is now possible because … I did well [1] in the interview.

Stripped to the core, that’s the reality in our world of contract programmers.  Project delivery, debugging, and relationship with boss can get you promoted, but those on-the-job efforts have much lower impact than your performance during an interview. Like an NBA playoff match. A short few hour under the spot light can change your life forever.

This is not a rare experience. There are other high-paying contract job offers that could “change your life”, and you only need to do well in the interviews to make it happen.

I feel this is typical of U.S. market and perhaps London. In Singapore. contract roles can’t pay this much. A permanent role has a few subtle implications so I feel it’s a different game.

[1] The 7 interviewers felt I was strong in c++ (not really), java and sql, and competent in fixed income math (I only worked with it for a year). Unlike other high-end interviews, there are not many tough tech questions like threading, algorithms, or coding tests. I feel they liked my interview mostly because of the combination of c++/java/fixed income math — not a common combination.

orgro^diversify-unconnected — tech xx ROTI

Background – my learning capacity is not unlimited. In terms of QQ and ZZ (see post on tough topics with low leverage), many technical subjects require substantial amount of laser energy, not a few weeks of cram reading — remember FIX, tibrv… With limited resources, we have to economize and plan long term with a vision, not shooting in all directions.

Example – my time spent on XAML now looks not organic growth, so the effort is likely wasted.

Similarly, I always keep a distance from the new web stuff — javascript, mobile apps, cloud technologies…

However, on the other extreme, staying in my familiar zone of java/SQL/perl/Linux is not strategic. I feel stagnant and left behind by those who branch out (see https://bintanvictor.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/skill-deependiversifystack-up/). More seriously, I feel my GTD capabilities are possibly diminishing as I age, so I feel a need to find new “cheese station”.

My Initial learning curves were steeper and exciting — cpp, c#, SQL.

Since 2008, this has felt like a fundamental balancing act in my career.

Unlikely most of my peers, I like learning new things. My learning capacity is 7/10 or 8/10 but I don’t enjoy staying in one area too long.

How about data science? I feel it’s kind of organic based on my pricing knowledge and math training. Also it could become a research/teaching career.

I have a habit of “touch and go”. Perhaps more appropriately, “touch, deep dive and go”. I deep dived on 10 to 20 topic and decided to move on: * java threading
* perl
* SQL joins and tuning
* algorithms
* swing

Following such a habit I could spread out too thin.

skill: deepen^diversify^stack up

Since 2010, I have carefully evaluated and executed 3 broad strategies:

  1. deepen – for zbs + IV
  2. diversify or branch-out. Breaking into new markets
  3. stack-up – cautiously
  • eg: Deepened my java/SQL/c++/py knowledge for IV and GTD. See post on QQ vs ZZ.
  • eg: diversified to c++, c#, quant, swing…
  • eg: diversify? west coast.
  • eg: diversify? data science
  • eg: diversify? research + teach
  • eg: stack-up to learn spring, hibernate, noSQL, GWT.

Stack-up — These skills are unlikely to unlock new markets. Lower leverage.

GTD stress/survival on the job? None of these help directly, but based on my observation GTD skill seldom advance my career as a contractor. It could create a bit of spare time, but it’s a challenge to make use of the spare time.

software dev is a 10x profession

In software projects, one lead developer can replace 10 mediocre developers. Many successful products/solutions/tools are the elegant creations of single alpha geeks.

Look at building architects. One key person to control and influence most of the key areas of a construction project, involving hundreds of workers.

Look at car designers, phone designers.

Now contrast restaurant managers. A good manager can’t replace 10 average employees.

Also contrast accountants. No 10x individuals.

Also contrast teachers.

programmer^mathematician^basketballer – market depth

Programmer is one of few skill with a good “market depth”:

* a mediocre talent can find jobs to pay a decent blue-color knowledge worker wage
* a top talent can always find challenging and well-paying roles. There’s over-demand for the next 100 years. * Any talent level in between can easily find jobs with a suitable salary. * You can even teach this skill at various schools

I guess healthcare as a skill is similar.

Basketballers (any professional athletes) – very few get paid a good salary.

Mathematicians – I only know the teaching and quant jobs.