A Risk Worth Taking: Lateral Career Moves at Clear Street
November 21, 2023
Ambitious, non-traditional, and motivating are the three words Quantitative Analyst Kellen Sandvik would use to describe Clear Street. In the five years since our inception, business avenues have massively expanded, giving employees like Kellen more opportunities to make exciting lateral career moves.
Kellen Sandvik started at Clear Street in August 2022 as a Business Data Analyst. This year Kellen made the decision to switch job roles and join the Clear Street Derivatives team as a Quantitative Analyst. We sat down with Kellen to ask him about his unconventional career trajectory and experience working at Clear Street.
What inspired you to transition into a new career role?
When I first started at Clear Street, I worked on the finance team within the engineering department. Recently, I transitioned to the derivatives team. I had some options trading experience before Clear Street, so I knew I would enjoy the work. My experience in the engineering department at Clear Street made a significant positive impact on my decision to transition back to focusing specifically on derivatives.
While working in the engineering department, I was inspired to seek out projects that could create the biggest impact on the firm. For example, on one project our goal was to improve how Clear Street attributes Profit and Loss (PnL) and uses daily PnL to predict month-end balances. I saw a huge opportunity to make an impact, as fixing this issue would benefit the entire firm, not just engineering. Through the effort of the team, we created a single-source-of-truth that tied directly back to the balance sheet. Working on this project gave me a birds-eye view of how prime brokerages make money, and an interesting frame of reference through which I could explore other roles at the firm.
How did Clear Street support your role transition?
What started out as a theoretical discussion turned into an immediate opportunity when a member of the options trading team left the company. Clear Street needed someone who could take over the workload, so for about three months I split my time between engineering and assisting the trading team. This was an exciting time for my career because I was able to wear many hats and learn a lot in a very short period of time.
There was a huge opportunity cost transitioning away from engineering projects I knew I loved working on. However, there aren’t many job openings for options traders, so I knew this was a risk I wanted to take. I was eager to see how I could combine my previous work experience in trading with the new skills and information picked up at Clear Street.
Behind the scenes, a lot had to happen for my transition to be successful. The People team was a great help in building out systems to make my transition go smoothly. Additionally, a new Engineer was hired to directly take over my previous role. The real catalyst for the change was when Clear Street hired John DiBacco as the Global Head of Derivatives. Once he was onboarded, I was able to fully transition into my new role.
What are the biggest differences between the teams you’ve worked on?
Engineering and trading require similar levels of technical expertise, but the energy at the trading desk is much different than in the engineering department. Many differences in work style are rooted in the necessity for engineers to focus on long term projects, while traders are often making more immediate decisions. Traders start their day very early, the team is louder, and the energy is generally more fast-paced. In the engineering department, it is more common to see many people with headphones on, working quietly on larger, long-term coding projects.
What do you like most about working at Clear Street?
When I started working at Clear Street, I noticed I was getting up earlier in the morning than I had previously. I realized I was starting my day so early because I was actually excited to go to work. The kinds of projects I get to work on at Clear Street are engaging and motivating. It’s not uncommon to encounter a project where I find myself in a flow state. I am deeply focused and interested in what I am working on.
I don’t know how many people get to say they wake up excited to go to work, so I feel very fortunate.
As Clear Street continues to grow, we are hiring for positions across finance and engineering. Explore our careers page here.
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