My success story- how i went from a 2.5 gpa to a senior trader in 3 years.

I was always in the "dumb" classes growing up, but I was good with numbers, and at an early age I fell in love with trading and knew that's what I wanted to do.I was able to squeak my way into a semi- target for undergrad and barely graduated with a degree in Finance and a whopping 2.5 GPA.

If you've read any WSO forum you'd be a fool to think of having any shot of breaking in with those credentials. I didn't listen, I didn't care and despite all this, was still good with numbers, smart, and understood the markets better than anyone in my class.I got a job out of school at a mid sized broker dealer working in middle office ops. After about a year of pissing my life away I passed my Series 7. Not long after I began interviewing with buy side firms to fill middle office roles which gave me the self confidence i needed.

I then got a certification for Python in data science after an interviewer from Citadel suggested i work on my quant skills. Not long after, I landed a gig at a prop firm as a Trading and ops analyst supporting the equity desk. And lucky for me, this was one of the fastest growing prop firms in the industry. After only 6 months I got promoted to be a junior trader. After another 6 months of learning how to actually trade, I moved to a full time trader on the desk trading equities and digital assets.

I love what I do more than anything. I wear sweatpants and sneakers to the office, work from 5 am - 1 pm and will pull about a half a million this year at just 25 years old. I didn't go to a good school, didn't get good grades and didn't come from money. Despite this, I'm working with some of the brightest minds in the business. Don't let anyone on here tell you you're not good enough, or your school or GPA or dads buddy is the key to getting into this business. If you're smart, and work hard you can do whatever you want to do.

I can't for the life of my understand why this forum is so obsessed with your school or the name of the bank you work for. You have one life so just fuckin do what makes you happy. I'd love to answer any questions you guys have about what I do, and how I got here. Love all you guys, and thank you for the years of motivation, good advice, bad advice and everything in between.

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Comments (83)

Jun 17, 2021 - 12:54am

Thanks man! Id argue ops at a prop shop is different than other middle office roles in that it's more of a trading assistant role, supporting your desk with whatever they need. They used to just call them clerks back in the day. I was doing trade analysis as well, back testing theses etc so I had a jump start. It also really comes down to your performance rather than climbing some hierarchy. If you want to trade, work hard and make that clear to your managers. You'd also be surprised how many of the other junior guys aren't interested in trading and want to be a dev or do quant research.

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Jun 17, 2021 - 6:06am

Congrats, agree with you that you can hustle your way through life and that most kids on this forum are a bunch of pussies but let's not forget that your story (as do all success stories) contains a lot of survivorship bias and luck. As a trader, I'm sure you're aware of that

Most Helpful
Jun 17, 2021 - 2:28pm

I totally agree. "Right place right time" helped me tremendously. I just want to make sure no one gets discouraged with all the dick bags on here. But if you grind in networking, applying, interviewing etc, you're bound to have a "right place right time" situation fall into your lap eventually. It just happened quicker for me than it may to others but anything is doable if you're smart and play your cards right in my opinion.

  • Prospect in S&T - Equities
Jun 17, 2021 - 2:26pm

I also have an absolutely terrible GPA. 2.7 but landed my way into a sell-side market maker for cryptos as an Intern. I feel like with this experience I'm one step closer to being able to do what you did hopefully. How important do you think that certificate in Python was to getting you the skills necessary to succeed as a quant trader? I landed this internship without Python experience but am already starting to use and learn it day to day and I feel like if I can work on these skills over the summer and in the Fall I'd be able to at least get to the interview phase with some of these trading firms since I generally can pass the mental math/probability questions. I'm sell-side right now but my dream role is as a Trading in a Prop Firm. I feel like most of the things I've done in Python here was learned more through googling and applying it to actual projects rather than something I could've learned in a classroom. Should I focus on just creating projects in Python to talk about or getting something more formal on my resume?

Jun 17, 2021 - 4:27pm

You have a great start man, keep up the good work. Projects are always great because it's something to showcase. Whether or not a Certification is worth anything is up for interpretation, but having Python or R on your resume is necessary. If you have some level of proficiency, put it on your resume as a skill. Any trading jobs, whether it's at a prop firm or hedge fund pretty much all require some programming proficiency. At the end of the day, the more quantitative your credentials the better. For reference I did "Python for data science" from IBM on edEx. I was also interested in the statistics and data science program from MIT, but never did anything with that.

Jun 17, 2021 - 6:11pm

Damn, I'm in a similar situation academically, but just graduated and interviewing for an analyst position at a small CRE firm near me so wish me luck.  Stories like this get me so hype and this makes me want to bust my ass to become a trader but always thought I wasn't smart or skilled enough.  Those hours sound fun as hell too.  

Jun 18, 2021 - 6:24am

Congrats! Working on my own success story as well. Graduated from a non-target with a 2.5 gpa. Been promoted a lot at my company over the last 6 years, but am currently networking my ass off and getting an MBA to help me break into IB. Reading stories like yours are encouraging.

