premium salary to compensate for intrinsic motivation@@

I recall that at more than one juncture in my job hunting career, I feel overwhelmed by a premium offer and said in my head “if I accept this offer and earn 20% more than the standard rate, then the ensuing pride, self-image boost etc would surely create a wellspring of positive motivation.”

How naive….in hind sight. The real factors affecting my job satisfaction was usually unrelated to premium salary. See the spreadsheet about job satisfaction.

I think the premium salary didn’t improve my life chances. A satisfying job does.


##Y c++IV improved much faster]U.S.than SG #insight{SCB breakthru

Hi XR,

I received 9 c++ offers since Mar 2017, mostly from U.S. In contrast, over the 4.5 years I spent in Singapore, I received only 3 c++ offers including a 90% offer from HFT firm WorldQuant (c++ job but not hardcore).

  1. Reason: buy-side employers — too picky. Most of the Singapore c++ jobs I tried are buy-side jobs. Many of the teams are not seriously hiring and only wanted rock stars.
    • In contrast, Since 2010 I tried about 6 Singapore ibank c++ jobs (Citi, Barclays, Macquarie, Standard Chartered Bank) and had much better technical wins than at buy-side interviews.
  2. Reason: Much fewer c++ jobs than in U.S.
  3. Reason: employee — I was always an employee while in Singapore and dare not attend frequent interviews.
  4. Reason: my c++ job in the U.S. are more mainstream so I had more opportunities to experiment on mainstream c++ interview topics. Experiments built up my confidence and depth.
  5. Reason: I had much more personal time to study and practice coding. This factor alone is not decisive. Without the real interviews, I would mostly waste my personal time.

Conclusion — availability of reasonable interview opportunities is a surprisingly oversize factor for my visible progress, 

By the way, Henry Wu (whom I told you about) had more successful c++ interviews. He joined WorldQuant and Bloomberg, two companies who didn’t take me up even after my technical wins.

design IV: telltale signs of disapproval

(Note a subtype of design interview is the SDI.) When interviewer asks, as described in

  • why you choose this approach (this design, this direction…)
  • what are the pros and cons of this approach
  • what alternatives there might be

It’s 80% a sign of disapproval.

If they are only curious, they would phrase it differently.

Remember interviewer has a rather fixed idea how this design should go. If you propose something unfamiliar to her, she can’t “lead” the interview with confidence. She risks losing control. Therefore, she has no choice but steer you back to her familiar territory.

Most of them won’t want to admit that your idea is plausible but different from her idea.

## My github profile

Some interviewers have requested my github profile. I create github content for learning and to share with my friends, not really for interviewers. I have decided not to spend too much time polishing my github content. The content would be rough round the edges. If there’s any doubt or bug report, I would be happy to discuss.

cod`IV^QnA: relative importance

Let’s focus on technical screening but put aside SDI questions, which are sometimes like QnA .

  • In terms of “weighting” assigned by employer — coding 50/50 QnA on average, though only on-site coding is authentic. If an interviewer uses on-site coding, then it would often have higher weighting than the QnA portion.
  • interviewers’ time — coding 30/70 QnA. Interviewer needs to spend more time conducting QnA interview than coding interview.
  • candidate’s time — roughly coding 45/55 QnA. On average coding takes a candidate less time but more effort.
  • candidate’s effort — coding 70/30 QnA on average. QnA requires effort in advance but little effort during the interview.
    • I feel coding tests often require substantial concentration/effort but many people are not willing. One hour of coding test effort == 4 hours of project effort
    • timed coding test is like exam… full concentration.
  • rejection percentage — coding 70/30 QnA on average. I feel rejection rate is higher in coding than in QnA, partly due to insufficient effort by many candidates. West Coast and HFT has higher rejection rate on coding tests.
  • In terms of long term benefits on personal financial security and family wellbeing — about the same value.

Conclusion — as a job candidate, we had better embrace coding interviews, for our own long-term security.

IV batting average#biased guesstimate; no obsession

Disclaimer… These numbers are seriously unscientific and heavily biased and subjective. They are also biased due to the sample — I probably excluded many cases.

