Engineering Spotlight – with Ashley Chen
Ashley, now a desk engineer in research at Optiver, spent her school years participating in numerous Mathematics Olympiads. After completing her studies in finance 5 years ago, she started as a graduate trainee in Optiver’s IT talent program. She quickly moved into an application engineer role. Now as the lead engineer on a trading desk, and as part of the research team, she works mostly on the analysis of trading data and related automation.
How did mathematics Olympiads help you in your current career?
Mathematics Olympiads played a pivotal role in my development as a teen, in many ways it shaped who I am today. These are the important things that it taught me along the way:
Embrace competition and stay challenged
It is easy to get content and stay where you are, but life is a bit like sailing upstream – you either forge ahead or go backwards. Having participated in math’s Olympiads since a very young age, I learned not to fear competition, not to be overpowered by stress, celebrate success and face defeat with grace. This has definitely helped me manage and stay on top of my current career.
Appreciate talent and hard work
There are always smarter people out there, but I realised early on that talent only starts to matter once you have put in the hard work.
I learned to appreciate others’ dedication as well as intellect, but I also learned to identify my own ability. Learning how to work with others and help each other grow has been invaluable. It is inspiring to be part of a community like this at Optiver. This impacted my career choice greatly.
Think outside of the box
Math’s Olympiad competitions have no fixed formula. I would frequently run into problems that I’d never seen before. That is also part of the thrill because there is no fixed way to train for it, you can only train your way of thinking. Thinking outside of the box, trials and errors, persistence, all these are required to solve a new challenge.
What are your mathematics related interests outside of work?
- Coding (this is my job too, but it stemmed from interest- I started programming and transitioned into data analysis)
- Probability puzzles, brain teasers, logical deduction games
- Sudoku – not really mathematics but still a puzzle!
What do you love about your work?
It is a highly competitive and innovative field. Some of the smartest people work at Optiver. Beside competing with your colleagues to a degree, you are competing against other firms in the market. Things never stay the same. Every day there is a new puzzle to solve.
The industry itself is ever evolving and becoming a bigger part of modern society’s development. With every new innovation in the financial market landscape, new challenges present themselves as opportunities for people in the industry to make things better.
Why did you choose to move to Amsterdam?
My move to Amsterdam was by chance rather than plan, but since then I found very good reasons to stay. It is an international city with small village style living. English is a common language in the city and at the work place, there is a short commute to work – a really appealing factor for people coming from huge cities. The summer is gorgeous! There is a good work-life balance and convenient access to many European cities and other counties.
What keeps you inspired?
- Changes and new opportunity
- Open ended puzzles, problem solving
- A fast feedback loop
- Making a difference
- Seeing how others do things (better) and learning from each other
What makes you good at your job?
Liking what I do makes me good at my job 😊