Jun 19, 2021 - 8:33am

Congrats thanks for sharing I currently work in regulatory/mo ops and know some people who broke into IB similarly although I don't see myself as trader it's always nice to see. One thing I would mention, a lot of people who crossed over had great managers and they were able to move from MO to sales but some had managers who also blocked them.

Jun 22, 2021 - 5:52pm

My answer might surprise you, but all of them are good, or at least worth checking out. If a prop firm is around in 2021 it means some guys figured out a way to beat the market, which is pretty hard to do. Prop firms are smaller and secretive in nature and often don't even have a working website. I know of firms you've never heard of with guys that make more money a year than you or I could ever dream of. I'm talking about real prop firms too, not an arcade firm which some guys mix up.

Jun 20, 2021 - 5:43pm

Hey man, super inspiring story. I'm curious though, how were you even able to get through intial screeneing and interviews with a 2.5 gpa? The absolute minimum cutoff seems to be 3.0 and others 3.5. 

Jun 26, 2021 - 2:24pm

Dark pools is highly underrated - gives some solid origins at to how todays market structure actually came to be. 

"one for the money two for the better green 3 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine" - M.F. Doom

Jun 22, 2021 - 5:20pm

Do you mind explaining a bit about what you base your trades off of? Techniques or supplementary programs and what not. I held first place in a trading competition for my trading strategies course and i wanted to see how I can get involved in more advanced trading.

Jun 22, 2021 - 5:42pm

Hey congrats on the good work! So at most prop firms, the trades put on are quantitative in nature and based off of models. I'd describe my trading as inspired by stat arb and mean reversion. What that means is I like to buy something that's cheap and sell a similar asset against it that is expensive, capturing that spread assuming the assets revert back to the mean (or fair value). Many prop strategies also require expensive software and tech. Timing and speed is very important. Trading is more quantitative than ever, and I'd suggest learning programming, data science and statistics. The best prop firms and hedge funds in the world are all driven by quant strategies.

Jun 23, 2021 - 11:29am

Ive seen a lot of online courses / certificates for programming and quant-focused topics, but I know that there are some that are less reputable among others when it comes to those certificates. What sites would you recommend for learning / getting certified and are there any other resources you used that you found helpful? I know you mentioned some books, but is there anything else you found to be crucial to your growth? Also if you dont mind me asking, what is stopping you and other traders from leaving and trading these strategies on your own?

Jun 22, 2021 - 7:12pm

Is there anything I can do in college to get a head start? Literally anything.

Congrats btw. You have the situation many dream of. Beast. Hard work>luck baby.

Jun 22, 2021 - 7:35pm

For sure- it really comes down to what you're interested in man. This whole forum I've always felt was big for guys trying to break into banking and personally, I couldn't tell you the first thing about banking. So I'd say figure out what it is you wanna do and then focus on getting credentials that can help you break in. And just keep networking and floating your resume out there

Jun 24, 2021 - 1:05am

Hello!

I wanted to say it is refreshing to see this post on here, To know that everyone starts from somewhere and can still achieve good things is nice. I wants to say congrats to you for breaking the stereotype of someone with a 2.5 GPA can make it into S&T and compete on a high level. 

I did want to ask you a couple questions on networking because I made my first venture into Cold calling and I called into BNP and I fell into the HR connect black hole. As someone who is in the industry how did you avoid the HR black hole and what recommendations do you have that is new to the industry? 

Along your journey did you come across anybody that stood out to you that was extremely helpful and some that were not there to help? Did you also find any mentors along the way?

Thank You for taking the time to respond to some of my questions!

Jun 25, 2021 - 8:47pm

Yeah so I was never going to focus on big firms because as you know they have very strict requirements and HR teams bigger than most companies. So I found focusing on smaller firms you have MAYBE a few HR girls, and if you network mo one cares about your GPA, then once you break in, it couldn't matter less. As far as mentors it came down to guys from my first firm who came from back office and middle office roles that were trading. I'd suggest anyone in my shoes to ask where the previous people in other role are now, and to make sure you have the ability to move to a FO position down the line. I'm sure it's pretty impossible at a BB from what I've heard

Jun 25, 2021 - 8:47pm

Yeah so I was never going to focus on big firms because as you know they have very strict requirements and HR teams bigger than most companies. So I found focusing on smaller firms you have MAYBE a few HR girls, and if you network mo one cares about your GPA, then once you break in, it couldn't matter less. As far as mentors it came down to guys from my first firm who came from back office and middle office roles that were trading. I'd suggest anyone in my shoes to ask where the previous people in other role are now, and to make sure you have the ability to move to a FO position down the line. I'm sure it's pretty impossible at a BB from what I've heard

Jun 24, 2021 - 9:55am

if you were to interview an older guy who worked in tech for a few years as a software developer, then traded for a few years at a bank (mostly manual stuff, some RV, some intraday swings, some market making, some portfolio managing), then semi-retired for a few years to spend time with family, and now wants to get back into prop trading, what would you be looking for?   How would you interview those older retired 40+ yr old traders who want to get back in to the business?

