Revision Street: Joanna Ericson, 26
I was born at Swedish Covenant Hospital up on the north side, lived there for a year, then my folks moved out to the western suburbs. Winfield. We lived on Christiana just north of Foster. My dad is Swedish and my parents both went to North Park, and my grandparents went there, and I went there. I moved to Alaska for a little while, but came back because I realized I’m much too much of a city girl for doing that full time.
North Park University (photo by npu via Flickr)
I knew that I wanted to come back and trade in the markets and do what I had been doing as an intern in college. I worked on the trading desk that I work on now. I was an international business and French major in college, then later I studied philosophy. I ran into a friend and was talking to him, and he was like, Would you like an internship? I’m like, Sure, OK. I started that summer when I was 19 on the desk half-time and then working half time there and just fell in love with it.
When I started, I did coffee runs and did lunch and sat on the desk, not really understanding or having any idea about what was going on with what that system was. I’m not from a financial world background. Nobody in my family is in finance. It was totally a new world to me. When I walked in, I had no idea what I was walking into, which is I think the best way to walk into that world. You stay grounded that way.
When I was an intern, I would check trades and do small Excel-based projects for all of the brokers that I was working with. Maybe it would help to explain what I do now or what the desk does. We execute futures and equities for institutional clients, so I trade on behalf of hedge fund managers and heads of sovereign banks and or sovereign wealth funds and that kind of thing. So I’m not a trader, in that it’s not my money or my firms’ money, I’m actually providing access to the markets for other people who don’t have access, because you have to have an exchange membership to trade on the exchanges. It’s a service-based thing rather than actually trading. Though we do advise people and say, If this is your position, this is maybe what you want to think about doing, or maybe this would be a good trade for you. Things like that. So as an intern, I had no idea that all that was going on, and was trying to read the news and understand how and then watch charts and understand what the market was doing, based on that news. I was learning the fundamentals of how that whole process works and understanding how news releases and economic releases effect the markets. Even when I was an intern I was most interested in the emotional reactions of people and figuring out how, in fact, it doesn’t really matter what the news is, it’s much more interesting how people react to it. That matters much more for the market.
So I was a summer intern for them two summers in a row, and then second semester senior year I interned with them as well. I would go down at 6 O’clock in the morning, take the El from Kimball all the way down to the Loop and go into work for three hours and then come back all the way up and go to class at 11 and do my classes. Then right after college I knew that I was gonna go back there. I wanted a full time position on that desk, and they offered it to me.
It’s unbelievably dynamic. I enjoyed how different work was, day to day. I’d walk in and have no idea what was gonna happen, and who I was gonna talk to, and how the markets would react. It was pretty glamorous in college. It was cool to be working on this trading desk. I like the challenge of it, too, as a woman. It’s a very male-dominated world and something about that was really attractive to me. I’m just attracted to things that aren’t typical for my age or gender. I like challenges like that. I often like to stand up to those kinds of things. And I really enjoyed the people that I worked with.
I started in fall of 2006, so it’s been almost four years. The other kind of funny thing about it, and one of the other challenges that I was interested in, is that it’s a dwindling industry. As it moves electronic, you need a lot fewer people to do that kind of job. A lot of people have moved out of the industry in the last couple of years, a significant amount. Part of what I thought was interesting and challenging is that there weren’t any new people coming in. I thought, this industry—there has to be some sort of new development or new ideas that come in here. That was part of the glamour of it too. I thought, I can be young and idealistic and make some sort of changes here and that would be kind of cool.
I still give it quite a bit of thought. To be perfectly frank, in the last couple of years there just hasn’t been any space for new development, because we’ve all just been coping on what’s been going on day to day. I mean pretty much since June of 2008 until now, firms can only react to what’s happening and it’s been really hard to be proactive about business strategy and changing the identity of firms and moving forward. We’re all just kind of trying to stay afloat and make sure that we don’t make mistakes.