CAREER ADVICE

Ask a Trader: Preparing for Day One as a Trader

May 13, 2019

As part of Citadel Securities’ trader development program, The 110, we provide an opportunity to ask questions to some of Citadel Securities’ experienced traders from our private Office Hours Facebook group.  We want to share both the questions and answers with you. This month, we covered questions about how traders ended up in their current roles—from everything to selecting college courses to the importance of learning from your previous mistakes. Don’t forget to tune in next month when we answer more questions on a new set of topics.

What college courses helped you prepare to be a trader?

There are a variety of college classes that will help prepare you for a successful career as a trader at Citadel Securities and enable you to effectively collaborate with engineers, scientists, and other traders to revolutionize how financial markets operate. Mathematics courses, like statistics and probability, are undoubtedly essential. In addition, scientific courses help develop your ability to approach problems through the scientific method. Finally, taking computer science courses will empower you with the basic coding skills needed to partner with others on improving trading platforms. Having a balance of both quantitative and non-quantitative courses will lay a solid foundation for you to be the best trader you can be.

Is “classic stock-picking” a helpful skill for a trader at a market maker?

While an understanding of fundamental research and investing is helpful knowledge for a successful career in our industry, “classic stock-picking” is a more of a useful reference for how investment firms approach the markets – compared to a market maker such as Citadel Securities. As an options trader at Citadel Securities, Jack Jablonski explains in this video that no two days look the same – one day you may be very involved in following a single stock as an equity options trader because it’s active and related to a timely event, such as a company’s quarterly earnings report or a breaking event, and another day you may spend your time conducting research and data analysis to improve trading systems. This flexibility and day-in-day-out responsiveness to the markets differs from the type of process that underpins “classic stock-picking.”

What mistakes did you make that we should try to avoid when we start our careers?

Making mistakes is an unavoidable part of being a professional – even as one of the best of the brightest in the industry. Approaching mistakes as opportunities to learn and become better is an important mindset to embody when working at a firm like Citadel Securities. Knowing that you’re likely to make a mistake or two throughout your career will keep you grounded, as acting with too much hubris can be detrimental. The following are additional tips to keep in mind to mitigate the risks of mistakes:

  • Ask questions without someone else asking you. To understand the markets, you have to be willing to challenge pre-existing assumptions and accept that you may not have the answer every time. Use your knowledge of the scientific method to challenge your assumptions even before someone else asks you to validate your ideas.
  • Take peers out for coffee. At Citadel Securities, team members have the opportunity to take on significant individual opportunities. With that in mind, it can be easy to let days go by without making an effort to learn from the experiences of peers on other teams. Be sure to connect with your peers on other teams to catch up on what they are working on and what they’ve learned from their recent experiences. We recommend holding yourself accountable to take one peer out a week for coffee.
  • Think about tomorrow, today. Part of being an effective team member is anticipating the needs of our clients and our team. To be successful, we need to simultaneously look for opportunities in the markets as well as internal opportunities to improve our trading platforms. Carve out time on a regular basis to assess how our systems or processes could be improved in the future.

In all, this commitment to mitigating and learning from mistakes will allow you to exhibit a special combination of passion and perseverance that we reference as grit. This grit will drive your success on day one and through your entire career.

Have questions of your own that you’d like answered from our traders? Be sure to ask on Facebook.

Interested in learning more about The 110? Find out how you can join the next generation of elite traders through tailored programs that include coursework, trading rotations, case studies and mentorship opportunities here.