Out of a hypothetical 720 positions applied,

across java #no HFT across c++ non-HFT HFT
No. shortlisted based on CV 1/3 like 240 1/3 – 1/4 like 180 same as c++[1] like 180
No. passing initial screening 2/3 like 160 2/3 i.e. 120 1/3 like 60
No. technical win [3] 1/2 like 80 1/2 i.e. 60 20%[2] i.e. 12
No. offers 1/2

[1] HFT firms are very open and welcomes everyone to apply

[2] I feel if I keep trying I will pass an HFT tech interview! but if I don’t fit in, it’s not easy to find another HFT job.

[3] proved my competence (at least to myself) i.e. can do the job, but they may not like some perceived “weaknesses”, technical or communications.

tech screening passed(but still rejected): pat on your own back

Always remember that before you invested months of serious effort, you couldn’t pass the tech screening.

One of my fundamental principles — focus on tech screening and don’t worry about offer. Once I pass technical screening, it becomes a beauty contest or personality match. If interviewers don’t like a competent candidate for age, face, language, lackOfHumor, communication style (often related to culture, nationality and up-brining) …, then I will grin and say never mind. Sooner or later someone will like my personality.

They may say candidate is cocky, opinionated … There’s no right or wrong here. Another interviewer may not feel that way.

The average programmer doesn’t have an off-putting personality, definitely not in an interview, so for every 3 interviewers who don’t like him, there will be some interviewer out there who likes him.


%%offers 2017

All confirmed offers.

$c2c co where primary tech other tech domain nlg duration
100 pimco Burak NPB[1] c++11 🙂 🙂 🙂 java, possibly Hadoop 🙂 FI accrual math 🙂 3+
100 Pimco Zoltan NYC java framework 🙂 🙂 flexible
100+ bgc Alexi NYC java minimal cpp FX.. trading to perm 😦 😦 😦
below 100 😦 😦 Ravi Chgo 😦 😦 Qz 😦 😦 😦 java FI trading again flexible
perm Nitin Shanghai java perm
perm Tradeweb JC VC++ FI ECN perm
85 baml NYC VC++ repo 😦 12M?

[1] A bit hard to get next job in NY, but helps me get a next job in West Coast. However, in terms of buying a home, I just don’t know.

IV^CV is real battle

(Adapted from a Mar 2017 letter to Lisa Wang… )Let me share my observations and reflections on this tough job hunt. Another stock-taking. Focus here is non-finance jobs in the U.S.

For months I used a slightly tweaked CV for non-banking (“main street”) tech positions, but it’s not working — Out of the 30 to 40 non-finance positions I applied, precious few (15%??) recruiters were interested. Suppose 5 recruiters showed interest, I guess not all of them submitted my resume. Suppose 4 did submit. So far, no hiring manager was impressed with my non-finance CV. (Response from financial firms are better but not my focus today.)

So different from my prime time (from 2010 to 2012) when my finance-oriented resume was selling like a hot cake. I would estimate more than 50% of the recruiters were impressed and many hiring managers showed interest.

Of course, I’m comparing my “main street” resume against my Wall-St resume. Not a fair comparison but it does highlight these key issues:

Recruiter engagement is the #1 issue and hiring manager engagement is #2 issue. Interview competence is a distant #3 and not a key issue. Many people disagree — “you need no more than one successful interview.” They believe a 50-80% interview success rate is the silver bullet needed. Well, how long must you wait before you fire your silver bullet?

I feel much better if my interview pass rate is only 20% (or 10%), but I get 5 times more interviews! I learned from experience that my interview performance improvement is limited without sufficient interviews. So it’s far more effective and strategic to work on getting more interviews. I don’t want to be one of those guys who need 6 months to find a job. I see them starved of oxygen. Steady flow of interviews keep me motivated and focused, too.

In conclusion the key issue is crafting a compelling resume to engage recruiters and hiring managers. (A more pressing issue on main-street front than on the Wall-st front.)

Therefore, I count each interview scheduled as a success. In contrast, an offer is less significant an achievement. Analogies:
* as a singer, each TV appearance is a success; Winning a singing contest is less significant.
* as a growing basketballer, each time I get to play on court is a success; winning a game is less significant.

I have always told my peers that 90% of the job candidate competition is on the resume, and 10% on interviews. (Now I feel 95%/5%) Many candidates can pass interviews if given the chance. The chance is given to winning resumes. I say this to my friends because I learned from experience to invest much more effort improving the resume, until it can impress a large percentage of recruiters and hiring managers.

