A Data Analyst, a Database System expert and now an Algo Trader - Akshay’s journey

11 min read

It takes a lot of courage to stand up and face your fears, and we sometimes come across some talented individuals whose story just sparks up that latent energy in us. We’re not imparting some mythical story of biblical proportions, we present to you the journey of one man who has moved on courageously, learning and growing to gain the edge for achieving his desire and establishing himself in the domain of Algorithmic Trading.

This is the story of Akshay Pai. We connected with Akshay and learnt the complete side of his story.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Hi Akshay! Could you tell us about yourself?

Hi, I’m Akshay Pai. I’m a ‘self-motivated’ data analyst who has excellent organizational skills, is highly efficient and has a good eye for detail. I’m a quick learner too.

I have extensive experience in assisting in the development and upgrading of database systems & analytical techniques and producing methodologies & files for effective data management. I’ve also managed complex internal and external data analysis responsibilities.

I haven’t traded before and neither am I trading right now. But I aspire to start soon. I’m more interested in research, punching numbers, modelling, and coding.

I like working with Data, I like crunching numbers, I love animals - these are my hobbies as well. I’m not an outdoor person, but give me data, and I’ll be really happy to work on it! My wife and I take care of stray animals. I still care about a lot of animals. Right now I take care of 9 cats in my house and more than 15 stray dogs outside.

You’ve had quite the experience towards the beginning of your career. Would you like to talk about that?

I was a very bright student during my schooling days. During my 12th Std., CET exam was first introduced - I appeared for it, cleared it and got into Engineering for Computer Science. Unfortunately due to bad company, and some personal reasons, I had to drop out in the second year. Thus began my career.

After my education, I started working in a manufacturing company, and after working for 2 years, where I barely had a stipend of INR 3000 per month. I was struggling at that time. So I joined an organization as a support engineer which, on paper, was my first job. The client that I was working for was from Massachusetts, and just when I joined, within 4 months, that client went away as Massachusetts had a policy of not outsourcing work.

So, I was a guy in this very big company, no graduation and back on the street. But the company took a note of it and relocated me into an enabling function - a functional role wherein I was doing recruitment, HR-related activities, and other such activities. I was a technical guy, coming from a technical background, I was very good with proofing as well, my logic was very strong.

When I was working for all these organisations, what I learnt was that none of the tasks that they were doing was electronically maintained. Everything was manual. Nobody knew how to use excel properly, besides adding and removing data. Nobody would use vlookup, margin the data, extracting information, nothing. I did not know how to use these things. The manual task was overwhelming for me as well.

I was the one who first started automating most of the data related jobs in that particular role. Eventually, I learnt how to speak out and started making presentations. I was the one who within the first 8 months started making the data which was in the PRM as well, in meetings in front of the CEO.  

That is the reason I got my affinity towards data. I was living and breathing data. I would be crunching numbers, collating data from other vendors, mixing and presenting data, and sometimes even punching data.

I worked there for 4 and a half years without getting any sort-of any promotion, even the freshers received 2 promotions. The reason being that I had not completed my graduation. I never tried to complete my graduation, overshadowed by the overwhelming work.

In 2014 I decided that I need to put my foot down, get my graduation done - it was something that I needed to do. I couldn’t arrange to do both, so I quit my job. Since I wanted to graduate in either Economics or Statistics and since I could not afford the Statistics course which was costlier than the capital I had, I enrolled myself in a BA Economics course.

To go on with my livelihood, I started a family business ‘SM consultants’ with my dad - a franchise business here in Pune for CMC machines, vertical machines, horizontal lay, etc. utilising my machinery knowledge and industry background. It flopped. Why? We had no plans. I learnt a lot from that experience on ‘How not to run a business’. So, we shut down that business.

It was a bad phase, but I completed my graduation.

You’ve got a good experience with Data Science though. How did that come around as a career for you?

In 2017, I decided that I wanted to get into Data Science. I wanted to go back into Data Analytics, but when I started looking out for jobs related to Data Analytics, I realised that the next step for Data Analytics was Data Science.

