17 September 2013

The Intriguing Story of a Former Goldman Sachs Techie

Finance professionals, especially of the MBA variety, are fascinated with the Wall Street. High finance is seen as a gateway to stratospheric riches and fast-paced career growth.

It is not just the quant/finance guys who make loads of money on the Street. There are the ‘techies’ who create, operate, and manage the backend operations of computer terminals that enable high-frequency trading, which rake in the moolah. The techies also take home fat salaries and big bonuses.

So, what happens when a top-class techie gets arrested by the FBI after being charged with theft by his former employer, Goldman Sachs?
Source: US News

Vanity Fair
has a very interesting piece on the life and times of Sergey Aleynikov, by Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short and Boomerang.

A month after ace programmer Sergey Aleynikov left Goldman Sachs, he was arrested. Exactly what he’d done neither the F.B.I., which interrogated him, nor the jury, which convicted him a year later, seemed to understand. But Goldman had accused him of stealing computer code, and the 41-year-old father of three was sentenced to eight years in federal prison.

Here’s an excerpt:

And then Wall Street called. Goldman Sachs put Serge through a series of telephone interviews, then brought him in for a long day of face-to-face interviews. These he found extremely tense, even a bit weird. “I was not used to seeing people put so much energy into evaluating other people,” he said. One after another, a dozen Goldman employees tried to stump him with brainteasers, computer puzzles, math problems, and even some light physics. It must have become clear to Goldman (as it was to Serge) that he knew more about most of the things he was being asked than did his interviewers. At the end of the first day, Goldman invited him back for a second day. He went home and thought it over: he wasn’t all that sure he wanted to work at Goldman Sachs. “But the next morning I had a competitive feeling,” he says. “I should conclude it and try to pass it because it’s a big challenge.”
He returned for another round of Goldman’s grilling, which ended in the office of one of the high-frequency traders, another Russian, named Alexander Davidovich. A managing director, he had just two final questions for Serge, both designed to test his ability to solve problems.
The first: Is 3,599 a prime number?

The second question the Goldman managing director asked him was more involved—and involving. He described for Serge a room, a rectangular box, and gave him its three dimensions. “He says there is a spider on the floor and gives me its coordinates. There is also a fly on the ceiling, and he gives me its coordinates as well. Then he asked the question: Calculate the shortest distance the spider can take to reach the fly.” The spider can’t fly or swing; it can only walk on surfaces. The shortest path between two points was a straight line, and so, Serge figured, it was a matter of unfolding the box, turning a three-dimensional object into a one-dimensional surface, then using the Pythagorean theorem to calculate the distances. It took him several minutes to work it all out; when he was done, Davidovich offered him a job at Goldman Sachs. His starting salary plus bonus came to $270,000.

(End of excerpt)

This is a very long piece but trust me, it is an utterly fascinating and intriguing read. Please find the entire piece here. I strongly urge you to read Lewis’s The Big Short and Boomerang, especially the latter.

1 comment:

Santosh Revant Tanugula said...

I read the whole article. Goldman Sachs has been portrayed like an idiot bully, who desperately wants to establish his superiority by twisting some innocent kid's arms. Truly a fascinating read!