Physics to financial software

 Physics graduate Owen McBrearty shares what he does in a professional data analytics organisation, how he got there and what it’s like at AquaQ Analytics.

Owen AquaQ cropped AquaQ Analytics will be at day 2 of the Careers Fair on Wed 11th October. Owen will be also joining me at my Physics drop-in on Thursday 12 October, 12 – 1.30pm outside the Magnet Cafe, JCMB.         Drop by for an informal chat!

I work for AquaQ Analytics as a Graduate Financial Software Developer. AquaQ is a new company which offers support and software development for various clients, like hedge funds and investment banks, by providing them with tailor-made programs and code which suit their needs. This is where I, and the other developers like me come in.

The client tells us that they need to do a certain task – perform analysis on data, gather and store information, etc – and it’s up to us to write the code that fits their brief. 9 times out of 10, the best code for the job is written in kdb+, which the employees of AquaQ excel in. And it’s not just the financial sector where kdb+ excels. With the recent announcement that NASA have begun using kdb+ for their projects, you can be certain that the need for kdb+ developers is on the rise.

How did I get here?

I came from an applied physics background – in fact, I’ve just completed a 4-year BSc in National University of Ireland Galway. Through this course I gained many skills that I knew would be useful in a professional setting, but the decision remained as to what to do once I graduated. So, as I came to the end of my degree, I took a step back and asked myself, “What aspects of this course did I like, and what aspects do I want to keep using?” To me, the answer was clearly the analytics aspect of the course – taking a set of data and performing analysis on it to get useful information. I began looking for work in a field that would allow me to develop new skills, while making use of the skills I already had.

Application and interview – preparation and process

After a few days searching, I decided to look for work in Northern Ireland, and quickly found a listing on nijobs.com. “STEM Graduates Required for Jobs in Financial IT sector”. After leaving my CV and cover letter on the website I was contacted by a recruiter, and after a few telephone interviews they arranged an interview for me with AquaQ. To prepare for this interview, I began reading up on the basics of financial trading. I taught myself about bonds and other fixed income types, and a bit about foreign exchange and how currencies vary with respect to one another. On the programming side of things, I revised the coding I had done in my time in university – while I wasn’t expected to know kdb+ I could still keep myself fresh on the concepts I had learned.

At the interview, I was quizzed on my final year project,my grades and my knowledge of coding and fixed income trading. The interviews were conducted in a professional, but relaxed environment, and after a two-stage interview process and a kdb+ challenge I was contacted with a job offer.

(AquaQ are currently recruiting on MyCareerHub)

Company culture and progression

A few weeks later I started as a developer, and was blown away by how welcoming and open the staff in AquaQ were. This isn’t one of those businesses where management are on some abstract floor upstairs – instead management are working in the same area as the rest of the employees and everyone is ready to help & bring you up to speed on what it means to be a member of the AquaQ team.

The training you receive is second-to-none, and any skills you’ve developed, either in an academic or extra-curricular setting, are allowed to grow so that your skillset grows while the company expands. After 5 weeks you are ready to be sent out to clients. In fact, I’ve just begun work for an investment bank in the US and hope to be sent to London in a few weeks’ time.

So, if you want a career in a professional data analytics environment, with friendly co-workers, state-of-the-art training and enviable travel options, AquaQ Analytics may just be the perfect environment for you!

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IBM Universities Business Challenge (IBM UBC)

I mentioned this at inductions and we are now taking names for teams this year. This is a business simulation challenge that our team of physicists did brilliantly in last year, winning 3rd place out of 300 UK teams (many of them from Business Schools).

Fidel Elie,  Ziyi Zhang,  Adamos Spanashis,  Brandon Christman,  Imran MarwatIBM UBC final all 5

If you want to know  more you can check out the overview , the student participant guide. and timetable

If you’d like to be part of one of the two teams we want to submit, please contact Judy Hardy or Rosie Edwards in the School asap.  They will submit names to me and I have to register them on the UBC site before 24 October.  I also need each team to nominate a team leader.  Each team can have up to five team members.  It’s a great experience to be part of and brilliant for your CV.

Here’s how team member Ziyi Zhang reflected on the Challenge:

 “Thank you for being at the competition and supporting us throughout this experience. I realized studying physics not only made us “book smart” but also taught us critical and logical thinking which can be applied beyond academics”

Get in touch with Imran and his team – they’d be happy to tell you about their experience.

Curious about Analytics & Technology?

BlackRock are running an event on Monday for STEM students. It will be on MyCareerHub but it’s short notice so I thought I’d give you a heads-up. Here’s what it’s about:

“In vast oceans of data, we seek the insights that can change outcomes. We dig deep to find the numbers behind the numbers and leverage our technology to provide solutions to our clients. Join us at our Edinburgh office to find out more about the Aladdin Client Service and Technology divisions and the opportunities available in these teams.

Discover Analytics & Technology @ BlackRock
When: Monday 2nd October 2017
Where: Edinburgh (travel expenses reimbursed)
Eligibility: You must be in your first, second, third or final year (SH/MPhys) studying a STEM degree at a Scottish University.
Register: Register and apply for your space at careers.blackrock.com/campusrecruitment