Hello world

David Ma
2 min readMar 29, 2017

After a long period of grueling internal debates, I finally handed in my resignation. I almost felt sick that day, but as it usually plays out, I do feel much lighter now.

Five years ago around this day, I had just finished my last university exams. I was ready and excited to work at Two Sigma Investments as a researcher. I wanted to see with my own eyes that it was truly possible to “beat the market” over a long period of time. That’s what I have been working on for the last five years, and I had a lot of fun doing it.

We employed scientific methods backed with statistical rigor. We favored logic over emotions, and data over anecdotes. But over time I learned to appreciate the methodology at a human level. The data is ultimately a product containing countless small failures and hidden complexities. I learned that I, and probably most people, inevitably introduce errors in the research process. I am constantly translating imperfect ideas into processes that will be followed to the letter by a machine. Amidst all this uncertainty, the business must proceed. Ship. Time is limited. The constant battle is figuring out which detail to sweat over, and which to gloss over. In the end, the market is the final judge of the work.

My decision to quit was a surprise in some ways. The job was relatively challenging and engaging. I was economically more comfortable than my parents had ever realistically hoped for (but not fuck you money). My hours were reasonable at 50 hours per week with some flexibility. I was even told I was doing well and climbing the ranks.

That said, there is so much more than quant trading in the world. I would regret not exploring if I spent all my life doing just that. Also, there are other ways of running a successful business. The “Two Sigma Way” is just one of them. And lastly, there are so many great people out there to work with. Instead, the secretive nature of my role at Two Sigma naturally restricted my interactions along some dimensions.

Looking forward, I don’t know where I’ll put my time and energy next. I am keeping my options open for now, but I do have a few avenues for exploration. Perhaps catch up with the state of open source technologies — the field of deep learning is so hot right now that spending some time to learn about it is the norm and not the exception. Or try working in a small cohesive team where the lows are dreadful and the highs are the greatest joys of life. Or explore the possibilities around blockchain technologies (I rather call it ‘trust technology’, but more on that another time). Only time will tell.

For the first time in my life I don’t have the pressure and anticipation to perform and reach the next step.

For the first time I can truly say “Hello world”.

Thanks to Diran Li and Joma for reading drafts of this.