An Interview with Sjoerd Dijkstra | All Options
Good afternoon! May you briefly introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Sjoerd Dijkstra. In 2015, I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Econometrics at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. After that, I studied Quantitative Finance at the same university for my Master’s degree. In April 2018, I started my job as a trader at All Options. There was a long break between my job offer and my graduation. In fact, I had decided to take a micro gap year in between for around 6 months. It was enjoyable and nice to take a break before working full-time and I spent a good time with my girlfriend in south Asia.
How did you end up in trading at All Options?
There are not many trading firms in the Netherlands so I just applied to them. All Options stood out because it was a relatively small company compared to the others. As an individual at All Options, you can contribute more than if you work at a bigger company because the team scale there is smaller and more simplified.
How do you like working at All Options?
I like my life there. The atmosphere at All Options is attractive to me. Firstly, I really like the people here who are not only very passionate about their work, but also very open, friendly and eager to perform. Even outside of work, I still like to hang out with these people. For the job of trader to say, there is not much distinction between working as a trader at All Options to at another, so what really differs is the company culture. On the other hand, unlike other big trading firms, All Options is one big team instead of several teams. In this case, I feel more connected to my colleagues, which is also better for the teamwork. Moreover, I get the chance to work on different projects outside of trading. Also, my idea is more likely to be taken and implemented within the company.
How does a day of a trader look like?
I can give you some timelines if you want. In the morning, I wake up at 7am, get a cup of coffee and read a newspaper like the Financial Times. At around 8am, I start to log in and check if there any company-specific news and events these days. Also, I would check what my other teammates are doing. A big thing in the morning is to see what happened in both the U.S and the Asia market at night, which have significant influence in what we should do in Europe with the pricing. During the days, it is just trading. Everyday is very different. Sometimes, we have really busy days and we have busy trading. Sometimes we have quieter days and we usually try to do some options-related things such as doing research projects, improving strategy and etc. Usually, the morning and afternoon can be busy but 11am and 2pm are more often the downtime of trading, and then you can choose to do some other things. At around 6pm, I usually finish my work. However, everyday is very different and special from another, so it is difficult to really picture a day.
As for my life after work, I usually go to the gym 4 times a week before lock-down. This does relax my mind after watching the screen and analyzing data for the whole day. This helps me because I am not working on trading the whole day but doing something I am passionate about. On Friday, I usually hang out with friends from work for a drink.
Is it a rewarding job both financially and professionally?
Financially, it depends on which kind of year it is, but it is rewarding on the average. However, that should not be the main drive you hold for the job because you would get lost otherwise. I think what is important is that you are passionate about your work. Everyone working in the company is passionate about the work, and everybody contributes a lot of time to it. The job is financially rewarding but I would not just do it for a financial reason. If you do not like trading, you should not be a trader and you cannot really be a good one. You should do the job you like.
Which part of econometrics and trading is attractive to you?
I can start from econometrics. When it comes to econometrics, it is more like making a big puzzle. It is not a higher magic or something else. The same things go with trading as well. Whenever someone trades something, you have to think about why is the other guy doing it. And what you do is just to combine different information and analyze them by formulas on screens. Then you determine whether the trade is good or not depends on the information you combine. It is the same with econometrics. When going into an assignment, you are asked to come up with an answer by the help of the combination of theorems and lemma. Trading is similar as well! The trading can be done in a smart way or a stupid way. As a trader, you are asked to figure out how well the trading is done. Also, you have to weigh all the relevant factors such as the trades that happened in different regions or times. By doing so, you can determine whether the trade is a good one or a bad one.
How did your job change in the times of lockdown?
The first change that comes to my mind is remote working. I am currently working at home as you see. Everyone gets a work set-up, so I get three screens and one computer at home. Also, I usually use video conferencing applications a lot for meetings with my colleagues. I think it is pretty unique. Normally people who work remotely would have several formal or informal online meetings a day and they talk about different subjects for an hour or a half. When they finish the meeting and look out, they will find themselves alone at home again. For our team, we stay in the chat for almost the whole day, like ten hours a day, and we make fun or jokes just like sitting in Amsterdam office. It is nice because the trading firm can be a bit noisy, and people might talk or scream at the office. The most significant thing that I miss while working at home is the social contact with people such as small chats with colleague next to the coffee machine.
What do you do in your free time?
I usually go for travelling during the holidays. Normally in the weekends, I just do what I do at the weekdays! I like hanging out with my friends or just drinking a bit outside. Also, I like to work out at weekends so I will go to the gym with my friends. For travelling, I like to go skiing or go to the mountains, which can be really relaxing.
By talking to you until now, I consider you a really self-disciplined and rational person who manages his life and time well. Do you consider that most of the traders share similar personalities with you?
It is an interesting question for me. I think I once discussed this question with Nancy, our HR Director. She mentioned that one common trait among staff at All Options is that everyone speaks really fast. It is a really strange thing that I’ve never noticed. In general, everyone is very passionate about the work and they care a lot about the market. On the other hand, everyone here is also very friendly and open, making people feel connected to each other.
What makes you stand out from the applicants when applying for being a trader?
Just mention something you are good at and try to show how you perform as a person. If you compare trading firms to investment banks, you will find it easier to get into an interview in the bank. The bank cares more about your grade which is a bit less relevant for a trading firm.
What advice could you give to students who are interested in trading?
Firstly, you have to make sure that you do like trading and want to be a trader, which is really important. If you are not passionate about being a trader, you are not believed to perform as a good trader. Secondly, it is better for you to be quick with thinking and understanding. It is also good to be competitive. I am pretty competitive myself. When I was young, I was quite passionate about sports and challenge myself on the national level, and I also carry my competitiveness to work now. Just try to find some trading companies and talk with them by email or via career activities. If you find yourself a good match with the people in trading company from the personal level, then you might also be potential to be a good trader.