An acid test for your career aspirations

Topic: Detailed career opportunities

Length: 2646 words

Executive summary: Almost every profession can be approached with the future-proof Big 5 human challenges and Big 5 singularity technologies in mind, and still be kind of fun and rewarding in itself. So, not just robotics. And, yes, still hating on finance :)

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Show me the money!

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I’ve realised two things:

1) you don’t care about happiness

and

2) you demand precise guidance for your education and career (as opposed to general “whatever makes your heart beat, or help humankind with robotics” type of advice)

 

Nobody cares about your schmakapalbhati breathing, grandpa

So, where does this realization come from all of a sudden? Well…

I get very few questions about, and reactions to, articles about financial investments, about pension savings, about the future of robotics, about fulfillment and happiness vs. fortune and fame. You know, the things I actually write about, the “know yourself”, “lower the threshold to get started”, “champagne spray parties aren’t that fun” kind of posts.

What I do get is an endless stream of demand for career advice: “Should I study this or that?”, “Should I work here or there?”, “Should I focus on a traditional career or go it alone as an entrepreneur?”, “Which industries should I target?”, etc.

I thought I had already answered all of the above with:

  1. Skip (formal, traditional) school
  2. Just say no to finance
  3. Be an entrepreneur
  4. Solve the big 5 with the big 5
  5. Have fun no matter what you do

have fun

Done!

 

Robotics! How hard can it be?

When that, to my great surprise and deep disappointment, wasn’t enough I specified:

Work with robotics (which I thought was self-explanatory)

That still didn’t cut it, apparently, so I tried this:

Think of all the separate parts of a robot; legs, fingers, muscles, arms actuators, sensors, tools; or it’s sub-systems; motion, balance, vision, smell, and figure out what part or system you think needs improvement.

Another line of attack could be visiting every local robotics company you can think of and connect the dots, i.e., identify which companies could benefit from each other without competing. Or, think about ways to combine several different solutions to, e.g., vision or balance, into the same robot.

I got nothing but glazed over eyes and open mouths from that (I know Japan is ahead in both fields that spring to mind, but I’m strictly talking robotics here. Then again, robots… never mind)

BB8

So, I tried being specific:

“Here are videos of bipedal robots, BB8-type of ball balancing robots (5 years before BB8), quadripeds (and more). And here are bipedal robots using gyroscopes for balance, and here are humanoids using fancy software algorithms choosing the optimal foot movement from an internal trial and error simulation of 100 different choices in a hundredth of a second. And here are quads learning from experience, and here are robots actually forecasting when they’re about to be hit and (simulating and) bracing before impact.”

Nothing. Except the occasional “you know a lot about robots”.

I elaborated:

“And here are robots using sound (see round corners, measure distance), laser (distance), stereoscopic cameras (Kinect 3D), radar, x-rays, object databases (to recognize objects and forecast their texture, weight etc. beforehand), memory (gradually build a coherent 3D memory of the surroundings and add incoming/new objects from there), blueprints (it helps knowing the building rather than just looking and feeling).”

“Wow! They can see in so many ways”

or

“Yeah, yeah, schmobotics, but will I get rich more predictably in management consulting than in finance, albeit richer in the latter if I rise to the top?”. “Should I take that job in the economy department of a hedge fund or stay as sales at a big investment bank?”

robot landing

No!

No, no, no! The proper reaction would have been: “Ah, but if we combined sound, laser, Kinect, blueprints, repositories and memory in the same robot, it would actually know exactly what it is dealing with. I wonder if it could catch a baseball if…”, and “What if you built a quadriped that had balance balls for feet and very small such pressure sensitive balls for fingertips (great for gripping delicate things just enough not to let them slip).”

“Perhaps not on all feet or all fingertips. It could be equipped with a gyroscope as well… several…, and a simulation engine that dealt with sudden blows as well as predictable impacts (hello vision!). “I wonder what power source they are using?”. “What kind of ‘muscles’ do they use? Pure mechanical spring systems might be better (already done though).”. “What if it falls down or rolls over?”

“Hey, Sprezza! How come a bipedal robot isn’t much better at managing stairs than humans? Why do they act as if every step is completely new to them? Shouldn’t you be able to give it a hard kick in the back, and it should be ready long before impact, and either bracing enough (judging your weight and kick speed and power correctly) or having another plan for regaining its balance, as well as be able to catch a baseball at the same time? Why not do an impromptu somersault with in-air side-split before making a perfect superhero landing on the stairs?!”

Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t hope for such a question, since monkeys are more likely to fly out of my ass long before that happens.

Ouch!

And we’re still only talking about robotics, and in very crude and tangible respects. I haven’t even updated the above thoughts in the last 5 years and still the kids don’t get it. So, here’s a slight update:

Add “cop” to the mix…, as in robocopters. There are multicopters everywhere now: quadcopters, hexacopters, octocopters etc. for filming, selfies, weaponry, inspection, search and rescue, even plans for commercial airliners. The Avengers live in a large octocopter since several years back.

So, now I can direct young people to Youtube videos of cars that can drive on vertical surfaces aided by copter fans, to swarms of small quads interacting, helping each other maneuver, accelerate, catch things, and soon, with your help, maybe showing emergent behavior as in Crichton’s amazing (his best) novel “Prey”.

Don’t forget AlphaGo’s amazing Go victories, and its future careers in health care, online poker, mining, global warming research etc. Or Alphabet’s other robot ventures (through Boston Dynamics), not to mention all the slithering, swimming, crawling and flying things on display in various TED talks.

The reason I singled out robotics as a good example of a change resistant career, was that I thought the opportunities within programming, mechanics, sales, miniaturization, materials, batteries, solar, project management etc. were self-evident. In addition, automation stands a good chance of being the last industry to be automated.

Apparently these things weren’t self evident, so let’s be a little more specific:

I think robotics has the potential of becoming for this century what the auto industry has been for the last century.

At present there are a lot of stupid single-purpose robots everywhere – some are status symbols, some are not anymore. They are called cars, washing machines, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners etc. Soon, more general-purpose robots will take over more and more household chores, caretaking of sick and old, companionship, telepresence/socializing. I also think robots can become the new status symbol that so far has been reserved for cars.

They had that vision a little prematurely in Rocky IV (released in 1984), but now, 30 years on, there may be just ten years more before its realization. Aibos and copterdrones have been pointing firmly in that direction for at least half a decade now.

Okay, so I’ve understood I have to be much more concrete when guiding you. I do get it, you don’t have the same experience as I do, or the overview and time to think about how certain technologies and human challenges combine to form tremendous career opportunities for you.

My bad.

I’m such a COK (meaning suffering from Curse Of Knowledge) for not being more clear and precise about these things. This post is meant to remedy that.

 

It’s not just about robotics, but all the Big 5

The way I see it is this. If you want to be as future proof as possible, you should work in areas that are hard to automate (preferably the automation-enabling industries themselves) and that deal with the largest and most challenging issues the human race is facing:

“5” Challenges

  • Energy
  • Pollution
  • Global warming
  • Food
  • Water
  • Longevity/death
  • Depression (in the wake of automation, unemployment and abundance)

 

I think the best way to deal with the above big challenges is to be found in the following exponentially developing technologies:

“5” Technologies

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Robotics
  • Nanotechnology
  • Biotechnology
  • Additive manufacturing

 

More specific areas where you could contribute are listed below. Remember that each one of the below are meant in the widest of senses. “Programming”, e.g., means everything from actually coding, to designing user friendly apps or planning out whole systems, to marketing them. The same goes for VR (headset hardware, treadmills, software, games, simulation software…) or genetics (reading the code faster and cheaper, finding useful patterns/genes/diseases, visualization software, marketing) and so on.

Subcategories

  • Programming
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality, vision
  • Bionics (sense restoration and augmentation, X-ray vision, e.g.)
  • Artificial agents
  • Space exploration and mining
  • Artificial biology
  • Genetics
  • Stem cell research
  • Organ printing
  • Driverless vehicles
  • Neurology/brain interfaces
  • Multi-resistant bacteria/bacteriophages
  • Mechanics
  • Motors/actuators
  • Psychology/emotion sensing and manipulation
  • Surgery
  • Health care
  • Pandemics
  • Carbon capture
  • Desalination of sea water (source, clean, transport, finance…)
  • Fusion (chamber, materials, fuel, storage…)
  • Solar cells
  • Housing (prospect, plan, materials, energy, agri)
  • Migration (where to live, how to be integrated, educated)
  • Debt clean-up
  • Entertainment (incl. porn)
  • Psychology (dealing with migration or not fitting in the automated world of the future)
  • Energy storage (batteries)
  • Vertical farming
  • Insect farming
  • Algae farming
  • Ecological (insect fed) fish farming

Since those technologies themselves are in the vanguard, and driven by human creativity, they are the least likely to be automated anytime soon. Rather they are advanced by humans aided by tools provided by the previous technological generation in an ever accelerating cycle. That’s where you want to be, whether it is in engineering, design, marketing, psychology etc.

