Some top geeks I know are fast at reading code + logs. Few rely on documentation. I’m OK not the fastest.
Some top geeks in “sister” teams of my team are experts with instrumentation tools and techniques. I guess other top geeks seldom need a lot of instrumentation. I feel they lack the experience but make up for it in other skills.
Some top geeks keep gaining depth if they focus on one complex system. I might have potential here.
When I become interested in a tech topic, I often throw cold water over my head — “This is such a /juvenile/, albeit productive and wholesome, hobby. Look at ex-classmates/colleagues so and so, with their business wing. They deal with business strategies. My tech stuff is so low-level and boring compared to what they deal with.”
Damaging, harmful, irrational, demoralizing SMS! Get Real, Man! Let’s assess our own situation
- A) On one hand, I need to avoid spending too much time becoming expert in some
low-leverage or high-churn technology (php? XML? ASP?).
- B) On the other hand, the enthusiasm and keen interest is hard to get and extremely valuable. They could be the catalyst that grow my zbs and transform me into a veteran over a short few years. Even with this enthusiasm and depth of interest, such a quick ascent is not easy and not likely. Without them, it’s simply impossible.
Case: grandpa. His research domain(s) is considered unglamorous 冷门 but he is dedicated and passionate about it. He knows that in the same Academy of social sciences, economics, geopolitics and some other fields are more important. He often feels outside the spotlight (kind of sidelined but for valid reasons). That is a fact which had a huge impact on my own choice of specialization. But once he decided to dig in and invest his whole life, he needed to deal with that fact and not let it affect his motivation and self-image. As a senior leader of these unglamorous research communities, he has to motivate the younger researchers.
Case: Greg Racioppo, my recruiter, treats his work as his own business. The successful recruiters are often in the same business for many years and make a long term living and even create an impact for their employees (and people like me). They could easily feel “boring” compared to the clients or the candidates, but they don’t have to.
Case: PWM wealth advisors. They could feel “boring” compared to the filthy rich clients they deal with, but in reality, these advisors are more successful than 99% of the population.
Case: The ratio of support staff to traders is about 50:1, but I don’t feel “boring” because of them.
Case: Look at all the staff in a show, movie, supporting the stars.
Since 2010, I have carefully evaluated and executed 3 broad strategies:
- deepen – for zbs + IV
- diversify or branch-out. Breaking into new markets
- 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.
I feel German’s strategy goes beyond tech skills. He treats tech skills as a tool, used to implement his business ideas to create business value. I feel his target role is a mix of architect/BA but more like “product visionary”. It’s somewhat like stack-up.
If I take a 强项 job, I kind of sacrifice my muscle building, so I must get good money …
A typical 强项 job would use
- possibly analytics
Look at my HSBC eventBus coding interview. This is one of my top 3 core competences that make me stand out in a crowded field. Other items among top 10:
- 9/10 java knowledge including
- 9/10 algorithm interview
- 8/10 SQL — less relevant to interviews
- complex joins
- table design
- 5/10 professional competence in c++ and c#
- 5/10 python, 8/10 perl
- 6/10 Unix power tools
(x/10 is benchmarking on Wall St, not West Coast.)
–Mac over 18M
C++ compilation/linking? a bit
–OC over 23M
MSVS? But no critical mass yet
Spare time for UChicago
Very few peers are so conscious of burn^rot. Higher utilization of spare time is a key strength during my US peak + my dotcom peak + also my high school. We could analyze what’s common and what’s different between these peaks…
Outside those peaks, I also used this strength to complete my UChicago program, but the tangible benefit is smaller.
(This is different from efficiency on the job. Many efficient colleagues spend less time in office but get more done. My style involves sacrificing personal spare time and family time.)
Looking forward, I guess this strength could be strategic for research-related domains, including any job involving some elements of research and accumulation.
A repeated manager praise for me is “broad-based”, related to this strength.
My strengths – quick but more than superficial learning of (in random order):
- finmath, financial jargon,
- Comp Science practical topics:
- OO fundamentals
- algo, data structures,
- basic tuning of DB + others
- language fundamentals (more respected in the java, c++, c#, SQL than python communities)
- versatile in many important languages
- relative familiarity with scripting, unix, SQL, but not IDE, version control etc
- relatively quick whiteboard (not compiler) coding
This strength turned out to be extremely valuable on Wall St consulting market.
My key weakness identified in recent jobs (not counting the IV defeats):
- learning local system
- large existing codebase – AutoReo, GS
- superfast GTD
If the research is too easy, then other developers can also do it, often faster.
If the research takes years, then it’s really for a researcher. I’m not a researcher (yet)
The project could have high value!
eg: Barcap proj
eg: bloomberg adapter in GMDS
eg: home-made web server using WCF
Some peers (such as Lu) are good at climbing the corporate ladder. Someone must play the leadership roles in those MNC Asia offices, so if Lu has a strong track record he would get it. In Asia, I feel left behind on the slow track – painful, disappointing. In the US, immigrant techies are less likely to climb up (except some Indians). I often feel an inner competitive strength due to those competences that my peers are usually lacking, such as
– algos and data structures
– SQL hacks
– Perl/linux hacks
– (non-trivial) jargon
These are among my top 3 competitive strengths. My sweet spot domains are typically
- theoretically, and academically demanding, at least for the uninitiated
- entry barrier
- High value and high impact on the project
- portable, unlike Quartz knowhow
In the US I have such opportunities, though nothing guaranteed.