Summer Internship | Student Spotlight: Chris Sun – Quantlab Financial

CompanyQuantlab Financial
Position: Technology InternProfessionalPic

What is your major, and how do you think what you’ve learned at McCombs has helped you with this internship?

I’m currently a junior BHP/Computer Science/Finance (Quantitative track) major. Although I got this internship through the recruiting resources in the College of Natural Sciences and it was more of a computer science internship, there were definitely aspects of my McCombs education that helped me with this experience. Since Quantlab is a high-frequency trading firm, the biggest help came from the introductory finance class I took last semester. This exposure to the world of finance allowed me to more quickly pick up the ‘crash course’ information presented to interns about the company’s business process. Plus, it’s always advantageous to have industry knowledge for software development because that provides insight on how situations should be coded.

What is unique about the company and culture of Quantlab Financial?

Something that I loved about the culture at Quantlab was the heavy emphasis on learning and personal development. There were bookshelves scattered throughout the office where you could pick up a book (on trading, software development, etc.) to read, several different groups that were doing lunch & learn activities, and even just everyday discussions that really dug into the meat of a subject (work-related or otherwise). Additionally, the people at Quantlab don’t take themselves too seriously. Once when a coworker was out on vacation, another team member brought a huge block of post-it notes, and my programming partner and I spent about an hour that afternoon discussing how we should move forward with our work while sticking post-it notes over the absent team member’s desk. By the time he came back to work, his entire desk area – monitors, desk surface, chair, etc. – was filled with post-its. There’s still a stream of post-its hanging from the ceiling on top of his desk.

What did you contribute to the company?

I was pair programming the entire summer. For our primary project, we built 2 feed handlers to collect market data from exchanges with ITCH-like protocols. Along the way, we also refactored several parts of the feed handler code to maximize code reuse, setup a shared library, and better exemplify object-oriented programming principles. In the last couple weeks, we did some more exploratory stuff like trying out new methodologies on existing code.

Why did you decide to work there?

This internship offered the most fitting learning experience for me. I knew I’d get the opportunity to strengthen my technical skills in other opportunities, but Quantlab stood out because it was in the financial industry, which meant that I would gain insight into this field as well. It worked out especially well because I was still on the fence for my additional major between Accounting and Finance, so I figured this would be a great chance to collect information to make that decision. Lastly, I was looking to work in a smaller company (relatively – I think Quantlab is around 200 or so) this year because I had the large corporation experience last year, and wanted to try new waters.

Did the internship meet or supersede your expectations? How?

I am definitely very happy with this internship experience. I met some really great people, learned a ton, solidified my choice of major, saw a segment of tech that I’ve been curious about, and made an impact on the business. Plus, I was well-fed with the Keurig, snacks throughout the office, and free catered lunches!

What advice do you have for other students who are recruiting for internships? 

What I’ve found useful in my own recruiting process is to focus on what I would learn and who I could rely on during the internship. For the first point, it’s a strange balance between finding a role where you can convince the company that you’re sufficiently competent to do the role but where you’re sufficiently incompetent so that you can still learn a lot. You’re only going to have a finite number of internships before making a (relatively) informed career decision, so make sure you don’t limit yourself on the learning component. If there’s an area in which you have a genuine interest and are curious about, then why not recruit for something related to that field. For the second point, try to find out what interactions with the full-time employees look like (namely, mentorship/training programs). Internships can be drastically shifted towards negative or positive depending on the people you work with, so it’s important to find a place where you will be valued and where employees are willing to take time out of their day for you.


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