This is not just me (tho, it is me)...i know a bunch of 40 yr old traders who were let go...guys who were making 6-12mm per year trading on a bank desk...making most of their money from pattern recognition...but not 20mm+.  Not taking up a lot of balance sheet...just not hitting it out of the park...and so the bank let them go to reduce desk headcount from 14 --> 8 and just told the remainder traders to trade bigger.

If one of these guys interviewed at your firm...how would you interview them?  what questions would you ask, and what would you be looking for?  How would you evaluate if they would be a good fit to join the firm as a prop trader?

just google it...you're welcome
Jun 25, 2021 - 8:39pm

Hey so I'd love to answer your question but would love to know more about what kind of trader you were. You mentioned a lot, so could you provide some more color on that? Also confused if you were trading at a bank post 08 volker, I don't see how you could trade RV or swings, etc. All banks trade now is flow and market making. Can someone in S&T correct me on this if I'm wrong here?

Jun 26, 2021 - 9:21pm

a few categories are exempt from some of the volker rules on prop trading

US Treasuries, FX forwards, FX swaps and physically-settled cross-currency swaps, as well as non-deliverable cross-currency swaps
Also, any U.S. Government Agency debt (Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Federal housing authority debt, etc..), state, and municipal bonds are also exempt...banks can prop trade these all they want with no restrictions (other than regulatory capital).

i myself was a US Treasury trader.

Essentially, the US govt wants to encourage prop trading of securities that make the USD FX, and US govt debt markets more liquid (can you say "self interest")

This means that these trading desks at banks are essentially interest rates trading hedge funds, that also operate as market makers to institutional clients (with some restrictions).  For example, primary dealer banks are required to bid for their "pro rata share" of every US treasury auction.  They can bid back (within reason) from the market price, but they must bid (this ensure the US govt will never have a failed debt auction).  My desk accidentally forgot to add in a back bid for an auction once and our total bids were below our pro rata share, and about 10 minutes after the auction we got a nasty phone call from the Fed warning they would pull our primary dealer status if we did that again.

as a US Treasury trader, i've spent years watching the treasury market, how the market responds to certain types of news and economic data...and then there is expectations vs realty, and other stuff that.  For example, lets say after 4 days of sideways trading activity in am 8-12 tick range, then on day 5 there has been medium size selling for an hour and 10yr notes have traded down 8 ticks from the open, to the bottom of the bollinger band on a 5 minute chart (typically a good place to fade)...then eco data is released where you would expect 10yr notes to rally hard...you see some buying volume in the footprint as expected, but price doesn't move up...and then 45 minutes later, still with heavy 2-way volume transaction, but price is still at that -8 ticks level...what do you think happens next?  Patter recognition tells us that "what doesn't happen is sometimes more important that what does happen".  In this case, it should be clear that there is a large seller in the market (irrespective of the economic data), and the higher probability trade is to sell for another leg lower.  (this happened Friday morning).  

There are lots of other things, pattern recognition, all very different, accumulated over years of studying the market...but that's a longer conversation

just google it...you're welcome
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Jun 25, 2021 - 8:32pm

So the $$ I'm talking about it YOY not YTD. And to provide some color, I negotiated for an extremely small salary for a higher % of my PnL. If you're a talented trader, you'd much rather get a higher % of pnl. That's why I love prop firms over hedge funds, we don't have investors to pay. I mean I know of guys who make millions for their firm and come home with 150-300k. Though, My mind might change when I have a family to feed.

Jun 25, 2021 - 12:09pm

2.5 here too, finance major and far from a target school. barely a target for anyone. didn't even have an internship. have spent time at a top 2 shop and ran a regional institutional sales office for 10+ years at a top bulge 5 bracket.

GPA had me scared shitless for years. key is to get in anyway possible including assistant roles then you are good. GPA means nothing once in the door.

If you hustle you can make anything happen. don't listen to the entitled fools that wasted years trying to be in every club brown nosing every bro. i had no connections either. self made baby.

still on the street 20 years later.

how ya doin.

Jun 25, 2021 - 11:54pm

Let me guess you are a white or Asian male? Some people are given the benefit of the doubt others have to earn it. A good school gives some people the same key your skin color does. Now downvote me into oblivion because you know it's true.

Jun 26, 2021 - 2:55pm

Lol, this is such a negative outlook.. I'm brown and I worked my ass off and I got to a trading gig. I went to community college to start.. stop thinking your skin color limits you, people can sense that vibe by just the way you approach and speak to them… Go in confident and let your work speak for itself. If you show passion for the markets and you're smart enough to carry a good engaging conversation, I guarantee you, you'll be miles ahead of people who you "think" are more likely to get this position. YOUR MINDSET IS LIMITING YOU NOT YOUR SKIN COLOR!! BREAK FREE MY FRIEND!!!

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