I Work At An Unusual Job

  1. stratozyck Initiate Member

    I was inspired to write this after reading the thread of others' jobs. What interested me was it made me realize my world is so different. I wish I knew more people with jobs that some of you have. I have a well paying job with a potentially rich future. Currently I am still in "entry level" so to speak but I make about 120k/year. My bosses boss makes $950k/year but realistically I don't want to go that far because to get there your life has to become work.

    I have a PhD in economics and loved teaching, but my student loans more or less put me at the poverty line when I taught. Academia is a giant hazing ritual and you don't become middle class, even with a PhD, until about 8-10 years in. I went to a lower school so that doesn't hold for top tier types but even a Harvard PhD is hardly going to be upper middle class even mid career.

    So I left, went to work for a large bank headquarters. I build statistical models that predict the chance of default for large commercial loans. For loans like these, $5 million is considered small. These are loans to build a shopping mall, hotel, or that large apartment complex in your neighborhood.

    Day to day, I sit at a cubicle in a large downtown skyscraper. Suits walk around looking important. Everyones so dang serious. I am a "quant" as in "quantitative" and out of all the quants in the bank, I can count on one hand how many were born in the Western Hemisphere. Cultural differences are kindof a big deal and nothing feels more American than overhearing a Pakistani try to talk to a Chinese guy and a Turk in English.

    My tool is a statistical program called SAS that I literally hate with ever fiber of my being. SAS was developed on punchcards and it has maintained itself as the standard despite being horrible much like MS Office. For you programmers - SAS to this day still operates as if you were feeding it punchcards. I learned statistical programming with more modern languages and SAS is truly a relic of the 1960s that needs to be put to bed.
    Anyways the result is I spend nearly all day and many weekends wrestling with this ancient piece of crp and trying not to lose my cool in cubicle city. I am allowed to work from home one day a week and I try to do my real SAS coding at home with beer to manage the "fun" of coding.
    How fun is SAS? Well I wrote a complex program to cycle through about 65,000 potential default models and there is no useful debugger. Plus, when things fail the errors are cryptic to the point of being useless. All I really know when it fails is "something went wrong and I think it happened in this area." My wife takes the kids to the park when I am into it at home because I scream at it sometimes so much that I literally start crying. I am a grown man by the way. I have also been programming since I was 13 (C/C++ and many others). I have simply never seen a language that is at its core highly discouraging of complex programming.
    I'll could go on and on but I won't. The neat thing is I am good at it and better than my coworkers simply because most are so intimidated/frustrated with it that they give up. I can write much better programs because I yell at it and get it out of my system.
    Other frustrations involve my coworkers -there is a strong tendency amongst many to see "getting ahead" as "trash my coworkers and make them look bad to the boss." This week my model was challenged by another team and they start out the presentation with "We did it so much better than John." My name is not John but for this post it is.

    I was distrustful of their results because the guy presenting is a known liar. He has Harvard on his resume but only took an online class (he went to a much, much less prestigious school). Thankfully his reputation is well known. I went back to my cubicle and was puzzled that they didn't report certain statistics and summary information. Low and behold, I found out they cherry picked the data when I opened up their version of my data. They basically took 10% of it. Oh and in the process, deleted the other 90%.

    We call it "trying to be CEO." If you meet a new coworker we often say "I'm not trying to be CEO." It's a way of saying "I am not going to try to make you look bad in front of others." At my last job at another bank our department had two teams that did not compete yet the other manager consistently trashed us and called group meetings to trash our work, more often than not for no good reason other than he was "trying to be CEO."

    Its dumb because one of my mentors actually was on track to be CEO - he quit and decided he had enough money at age 50. He told me that to actually move higher up, trust is vital and that behavior backfires. Sure enough - that manager that was "trying to be CEO" got removed and shipped off to another group.

    I learned from my mentor that actually trying to be CEO isn't my thing. He gave the first 20 years of his life to it and only after quitting did he get married and have his first kid - at age 50.
     
  2. KinsKicks Well Known Member Member

    Wow. Just wow! You are so accomplished (ack, your 33!!! That's amazing!) and I have serious respect for coding programmers (I hate SAS too btw...it's stupid, and if it were a person, I'd kill it lol). Your work ethic sound phenomenal; I wish I could steal a bit of it :)

    And I think it's amazing what you do, even if you get frustrated by it. It's really great that you have such perseverance when in a similar situation, most people would just quit.

    And poo the guy who's trying to be the CEO...stupid people make themselves look more stupid and it'll only be a matter of time before he starts digging his own hole. I say, even though you have to keep going, you aren't always going to have good days, but the bad ones should never bring you down :). You have serious talent in like a bajillion things
     

  3. JesseMoreira06 Well Known Member Member

    You make 120/k counting while I work my arse off physically building those buildings you guys work in (I'm a commercial construction worker) and I make 70,000$ but after taxes walk away with around 45,000$...where I live taxes are incredible!!! why didn't I stay in school like my mom told me to.

