The Disturbing Reality of Prop Firm Clout Chasing (Confessions of a Jane Street Trader)

Last month, I visited my old middle school and a few local high schools to give talks on career paths, focusing on my experience in quantitative finance. As I sat down to prepare my presentation, I couldn't help but feel a pang of frustration. In recent years, it seemed like everyone was not only talking about their dream school, but also obsessing over getting into their dream prop trading firm like Jane Street or HRT. I found this fixation a bit disheartening, especially considering that many of these students were not yet qualified for these highly competitive roles.

The first student I spoke with was a really intense-looking 16-year-old named Jiahao. He had a strong Chinese accent and seemed to have little joy in his eyes. As we chatted about his goals, I asked him about his math ability, trying to gauge his readiness for a career in quantitative finance. Jiahao insisted that mathematics and programming weren't important for the field, and we spent over thirty minutes debating the topic. When he finally admitted that he hadn't broken even 70 on the AMC10, I couldn't help but feel like a jerk. I tried to reassure him that he didn't need to worry about quant jobs at this stage, but he stubbornly argued that HRT was the only worthwhile firm, and that places like Jane Street were Tier 3 at best, while Optiver was Tier 5. I found his presumptuousness off-putting, to say the least.

This wasn't the only frustrating interaction I had during my school visits. A friend of mine claimed that his higher GPA in math classes made him more deserving of a job in quantitative finance, even though he had only taken precalculus. I tried to explain that math ability isn't just about GPA, but also understanding concepts like expectation and probability. He dismissed these ideas as middle school concepts and insisted that calculus was the key to impressing interviewers. I asked him to integrate x^2 from 0 to 1, but he deflected, arguing that book smarts didn't translate to trading smarts. He claimed that his crypto trading experience was proof of his worthiness, while my expertise in statistics was just a minor skill. Our conversation devolved from there, with him invoking the Dunning Kruger effect without really understanding it, leaving a sour taste in my mouth.

As if these encounters weren't disheartening enough, I stumbled upon a TikTok video of a guy claiming that he wanted to pursue quantitative finance for the $400,000 salaries. His friends chimed in, insisting that it was easy as long as you networked. I couldn't help but feel disturbed, knowing that I didn't land any interviews until I highlighted my top performances in various olympiads, like USACO, USAPhO, and NACLO. The next day, I received a DM from my ex-girlfriend's younger brother, asking for advice on getting into a Tier 1 quant firm like TGS. He brushed off my experience at Jane Street as irrelevant, claiming the firm was "in the dumps."

I can't help but feel like the focus on prestigious firms and high salaries is leading students astray. It's as if they're only interested in the most expensive cut of steak without realizing that it might not be the best choice for them, or even kosher. As a Jewish person, I understand the importance of making choices that align with our values and abilities, rather than being swayed by external factors.

I'm left wondering how to address these issues when talking with students. How can I encourage them to pursue their passions and develop their skills without focusing solely on prestige and money? How can I help them see the bigger picture and make more informed choices? I'd appreciate any advice on this end. Thanks!

Comments (12)

s921, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm not sure there's something to say, other than humbling him with questions/brain games from quant interviews. It sounds like you've already done a pretty decent job setting expectations. As seen on this board with (name your rankings post), there's plenty of people who never grow out of that mindset well into college.

I think big brotherly advice only goes so far. Life experiences, particularly disappointments and failures that make you into a more resilient and well-adjusted human being, have few substitutes. I had people giving me advice when I recruited, but reflecting on the offers I didn't get was probably more impactful.

The kids'll be alright.

ChamyTheLeon, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Either this is a troll post or school really changed since I was growing up

  • 10
  • Research Analyst in HF - EquityHedge

Gosh you have serious issues in life ?!

You are not impressing 16-yo persons with your job ?

Most Helpful
Sinner G, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is a troll post… right? I feel like I'm dissociating from reality and can't even tell anymore

  • 11
  • 1
  • Intern in HF - EquityHedge

BBH is this you? looking at post history its plausible

  • Prospect in PE - Growth

Was thinking the same thing. At least this time the posts are actually funny. 

  • Associate 1 in IB-M&A

give them the straight talk: "listen here kid, you're f stupid and u won't accomplish shit if you don't hear me out. stop f playin around and leave ur virgin virtual friends on WSO because at best they're BO in India and have no f idea what they talk bout. put in the work if u want to be a quant or fuggedaboutit" 

honesty is the best policy

monkey0114, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Think you're deeping it too much. From my experiences at school I remember a lot of kids saying they were going to be a cardiothoracic surgeon or go to Harvard etc when they clearly were nowhere near the level. Kids are stupid and they don't really understand how the world works, don't think this is something to read into.

Although would agree that the rise in popularity in prop trading as a career goal is probably due to trends on the Internet e.g. tiktok of people saying its the "highest paying job out of college". Therefore it's natural for people to gravitate towards that. Unfortunately 99% of them will have a reality check if they ever actually try and pursue that.

  • 1
  • Intern in IB-M&A

bro you are such a good writer

- drater

BobbybananamA, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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