Meet Leon Dimas, a quantitative researcher at G-Research - a leading quantitative research and technology company in London, UK.

In 2015, Leon graduated with his PhD in Civil Engineering, and started working at G-Research a few weeks later. Now, almost three years later, Leon is enjoying his time working in the quantitative finance industry and loves living in London.

The following is a Q&A session discussing how he balances his work-life and his career experiences with G-Research.

Leon feature photo

Did you expect to follow a career path in quantitative finance when you started your PhD?

Ever since I was young I have always been fascinated by finance, but it was more of a distant dream than anything else. Having started my university education in Civil Engineering, finance didn’t initially seemed like an option. At the time, I didn’t know anything about quant finance and had no idea a role as the one I have now even existed. However during the course of my PhD, through discussions with my peers, I started to learn about this new world and tried to steer my PhD research towards more applied math like topics in order to position myself for a finance role.

What made you consider quantitative research?

During the course of my PhD I grew very fond of the research process. Trying to figure out things not many others, or no one, had figured out before, however niche those topics might have been. I also very much enjoyed having the freedom to learn about and explore new things in my own time. Combining that with my curiosity for and interest in financial markets choosing a quantitative research was an easy decision.


What made you excited about the job during the interview?

Has that been a true representation of day-to-day life in your job?

Interviewing with firms that protect their IP closely (which many software companies and buy side financial firms do) is an interesting process. For understandable reasons it is often difficult to get much insight into the specifics of the job, so as a candidate your decision has to be complemented by other inputs. To me, that main input were my impressions of those that interviewed me. They all came across as intelligent, curious, and interested in exploring problems from different angles. I figured if people like that enjoy this job then most certainly so will I. And yes, two and a half years in there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

What are the most important skills you need in order to be successful at your job?

Certainly a baseline knowledge of mathematics and statistics is a must. Given that we apply these tools to financial markets a curiosity and interest in finance is also necessary. On the more personal side, a never give up attitude is also a very important. At the end of the day, we’re trying to solve very difficult problems, difficult problems that many other smart people are also trying to solve. There will definitely be setbacks and the job definitely humbles you, but that makes your successes all the sweeter.

What aspects do you most enjoy about your job?

I’m a big fan of the academic environment. The atmosphere is very relaxed and as a quant researcher we can pretty much spend all our time doing what we all like the most, finding solutions to really interesting and challenging problems. There are no office politics and the performance metrics couldn’t be clearer cut, which is also a big motivational factor. As in most academic environments, professional development and scientific advancement is essential, and we have a sizeable catalogue of online learning resources, conference attendance is encouraged and training sessions if needed.

Looking back on your experience at MIT, what advice would you give yourself if you knew then what you know now?

I’d probably tell myself to engage in career fairs at an earlier stage. Even though one is not actively looking for a job, it’s a good idea to be informed of the types of opportunities that do exist so that you can position yourself accordingly. The job market for a PhD student is much larger than I imagined when I first started my PhD. And of course when you are actively looking for a post PhD career this is even more important. MIT Alumni Association is also a great resource here, if not to help you get an interview, at least to learn about different sectors, companies, roles etc. The more you know about the possibilities the more informed of a decision you can make.

What does “work-life balance” mean to you and what do you do to maintain a work-life balance?

To me work-life balance means having the opportunity to disengage from work when I leave the office. A great thing about being a quant at G-Research is that you don’t get any emails once you leave the office, no assignments that you have to do overnight or over the weekend and no alerts if something unexpected happens in the news world that is likely to affect financial markets in one direction or the other. Not only that, the office closes in the evening and on the weekend. Being here, it’s easy maintaining a work-life balance because the company helps you do it. It might actually be one of the biggest contrasts to my PhD life at MIT.

What is the biggest surprise in your career choice?

The freedom we have to explore the ideas and projects that we wish. We get to work on our own time, without deadlines or cumbersome bureaucracy (probably not the right word here, just trying to say, diplomatically, that we don’t need to deal with stuff like big project proposals, paper writing, etc.), focusing solely on coming up with new ways of predicting the future dynamics of financial markets.

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