Since I was good with Maths, I had 2 options - Full-time Financial Engineering course or do a Data Science course, then start with a job and see how it goes ahead. Eventually, I will do an MA and a PhD.

When I started looking for a job in the Data Science market, I realised that companies were not willing to provide jobs to people not having functional knowledge.

Eg. If you want to become a Data Scientist in Engineering, you need to be strong in Physics with the required credentials like BSc MSc. For Sales data, you need to have very strong statistics graduation. Financial, CAs, BA Economics, etc. - and I had the latter. So, I decided to give Financial Markets a try.

Till this point, I did not know of the markets or trading. I knew how the markets work, but not the exchanges despite knowing Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. While doing Data Science, I came across Algorithmic Trading and wanted to give it a chance. Once I started reading books, going through websites, a couple of courses which I did.

My wife works at Syntel. And it is via one of her friends that we came to know about QuantInsti. Once I joined QuantInsti, I learnt so many terminologies that I wasn’t even aware of. Many students grasped it easily but I struggled a bit to understand most of it.

I remember connecting to Rashmi at QuantInsti first, who shared with me the brochures and prospectus for reading - which were quite impressive. And, I enrolled in the course. I just pulled my entire savings from my first company and paid the fees for QuantInsti.

Every decision in my life is a huge decision for me. I have never played safe.

You need to start someplace and I realised this was my chance. My wife supports me a lot and has been with me through thick and thin, financially, emotionally, in every way. It is only because of her and her financial support that I can take such decisions freely.

I got into the course. The introduction blew me away and deeply motivated me to go for it. To be honest, the Stats part of the first 3 lectures declined horribly. I was struggling at home. No doubt I had too much time to study and cover up everything, I feel I was lucky in that.  

Someone can't study straight up for 24 hours, so you try your best to study. It was a struggle for me, but eventually, if you’re really into learning this, you need to put in a lot of effort. Initially, I hesitated from asking for help or in asking questions owing to the classroom education mentality wherein assuming that the teachers help you.

There came a point when I couldn’t keep up, and I reached out to Laxmi from the support team. She has been an amazing help. No matter what the query is, I have always received answers for them; no matter the faculty that I approach, they have always guided me, responded to my questions with appropriate answers and never turned me down.

When you speak with Nitesh Khandelwal Sir, the motivation is on a different level. I really admire him, he is a Gem of a person. I only spoke to him twice and that too during the duration of my course.

There was a rough time in my life, I was affected by Dengue, my Dad got a heart attack, my wife got Rheumatoid Arthritis, my Mother fell sick, my pet Dog and Cat died... It was extremely horrible.

On the learning front, I missed my EPAT batch because of all this. So, I reached out to Laxmi for this. Despite being enrolled in the previous batch, I’m glad QuantInsti understood my situation and enrolled me for a later batch. So, I had no choice but to restart my course altogether. The second time was much easier for me. I did my research and started learning more.

During the restart of my course, I spoke to Nitesh Sir yet again and yes it was encouraging for me. I still do have some family matters too, but I keep going ahead.

Your ambition to keep going, entrepreneurship, unexpected twists and turns. Keep on going, continuing.

I’m from Pune, where there are so many institutes of Data Science that I have explored and been to so many of them, but I didn’t get the kind of feeling that I got from QuantInsti.

The first time I went through the brochure, spoke to Rashmi and other people, I was pretty sure that this was what I wanted to do. To be precise, the fees that I could have paid at any other institute were nearly half of what I paid in QuantInsti. It was affirmed - this is what I want to do with my career.

I came to know that Quant related jobs are available in Mumbai rather than Pune and thinking that I couldn’t get anyplace near my home, that sort of disappointed me. But that is when again Laxmi came to my rescue suggesting that there are remote options also available with our placement cell - and that is how I went ahead with it.

The present role that I’m in is a remote working job, the entire company is online connected remotely.

You’ve mentioned quite a lot about Data Analysis and Data Management on your profile. How are you applying this in your career?

In my present role, I have barely used any Data Science related activities, not even Charting. Currently, I’m still learning the tools and the model of working at my workplace ie. getting to know the process. I’m currently only working on Technical Indicators.

