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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CERN @ KB: grad roles & work experience offers

CERN will be on campus on 4th October – full details and signup will be on MyCareerHub

CERN offers tremendous opportunities for the right students to develop their skills and understanding through some of the most exciting and cutting edge projects in engineering, computing and physics.

Research STFC

Come along to this event to get an insight into engineering at CERN, with a talk from a senior CERN engineer on the experiments, facilities & what their work involves. This will be followed by a Q&A for which he will be joined by a representative of the CERN HR Talent Acquisition team who will introduce all opportunities at CERN.

CERN’s Summer Student Scheme and Technical Studentships are being advertised now on the Science & Technology Facilities Council site. Find out more on the STFC website.

Graduating in physics with a 2:2 or a 3rd?

Some level-headed advice from the Institute of Physics.

Most people don’t hope to get a 2:2 when they enter university.

Neither are thirds the things that dreams are made of. And with most postgraduate courses and high-powered jobs in research being limited to those with 2:1 and up, you have the right to be a bit miffed. But, on the other hand, the world has by no means ended and you have the rest of your life to live, so what’s your next move?

Read on and take heart!

Find out more

Software engineering job based at Kings Buildings – they want a Physics grad!

Great software engineer position with an SME (small medium-sized enterprise) based up at KB  – Netrologix. It is a really interesting SME to get experience with and there is the possibility of an extension to the contract.

Vacancy on MyCareerHub but closing date is 14th August so apply soon!

Careers Scholarship Summer Programme 2017

It was great to work with some of the students doing project placements as part of this programme.  It’s a competitive programme open to students in later years of their BSc or MPhys.

This year I offered two sessions. The first one was co-delivered with Ross Galloway, the academic in the School whose remits includes this programme. This was to prepare students for their placements (academic & industry), address any questions and concerns and help them move confidently into their project placements.

The second one today was to help students  reflect on what they did, what went well, what went less well, how they coped with the challenges and how it might influence future career plans.

Importantly, it was also about  how to present what they gained from doing the project. There was lots of animated discussion, constructive peer feedback and hopefully everyone felt a lot more confident  about how to talk about their project and what it means they can do.

I also think those in the group today will do a much better job at the end-of-placement presentation event as well as in future applications, interviews and networking events.

Featured employers: Edinburgh Graduate Recruitment Fair

Physicists fit really well into what we do. They seem to have the right skill set of scientific thinking, problem solving and data interpretation.

Jonny Press, Director, AquaQ Analytics

AquaQ Analytics logo   semefab logo

I am just back from the EGRF where I met Lorraine Carr from Semefab and Jonny Press from AquaQ Analytics. Both employers are really keen to recruit our physicists.

You can find them and their vacancies on MyCareerHub

One of current students, Jacob Smith is just about to start a summer placement with Semefab. I will be asking Jacob to do a couple of guest blogs over the summer.

Physics degrees and the Physics of trees

TreeHug

Hi, I’m Sam Henderson. I graduated with an MPhys from the University of Edinburgh about six months ago. In this career orientated post, I’m going to let you know about my EngD. Importantly, I’ll let you know how I got the job, as well as what I see as the pros and cons.

So, I graduated, hoorah. Like many people, I didn’t manage (nor did I want to) jump straight into a graduate scheme or PhD. As a reaction to five years I had spent hunched over a desk solving differential equations, I initially spent just looked for jobs that would get me outside. After a few discussions, I settled on criterion for the jobs I would look for.

Primarily, I wanted sensible hours. I know who I am, and there are too many books, films, games, mountains, valleys and people to read, see, play, explore and meet working entrepreneurial hours. Additionally, I didn’t want to spend the next few years of my life in front of a screen. So, I applied, and applied and applied and… nothing, until I saw a position in Forest Research (Forestry Commission’s research division) on the civil service jobs website.

I applied for it even though I wasn’t confident I met the criteria (I was right, I didn’t get the job or even an interview). However, my application was seen, spotted by the person who would become my boss. A few days later, I got an invitation to come to an interview, which turned into an offer, which turned into my job.

My EngD is a collaboration between the University of Surrey and Forest Research (the research division of the Forestry Commission). For those who don’t know, an EngD is a doctorate, but one where you primarily work in industry. This means that you get an amazing qualification, experience working for an employer, and, you get generally get paid more (roughly £18-24K tax free).

For those interested, in my project, I’m studying if and how changing water conditions can cause cracking inside living trees. To do this I’m using a combined experimental and computational approach. Experimentally, I’m using a custom-built MRI machine to look at the water distribution inside living trees. I’ll use the data from experiments to help me develop a computer model of the tree cells, which will incorporate realistic fluid dynamics.

I’ll admit I have had to make some compromises. Truthfully, a large amount of my work is desk-bound, and I have had some long days writing reports for deadlines.

On the other hand, I get to work in a scenic location on a project I care about, I get to cycle to work, I get to grow/perform experiments on real trees, and I generally have a regular 38 hour working week.

Something that is important to remember about EngDs, is that each project, and each company is different. Do your research, and, if you have the luxury, think about what is important to you.

My experience of reading a stranger’s words on the internet has been that I can only take one point away. If you feel the same, take with you the comforting fact that with some time and planning, and a bit of work, physics can probably get you where you want to go.

I’m totally happy to be contacted by email, if anyone wants any advice from a student who was in a similar place to them.  Sam Henderson j.s.henderson@surrey.ac.uk

Big win for the School of Physics – 3rd place out of 300 UK university teams

IBM UBC final all 5The IBM Universities Business Challenge (UBC) Worldwide is the world’s longest established undergraduate simulation-based competition designed to develop employability and enterprise skills and starts with 300 teams across the UK.

Facilitated by Susan Bird (Careers Consultant, School of Physics & Astronomy), the School submitted two teams, one team making the semi-final in Edinburgh. After a keynote introduction from Shelagh Green, (Director, Careers Service), the teams did a series of intensive, timed business simulations culminating in a 60 second innovation pitch.

The Physics undergraduate team – students Imran Marwat (team leader), Fidel Elie, Ziyi Zhang, Adamos Spanashis and Brandon Christman – not only won 2nd place at the semi-final – but also won Best Business Idea on the day, beating 19 teams from other UK universities.

The School funded the team’s travel & accommodation expenses to the London final, the team was mentored by Mike Ross from Standard Life Investments & supported by the Careers Service – a good example of how we work with Schools & industry partners to support the employability and professional development of our science students.

The UoE team of physicists went on to win third place in the final gaining a prize of £250 and beating a number of business teams from universities across the UK.  A real coup for the School of Physics & the University of Edinburgh.

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.

Combined with creativity and hard work, physicists can be successful in any field of our interest. We should all branch out to areas outside of our textbook, and explore our hidden potential.”

Free course to help you manage your digital presence

The University is launching a new free digital footprint MOOC (massive online open course) which will begin on 3rd April and is now open for registration.  The MOOC has been developed with staff across the University including the Careers Service. The MOOC  features a video of my colleague Rebecca Valentine discussing how learners can create an effective online presence. They also have a blog

Find out more  and register to take part