For the “main street” positions, I hope to engage 33% of the recruiters and 10% of the hiring managers. With that, if I were to try 30 opportunities, I could expect to get 3 interviews!

creative writing on CV #CSY

Hi Shanyou,

Sharing my observations…

Creative resume writing is an “art”. Over the years I have worked out some rules of thumb.

  • Be careful with the dates in the CV, as they can be used as evidence of cheating.
    • o I sometimes specify only the year without month. If recruiter asks for the month, I would say, it means entire year is on that project
    • o I don’t massage the dates in the last 7 years, but earlier than that, I’m more creative
    • o I’m more careful with *perm employee* project dates as the employer often has a compliance requirement to release the dates when requested
    • o Contract agencies may close down or change name. The account managers in charge of my assignment often change job. The dates they have in their system is less reliable.
      • Also, Under one agency, I could have 2 assignments at two sites, so the dates are fuzzy.
    • o Since I changed jobs too many times, I sometimes combine the earliest 3 jobs into one, when I know the employer is already gone, and it’s 12 years ago.
  • Job duty is really up to me to write, esp. with my contract jobs. Also jobs done 7 years ago are not so relevant, so the background checkers are less concerned. I often shift or copy my “job duties” section from one job to another job.
  • The technical experience or domain experience are up to me to write.
    • o I used to mention java swing in 5 out of 7 past jobs. This way, my resume looked like a java swing veteran.
    • o I used to mention connectivity in 5 out of 7 past jobs.
    • o I used to mention c# in all of my past jobs.
    • o I used to mention Forex in 4 out of 6 past jobs (To create an impression of “Forex focus” I delete all jobs that are unrelated to forex. If recruiter ask about the gap, I say it’s irrelevant or I say I was jobless). Actually, only 2 jobs had some forex element.
  • I keep 3 versions of resume. I create a temporary version when a job application requires it. I don’t spend more than 20 minutes creating each version, as the effort is unlikely to pay dividends.

This is a trial-and-error process. I sometimes become over-creative and test the market. If no one notices or questions me over a few (10?) job interviews, then it’s considered very safe creativity. If they do spot any inconsistency, then I back off and admit a typo mistake.

I now think some hiring managers are suspicious or very perceptive so they could see through my creativity but won’t say anything, so I am completely unaware.

I see the resume as advertisement. The goal is an initial interview. If I ace the interview, they basically accept the resume as is.


[17]U.S.hunt priorities #400w

To optimize for income, I would leverage on my 1) analytics 2) threading 3) SQL (+ possibly algo) expertise. Importance of income:

  • health insurance — will need for kids for sure
  • first few gigs might be low rate, given the dry season
  • home purchase in 5Y — confirmed requirement. If I want short commute + Chinese community, then price will be high
  • might go without income longer, like a few months
  • initial set-up cost — 5k-10k, but at this level adjustment on wife’s part will be tough. Even a 20k relief fund is drop in a bucket. Need 100k.
  • tail risk — I might come back to SGP sooner (like end of 2017) and take a low-pay job
  • tail risk — if GC process goes astray, I may go back to SG without a GC, so the X years I spent here I need to earn enough.

May not have much of a choice, given the slow c2c market right now.

My 2017 priorities:

  1. avoid churn? so avoid web, javascript, in-memory DB, spring/hibernate and most of the new technologies I hear about the west coast
  2. muscle-building contexx? so avoid java/sql? Better to deepen my c++ as a 2nd front. Willing to take lower salary? LG2 can postpone this to 2018/2019. See post on re-enter c++
  3. my c++ learning is reaching a critical mass
  4. —- unsorted lower priorities —-
  5. income to keep me feeling secure and self-respecting. I got this from the offers!
  6. flexibility to work from Singapore. Can spend more time with wife, parents and kids.
  7. location for upcoming home-purchase
  8. unlock new markets — west coast, c++, data science ..
  9. commute?
  10. chance to impress manager
  11. leisure time to exercise, improve c++, call home, learn driving etc

My ideal (yet realistic) 1st project:

  • slightly below (like 80%) my capacity. Chance to impress manager due to my specialty knowledge. “These managers could make things happen”.
  • has spare capacity to check out the potential homes
  • salary? LG2 like $65/hr
  • c++ or java
  • possibly west coast but the high rate is usually for FTE.