In my previous role, even the basic models of Data Science, for eg. Even a Pareto chart helps you a lot in understanding and identifying the customers, employees, the pain areas within the organization, the leakage of revenue, everything. When you go with data to your boss and provide the insights, he won’t be able to learn of the critical nature existing in his company.

I was looking after global mobilities at that time, how many resources were allocated in which geographies across the globe, based on their skill sets, the clients that they were working for, etc. In the majority of companies, people are hired to simply analyse data. In my company, no one could do it, so since I started analysing, they became reliant on my data.

To be honest, I WANTED to be successful, and earn more money than my wife to just make her jealous as if my remote work wasn’t enough. She has supported me a lot in my journey and one day I want to do the same for her.

Since you have a consultation background and worked in a purely technical role, interacting with people having a trading background, what are your thoughts on:

Data Science

People are not completely aware of the roles that they are supposed to be doing for Data Science. They have this perception that they have a particular software, they need to churn out the insights, and that’s it. What they say is accepted by the company as reality.

Only when you come up with new things is when they realize that there are certain things that they have missed out on and can be pretty useful. So unless you come up with new data points, you are going to be stuck with that.

Data Management

The scope of Data Management is very less in India. I have many friends abroad, but even they use a very less amount of automation than we think they must be using. There is a huge scope for people to be in the data management landscape. It is only a matter of time before it picks up.

What I’ve seen is that people from the field of Data Science are very good with the tools, but they are not very good with Data - that becomes a problem. What happens eventually is that you get bored and you give up.

Gaining and improving Data Science skills

Learning. Learning is easy. Learning tools - Python, Excel, it wouldn’t take time to learn it but practising it does take time. When raw data comes to you, you need to live it, understand it, breathe it. It is only then that you will be able to use the tool properly to bring out the insights.

It is something that will come to you only if you keep doing it again and again and again.

The role of data in the future in trading

I’m not going to say that it is going to be an important role,
I’m saying that it is going to be the ONLY role.

Companies are removing human intervention as much as possible. Even for the financial field, emotions are a very big drawback when you make decisions and human bias is a ‘No No!’ for this field. Data-driven decisions are going to be the most accurate decisions in the industry going forward. It is happening right now and has not completely taken over, but it might happen today or tomorrow

The role of emerging technologies like AI or ML in Algorithmic and Quantitative Trading

They are going to play a huge role. Majority of small-time retail traders in India don’t use these technologies. My father still doesn’t know how to use the iPhone, he doesn’t trust the eCommerce platforms believing that his credentials might get stolen and his account might get hacked.

The older generations still don’t trust technology, the reason being no one has been able to convince them about the right use of these technologies, show them it’s true potential in the market. It has a huge scope in the market as of now. So, not many people are doing it.

What are the plans regarding your career?

While doing EPAT, I thought that on completion, I would be an independent retail trader with support from family and friends and then I would go out and look for investors - that is what the plan was. By the end of EPAT, I realised that this was not going to happen. Why? Doing just this course shows you the path. You still have to walk on it yourself.

So, currently, I’m targeting to learn anything and everything about the markets, trying to teach myself to think like a trader, and “speak” in financial language. So that in the future if I’m interacting with my clients, I should be able to understand them instantly. My previous plan is on hold for right now. But I’m hopeful it will succeed one day.

Is there any message that you would like to give to people who want to become Algo Traders?

Work hard!

That’s it! Put your heart, soul, mind and body into it. Trust me, the output and the rewards are going to be amazing.

We appreciate you sharing your experience with us, Akshay. There is much more to achieve, many mountains to climb and we wish you all the very best.

Anyone who wishes to enter this domain of Algorithmic Trading and Quantitative Trading can equip themselves with the necessary skills and knowledge required to excel in this field. EPAT, through its comprehensive curriculum and hands-on training, helps you do just that.

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Disclaimer: In order to assist individuals who are considering pursuing a career in algorithmic and quantitative trading, this case study has been collated based on the personal experiences of a student or alumni from QuantInsti’s EPAT® programme. Case studies 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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