“Let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream you wanted to dream … You would get more and more adventurous and you would make further and further out gambles as to what you would dream. Finally you would dream where you are now.” — a quote from Alan Watts.

Ten years ago, I left Indianapolis in pursuit of a dream to join the most cutting-edge team I could possibly find. That search led me to Chicago, London, and back again. Along the way I worked with brilliant people, implemented cutting-edge technologies, and had some tremendous success. The journey has now brought me and my family back to Indianapolis where I plan to utilize all I have learned in order to create a world-class data science team at High Alpha.

The Journey

After graduating from Indiana University’s School of Informatics, I worked for Crowe Horwath here in Indianapolis and later in Chicago. My primary project’s goal was to implement a system to manage of all Chesapeake Energy’s users in one centralized system. I found the work interesting, but soon realized the regular travel was not a good fit for me.

While working for Crowe in Chicago, I would go to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) on my lunch break and ask people who the primary electronic trading firms were. After compiling that list I repeatedly sent my resume to all of those firms until I finally got a response from Jump Trading. The interview was for an entry level, overnight position. I had no intentions of taking the job, due to the hours, but took the interview as practice. Upon walking in the door, and seeing what they were doing, I told my interviewers I would work any shift, for essentially minimum wage, just to learn from them. My impassioned, slightly naive, approach worked and I started two weeks later.

While at Jump, I worked with some extremely smart and kind people from all over the world. I credit Jump with giving me a paid, graduate level, education in leadership, trading, distributed algorithms, integrated circuit design (FPGA), advanced telecommunications, and of course, machine learning. I ended up having various roles and responsibilities in both Chicago and London, and I often reflect on how amazing of a run we went on together as a company.

The Gamble

After almost ten years of working in capital markets, I started to wonder where else the techniques I had learned could be applied. My wife and I had also recently found out that we would be having a little girl so we were hoping to move back to Indianapolis in order to be near family and friends.

A lifelong friend then recommended High Alpha and set up a meeting for me where I got the opportunity to meet some of the partners. After the meeting, I started sending regular updates similar to how I had done years before with all of the trading firms at the CME. Eventually we got know each other, found we had alignment in our thinking, and High Alpha took a chance on me and my vision.

The Dream

My dream is to be able to leverage everything I have learned in order to support all of the High Alpha companies. Initially, I have been doing this by focusing on critical projects with Zylo and Quantifi.

Zylo, a software-as-a-service optimization platform, imports huge volumes of expense and accounts payable data which needs to be automatically classified into different categories. Similar to how Mint.com organizes your personal finances we have created a model that sorts SaaS expenditures. Organizing software spend allows us to benchmark performance, manage utilization rates, and much more. Both the Zylo and Quantifi projects have been equal parts fun and challenging and we are excited by the progress we have made in only a few short weeks.

For the first time in a long time, I am reminded of that hungry kid who saw people doing something really special and just wanted to be part of the team. I am grateful to work with such smart people again, and I am looking forward to going on another spectacular run.

About the Author
Experienced trader, engineer, and data scientist Mark Clerkin has worked in both in financial markets and startup environments. He is data scientist at venture studio High Alpha in Indianapolis where he has returned after a career that took him to Chicago and London and back.

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