I am originally from Bulgaria, where I studied advanced math in Sofia High School of Mathematics, a top European high school. There were a number of international Olympiad gold medalists studying there, so it was a privilege to be in that place. Then I moved to Houston, Texas to finish my last year of high school and I went on to attend the University of Southern California (USC), where I completed two bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and computer science and a master’s degree in mathematical finance. My initial goal was to complete a master’s degree in pure mathematics and I was accepted into an accelerated 4-year master’s program. By my sophomore year, I was studying some second year PhD-level math courses in abstract algebra and linear algebra and had an office at the USC math department, which allowed me to network with professors and PhD math students. However, as much as I enjoyed the studies, I had a kind of existential crisis wondering, “What do you do with all of this pure math?” I realized that I could only be a professor, so I changed course and started taking computer science courses and looking at other options.
Along the way, I had several internships, including one at Wells Fargo, that helped refine my interest in the intersection of math, computer science, and finance. Then I met an Alumni from USC and I ended up working at his energy trading and risk management software (ETRM) company. As a senior quant there, I researched, designed, developed, tested, and maintained multiple option pricing models, including Black 76 and mean reversion models that are relevant to the energy markets and the commodity markets in general. I also developed analytical and Monte Carlo Value-at-Risk (VaR) software solutions, from concept to implementation, that would generate significant annual license and maintenance revenues for the ETRM company because it would end up being used by multiple international energy clients. I also maintained the product road map for the company's overall market risk management software solution and acted as a subject matter expert during sales demos for new clients in on the option pricing, VaR, stress testing, sensitivity analysis, risk limits, and P/L attribution solutions. After seven years working at that company, I felt like my career journey had reached a stalemate, with no prospects for career advancement since my two key software solutions, Value-at-Risk and the option pricing models, had been in production for several years. At that point, the goal was simply to maintain the solutions and make enhancements here and there for new and existing clients. It was good work, but it was no longer quantitatively satisfying.
The CQF lectures are led by world-renowned practitioners in the field of quantitative finance and even before I started the program, I already had books in my library by Paul Wilmott on quant finance.
So, I decided to go out of my comfort zone again and I discovered the CQF after attending an information session delivered by Dr. Randeep Gug. It was a perfect fit. With my bachelor’s degrees in math and computer science and my master’s degree in mathematical finance, I had a very relevant background, but I wanted to refresh my quantitative and technical skills. The course was intensive and an exciting journey. The CQF lectures are led by world-renowned practitioners in the field of quantitative finance and even before I started the program, I already had books in my library by Paul Wilmott on quant finance, Espen Haug on option pricing, and John Gregory on counterparty credit risk. During the program, I completed two projects, one on Credit Value Adjustment for interest rate swaps, which I wrote up in VBA, with a 50-page paper in Latex. I also completed a project on portfolio construction using the Black-Derman-Toy model, as a Java-based project. I received the CQF Institute award for the best overall final project at CQF and I still refer back to the CVA paper today.
Since completing the program, my career accelerated quickly again. I was hired as a manager at a commodity markets advisory group at EY. I continued my professional development and was promoted to senior manager in less than two years. My EY quant team is based in Houston and New York, and we provide modeling and analytics consulting services to North American and international clients, including complex transactions, portfolio, risk and valuation assessments as well as commodity market and credit risk management assessment and hedge strategy analysis services. It requires unique skills to take complex financial models from concept to implementation and it’s challenging to serve as a liaison between our company's executives and the clients’ executives - creating a translation of complex theory into simple words. We're constantly being exposed to what the best companies in the world are doing in terms of quant finance and we learn something new every day. I also focus on growing our specialized advisory practice by bringing additional technical resources for the firm, which entails team leadership, mentoring, and coaching. So, it all ties back to the CQF, which helped propel me in this direction.
Since completing the program, my career accelerated quickly again. I was hired as a manager at a commodity markets advisory group at EY. I continued my professional development and was promoted to senior manager in less than two years.
What I really like about the CQF program now is that I have continued access to the latest curriculum and additional resources via the Lifelong Learning library, so if I need to refresh something quickly, I can access the material. In addition, I have attended a number of CQF conferences remotely; this year I plan to attend the Quant Insights conference in May and the one in September on climate risk, which has become an important topic at EY. It is a great benefit to continue with Lifelong Learning as a CQF alumni, and considering the entire CQF experience, I recommend it highly.