Is MQL a bad career skill or is Eastern Europe a bad place for quants?

[Versiunea romaneasca] [ in romana] [English edition]

Meditating clerk

Tough one, huh? A very bad question to put yourself, like a splinter in the brain…

Despite the MetaTrader’s attractiveness and ease of MQL programming, there is still something bad about it. Let’s unravel this a bit. Why are we attracted to markets? Because there are money and success. Success means a prosperous life , in all the aspects of it. And no matter how good you are, even if your yields are good, success may be still very far…

A trading platform , together with a broker , may give you all the tools you need. You may have success. But if the result of this is not satisfactory enough, hell, you could trade for a living and still be unsatisfied, there will still remain the question “What did I do wrong?”…

Thing is, extra money, or money in general, may be helpful if the other elements are in place. Remember “The 5th element” ? Similar case in trading. Money as a result, or even market success, is not enough, if it does not come with that flavour, of living in a big city, working in a hedge fund/investment bank/trading house with people that understand what you say when you speak, meet people of value in both professional and personal life. And I guess that in your small remote town where you can’t even have a beer with someone that understands trading or markets no MetaTrader will be able to give you that, even with all success on markets that you might have.

So the next step is that MetaTrader and MQL programming will give you something of value for your life, for your soul. But it won’t, and here’s why:

1. They want you to have a very good track record – and perhaps MT5 will allow you to get here, doubtly MT4. They want you to come from a prestige university, even ivy league. Hell – you studied at a local or regional school, your diploma is like toilet paper for the finance world!

2. They want all kinda stuff – C++, Java, SQL, FIX. You never used this stuff. Didn’t use C++ nor Java because APIs didn’t have backtesting, never felt the need to record huge amounts of data with an SQL engine and you’re not institutional so you don’t have a clue even about what FIX is, not talking about how to implement it. So I guess your skills are as low as your diploma.

3. You need, as usual, previous experience. Thing you didn’t get officially, because MetaTrader/MQL is after hours. It does not appear in your CV. And even if it does, who uses it in the big finance world?

4. Even job posts are missing.Eastern Europe is a big desert for finance graduates.

You might disagree on 4), but there is quite nothing here. No investment banks – they were  not present before the crysis, and now they were taken over by commercial banks, no hedge funds – who will come here to do the same thing as there? After all, this is a dematerialized business – there is no need to be physically present. And then, who would abandon the lifestyle of a big city like London, Frankfurt sau New York to come in a country which doesn’t value work, education and effort, but values only the tons of money from clientelar contracts ? Sure there are plenty of commercial banks, insurance jobs, credit broking jobs, insurance broking jobs, credit officer jobs. But that thing – the one that pushed you all the way thru your studies, that one is missing. London is the hedge fund country. You might get an entry level job there even if you lack some skills. But who will get you out of the endless pit that is your own country , county and city?

I’m even wondering : why are there still finance faculties in Eastern Europe ? I mean Europe as a whole doesn’t believe too much in markets. It is believed that markets have something to do with americans mostly. And brits, secondly. Eastern Europe countries are the countries of the “daddy” : no markets, trading and hope in a general good, rather a continuous “shut up and get in the program”. The largest void feeling that you have is when you finally graduate and, after years of hard learning, you find the disaster that was always in the front of your eyes yet you denied to see : instead of a thriving hedge fund community filled with people that blunted their elbows on faculties benches and countless reasearch hours, countries are fully packed with tens of thousands of pesky SMEs mostly owned by people who barely graduated highschool… And there are, beyond these, the state , multinational companies and banks. The state will underpay you, and the SMEs will drive you tired to death. The multinationals will do the same, but you will sell your soul better. What about the banks ? These are not the banks you read in your finance manual about : no decesead Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns or the remainder Goldman Sachs. Who the hell talks in big finance world about Erste or Raiffeisen ? Yes, they might want you – there are not too many people willing to market their credits – especially now – or not too many willing to wash their eyes with credit files. And there are some people who ask you astonished but what did you expect to do ? You could be an accountant or a clerk! Oh my God! This is what you understood from finance? And you call yourself MBA graduate? Oh, forgive my stupidity, but the title was Faculty of Finance / Faculty of Financial Management – not Faculty of  Clerks! Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing bad in being a clerk if that’s what you were told you’ll get and that was your goal that you pursuit. You will ask me why I stress for a career in a hedge fund compared to one in a bank. Why? Because there is more fun and it’s more rewardful, and you can use the knowledge anywhere, without being bound to a financial institution (like in commercial banking) or without country borders (as in acccounting). After all, you can’t just not love these guys who fight to get the cash from the market, as opposed to the ones that have the privilege of getting their cash from the interest , without the stress of being right – because when they were wrong, they were bailed out!

