If one hedge fund has done anything to popularize the use of Python in the pursuit of alpha, it’s Man Group. Starting with its AHL quant fund, Man began using Python back in 2011. It’s been looking for exceptional Python coders ever since.
If you have aspirations to code in Python for a fund, Gary Collier is the person to know. Collier runs the 150 person ‘Alpha Technology’ team at Man. In his own words, the team is a bunch of, "very high calibre engineers” who use Python to build platforms and systems that, "seek to help our investment professionals generate alpha. Technology-wise, this means, “everything that informs a buy or sell decision, and anything from high performance computing to building tools that allow (for example) a portfolio manager to look at risk.”
Collier and his team are interested in discovering new Python talent. Early next month they're running a 10 hour 'open source hackathon in London,' for people, "excited about technology and open source software." The hackathon will happen in Man's London headquarters. “We have an office on the bank of the Thames and a big space on the ground floor that acts as our canteen and looks out over the river. It’s the perfect place for a hackathon, with lots of tables and long benches,” says Collier.
If you want to participate in the Hackathon, you’ll need to be proficient in coding in Python and to have a history of contributing to open source libraries (Man's developers have a history of adding to PyDev, NumPy, Pandas, MDF, MockExtra and Arctic, so it might be good to start here.) U.S.-based candidates can't apply.
This doesn't mean, however, that all coding jobs at Man require extreme Python proficiency. When Collier hires normally, he says he’s “language agnostic.” – “I look for very good technologists first and foremost. If they already know Python, great. If they don’t then a good technologist will pick it up within a few months” The same applies to financial knowledge: “If they know finance, that’s great, but it’s not a prerequisite.”
Collier’s emphasis on technological excellence means he’s also not that worried about formal qualifications as a necessary precondition for hiring. Although most of his team have at least a bachelors degree from a top university and some have a PhD, Collier says three or four people onthe 150 person team don’t have a “formal degree level academic background” and were self-taught coders from the age of 16.
“They came by a different path and arrived at the same destination,” he says. “One is in data engineering, another is running our core infrastructure team, one is on our small quant analytics team and builds functions for derivatives pricing. - He’s been teaching himself maths and we have sponsored him to take maths courses.”
What matters most is excellence, says Collier. “We look for bright and intelligent people who are passionate about technology and who want to get things done and see software actually serving the business.”
Applications for the hackaton opened earlier this month and Collier says there have already been 120 applicants for what are likely to be 100 places. Successful hackathon candidates will already be proficient Python coders who are able to “make a meaningful contribution to open source packages,” he says. “It will be a very focused day, so not an event for people looking to learn to code”
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