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

focus+engagement2dive into a tech topic#Ashish

(Blogging. No need to reply)

Learning any of the non-trivial parts of c++ (or python) requires focus and engagement. I call it the “laser”. For example, I was trying to understand all the rules about placing definitions vs declarations in header files. There are not just “3 simple rules”. There are perhaps 20 rules and they have exceptions. To please the compiler and linker you have various strategies.

OK this is not the most typical example of what I want to illustrate. Suffice to say that, faced with this complexity (or ambiguity, and “chaos”) many developers at my age simply throw up their hands. People at my age are bombarded with kids’ schooling, kids’ enrichment, baby-sitting, home repair [1], personal investment [2], home improvement… It’s hard to find a block of 3 hours to dive in/zoom in on some c++ topic.

As a result, we stop digging after learning the basics. We learn only what’s needed for the project.

Sometimes, without the “laser”, you can’t break through the stone wall. You can’t really feel you have gained some insight on that topic. You can’t connect the dots. You can’t “read a book from thin to thick, then thick to thin again”. You can’t gain traction even though you are making a real effort. Based on my experience, on most of the those tough topics the focus and engagement is a must.

I’m at my best with my “laser”. Gaining that insight is what I’m good at. I relied on my “laser” to gain insights and compete on the job market for years.

Now I have the time and bandwidth, I need to capitalize on it.

[1] old wood houses give more problems than, say, condos with a management fee

[2] some spend hours every day

it takes effort to remain in financial IT#Ashish

NY vs NJ — cost is basically the same my friend, in terms of rent, transportation, food … Most of my friends probably live in New York city suburbs. (I know no one who choose to live in NYC, paying 4% city tax.) My cost estimate is always based on my experience living in NYC suburbs.

The “relief” factor you identified is psychological, subtle but fundamental. It resonates in my bones. It’s a movie playing in my head every day.

In the present-day reality, at my age I probably can still find jobs at this salary in Singapore or Hongkong, with growing difficulties. How about in 10 years? Huge uncertainty. If you were me, you have to take a long, hard look into yourself and benchmark yourself against the competing (younger) job seekers. You would find negative evidence regarding your competitiveness on the Asia financial IT job market. That’s the get-the-job aspect. The 2nd aspect is keep-the-job and even tougher for me. Therefore in the U.S. I make myself a free-wheeling contractor!

As I age, I take the growing job market competition as a fact of life. I accept I’m past my prime. I keep working on my fitness.

On both [get|keep ]-the-job, U.S. offers huge psychological relief. Why? Ultimately, it boils down to long term income (and family cash flow). Since I believe U.S. employers can give me a well-paying job more easily, for longer periods, I feel financially more secure. I will hold meaningful jobs till 65 (not teaching in polytechnic, or selling insurance etc). I can plan for the family more confidently. I could plan for a new home.

There are many more pros and cons to consider. Will stick to the bare essentials.

Singapore offers security in terms of the social “safety net”, thanks to government. Even if my Singapore salary drops by half, we still enjoy subsidized healthcare, decent education, frequent reunions with grandparents, among many other benefits (I listed 20 in my blog..).

Besides, I always remind my wife and grandparents that I have overseas properties, some paying reliable rental yield. Under some assumptions, passive income can amount to $5k/mon so the “worry” my dad noticed is effectively addressed. Another huge relief.

As a sort of summary, in my mind these unrelated concerns are interlinked –

· My long-term strength/weakness on job markets

o coding practice, lifelong learning

o green card – a major weakness in me

· family cash flow

o passive incomes

o housing

· Singapore as base camp

Do you notice I didn’t include “job security” in the above list? I basically take job-Insecurity as a foregone conclusion. Most of my friends are the opposite – taking job security as an assumption. This difference defines me as a professional, shapes my outlook, and drives me to keep working on “fitness”.

If I had no kids, I would have already achieved financial freedom and completely free of cash flow concerns. As a couple, our combined burn rate is S$3k-4k/mon but our (inflation-proof) passive income has/will reach that level. Also medical and housing needs are taken care of in Singapore. In reality, kids add S$1k-2k to our monthly burn rate. We are still on our way to financial freedom. So why the “worry”?!