But the deceiver faculties must pay. All the ones that market careers that they don’t offer. Because they are just thieves wanting your money. And if your diploma is supposedly worth the money, at least don’t make the mistake of studying forward. Because the MBA guys are really the masters… of deceitness. This is not only a feature of Eastern Europe. It’s more general.

Thing is, there is this strange assumption that education is worth. This is a big, big mistake. Education , in terms of information and competence, is quite not worth a penny. You can Google it! Want free education, go here ! What is worth, is the chance of a career , because career equals success : connections in the right field. And we talk real connections, eye-to-eye, not people listed in your profile. Oh, and they market this very well. You want “education”, you gotta pay tens of thousands of pounds! Don’t even look at an MBA programme that’s just a few grands! Too deceiving. Better try getting a free masters. It won’t be too worth, but at least will not cost! After all, what can be worst than paying lots of money for an MBA with a doubtable effect in career, since you already get bad jobs after faculty ? My advice : get your masters after the career gates get open, but not before, otherwise it’s like throwing money off the window!

Another interesting thing to discuss is the surge of MBA vs. MS. You don’t hear too much about MS nowadays. Everyone wants MBA. Master in Business Administration. Like everyone will be in Business Administration!

Education costs too much to be worth, and deceitness is the only thing that keeps the “education sellers” in business! Don’t fall in the trap! Study alone, connect and try beating the market if possible. Because market is fair. It doesn’t matter whether you’re beginner or experienced. It matters only that the money you make when you’re right to be way more than the money you lose when you’re wrong. If you’re profiting, have fun and use the money like someone that has a career. In time, you’ll realise that you had the career, but it happened in the front of your computer, instead of a financial institution.

Bottom line : you can’t use MQL to get a career, and being a beginner quant in Eastern Europe is quite feeling like an alien crashed on Earth. .

However, we can’t ignore the fact that MetaTrader can play the role of a trading laboratory for finance students and future traders. Because MetaTrader is a virtual trading laboratory. Everything that the wannabe trader and the finance student needs . Universities have old programmes and old vision ; probably things now are the same as when I graduated, seven years ago – that means no laboratory/practice in finance and trading ; students may not even see a live trading room for the time they study at the university – for the same reasons as above. As a result, MT emerges as an alternative educational tool , especially now, when version 5 will cover a multitude of markets and assets types as well as extended backtest capabilities (at least I suppose so). Of course you may argue that MT is not made to analyse huge volumes of data – as the math and statistics packages like MATLAB , S-Plus, or R can. However, it is very unlikely that student or trader will have the opportunity to use an ultra low latency solution. Hence, MT5 will be an equilibrium solution, latent on one side, but giving a lot of opportunities in backtesting and trading. It’s quite a shame that a piece of software can be more helpful in building a career than a university, but at least this tool exists, and our hope is that forcibly, finance students can use tools as MT to bypass the career barriers that the Eastern Europe is so efficient at placing in, and finally achieve the goals that we pursuit, as well as the more lucky british and american counterparts that study in the right places.