I guess you need a list for that last part:

  • Engineering
  • Design
  • Marketing
  • Psychology

 

What do we want? And how?

We want a time machine! When do we want it? It is irrelevant!

time machine

by Pixabay

Alright, sorry for that. My apologies.

What do we want? Well, you want money, I know that much, but why do you want it?

“That’s irrelevant, just show me the money” you might say, but it would be wrong.

You want to buy food, clean water, a roof over your head, clothes, other stuff, healthcare, energy for running your tools. Well that and a Lamborghini, fancy food, champagne for your spray parties at Ocean Club, Marbella etc.

How are these things going to be produced? With the help of better and better tools provided by the big 5 technologies.

 

What’s your part in it?

Well, what can you do? What are you interested in? Your education doesn’t really matter, unless you want to become a medical doctor, a lawyer, a finance slave or work at a top tier management consultant. Most every other line of work lies wide open.

Just start tinkering, taking things apart, meeting people, interviewing them, reading stuff, connecting dots, studying online (here are 144 resources) and soon you’ll be the expert, the having ‘right’ education or not. If you’re driven and interested, you could fit 50 hours a week of your future-proofing, on top of the lowly bread winning activity you temporarily have to engage in. Remember how you could play all day long as a child, with no regard to remuneration for your efforts? That’s how I feel about blogging and podcasting, and probably would about tinkering with robot hardware and software too.

After just one single year, your 2500 hours will have brought you close to expert level, in whatever you single out as your area. Imagine where you’d be in 5 (the length of a typical education) if you keep at it.

 

Speed things up with a little acid

I’m not you, and I can’t go through the pros and cons associated with every conceivable job. However, think more in terms of satisfying yourself, than living either vicariously or conspicuously. Think more in terms of exploring and possibly leading for the experience in itself, rather than becoming a CEO or other kind of manager, just for the status and money.

 

Life is not about being a rock star, it’s about rocking and rolling

 

…you still need the money however. Sure.

And you want to feel pride about your work, and not having to fear being axed all the time. Well then, back to the list of future-proof jobs, industries, challenges, their intersections with each other, with your interests and skills; and…

Perhaps, if it’s legal where you are, try 50 ug of LSD to gain a fresh perspective on it all; your interests, your abilities, your aspirations. Reading this post again right before should set the stage nicely. Here is a great 15-minute video detailing the differences between the effects of LSD and psilocybin respectively.

N.B. I haven’t. No, promise. Scout’s honor. Whatthef…, read my lips: I. Haven’t. Dropped. Acid. Or munched ‘shrooms.

Ever.

LSD

 

Do it for the rainbow, not the gold

“But what about finance?”

Well, here’s some food for thought: Finance wasn’t cool or high-paying when Buffett or Marks or Dalio and other finance gurus entered the business.

They did it because they were fascinated by understanding business models and doing research. In short: they did it for fun, not money. They did it for the rainbow; there just happened to be a pot of gold at the end of it as well. If you focus too much on the gold, you’ll miss the rainbow altogether.

Since they began in the business, we’ve experienced 40 years of falling interest rates and more and more (over-)banking, as well as rocketing valuations to the highest point in history (median MC/GAV, which unlike all other models is more than 90% correlated with subsequent decade long average returns).

That’s why and how they got rich, including dozens of followers and wannabes riding the same spectacular wave of financial innovation and money debauchement. I think that trend is about to reverse, leading to much worse prospects for employment, careers and riches.

Thus, I think it’s time to focus on real innovation and production (virtual reality counts as real) instead of the ephemeral Ponzi scheme that is finance.

Oh, and if you claim to have a ‘burning interest’ in finance, investing or management consulting, you shouldn’t care about slaving away at Goldman or McKinsey. Or about being paid the big bucks by somebody else. Open your own shop, manage your own money, develop your own models in collaboration with like-minded people on social media.

 

Rock on!

This is the summary: Rock not rock star.

Fun, unique, human, entrepreneur, problem-solving; not an employed drone in a soon-to-be-automated mindless toil in whore village – at least not as more than a short gig to get started.

By the way, my wolfram just lit up: anything worth doing is future proof. Well, unless you really think driving a truck, ship, airplane and similar extremely automation-prone jobs are meaningful and fun if it weren’t for the pay.

