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After a year and a half at the KCBT, I knew it was time for me to head to Chicago and try to get

a job on either the CME or CBOT. The Chicago pits were far and away the big league of futures trading and I knew that I couldn’t live with myself if I didn't give it a shot. My downside would be limited knowing that I could always come back to KC and find a job back on the KCBT so the only issue would be finding a way onto the floor in Chicago and I'd be set. That I was 19 and had no college education didn't seem like much of an issue and as they say ignorance is bliss. Generally half to three quarters of those working on the floor stumble into their position through a friend or family contact and not having either of those, I decided my best option would be to shotgun resumes to every contact I could find across the entire Chicago futures industry. Both the CME and CBOT websites listed every clearing firm and specific contact names of who headed up the operation so I proceeded to write and fax my resume to each contact then follow up with a phone call. Most of the contacts were managing director level and when I didn't have a specific person to contact I'd just write or request the Director of Floor Operations. Not surprisingly, there wasn't a lot of demand for my services. A handful of larger brokerages had the courtesy to send a form rejection letter but otherwise I never received any positive reception through the mail or fax. Following up with a phone call after market hours led to similar frustrations as most calls would result in messages left with secretaries or attempts to get me off the phone as fast as possible. “Hello, this is Ryan Carlson and I recently mailed and faxed my resume to you so as to enquire about working for your firm.” “Yeah, sorry but we aren't interested.” “In that case do you know of other firms to suggest for me to contact or any opportunities to pursue?” “No, bye” “Well please keep my resume on hand and contact me if you have anything open up.” “Click” Although I generally got treated like a leper, contacts at some of the more gentlemanly institutional firms took a bit of time to field some questions and do what they could to orient me towards getting a job on the Chicago floors. It was a first exposure to a lifelong lesson of how good people gravitate towards good firms while bad firms have a dysfunctional personality gained by who they employ. In all my efforts to land a job in Chicago, those who treated a prospective employee such as myself with respect, I'd subsequently learn they had good reputations not only on the trading floor but also in the industry while those firms which did otherwise were more often than not dirty, petty and not liked or respected. Over a couple weeks I was able to assemble a small number of contacts to make it worth driving to Chicago from KC in an attempt to land a job in person with some interviews. Dan knew that trying to get on in Chicago was something in my future and was fine with the fact that he'd have to find someone to replace me shortly if I were successful. When I began working for him, he asked for a year and we were approaching the anniversary so it might have even been suspected.

Thus, on an early fall weekend I drove to Chicago and checked into a hostel on the far north side near Loyola University. To underline the importance of the trip, I rented a room with two beds in it for myself rather than the standard dormitory bunk which is shared between two to four people a room. Morning would come early and with only one day off from my duties at the KCBT, I'd have to drive into the Loop to meet for some interviews before driving onto Kansas City that evening. Not only did I feel good at the prospects of using the drive home to weigh which job offer I'd take over all the ones offered, I felt good by wearing the best of my wardrobe which was all bought at Goodwill. In the morning after parking downtown I had a bit of time to kill and first went up to hang out in the viewing gallery so I could watch the action that I'd be a part of in no time. Even when the Chicago floor was slow, it appeared so much more exciting than the KCBT could ever be and there were infinite possibilities on the Chicago floors that firms were probably far underemployed to keep pace. Of the six interviews I had that day, my expectation that atleast three but more likely four firms would offer jobs but all six would be highly interested regardless. The unemployment rate in late 1999 was practically at a generational low with the bubble economy that were were in so I felt practically assured of multiple offers. With my first interview at 9, I used a bit of time to run nearby to Au Bon Pain to bring breakfast of fresh OJ and some pastries to my interviewer before heading to the CBOT. It worked to snag a job at KC so it seemed great to do again for an encore. However, the first interview didn't go well because it didn't happen at all. Once I got the office of what was a clearing firm for locals, I was pointed to the breakroom and told to wait for the floor manager to come up. For the first 30 minutes of waiting I read the paper multiple times and had a chat w/some of the keypunch ladies that typed trading card information into computers. Allowing a slight delay on a job interview isn't too much of a concession but after closing in on an hour of wasting my time, I decided to walk out rather than set such a submissive tone with a company. The subsequent two interviews didn't go much better with the possibility of serving as a runner in the grain room which would've been a large step down from what I was doing in KC. Working as a runner for even Goldman Sachs was something I decided would be beneath my goals of what I came to Chicago to accomplish and it was either be at least a desk clerk as I was at the KCBT or figure something else out, just as long as it wasn't being a runner which had the intellectual requirement of carrying a piece of paper from point A to point B. After a disappointing start to the day, it was time for an on the floor interview facilitated by a Managing Director at JP Morgan who contacted the head of their CBOT Treasury desk to speak with me. After talking to various piker firms, it was refreshing to meet with a dominant bulge bracket firm where I felt like I belonged. No one else I contacted in my search was as remotely polite as Peter, the MD at JP Morgan who in a great show of karma was recently appointed head of worldwide futures for that firm. For JPM to want to have a chat w/me on the trading floor so I could see their operations really gave the impression that they were pretty serious about hiring me and the feeling certainly was mutual because working for a firm like them was the reason to be in Chicago. Waiting outside the turnstiles which lead onto the floor so I could get signed in as a visitor by the head of the JPM bond desk it was great to see the frenzy as people made their way off the floor and back on. By late morning a lot of traders were probably headed to the golf course the rest of the day after cleaning up in the market all morning, clerks were going for a long lunch and the runners floated around lighthearted as their job carried almost zero responsibility. Hopefully in no time I'd join this group and stroll the floor wearing the green and beige coat of JPM which I

