Base of Operations:
Right here in the Sunshine State
Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering (Controls & Communications)
Master of Science, Electrical Engineering (High Frequency Electronics)
Passed all 3 Exams of the Chartered Financial Analyst Program (CFA)
I am an independent contractor. I work mostly from home but often from hotel rooms and resorts when my wife and I are traveling. Half the day I’m a stock analyst for an East Coast money managing firm. The other half I’m an electrical engineer for a West Coast wireless communications firm. In 2011, I gave up the engineering work to make space for a handful of other projects. So far, I’m making an accounting profit but not yet an economic one.
With no formal job title, I’ve been known to introduce myself as a Quantitative Freelancer when trying to impress, and to claim that my engineering, machine learning, statistics, and signal processing skills allow me to basically work in any field I choose since “it’s all just math”. If I sense I haven’t fully dazzled with my brain for hire shtick, I might resort to pushing my eBook, showing off my iPhone apps, arguing that juries should be instructed to simply multiply conditional probabilities, or throwing down some Schwyzerdütsch.
This is my office most days. A small, but not insignificant, portion of my income goes toward maintaining a proper inventory of nag champa, as a smoldering pyre must be constantly tended to, to throw the mosquitoes off scent. Let’s just hope Sai Baba and the Surgeon General stay on good terms.
I’m all about diversified income streams from multiple part-time gigs, so don’t be surprised to also find me artfully arranging your chirashi deluxe at the sushi shack, piloting your intercontinental 747 into Dubai under sandstorm IFR, or analyzing your cerebrospinal fluid for rare protein biomarkers. I’m telling you man, it’s all just math!
Areas of Expertise (Engineering Version):
For over a decade, I did algorithm development for wireless and wired digital communication systems. My specialty is in designing systems that can still successfully talk to each other when noise is huge, signal power is low, or both. You might be thinking deep-space signals arriving from NASA probes near the Kuiper belt, but it’s actually the black art of power line communications.
Briefly, your house already has electrical wiring that is used to distribute power to multiple outlets in each room. There’s no reason you can’t simultaneously use that same wiring (at different frequencies) as a big LAN to network computers, share internet, and route HD video. There are no holes to drill and wires to run as with ethernet or coax, fewer dead zones than with Wi-Fi, and unless you’re living in an apartment building, neighbors can’t even see your traffic so you have an additional layer of network security on top of encryption.
I specialize in orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) and most areas of the associated physical layer: error correction coding (LDPCs, turbo), differential and coherent modulation, optimal interleaving, frequency offset compensation, channel adaptation, SNR estimation, impulse and RFI mitigation, and just about anything associated with signal processing. I can also talk enough spatial multiplexing, beamforming, and cooperative diversity to pass interview questions about MIMO, though in reality I’ve only just dabbled.
Areas of Expertise (Investing Version):
While I’ve certainly passed thousands of hours modeling and testing my own quant strategies by programming Java & Matlab to scrape all sorts of financial data from the web and crunch it in various ways, my paid work has mostly concerned good old fashioned value investing. The person I work for is a non-quant who successfully emulates the Buffett style of looking for franchise businesses selling at or below a fair price. My (selective) readings of Greenwald and Greenblatt have historically made me interested in just about anything with a high EBIT/EV, but my mixed success with this approach is drawing me closer to the Buffett light.
Briefly, most investors overpay for stocks by being too optimistic about future growth. The antidote is to either (1) fish in the severely beaten-down part of the market, looking for companies whose fire sale net assets per share are worth more than the current stock price (2) fish in the broad market, valuing companies based on current earnings only, as it’s ridiculous to think anyone could predict the future! or (3) seek first to understand the various types of competitive advantages, and only invest in companies with durable economic moats as you’ll do quite well from compounding as long as you don’t buy at a blatantly stupid price.
I started my investing career years ago thinking I was at (3). Then I entered that terrifying world called the CFA program, where the more you learn the less you feel you know. It pushed me down to (1). Countless hours of study and a few CFA exams later, I finally clawed my way back to thinking that I could at least attempt (2). But even maintaining current earnings can be tricky for a company with no competitive advantage. What other option is there than to go with (3)?
I prefer comments to blog posts so that others may benefit from the discussion, but if you want to contact me privately, no problem! Please just prove you’re not a spam-bot by assembling my email address as follows:
Start with the tea: sencha.
Follow that with the vintage: 71.
Follow that with the @ sign.
Finally add gmail.com.