The Quant Guys, Candy, and a Red Stapler

Office-space-red-stapler In a comment section of a recent blog post, I briefly talked about the um… specialness… of the guys who write the mathematical algorithms for the stock market. They shuffle to the bathroom with math textbooks under their arms for some multitasking. They don't adhere to the firm's dress code; they wear sandals and sweatpants to work. They have a poor sense of physical boundaries. 

Steve just called to say that the latest controversy has been drive-by candy stealing. The quant guys walk down the aisles of the firm and will help themselves to other people's candy without asking them. They reach over and just take candy off the desks.

Steve overheard one woman complaining to her manager, "I understand that these people have special abilities, which make them valuable to the firm, but they can't steal my candy!" 

 

23 thoughts on “The Quant Guys, Candy, and a Red Stapler

  1. I am not at all squeamish about germs or cooties or stuff like that, but I have *never* understood why people steal other people’s food from the office refrigerator. My boss told me she once walked into the faculty lounge to get her yogurt and soda from the fridge, only to find someone sitting there eating exactly the same kind of yogurt and soda, while my boss’s wasn’t in the fridge. My boss said something and the woman denied it. That takes some serious balls.

  2. I always assumed if people had dishes of candy sitting out on their desks it was intended to be shared. I guess I have the social skills of a quant guy!

  3. They shuffle to the bathroom with math textbooks under their arms for some multitasking.
    How different do you take this to be from texting while on the toilet? I have to admit that that surprises me a lot, but I sure hear a lot of it in public bathrooms these days. Or other reading material. I just don’t see that this is highly revealing of anything other than an unusually high interest in math, and find that no more interesting in itself than an unusually high interest in, say, celebrities.

  4. If the candy is free to anyone, it will be on the reception desk or the kitchen/break room table. If it is on some guy’s desk (or some woman’s desk as is much more likely), you’re supposed to pretend they have an office wall and you don’t see the candy unless you’ve gone in to the office in some physical or metaphorical sense.

  5. Ah, so you’re allowed to help yourself to the candy if you’ve stopped to talk to the person, but not if you just walk by their desk?

  6. There’s a huge disparity between the dress code of the financial world, and the dress code of the tech world (to which I’d assume quant guys would belong.)
    Our stockbroker neighbor heads off to work in a suit. Computer engineers wear, at best, business casual. Which side lacks social skills? Which side cares too much about other people’s opinions? Are quant guys fired or penalized for dress code violations?

  7. To a large extent, corporate dress codes are about power. A techie in a tie is a techie with no control over his work environment: he probably is held accountable to deadlines he had no input on, has no choice about the technology he uses, and he’s not likely to be able to set his hours. Worse workplace pathologies are probably present. It is possible that the quants’ sandals are merely markers asserting their value.
    I would happily wear a tie to a job interview, but I wouldn’t accept the job if my interviewers were also in ties.

  8. It is possible that the quants’ sandals are merely markers asserting their value.
    Out of my own personal perferences, I dress a bit nicer than that even without the requirement (not that I wear a tie when I don’t have to). But, there is a whole bunch of ways of asserting your value outside of the dress code that would seem to be better choices.

  9. “To a large extent, corporate dress codes are about power.”
    I’m not going to deny that sometimes they are, and the entrance of people into the system who believe they’re about power would tend to make them so (that is, a self-fulfilling policy).
    But, I think dress codes can also be about respect. Respect for others, but also the group that you’re entering. Take, for example, dress codes in churches (including the rule of having your arms covered, which influences choices in bridal attire); it’s about respecting the institution (even believing that power plays a role too, would probably agree that some respect is involved as well). Dress codes when you deal with “clients” (for example, medical personnel, or teachers, or lawyers, as well as salesman) can be a sign of respect for your client or the person you are serving.
    And, Ben’s comment makes me want to invent a job that he couldn’t possibly resist and make him wear a tie in order to have it. I don’t have that power — inventing the job, but if I were to, what job would that be? Or would you really give up any job to avoid wearing a tie?
    I would have an issue with covering my head in order to have a job in the middle east, but a strong reason for the discomfort would be the legal compulsion. Would I agree to cover my head in order to work at a private facility that served a lot of clients for whom that might be important? Hmh.

  10. It takes some serious balls to wear sweatpants and sandals to a Wall Street investment bank, even if you are in IT. Wall Street dresses extremely, extremely conservatively. I love watching the brokers come out of the elevator at the end of the day – a sea of light blue oxford shirts. (I sometimes wait for Steve in the lobby, rather than go all the way up with the kids in tow.) Hell, it’s New York City. Everyone dresses up. I don’t feel comfortable even walking down the street in shorts.
    These guys aren’t IT. They are the ones that write the math formulas that determine when the computers bypass people and automatically buy and sell stuff. I just explained that badly, but too lazy to rewrite.

  11. Neck ties are uncomfortable and I only wear them when I have to, but I don’t see what is uncomfortable about a jacket. It’s no more or less uncomfortable than any other form of outergarment if the weather is right for it. (A suit is different because your pants have to match.)

  12. BJ, I can’t disagree with you at all about respect. I noted that I’ll dress up when I’m an interview candidate, and I also dress up–generally all the way to business casual, which is what the clients wear–on the rare times when I’m doing anything client-facing. However, both of those are very different situations from the day-to-day intra-office culture of dress.
    A lot of this is about competing standards of professional culture in different industries. Within my field, the real leaders came out of 1960s California academia, and the workplace culture shows that in informal dress codes, high tolerance for counter-cultural eccentricity, and low tolerance for religious expression. The oil industry, on the other hand, still bears the imprint of East Texas in the 1900s-1930s, so you have early working hours, employees rewarded with off-shore fishing excursions, and business lunches at strip clubs. Someone who emerges from one culture and is forced to conform to the other is going to feel disrespected and out-of-place. And they’ll probably be right.

  13. I don’t want to hear anyone complaining about uncomfortable neckties, until you wear 2 inch heels with bleeding blisters all day.

  14. Do we know that these guys are native born? Anyone who’s ever had a business dinner with a developer from India – who serves himself by using his hands to take the steamed veggies off the serving platter – understands the cultural specificity here.

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