    Good on you for pursuing school, making something out of yourself and being successful. I wish you nothing but the best but remember family comes first, never work to hard , always have time for them!!
     
  4. BottomDweller Fishlore VIP Member

    Trust me, I know how bad SAS is :rolleyes: I frequently feel like screaming at it myself
     

  5. stratozyck Initiate Member

    My thoughts exactly. I take public transit and I am often on the 6 am train and I look around and see these older men clearly wanting to retire but going to security guard jobs. When I see construction workers I have no illusion that what we do is more of a game.

    But in all fairness, we can't find people to do this work. We have to import H1B1 visas because most Americans get a first look at statistical programming and run away screaming. Supply and demand right?

    I've met some of the top people in the bank. They are like politicians and minor celebrities. When you see them, they are incredibly high EQ/high IQ people that seem to live in a completely different world. Their clothes on their backs (and my God, their shoes) are probably worth $10,000. Maybe throw in the watch and it can be a lot more.

    But here is the thing with those people - I asked my mentor why did guys like that do it? To get to that point you have to show up at 7, be in meetings all day constantly, be on point with everything, stay after work for drinks/dinner, and pretty much have no family time. I asked him why they did it because it seems to me, 1-2 years of making that kind of money ($1mil +) I'd quit and go live in a small house and do nothing for the rest of my life.

    His answer? "If you have to ask, you will never become one of them. For them it is fun and less about money."

    I don't know about my work ethic. Truth be told for most of my life I was always pretty lazy. I struggled with mental health issues and didn't really get it together until age 25 or so. My one blessing was I am really great at learning things (and teaching, I miss teaching so much!). I can't really invent anything new myself or charm a girl (except my wife at least once when she agreed to marry me) but when it comes to learning something, I go from 0 to pretty good pretty quickly.

    I started working harder and longer hours when I got married and had kids. Oddly, as stressful as SAS can be at least its a problem that can be fixed. Now a screaming infant...
     
  6. Ohio Mark Well Known Member Member

    Stratozyck,
    You caught my attention by saying you didn't really get it together until age 25 or so. A few days ago we were having a discussion at work about our (co-workers & myself) children. The general consensus seemed to be most youth are not fully mature until about that age. So maybe by "getting it altogether" by that age, you weren't so far off the mark. :) And kudos to you for being open about the mental health issues.

    It's interesting to see how different people measure success. The "successful" people mentioned in your reply (with the $10,000 shoes) seem not-very-successful to me, but I define success as a clear conscience, a close family, time for my family & friends, and good relationships with my neighbors, friends, and church people. When all is said and done, no one will remember how expensive my shoes were, or my title at work, or how weed-free my gardens (or algae-free my fish tanks), but they will remember how I treated them and made them feel. That "screaming infant" and your wife are what is TRULY important.
     
  7. ashenwelt Well Known Member Member

    Success and happiness are not the same. In the last 8 years I have tried focusing more on happiness and it is worth it. Even if I do make less than I did.

    Congrats on doing well so young. I pulled it off at a similar age... but work becomes life. And living takes a back seat. It burns you out. When things happen and in my case I had to more or less start over... you goals change. Personally my biggest fear is having a child so old that I won't be able to enjoy them.

    Always consider your happiness first. Just thoughts from someone who let work become everything.
     

  8. smee82 Well Known Member Member

    I much prefer my work life. I might only earn around $40000 a year after tax but i only work around 20hrs a week spread over 3 or 4 days. The rest of the time i spend with my family. But money goes a lot further in china then it does back home so i would have to earn atleast double if not more to have the same standard if living in Australia.
     
  9. DylanM Member Member

    (this is all using 40,000 Australian dollars as your income after taxes in china, if you meant RMB disregard this reply XD) If you are currently earning about 40,000 Australian dollars, or above 80,000 RMB a year with Chinese income tax brackets, since it sounds like you are living in china atm, how are you making (roughly calculated) $64 Australian dollars, or $51 US dollars an hour? That seems like really good pay for only working 20 hours a week, if you don't mind me asking, what do you do?

    Edit: If I horribly miscalculated anything that's because I was working with china's 2015 income tax rate (oops) which was 40% over 80,000 RMB... it is now 45%. Also I'm not sure at all how income tax is actually calculated in China, so I just added back the 40% by multiplying income by 1.666... it's probably a bit more complicated than this in reality. XD
     
  10. smee82 Well Known Member Member

    Dont worry your not the only one who cant figure out the tax in china i still have no idea how it works. my wife takes care of that.

    Im a university teacher. I earn about 15,000rmb a month plus a bonus at the end of every year and the exchange rate stays around 5 to 1. I would guess my average hourly wage would be around $25 to $50 depending if im teaching at work or privately.

    Theres lots of work in china but its extremely hard to find good and legal work. Most places that hire foreign teachers are untrustworthy and will cheat you as bad as they can. And most places can legally hire foriegners and i ofter hear of people getting into trouble. The other problem is that 1st yr salary is low and you get a raise every yr while you work somewhere but if you change jobs your usually back down to base at the new job.