Alternatively, a temp contract to try c++ again, but only after I clear some high-end java interviews to build my confidence in earning capacity.

  • low salary like 120k
  • hands-on c++ (not C) on a large codebase to build mileage
  • NY or west coast or anywhere else

CV-worthy buzzword trading domain knowledge

Many extremely important and central systems aren’t worth mentioning in your CV because most readers don’t understand their value. Examples — real time credit limit check; tiered quote pricer; commission…

The most prestigious, recognizable “star players” are
* real time, market-data-driven pricing and valuation
* curve-based pricing
* algo trading — vwap/twap becoming commoditized, but other algos?
* VaR
* execution – order crossing
* trade capture, trade booking
* OMS in a trading desk (The OMS inside an exchange is a different animal)
* connectivity to exchanges and ECN
* real time risk
* market data gateways
* anything low latency, high frequency
* Monte Carlo simulation — probably a risk/stress-test rather than a real-time component

[[all about high frequency trading]] explains many other components of a HFT buy-side system.

self-management: Part 2: demonstrate@ CV+interview

Tip: See blog on [[vague vs normal vs specific answers]], but in this case, be specific if you want to demonstrate these qualities.

Tip: you don’t need to prove anything if you already have convincing team-lead experience on your CV.
Tip: Tell stories
Tip: show your familiarity with the typical front office culture.
Tip: demonstrate you know how to work with QA team – give them the docs on build/deploy, DB deployment
Tip: demonstrate your documentation best practices – wiki (GS), jira (GS, ML), cheatsheet/runbook

Tip: Humor? If you are 100% sure about side effects, then I think it can help demonstrate communication effectiveness, but I feel a lot of good self-running developers aren’t humorous.

sentiments in Jan 2010

Each day, i work hard on 2 things — company projects and job hunting. Exhausting. A third task I do is learning java. I actually enjoy it more than the other 2. I find it hard to slow down. It feels like running on a treadmill.

Everyday, my mood is affected by the number of emails I receive from recruiters. I contact them by email/phone on a weekly basis. When I don’t hear from someone for a long time, i feel a bit disappointed.

I still feel reluctant about letting down my users. I think they gave me good reviews in Jul 2009 and they still are very nice to me, perhaps because they depend on me. Since i don’t want to let them down, i work hard to meet deadlines. These deadlines are set by my boss and are often unreasonable, but once set, i feel i need to meet them.

be prepared for entry-level java position interviews

Hi XR,
在美国这三个月, 见面和电话面试了接近十个 Java 职位.
有个不能确定的感觉. 我这样(新移民?)的应聘人, 在 Java 领域主要被看做底层动手编程的角色. 要求手快, 记性好, 写程序”产量”高, 质量 (Performance, Security….) 也不能有明显弱点. 三个字 — 快而准.


我的另一些不大不小的特长, 面试公司欢迎但不常问到. 比如 High Volume Java App server 维护, Basic Weblogic Configuration/tuning, Cluster 入门知识, Database design, tuning 入门知识, Java 与 External System 的 Integration …也许有别的人员务责这几块. 但如果是小公司, 可能没有全职 DBA, 全职 Weblogic Admin 之类. 如果真的没有这些方面的专家, 那务责的人可能经验不多, 跟我一样在这些领域只有半桶水. (我曾经单枪匹马挑过 Oracle, Mysql, Weblogic… 这几个重担)

想做小公司的 Architect. 但是没有人考虑我. 也算公平, 自认 Java / SQL 还不精深. 希望你的运气比我好些, 也希望我的运气能慢慢改善. 还希望我能通地更多的面试实战, 能对 Java 就业市场有一个更深入更准确的把握, 不再象这样靠一丁点微弱的灯火摸着黑前进.

你问到工作有多累. 同事们大都是 9 – 5, Mon-Fri. 我每周干 50 个钟头. 9:30 – 6:30. 连续 5 个周六主动回公司加班几个钟头. 在路上/家里, 每天至少一小时学 Java/SQL/PHP, 不觉得苦.
New York 的工作项目更累. 平均 10 小时/天, 路程更长, 单程一个多钟头.