Beyond the numbers
Joon Kim is an analyst on Citadel’s global credit team. When he’s not building investment models, he’s into anything that takes him off the beaten path—literally. We talked to Joon about some of the interesting things he does outside of work that make him even better at his job.
Just the opposite! My fiancé and I love to get in our car and hit the road. One of my favorite road trips was a drive we took from Los Angeles to Vancouver, along the coast and through the mountains in the northwest. We didn’t start out with a game plan, we basically ventured off into random little towns and grabbed interesting food from different types of places. Everyone is obsessed with going to Europe or Asia, but we’ve got all of America right here. There’s this vast expanse that most people have never explored. We love seeing the character of small towns.
I wanted to see the sunrise over Mount Shasta. We left San Francisco at 1:00 a.m. and when we got where we wanted to be, the sun hadn’t started peeking, so we spent a couple of hours sleeping in the car. It was the coldest I’d ever been! We had on all our ski gear. I was so stubborn to see this sunrise by the lake – at least I thought it was the lake, it was too dark to tell. Sunrise over the water was such an incredible sight to see. Another memorable one are the ghosts in the 100-year-old hotel in Louisville, but you’d have to ask my fiancé about that since she’s the one who believes in ghosts.
In high school I loved volleyball, but if you played on the team you had to pay for a bunch of stuff and I didn’t want to. There was also a competitive dance team that was cheaper. I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it a shot. I fell in love with it and I’ve been dancing ever since. We were judged on precision. We drilled and had to make sure, for instance, everyone’s arms were exactly the same angle at exactly the same time. Military precision. By the end of school I was leading the team. It was my responsibility to pick up the smallest differences and correct them. It was a balancing act and a great experience.
Actually, there’s a lot of similarity! Dancing is about detail. You have to coordinate with everyone else and connect to the music in a way that expresses what the piece is trying to express. There is a huge teamwork aspect, dancing in synchrony with a bunch of people on stage. Constant awareness. All that fits at Citadel. It’s nice to be in a place where synchrony matters. It gives me responsibility and my input matters to the bottom line. And like competitive dance, what matters most is the performance of the group, not any one individual.
Shweta Patel manages a team that builds systems to address risk and enhance equities portfolio construction. Outside the office, her life is about to change in a big way: she and her husband Prasad are expecting their first child. We talked about her fascination with nature and its connection with the complexities of her work.
I’m curious about astronomy. We have a huge telescope at home, a professional model that’s manual, not auto-adjust, so it makes you hunt, which is good. Otherwise you lose the fun in finding what you’re looking for. The most beautiful thing I’ve found is the Orion Nebula. It’s so beautiful and intense that you almost can’t believe, just standing there, that such a thing is possible. Often you don’t even need a telescope to stargaze. Once we drove to northern tip of Lake Michigan, you could see the Milky Way belt with the naked eye over the lake. You know those pictures of the sky on Google? Imagine that in front of your eyes – completely awe-inspiring.
On my first date with my husband, he picked me up and had a telescope in the back of his car. He had picked up on the fact that I love the stars from our early conversations, so he brought one along. Right away I knew that this was the guy! The telescope made such an impression that we kept it in his car so that we’d be ready when we came across a clear sky.
I like painting, I like dancing—less of that while I’m pregnant! I love cardio, too. I’m serious about meditation. Physical activity is a form of meditation for me. I’m not a great artist, but I love the colors and the brushes and the canvas. I love to paint nature because of the detail.
It reminds me of a book I’m reading right now called A Book of Simple Living: Brief Notes from the Hills, by Ruskin Bond. I enjoy how detailed he is in observing small things in nature. He makes you take a minute to look at the flowers and insects around you. He’ll mention a flower and I’ll Google it and figure out if I can plant it here in Chicago. One day at lunch at Citadel, catering had wildflower seeds as decoration. I took them home and planted them! Another time I planted the seeds from a chili pepper and voilà, it grew into a beautiful chili plant. They were delicious and spicy.
It helps me focus and remain calm and centered. If you start the day well, the whole day can be good. Especially in the winter, when evenings get dark and gloomy, those few minutes get me to relax and be present. It makes me more productive. Take a break. Breathe. Your mind is always racing; even two minutes of meditation can feel like an energizing half hour
They’re connected not because they are similar but because they are different. Yin and yang create balance in your life. You need a break to think smart, to come up with the next solution. Think about it: Sometimes the best ideas come between your desk and the water fountain. My job is to simplify complex problems. The more complex, the more fun. A fresh mind helps connect the dots.
Donnie Phillips, a Business Manager for Citadel Execution Services, focuses on ongoing management and strategic projects for Citadel’s client-facing equities market making and options routing business. We talked with him about his unlikely path to Citadel, his family history in standup comedy and tips for winning at poker.
Comedy. It’s dependable—it always puts me in a good mood. If I watch one of my favorite comedians or a funny TV show, I’m relaxed by the time it’s over. My favorite comedy makes you think. I like classically observational comics, such as Seinfeld, but also enjoy eccentric ones like Mitch Hedberg. They’re perceptive, engaging and smart in ways that aren’t obvious.
I better say my dad! He was a stand-up comic and still loves it. A close second is Amy Schumer. My dad took my wife and me to see her back in 2010, when she was an unknown. Now she has a blockbuster movie, an Emmy and a multi-million-dollar advance on her first book. I feel like I invested in an early-stage startup and it IPO’d, but unfortunately, I’m not the one getting the checks.
That’s a lot of my life. It’s like poker, which I’ve been playing since I was 18. It’s about psychology, anticipating your competitors’ moves and making decisions on the spot. It’s not like in the movies where it’s all bluffing. A great bluff is one strategy in the tool kit, but you need more. There’s no foolproof manual to being a good poker player, you need to take every hand as it’s dealt. And that’s similar to the work we do at Citadel. There’s never a one-size-fits-all answer. Understanding and addressing our clients’ needs requires a very tailored approach. You have to be creative.
Yes, but you also have to outline the path you want up front. Be flexible, but remain focused on what you’re trying to achieve. There are so many detours, so many distractions. Keep your focus. At work, we know what we want to achieve and we set aggressive goals. If we need to adjust, we’re ready. It’s like poker – it’s also like standup comedy, if you think about it. Lots of tools, a clear destination and path, but the flexibility to diverge when you need to.
I expected to be a New Yorker for life. In my 20s, NYC seemed like the only city where I could live: everything is open all the time, there’s a diverse selection of anything you could want, and it is the epicenter of finance. Then I attended University of Chicago’s Booth School and pretty quickly I discovered a secret that most New Yorkers don’t know: Chicago is awesome. You can find most of the same opportunities here, personally and professionally. And the lower cost of living doesn’t hurt. It’s still shocking to me that when people ask me where I’m from, I call Chicago home.