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Optiver Academy: An onboarding experience like no other

When Jared began his studies at Rice University in Houston in 2017, trading and market making were still somewhat foreign concepts to him. As an electrical engineering major, his initial encounter with options and financial markets didn’t happen until later on, when a statistics course introduced him to the fascinating world of market making and liquidity.  

Fast forward a few years (and a move across the country), Jared is one of Optiver’s newest Institutional Traders in the Chicago office – and one of the first new hires classes to travel to Amsterdam for Optiver’s global training program, Optiver Academy

We sat down with Jared to discuss his experiences in the training program and how his time at Optiver has been thus far.

Meet Jared

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Hobbies: Cooking, running and weightlifting, sports (anything competitive) and playing the drums

Fun fact: Played drums at a Houston Texans halftime show in 2008 with a marching band

Tell us a little more about how you found Optiver.

My first exposure to options and market making actually happened my junior year of college. I was enrolled in a couple of stat courses with some friends, and we were doing a lot of data analysis in financial markets. During those courses, we would also look into where the money was coming from and how liquidity worked in the markets. It was all pretty new to me, and this is where my general interest and knowledge of trading (and market making) began.

Around the same time – which also happened to be during COVID-19 – there were a ton of market making and trading firms in the news with everything going on with GameStop. Seeing this led me to start looking into some of the firms and what they did – including who they worked with and who their competitors were – and it eventually led me to Optiver.

Did you have any background in trading or finance?

Short answer – not really. But I do like math a lot, primarily statistics. When it comes to strategy games, I’ve actually never played poker or chess competitively, but I love watching and playing for fun. Personally, I’d say I’m ok at both.   

One of the cool things about visiting Amsterdam was that they have a huge chess culture in the office, which was awesome to see, and it inspired me to start playing a lot more. I’m naturally a very competitive person, and the game of chess just provides another competitive outlet for me to utilize that’s both challenging and stimulating. I’m coming to find that a lot of people at Optiver are similar in that mindset, which makes a lot of sense now.  

Let’s dive into your time in Amsterdam a bit. Tell us a little about the Optiver Academy and your overall experience.

Let me start off by saying that I loved the training program. But to back up a bit, the week leading up to heading to Amsterdam was a bit of a whirlwind. I actually moved to Chicago a week before I started at Optiver this past August. I had four initial days in the office, then, on day five, I was on a plane to Amsterdam to start my trader training, or the global Optiver Academy.

Aside from being a literal training program for new tech and trading hires, one of the main things the program was designed to do was to build a more solid relationship between the different offices – as opposed to operating as completely separate entities – and making them more interconnected and cohesive. That goal, to me, was certainly met. 

“In addition to being a solid foundational overview of options theory, the amazing thing about this program is that it allows you to expand your worldview for a month or so. Your experiences alone surpass any other type of training where you’re in the comforts of your own environment.”

-Jared speaking on Optiver Academy
What was the training portion of the program like?  

The program itself lasted four weeks and consisted of different types of trainings and educational courses. Needless to say, in a room full of 60 plus new hires from offices around the world – Chicago, Sydney, Taiwan, London and Amsterdam – people are naturally going to learn and absorb information in different ways.

Personally, I found the educational breakout rooms to be the most effective for my learning preferences and style. Listening to an expert from a different office/region was incredibly helpful to see how each office is teaching things; how they approach problems, what kind of problems are unique to the products they trade, their setups, their strategies, where there is overlap in the flow – it just provided a ton of different ways to think about things and take back to my own desk. More explicitly, it really helped to cultivate critical thinking and problem solving specific to options and financial markets.

What would you say was your favorite part of Optiver Academy?

I’m a very social person – I love meeting and talking to people, which is probably why I’m an Execution Trader – so my favorite aspect of the training was probably being able to meet everyone from the different offices [who are also just starting out at Optiver]. Even just earlier today, I was messaging one of the guys I met [at Optiver] in Amsterdam as well as one of the guys in London. Making those connections is so important to how we succeed as an organization, and that just reiterates how Optiver has achieved the goal of building connections faster. I know I’m not the only person who went to the training and has stayed in close contact with people they met from different office locations.

You’re back in Chicago now – what’s happened since you left Amsterdam?

Amsterdam was the true ‘classroom education’ piece of the training where we spent most of our time listening, absorbing and putting our knowledge on paper. Upon returning to our local offices, as new traders, we immediately jumped right into sim trading and our licensing exams. As soon as I was done with my Series 57, I was placed on a desk to shadow. Three days after that, I made my first trade.

It moves insanely fast here, but that’s exactly what I want, especially after being in college during COVID. Everything was scaled back and moved at a much slower pace, especially with online learning, and I was more than ready to dive into something that challenged me in more ways than one.

What would you say differentiates Optiver Academy from other programs?

In addition to being a solid foundational overview of options theory, the amazing thing about this program is that it allows you to expand your worldview for a month or so. You’re on your own, meeting new people in a completely new culture (where you likely don’t know the native language). Your experiences alone surpass any other type of training where you’re in the comforts of your own environment. You also have the benefit of being introduced to other cultures and perspectives from the other new hires from around the world, which can then be brought back to your own office where you work full-time.

On top of that, you also have the opportunity to get face-to-face training with world class traders at one of the most established trading firms in the world. That alone feels impossible to top.

Are you ready to launch your trading career and join Optiver Academy? Apply to our graduate positions and we might see you next year.

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