Now, sign up for my free newsletter, and share this article with a friend heading in the wrong direction.

How to craft the perfect CV, letter and interview to land the job of your dreams in finance

This is an article about what to do during job interviews and when writing your CV/résumé, as well as what not to do (i.e., the things I did)

Let’s start with my own spectacular failures – entertaining in retrospect but frustrating for my father (I didn’t really care, I saw myself as a winner for just getting to the interviews at BCG, Andersen, Goldman, McKinsey, ABB Financial Services etc.).

CV letter finance retarded

Do your research

– know what you are getting into, if nothing else to appear interested

To start with I had no idea what I was doing, meaning I just took the free food on the company presentations at school and sent in my papers (applications) to the biggest and the baddest chicken curry subs.

That landed me interviews with most of the largest management consulting houses and investment banks. I can’t recall ever being rejected in that stage, even though it might have happened. There were a lot of application processes and interviews back in the spring of 1994.

 

Trim your application

I didn’t

I can’t see why I was called to all those interviews, since my CV and letters were a mess.

I included exactly everything, despite my only relevant experience being my then unfinished studies at Stockholm School of Economics. I included translating a technical manual for my father, building a model in Excel for his wife, two weeks as a street peddler for a dating agency, speaking French, Italian and Latin (I did have the book The 1500 most important words in Latin), being a ninja and having competed in Tae Kwon Do, and so on…

You will not come through as a renaissance genius that way. Consider every entry as being a link on a chain – do not add weak links.

renaissance you did not make build this CV letter job application retarded

 

Do not stand out

-unless it’s unequivocally positive

In one of my most infamous interview rounds, I got called in for three consecutive rounds, each consisting of 2-3 interviews and “cases”. I was asked to estimate the market for train  signalling equipment in Poland and other real life business scenarios. I thought I did really well and it seemed as if they thought so too, since they kept calling me for another round of talks. At the end of the third occasion, we had a semi relaxed conversation (approximately interview nr 8!) just to seal the deal…

He asked me if I had a role model in literature, and I promptly answered in my then slightly autistic and robotic flow of words “Ford Prefect, in the fifth installment of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy trilogy, when he jumps out of the window at the 26th floor to keep the element of surprise on his side”.

aconcagua ice jump CV letter job application retarded finance

Glacier jumping during summit climbing Aconcagua

“Eh, don’t call us. We’ll call you.”

 

Do not propose genocide

Another time, ABB Financial services complemented their interviews for the position as trainee (a much coveted position among the top students since it entailed 5-6 different one-month positions throughout ABB Financial Services), with a math test and an IQ test.

The managing director Peggy Bruzelius was responsible for the tests this day. I aced the math test and she took that as her cue for some chit chat, excusing the IQ test as a bit crude and not too informative but perhaps still somewhat useful. Nevertheless she was sure it wouldn’t pose a problem for me.

I didn’t think so either, and to make her less embarrassed I said “It’s problably still true that if the lower half on the IQ scale were shot, the upper remaining half would do better. Not that I propose that”.

idleness boring retard 5

These are but two of many, too relaxed, interviews that ended badly when it seemed I had already won them over.

At least at Andersen my dismissal was more to the point: “I’m sure you would do excellently here, but I’m also certain you would leave within two years to join an investment bank in order to make more money

My thoughts: “1) No, no, no, just give me the job and 2) WHAT?! I can make even more money in this thing called investment banking? What and where is that?

bored money blinds retard idlefailure is an option money isnt everything

 

 

How the alpha student became an errand boy

I eventually got a job, but not one of the fancy ones above. I got the possibly lowest of low jobs there were in the finance industry (stock broker assistant at a third tier very small Swedish outfit). I, however, was happy as a camper – doubling my “income” from 1k USD/month (student loans) before taxes to 2k (wage).

Actually it was a little less, but let’s round it to 1k USD/month after taxes or 10-12k/year. That was not what was expected of the top student from the top business school in Northern Europe, so take all my advice on job seeking with a bit of salt :)

 

The Retarded Employer

Fortunately for you my, career turned out okay and I eventually found myself screening applications and interviewing applicants.

Here is my advice for applying for a job in finance. It’s not comprehensive or statistically significant. It’s just my view, my way, from my perspective as an employer at one single firm – The European Hedge Fund Of The Decade. By the way all people we hired turned out to be extremely valuable and useful, so we apparently picked the right ones, and they made sure they were picked by sending the right papers and providing the right answers at the interviews.

