At the Y Intersection: Taking a decisive career choice

Almost one year ago I decided to move to Spain to start a PhD in chemistry. Today, coming close to finishing the first year – which is  a Masters degree – I have reached an important point in my life in which I need to make a very clear decision about my future career path. Through all this time I have had the experience of managing a very demanding job – trading – with a very demanding hobby – scientific research – and it has now become evident that doing both at the same time is neither sustainable nor advisable.  Within the next few paragraphs I will tell you what the experience has been like and why it is definitely not going to be possible to continue with both things, you will also learn more about what I have decided and why I believe this is the best choice.

Truth be told, when I took the decision to do a PhD I never thought that I would eventually be unable to handle my research and my trading, I had done this in the past  - while doing my undergraduate degree – so moving this onto graduate school didn’t seem like a bad idea. In reality I have to say that I didn’t underestimate my ability to work hard and in fact I am able to accomplish both things at the same time with some degree of success on both sides. What I did completely underestimate was my need to have some life outside of doing this two things. After working for almost one year at a “double shift” rhythm, it has become very clear that if I trade and research, there is no time to do absolutely anything else. Doing anything in addition to these two things takes time away from things which must be done and – since both jobs also require additional time – weekends are also no option for resting.

In the end it has become clear that – while I can do both – I cannot do both in a way which makes me happy. This is not only because I get very tired from not doing anything besides work but because eventually this tiredness gets reflected in both jobs and I end up not giving 100% to either one of them. As I do not want to become a mediocre researcher or a mediocre trader, it is clear for me that a choice needs to be made. It came to the point where I had to clearly decide whether I would continue my academic career as a chemist or whether I would like to continue my work as a trader full time. In essence I had to weight both things, take a career path and follow it to its last consequences. I want to dedicate myself to only one of these two things and give it my absolutely best shot, I want to pour all my brain into it and see something wonderful come out.

It wasn’t easy to judge the pros and cons of both worlds. In one hand research gives intellectual satisfaction, social interactions at work, social respect and status and gives you a sense of contributing to society in a way in which most people simply aren’t able to (either because they lack the formation or access to the proper resources). Research also has problems, a very low target income, a very high level of competition and a sense that you are very easy to replace since many people can travel the established route to get the exact same level of knowledge you have (or even higher). In the end the research career is a well delineated path which enables you to do things which are very intellectually stimulating at the cost of being easily replaced and therefore having to constantly battle with publications and peer review to prove you are not.

Now retail trading is another story :o). It is a path you have no established way of walking, a financial venture filled with challenges that you have to overcome through your own development of an understanding. There are no upper or lower limits on income, no one hires you or fires you, you do whatever you want and pay for all of your mistakes with your trading losses. In trading there is a high degree of uncertainty, no established credentials and no social status (especially now that financial jobs are regarded as “evil” by many). Trading is as or more intellectually challenging than trading, no one tells you there secrets and you have to battle to decipher what is “behind the curtains”, mathematics and statistics are still the used tools but hard team work is necessary to break through the fog.

After a long walk on the beach and several trans-atlantic flights – which give you time to think – I came to the conclusion that what I like about research is what I already have in trading and what I like in trading is what research misses. I like to have intellectual challenges but I do not want to have a research career, be an academic, get a tenure position, etc. I want to create businesses, I want to learn about the markets, I want to gain income to give me the power to change the things which I believe need to be changed, both in my life and in the world. I don’t want my income to be limited by my working hours, I want my income to be limited by my capacity to generate value. I want to be a full time trader again.

Long story short guys, I am returning to full time trading in late September and I have decided to leave aside any academic aspirations in actual formal scientific endeavors. However I am leaving the research groups I have worked with in great terms and they will gladly allow me to come for short research stays to satisfy my need for some alternative intellectual stimulation. However I will not do anything formal again and I will only come – if this happens – for short 1-2 month periods every few years. The good news is that Asirikuy and my trading management will get my absolute 100% attention from late September so releases will definitely speed up, the blog will come up to life and we will continue to tackle all the interesting areas of research we have uncovered in trading during the past 6 months.

Our level of understanding continues to increase and I definitely believe we will arrive to very solid core concepts that will enable us to solve the issue of robustness before this year ends. Dear science, we had our good times and I gave you a fair shot but now it’s time to move back into my true passion :o)

If you would like to learn more about trading and how you too can increase your understand in algorithmic trading please consider joining Asirikuy.com, a website filled with educational videos, trading systems, development and a sound, honest and transparent approach towards automated trading in general . I hope you enjoyed this article ! :o)

 

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11 Responses to “At the Y Intersection: Taking a decisive career choice”

  1. Jesper says:

    Hello Daniel,

    I’m glad to hear that you made the “right” decision. :) Being a part time trader (trainee) with a full time job, I know what you mean about not being able to give both all that you want. We do have other duties and things we want to do besides trading and a full time occupation.

    I can understand that it must have been a very difficult decision, but I’m particularly happy that the trading community did not lose a great source of knowledge and experience from whom aspiring traders like myself have learned a lot.

    I’m not yet a member of Asirikuy, but I’d like to be – whenever I get the time to commit myself 100% to it. I guess, now there’s a chance that you guys will still be around when that happens. :)

  2. Andrea says:

    I think you have made the best decision, Daniel.
    Andrea

  3. Edward says:

    Dear Daniel,

    Being a full-time phd student and part-time trader (more as a hobby for now) myself, it feels like you are describing my exact situation. I too have the same issues and considerations as you describe. I think the sentence which really summarizes the situation for me is the following:

    “I don’t want my income to be limited by my working hours, I want my income to be limited by my capacity to generate value.”

    Wow, this is how I was feeling all along without realizing it…until I read it now.

    Thanks for your amazing blog and Good Luck with living out the choice which you have made!

    Kind regards,

    Edward

  4. Winter says:

    Hi Daniel,

    Regardless your decision, you will always have my support. Great initiatives and incredible works you have done for the Asirikuy community. Under your leadership, we have reached and achieved many milestones.

    Take care and regards

    Winter

  5. Juan says:

    Great loss for Science :o)

    But I’m sure your decision will bring you happiness.

    Best

  6. Scott says:

    Hi Daniel,

    I fully support what you feel is best for you as well, but I have to say I’m very happy you decided to go in the direction of a trading career! I’ve wondered all along, as it seemed to me it would ultimately be too much to juggle a full time investment into trading research and development with a PhD program and have any other time for yourself and family. So congratulations, and looking forward to continued adventures with Asirikuy :-)

    best wishes!

    Scott

  7. Sebastian says:

    Hi Daniel, i´m very happy to hear that finally you´ve chosen your true passion!
    As you said, it wasn´t really sustainable being able to fully dedicate to both careers at the same time…

    Greetings!
    Sebastian

  8. Rodolfo says:

    You are what you is.
    (F. Zappa)

  9. Maxim says:

    Hi Daniel,

    The science will loose what Asirikuy will win!
    I’m glad that you will finally have time for yourself.
    Try to see as much tourist attractions in Europe as you can before you return to the other side of Atlantics.

    Maxim

  10. Chris says:

    Daniel-

    Wow, what a post! It was the last thing I expected! And the answer was also a surprise as I really expected you to go the establishment route.

    Anyway, it will be great to have to back full time at Asirikuy, and to see you more on the blog. Welcome back!

    Chris

  11. Gerald says:

    This post had me at the end of my chair I nearly fell off. This is wonderful news Daniel, I can’t wait to continue on this journey with you and the rest of the Asirikuy community.

    Gerald

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