From Astrophysics to Data Science at First Derivatives – Edinburgh grad profile

Henry Noonan

Thanks to Henry Noonan, an Edinburgh astrophysics graduate, for this great profile

I recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh in July with a degree in Astrophysics. Following the completion of my time at university I began my professional career at First Derivatives. First Derivatives (FD) is a consulting firm based in Northern Ireland specializing in their high speed database technology, kdb+. This technology is used in a number of different fields including finance, pharma, F1 racing and even the space industry.

However in my opinion, the most appealing part of working for FD is the ability to travel around the world and work on these interesting projects. Almost all of the Data Scientists I entered the company with back in August have been deployed around the U.K. and the world (including New York, London, Singapore and Hong Kong).

After joining in August, I was sent to New York in September to start on a surveillance project with a hedge fund. I am in a technical role, which for the moment involves testing a wide variety of the back-end code the team has developed. This project has not only helped develop my technical skills but has introduced me to the financial world, specifically to that of U.S. equities and options markets. Working at FD is a great opportunity to get into and experience the financial world, even if you did not study any finance at university.

How physics helps

Studying physics prepared me well with what I have faced in the professional world so far. Specifically, the coding modules (like computer modelling) and statistical analysis courses I took at the UoE helped me with the coding that I am doing on the job. Completing my senior honours dissertation (amongst other projects) helped show me how to balance time in a long-term project as well as deliver a professional result, all while effectively communicating with my supervisor. Communication is a big part of working with FD; you are expected to be able to interact in a professional setting with clients (it is not just sitting at an isolated desk coding!). This balance of a technical environment mixed in with face-to-face interaction is something I was looking for when I was searching for a job after university. FD has certainly delivered with regards to this.

Application process

In terms of applying to First Derivatives, the application process was quite easy, easier than other jobs I applied to. I found FD through the UoE’s career services website and applied online. I had three interviews: a phone call, a skype call and finally a technical “shared screen” interview on skype where I had to demonstrate some basic coding abilities in a windows command prompt terminal. Following these three interviews I received an offer.

Advice to UoE students

Start early. I started my job search back in October of my final year and I am so happy that I did it then. Many of my friends waited until the summer of graduation and regret waiting so long. Additionally, a lot of the grad-scheme applications close by January so starting on the job applications early is highly beneficial. I know there is a lot of work in the final year of the degree; finding a good balance between university work and the applications is important. My last piece of advice is to understand what role you are applying to. What I mean by this is know what the job entails before you apply for it, especially if you get invited for an interview. All in all I would say that it may seem daunting applying for jobs but know that there are plenty of opportunities out there for you to flourish in.”

First Derivatives are currently recruiting for graduate data science roles & other roles .  Closing date 30 November

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