Chasing my White Whale

Moby Dick

Learning to program has been my white whale.

Though I started college as an electrical engineering (EE) major, I came out the other side with a BA in Business Economics.  All my friends from high school completed degrees in engineering or computer science.  This was during the late 1990s, I enrolled in Intro to C++ for my last semester.  I figured it might come in handy one day.

Unfortunately, I was also suffering from a major case of senioritis.  I found going to lectures difficult.   This made deciphering the esoteric references to strings, arrays, and loops all the more distressing at 1am before an assignment was due.  I recall many a night calling my kid sister who was majoring in computer science at Cal for assistance.

I ended up dropping the course late in the term — forever leaving a bad taste in my mouth whenever the subject of computer programming arose.

Over the intervening dozen years, I have seen a few of my high school friends become millionaires because a) they caught the tail end of the Internet craze, b) became master programmers and successful entrepreneurs, or c) joined companies that blazed trails involving computers.  I have always been happy for them; I assured myself that that was not my pot of gold because I never went down the programming path.

Instead of pursuing the path of computers, I thought I’d go where the money was: finance.  My first job was on the foreign exchange desk at Bank of America in New York.  At the time, all of the traders came up the normal way.  They started as brokers, junior guys in back office, or straight out of college like me.  None of them were quants.

After six months, I became interested in the desks that seemed more quantitative — especially energy trading and structured credit derivatives.  These desks wanted people who were good with numbers.    I also noticed that several people on the structured credit desk were engineers.  Unfortunately, the events surrounding 9/11 derailed my Wall Street ambitions.

Fast forward ten years, I’m looking at the world around me — it’s more reliant on computers than ever before.  Again, programmers have become Internet millionaires.  Computerized trading dominates trading volumes on Wall Street.  Oddly enough, I started my own semi-Internet company in Ghana.

Given how the signs all seem to be pointing to a world dominated by more algorithms rather than less.  Am I too old to learn new things?  Well, I’ve decided to get back in my boat and chase my white whale.

Wish me luck!

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