 

Here is how to write a CV (what caught my eye)

Language – your CV/letters should be correctly spelled, punctuated, natural-flowing and not too formal (like a serf addressing the king – those get dumped in the big round archive right away). Write naturally, relaxed, with not too big words unless necessary.

Let many people read it before sending it. It’s worth it.

One of my best hires ever was a guy with slightly less impressive merits (schools and grades) but with the best flowing letter of all applicants. My partner said (a weak) no, but I still got to interview him as a wild card. He passed the quantitative management consultancy “cases”, got the job, and stayed on for 8+ years and became partner.

Keep it short – the CV and letter should be respectively maximum 2 pages. MAXIMUM! I can’t really see you needing more than one page for either, but perhaps in extreme cases a second page might be needed.

Clarity and space is of course more important than cramming stuff on one page just for the sake of it, but first think about cutting. Imagine you are about to hire yourself. What is really relevant for the employer?

Do not include foreign languages you don’t intend to use. Do not include that lemonade stand in 4th grade or your 8 week summer job. Do not include jobs shorter than one year full employment unless they are directly relevant for the position. Do not include every hobby you have ever had, or sports you have ever practiced – just the best, formative or current ones.

Achievements, experience and skills should be the focus, not (long) job descriptions

Include character forming experiences such as organized sports (swimming, football, computer gaming, programming etc.) -anything that made you attend practice several times a week for several years, made you rise early, that disciplined you (it shows you understand the value of “long term” and of taking orders…). Achievements!

Winning – If you won anything hard that didn’t include luck, show it off: a math contest, a scholarship, a national chess tournament, a computer game. Achievements.

Excellence – climbing a high summit, swimming across the English channel, making and selling a computer program. Achievements.

Example of a CV, perhaps a bit too boring for my taste, but the structure and spacing are good enough (though not the content). Please note that I was publicly shamed on Twitter by the finance gurus at Wall Street Playboys before clarifying the latter.

 

Once you get called to an interview, here are some pointers:

The interview

This is what I was looking for, and what I think you should aim for

Analytic versatility: Demonstrate that you manage switching back and forth between a bird’s eye view and minute details, that you can keep track of data points from both perspectives and draw conclusions from combining them.

Interest: Show that you are actually interested in the tasks*, not just the potential winnings – that money is secondary and would come anyway. Personal investing experience in some form is mandatory. 

*understanding business models, various accounting methods, micro/macro, reflexivity (feedback loops)

so you want to work in finance retarded hedge fund manager

Markers of genuine interest, in stocks, valuation, business models, human behavior and micro/macro interplay, rather than money, were inferred from the applicants casual talk about his life, his investing experience, his stock picks, his personal life. This was of course highly unscientific, but it’s what I did.

Organized: (applicants asked questions during case studies, wrote down the answers, read the interviewers’ intentions and behavior, knew where they had written what and why, and could use it for further calculations and conclusions)

Calm: (applicants wrote things down methodically in their own time)

Clear: Able to communicate conclusions and results in layman’s words, rather than trying to sound professional (all the best investors and analysts that write typically write in very simple sentences and paragraphs, see Roach, Dalio, Klarman and many more). Being able to talk about personal investment decisions without stolen soundbites is just as important.

 

Focus on concrete skills: My hiring style had its emphasis on tangible competences and all but ignored extra curricular activities. That said, exciting and unusual jobs, hobbies and other experiences, that were hard, tough or complicated were markers of excellency for me.

Subliminal influence: Flatter subtly and copy the employer’s body language. Read Dale Carnegie’s book (see my summary and review here) about influencing people, and possibly Neil Strauss’ The Game,… or then again, perhaps not the latter.

Remember names. Firm handshake without overdoing it. Do not interrupt, ever! If you say something you sincerely regret, take it back immediately and clearly, and move on.

Be one of the guys, whether that is being a vegetarian, a tee-totaler or a banana chumping gorilla. Don’t stand your ground unnecessarily during the interview. Avoid subjects that matter highly to you if you don’t agree, maybe even lie outright (you don’t have to stay at that very firm your entire life, but you need to get in).

 

Summary

Really? How do you summarize this article that is a a kind of summary in itself? Well, here goes; the ultra short version of landing your dream job in finance:

  • Write a short CV and letter with immaculate language, and focus on achievements and skills
  • Be clear, methodical, interested and adaptive during your interview. Don’t space out, but demonstrate your wide-ranging analytical skill.

cv interview job finance application