3 Responses to “ Is MQL a bad career skill or is Eastern Europe a bad place for quants? ”

  1. Enigma71 on December 2, 2009 at 8:42 am

    A huge load of bitterness, although I can quite understand it. Apparently it is extremely difficult to code in MQL for a living when living in Central & Eastern Europe (maybe except Russia, but I’m not the one to judge it - anyone from Russia wants to put a comment on it?). I live in Poland, I’m also a graduate (studied IT & got MSc, my thesis was portfolio optimization related) and there isn’t a slight chance of getting a job that suits my education and area of interests. During past year I found one (yes, 1) job offer here in Poland related to trading systems, but the job spec stated clearly that it is a manager role and at least 5 years of commercial experience is a must.
    So guess what? Currently I am working in a huge worldwide known telecomms company (after all, money doesn’t grow on trees) and only play around with forex, MQL, money managament, testing and optimization in my spare time. My current job position provides me with a decent salary and high-standard, flexible work environment, but I still feel that it is not the stuff that I’d like to do for my entire life…

  2. Bogdan Caramalac, MQLmagazine sr.editor on December 2, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Well, I don’t think we could ever talk about “coding for a living in MQL”… Tons of MQL4 code have been written since the release of MQL4, and yet effective fx automated trading systems are still ellusive. What yields out of this is the overall lowering of MQL4 code value, since same results in terms of good strategies divide to more and more written code. There are lots of causes to this - Strategy Tester limits and faults, lack of downloaded data (since you have to do it manually, it’s not seamless) , trader misconceptions , lack of institutional applicability… This has lead to ridiculous pay for coding work. My hope is a higher value of the MQL5 code - note because it’s more cryptic, c++ish, but because of the new features like upgraded Strategy Tester and option trading. Once that the new strategies will start creating wealth, due to better market approaches, the whole point of “coding for a living” will start fading away, mutating into “trading for a living”. When this will happen, institutional application will follow, and the traders’ benefit will be dual : from trading as well as from career. Sure , career opportunities will rise slowly, almost imperceptibly, but we live now in a more global world than it was at the launch of MT4.
    You said that you still feel that is not the stuff that you’d like to do for your entire life. The only thing left, that’s still not there , in the life, after you have everything else - the position, the salary, the work environment … it’s the passion, the thing that’s missing. And passion belogns to our identity. When we don’t put passion in what we do, we have the feeling that we “don’t belong”, because we feel it like an aggression to our identity. Sadly, few jobs offered are mostly for level II manual traders or forex marketers that can get people to open accounts (which are not bad after all, because you get to meet new people, so boredom is excluded). However, commercial experience is required because their approach is that forex is a product like anything else to be sold - plus that are required traits that are not common among quants/programmers - like emotional intelligence or assertivity - this is why these jobs come packed with heavy experience requirements. Bottom conclusion would be “have hope, but not bet the house…”

  3. Enigma71 on December 30, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    “and yet effective fx automated trading systems are still ellusive”

    Yes, but mainly because vast majority of traders/coders are chasing a “holy grail” type of indicator. Try to find decent forum threads regarding testing, optimization, money management or position sizing - it’s not that easy. There are just a few around, even on such a huge websites as FF, ForexTSD or MQL4 forum. Instead of such valuable threads, you can find tons of worthless EAs and indicators, which work only with a certain set of parameters and for a short period of time, or - which is maybe even more common - backtests of “brilliant” EAs that earn 100.000.000$ in a year (which of course fail after first several weeks of live trading due to improper backtesting, lack of forward testing and weak money management). So while an improvement to MQL4 and MT4 strategy tester was really a must, the main reason is IMHO that most of people trying to trade FX or other markets don’t understand what are the most crucial factors in creating a successful trading system.

    ” The only thing left, that’s still not there , in the life, after you have everything else – the position, the salary, the work environment … it’s the passion, the thing that’s missing.”

    Fortunately I am not missing it :) I just hope that one day I will be able to quit my day job and focus only on trading and developing trading systems.


    Best of luck in forthcoming 2010, Bogdan. Hope that more people will visit this site - maybe it should be more advertised on the major FX forums?