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Rising Stars: An Unexpected Career in Energy Trading
Linda says she never imagined she'd be an energy trader. It's not an obvious jump from majoring in biochemical sciences to analyzing potential drivers of power prices in the electricity market, but the courage to pursue your dreams does pay off.
Name: Linda Zheng
School: Harvard University
Major: Biochemical Sciences
Years Out of College: 2-5
Company: DC Energy
"If someone had asked me a few years ago what I wanted to do in my first job, you can bet that 'energy trading' were two words not in my answer. Yet, in retrospect, the past 18 months at a quantitative trading firm have culminated in one of the best entry-level experiences I could have asked for. They equipped me with in-depth understanding about a key industry and allowed me to strengthen my weaknesses while building a new skill set.
In your first job search, two crucial questions to ask yourself are: one, what type of experience do you want, and two, what kind of skills do you wish to build? Finding an industry that best fits your interests is important, but equally critical is finding a place where your day-to-day tasks enable you to gain different skills from those you already have, helping you to round out your abilities for the future."
"While one of the advantages of working in a fast-paced, dynamic industry is that your days are never routine, there are specific modules that define your day-to-day tasks. I work closely with three to four people on a highly interactive team, focused on understanding a specific regional market. As the one who is responsible for valuation on my team, I spend a great deal of time looking for and analyzing potential drivers of power prices in the electricity market. I am given a significant amount of freedom to explore my ideas, and the only requirements are that my decisions and assumptions are substantiated with quantitative proof and focused on the areas that provide the highest leverage to the portfolio and the firm.
It is exciting when you realize that your analyses and decisions will dictate your entire team's portfolio, and you feel a strong sense of responsibility and accomplishment as a result. More importantly, as a financial participant in the energy market, you are delving into the heart of questions regarding why energy prices fluctuate widely and how these markets can be made more efficient. Now is a crucial time to be involved in the energy industry, and understanding its financial drivers will only become more pivotal in the future."
Did I Ever Think I'd End
"When I tell people that I trade energy futures for a living, the fact that I majored in biochemistry during college often comes as a surprise. More often than not, people commonly assume that quantitative analysts or traders have backgrounds in economics or applied mathematics when, in fact, even small firms have employees from widely diverse experiences. From chemistry Ph.D.s to social studies majors, from government to economics concentrators, our analysts are chosen not based on their specific training in college, but on their raw quantitative and problem-solving talents.
How you chose to apply your intellectual curiosity during college should not and does not preclude you from industries to which you have had no previous exposure. Don't be afraid to follow your interests. I certainly did not expect to be in this industry as a senior in college, but at the end of the day, companies will base their evaluations more on your unique set of abilities than on your specific training in school."
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