Donald Stephens | Senior Director–Operations Research
New York, New York
Department: Economics and Structured Analytics
Education: B.S. Computer Science, Minor in Mathematics, 2001, Sacred Heart University; M.S. Mathematics, 2014, St. John’s University; Quantitative Methods certificate, 2017, Columbia University; Artificial Intelligence certificate, 2018, Stanford University
Career stage: Mid—16 year post Bachelor’s
What He Does
Donald leads a team of software developers and research analysts that examines processes, procedures and systems to facilitate an in-depth understanding of the operations of a global financial services organization in order to enhance efficiency, risk controls, cost expenditures and innovation. They employ both qualitative problem-structuring techniques and advanced quantitative methods to measure and identify options for innovative and pragmatic solutions.
Donald and his team are typically asked to work on projects that involve complex implementations. Recently, they were asked to investigate techniques related to construction of optimal investment portfolios meeting certain characteristics from a large list of financial assets. Other examples include consulting engagements to help clients develop economic stress-testing software platforms.
Necessary Job Skills
Operations research is a multidisciplinary field employing techniques from computer science, statistics, numerical analysis and mathematical optimization. Tasks often require collecting large amounts of data and drawing insights to make more effective decisions. Some of the more common techniques utilized are mathematical modeling, stochastic processes, meta-heuristics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
Pros and Cons of His Job
One of the more difficult aspects of Donald’s role relates to the actual collection and processing of information. There are times when even structured information (i.e. information with a higher degree of organization) presents some challenges requiring highly subjective interpretation. Unstructured information often requires more attention and possibly the use of machine learning algorithms for collection and interpretation.
The best parts of the role entail investigating options in an attempt to solve a complex problem or at least make a problem more tractable.
While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Donald interned at a very well-known financial services firm. It was through this internship that he was first exposed to an environment that utilized applied mathematics and computer science for finance and economics. Prior to that internship, his presumption was that mathematicians remained in academia and computer scientists worked at software firms. That internship helped fuel a desire for him to pursue both fields in depth. He also learned the importance of exposing students to a full range of career options.
Career Expectations And Advice
“Internships expose students to a full range of career options.”
One of the best pieces of advice for a student planning to pursue any technical or engineering based field would be to continually develop your communication skills. More often than not, you will be asked to communicate very important information to non-technical audiences.
The salary range can be very varied. In the U.S., many practitioners of operations research enter into public policy, health care, financial engineering, technology, academia or government. Depending on the specific industry and qualifications, salary can range from $50,000 to $150,000+.
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