Sent: Thursday, 16 March 2017 8:07 AM
To: Victor Tan
Cc: ‘Bin TAN (Victor)’
Subject: Re: it takes effort to remain in financial IT

That jewish guy and avichal are exceptions . Most of developers struggle and get success by hard work, by spending time with code for atleast 1-2years in any new company. I have not met other fast learners like them. Those are rare to find.

Regarding the worry that your dad always notices , i think this is quite obvious "more money more stress" but yeah this is the right time for you to move to USA where there are plenty of tech jobs . This move will surely give you a shy of relief.

Regarding the cost if living, why would you want to stay in NY , it is indeed costly. How about NJ?


Both mental stress and physical stress. Let’s take a step back and compare the stress intensity during job hunt vs GTD stress on the job.

Many people say it’s too stressful and tiring to keep interviewing compared to a long-term job in a big company. Well, I blogged many times that I need to keep interviewing…. The stress is so far manageable.

On a regular job, the GTD stress levels range from 5 to 7 on a scale of 10 (Donald Trump on women;). Often rise to 8.

Became 9 or 10 whenever (as FTE) boss gave a negative feedback. I know from several past experiences. In contrast, contract projects felt much better.

(To be fair, I did improve after the negative feedback.)

During my job hunt including the challenging Singapore lap, my stress level felt like 4 to 7, but often positive stress, perhaps due to positive progress and positive energy.

Conclusion — I always felt more confident on the open market than recovering from setback on a job.

##accumu lens:which past accumulations(zbs+)proved long-term

(There’s a recoll on this accumulation lens concept…. )

Holy grail is orgro, thin->thick->thin…, but most of my attempts failed.

I have no choice but keep shifting focus. A focus on apache+mysql+php+javascript would have left me with few options.

–hall of fame

  • 1) data structure theory + implementation in java, STL, c#
  • 2) [C  RT] core java including java OO has seen rather low churn,
    • comparable to c++
    • much better than j2EE and c#
  • 3) [T] threading? Yes insight and essential techniques. Only for interviews. C# is adding to the churn.
  • 4) [j] instrumentation in java codebase and to a lesser extent c#. Essential for real projects and indirectly helps interviews
  • [C] core C++
  • [j] google-style algo quiz? Only for high-end tech interviews
  • —-also-ran :
  • [!T] bond math? Not really my chosen direction, so no serious investment 
  • [!T] option math?
  • [R] SQL? yes but not a tier one skill like c++ or c#
  • SQL tuning? not much demand in the c++ interviews, but better in other interviews
  • regex – needed for many coding interviews and real projects
  • py? increasing use in projects
  • [R] Unix instrumentation, automation? frequently used but only occasionally quizzed
  • [R] Excel + VBA? Not my chosen direction

C= churn rate is comfortable
D = has depth, can accumulate
R= robust demand
T= thin->thick->thin achieved
j|J = relevant|important to job hunting

establish tech stronghold(GTD+nlg)]each team

Note – focus is job performance, not IV.

To survive in a team,need unique technical specialty in a key area.

With the possible exception of the Citi Muni team, I have not seen a banking IT team to tolerate a “dead weight” guy. To do reasonably well in any financial IT team, I often need some “hard” strength (like an subject matter expertise), not just soft skill. If within your team you have a unique technical strength in a complex and important sub-system, then you can “name your price”, and you are kind of irreplaceable. Perhaps a go-to person. Some team members don’t have any expertise but survive on strong relationships. I’m unable to do that. In the past teams, I think many team members have such a strength. If I don’t have it, my position would be less established, less solid.

  • 😦 😦 stirt? Worst experience. Was good at the insignificant preferences framework; canceled trades
  • 😦 GS? Uncomfortable position. My Perl was not top notch. My java was below Yang. I became good at Error Memos (EOS) and trailers/upfronts
  • 🙂 OC? was good at Bloomberg adapter and Guardian builtin web server to show the log files
  • 🙂 🙂 95 Green? My DB design was convincing to Ravi. My wait-notify based design was pretty hard to match.
  • 🙂 Barc? FMD, fmath
  • 😦 Macquarie? In the quant team, whatever I accomplish seems trivial to manager, since he’s too strong. I’m seen as very slow on small tasks.

tech strength^weak, as@Nov2016

My strengths – quick but more than superficial learning of (in random order):

  • finmath, financial jargon,
  • Comp Science practical topics:
    • OO fundamentals
    • algo, data structures,
    • threading
    • 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