The story of a Computer Science grad who made a career in Algo Trading

6 min read

“You can do anything you set your mind to” - Benjamin Franklin said these words decades ago, but they still resonate with all of us. While some forget them, some imbibe them in their lives.

Srinivas is a CFA Level II Candidate, has work experience in the Energy Trade Risk Management (ETRM) domain and is interested in Artificial Intelligence specifically the applications of ML in Finance. Proficient with Python, C++, and Excel, Srinivas possesses a good knowledge of Financial Derivatives, and Statistics too.

A Computer Science graduate, he was always interested in the markets and wanted to get into Algo Trading. He shares with us his journey of following his desire to get into Algo trading, getting certified with the Executive Programme in Algorithmic Trading (EPAT) and landing a job via its Placement Cell.

Hi Srinivas, tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m Srinivas Reddy, I’m based in the city of Bangalore, India and I’m a Jr Algorithmic Trading Strategist at Curl Capital.

I’m a pretty good volleyball player. I used to play regularly in college and occasionally in my first job. It’s reduced now because there isn't a lot of momentum to go out and play due to the lockdown. I regularly play poker with my friends. I enjoy that quite a bit.

I’m currently travelling to work during this pandemic as I stay pretty close by. My organisation takes very good care to sanitize the environment and keep everyone safe. Obviously, if the cases increase and going into work becomes dangerous, we’ll switch to WFH (work from home).

How realistic is it for a Computer Science graduate to get into Algorithmic Trading? How did you do it?

In the 2000s the markets were bullish and trending up. The news was saturated with market news and people were making money. I was interested to understand how to invest and how the markets function.

I started on Zerodha’s education portal. I learnt the fundamentals of options, futures, and stock. Being from a Computer Science background, I wanted to explore how to automate the process as I didn't want to sit and look at screens the whole day. That’s why I started learning Algo Trading.

Given my tech background and the newfound interest in finance, combining both seemed like an obvious choice. I picked up a set of tools in Computer Science that could be applied to a myriad of fields. Most people apply these skills in the tech industry but the same principles can be applied to finance, which is exactly what I did.

There are hundreds of courses out on the internet but they only teach a small chunk of the subject without the broader context. The hard part with online learning, you don’t know how to categorize the knowledge you’ve gained and how to properly progress.

After a couple of months of trying to learn algo trading from different sources, EPAT is the only course I found that has a structured approach to teaching algo trading. Before EPAT I used to learn one concept and research on what to learn next. It offered the complete package from the basics to the advanced concepts.

Since I’m from a Computer Science background and have a good understanding of maths and stats. But, someone from a Commerce background wouldn’t have a good grasp on these topics.

It was definitely a challenge to learn about finance but that’s what made it interesting. What I like about this field of finance is that I’ll constantly learn and innovate, even 10 years down the line.

The EPAT course is structured to accommodate learners from all backgrounds. It starts with the basic stats, and finance, the tech side is introduced with excel followed by python. It provided me with a clean and structured progression to get good at algo trading.

No course just gives you readymade strategies. You can’t expect to join a course and start trading the next day and EPAT was no different. It equipped me with the tools to build and test strategies.

No strategy comes out of the blue, it’s a process of starting with something small and fine-tuning it till it gets better. EPAT does a great job of teaching this process.

I’m mostly trading at my firm. My job involves developing strategies, backtesting and getting them approved for paper trading. If it performs well, we debut it in the live markets. We also integrate AI and Ml models to make our strategies better wherever appropriate.

So, to answer your question - it is very realistic and very much possible for a Computer Science graduate to be a part of the Algo and Quant Trading domain.

How did you manage to land a career in Algo Trading?

Previously, I used to work in the Trade Risk Management domain for the energy industry for 3 years and learnt the corporate way of working. I understood that half the domain is concerned with back-office related work.

After that, I ended up in the middle office, which mostly works with technology. As I was working there I realized that I wanted to be more involved in the markets. I wanted to trade and make an impact.

I was actually looking for job opportunities quite aggressively. I didn’t receive any callbacks from a lot of companies I applied to, which was understandable because of the COVID-19 situation. I spent a couple of months searching for jobs but only got a few offers for tech positions. I was determined to get a job in the finance industry, so I kept looking even though it was frustrating. I told myself, “if not today then tomorrow”.

I contacted the EPAT placement team. One of the best parts of EPAT is that the benefits don’t stop after the course is completed. The lifelong access to updated courses and constant placement assistance is really a jewel in the crown.

I was particularly pleased with the placement process of EPAT that made it possible for me.

I was guided throughout the whole journey. It started from optimizing my resume, to refreshing crucial concepts relevant to the interview. They always kept me updated and provided me with feedback about the progress whenever I asked for it.

This is in contrast with how it works when I apply on a company’s website or a job portal. I never know what’s happening with my application most of the time, but EPAT’s placement cell removed this ambiguity.

There are a variety of people taking the EPAT course. Some want jobs in the algo trading domain and others want to start their own trading desks. Irrespective of the objective, I think most of the people are assisted by the placement team, either with job offers or networking opportunities.

I personally used to get 2-3 job openings every week and some were from international firms as well.

Before the pandemic hit and created a bad situation for most job seekers, I used to get one or two opportunities every week from EPAT. I still got a couple of promising leads.

One was with an early stage start-up which I passed on, another was an opportunity to work with Curl Capital, which is a really good company run by industry leaders, so I just jumped at the opportunity.

I didn't know if I should make the switch because I thought it might be bad timing because of COVID-19. I just knew I really wanted to be out here trading or building strategies. End of story!

So, here I am, currently working as a Junior Algo Trading Strategist. My work involves developing strategies that can actually go into the labour market and make money. This is a great experience and exactly what I wanted for my career.

Your word of advice for the aspiring Quants out there!

A lot of people approach finance jobs differently from tech jobs because they think they don’t have enough financial knowledge. But from my experience, once you get into the interview the finance knowledge acts as a bonus, but the main focus of algo trading jobs is math and coding.

My advice is to just start applying to jobs and believe in your skills instead of limiting yourselves based on your knowledge of finance.

It’s really great to know of your efforts and dedication in achieving your aim of getting into the domain of Algo Trading. We’re glad that EPAT could be that force of guidance and motivation to you, Srinivas. Our best wishes to you for your future.

If you too desire to equip yourself with lifelong skills which will always help you in upgrading your trading strategies. With topics such as Statistics & Econometrics, Financial Computing & Technology, Machine Learning, this algo trading course ensures that you are proficient in every skill required to excel in the field of trading. Enroll in EPAT now!

Disclaimer: In order to assist individuals who are considering pursuing a career in algorithmic and quantitative trading, this success story has been collated based on the personal experiences of a student or alumni from QuantInsti’s EPAT programme. Success stories are for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to be used for investment purposes. The results achieved post completion of the EPAT programme may not be uniform for all individuals.

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