The Case for Quantitative Skills

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In general, the dirty secret to wealth is most paths are fairly unglamorous, and the magic of compound interest and investments gets us usually to a comfortable retirement based on normal investing rules. That said, there’s some fairly universal truths in the current world.

1. Quantitative skills pay

If you’re going into finance, tech, even writing – you will [perform better if you understand]:

  • Computer science
  • Statistics and higher maths

than someone who doesn’t. It’s true in literally every single white collar job I’ve seen. The world runs on code.

You are at a legitimate severe disadvantage not learning how to code, and you’re seeing the demands of coding seep into traditionally more artistic fields like design as well (everyone wants a unicorn). There is nothing you can do at 20 skills-wise more valuable than learning how to code, and having at least up to calculus level understanding of math. You don’t need to be an expert by any means, but you will look like a god damn savior if you can automate even extremely basic tasks at work, or actually know how to write stuff in Excel. I’ve heard people belly ache about coding or say it’s not for them – unfortunately literally all the high paying careers now kind of require it, so unless you plan on being a TikTok star or being born rich, it’s probably your best path here.

2. Entrepreneurship, net, sucks

It’s glamorous, but especially out of school, the amount of home runs hit [is smaller than the] amount of failed companies. You learn a lot though, and I do recommend everyone try to start a company at least once, especially young when your risk is low. You learn a lot more, and you learn a lot more multidisciplinary skills by doing so. You will probably fail. I failed multiple times. You fight with your cofounders. You network. Please don’t do the faux pas of introducing yourself to others as CEO of nothing, and also don’t try to pitch to tech students “I’ll do the business side of things”. Fact of the world is unless you are God’s gift to negotiation and marketing, the #1 issue for an early stage startup is building, and you want to not be deadweight. Ideas are cheap. Execution is literally all.

3. Understanding what people want

So this is the communication side of things. You’re an awesome quant and you mastered Ito calculus or whatever? Ok, you have interviews. Or maybe you want to raise something. Or maybe you have a cool startup idea or new coin. We all operate in a society, and every job you do, whether you work for someone or for yourself, is selling yourself to others as the solution to their problem. You need to craft a narrative to pitch yourself - why are you the best for the job here? Why should they trust you in the first place?

A lot of insanely brilliant people have incredible difficulty synthesizing an explanation for their research and background. Consequently, they get undervalued. At the end of the day the more quantitative and deep you go, the harder it is for a non-quant to understand not only your value (bad), but in some cases understand what you do at all (even worse). It’s hard to get a promotion or a job or a new contract if no one understands the point of your role in the first place! Practice writing every day. For me, I write technical threads and blog posts not just for my own amusement or to teach others, but simply to hone my ability to write and communicate. If you can explain to a normal person the finer points of stochastic calculus in a way they actually understand, even at a basic level, something more than when they started reading, you will eventually be successful. My golden rule is to try to always break down concepts to explain to a 5 year old. Not only does it help me refine my craft, but it helps me understand things at a deep level. And finally, the last thing.

4. There is no free lunch

There is no thread, there is no secret strategy, there is nothing you will do, trading included, which is a get rich quick scheme. Those exist to separate fools from money. There are two elements of success - luck and work. Usually one has to have both to succeed. Usually, but not always, this means if you have work ethic, you will fail multiple times before you succeed. Or grok it out for a while. Sometimes manna shines on you and you hit gold on your first one. It’s probably the exception rather than the norm. Don’t give up. No one becomes a success overnight, and those who do rarely keep it. You will get there by building your skills, by being curious, and by working hard. That’s it, really. And maybe learning how to do some fucking math. Fin.

Oh, also freebie final point - network with smart, mostly humble, and actual successful people. I’m not going to namedrop them here since personal privacy, but I’ve learned a ridiculous amount from talking to others who freely give advice and time. Try to build a charlatan filter.