was looking out for to get signed onto the floor. Standing off the trading floor in a suit, particularly one assembled from various visits to Goodwill and other thrift stores, makes one stand out and once Tim who was the head of JPM's bond desk saw me his expression was a combination of “I hope that's not the guy I have to chat with” along with “it's probably the guy I have to show around the floor.” Tim's expression stemmed seemingly because he wasn't expecting to meet with a 19 year old which is understandable and from conversing with him it was clear he didn't even see my resume but just got handed down a request to show a guy around looking for a job. There aren't any other industries where people are as open and helpful for a beginner as working on the trading floor and this is unfortunately one feature lost as the floors close. After getting signed onto the CBOT trading floor by Tim and him politely answering my questions about the floor, we walked to the JPM bond desk and it was clear that I wouldn't have been remotely qualified to work for “Morgan Bank” as I watched their desk brokers put thousands and thousands of contracts into the pit with regularity. Coming from the KCBT where 100 lots were good size on the wheat contract, the size that JPM did was nothing less than staggering. Although Tim was courteous and noted that they didn't have a role for me, he knew their desk neighbor was going through a reorganization and hired some new guys so might have some extra spaces to fill. The neighboring desk was Japanese bank Nomura which I contacted as every clearing firm via mail, fax and followup phone call but I didn't receive any contact back. Tim asked for where Brian, the Nomura MD, was and he happened to be across the floor at the Dow index futures desk covering for their broker on a break from his normal post at the bond desk where we currently stood. Already I consumed a fair amount of Tim's time so it was a nice surprise when Tim offered to walk me over to the Nomura Dow desk. I carried notes of the all my attempts to contact people so I was certain that I specifically tried to reach Brian previously but to no avail and while introducing myself to Brian, noted that I sent my resume to Nomura. Brian's reply to my introduction was something I'll never forget, “What an aggressive guy, he comes down to the floor to find me” and then flashed a smile which certainly put a smile on my face as well. Tim stood patiently nearby as Brian discussed about how they were looking to find an electronic clerk off the floor to enter orders in the CME's Globex and CBOT's Project A systems after the trading pit closed each day. As nice as it was to discuss the possibility for a job for the first time that day, I told Brian thanks for mentioning it to me but I'm specifically looking to work on the trading floor. Since Tim needed to return to his desk, I thanked Brian for his time and also Tim as I walked back through the turnstiles and was left wondering if I'd ever end up going back through them as it was clear getting a job wasn't as easy as I thought. A couple more interviews remained at the CME but with smaller firms and those were not only brief but didn't yield anything beyond being told that I might be able to start as a runner after moving to Chicago in the future. One in particular with another piker firm seemed like the interviewer just let spoke to me so he could ramble on about himself. Chicago left me with a pretty disappointing choice that if I were to start on the floor my only options would be to begin as a runner and hope for the best. The 8 hour ride back from Chicago to Kansas City gave me a lot of time to blow off steam about not only getting a choice of jobs and firms but to come up without even the choice of either. Fittingly the only flat I've experienced happened on the drive along I-70 and it was a race

against an impending Midwestern thunderstorm to fix it. It wasn't the first time that the trading industry would test my fortitude but it would take a long time for me to reach a lower nadir than that moment by the roadside. In hindsight it would've been best to contact trading groups but in the late 90's most groups had no internet presence to find or contact them and generally consisted of a small amount of locals who banded together. Now the proliferation of proprietary trading groups is the easiest entree into futures trading but after a washout as electronic trading matured, it's resulted in much greater difficultly to obtain even an entry level position at a good firm. A decade ago a quick eyeball of the resume and a couple questions was all it took to get hired whereas now many firms require scoring well on a standardized math test before being interested in talking. Back in KC there was no hurry to plan my next move but not having much passion about grain trading, a move to do something else was in the cards although my options were severely limited. With the tech bubble being in full effect, I like many others made plans to head to San Francisco and figure it out once there. The Pacific Stock Exchange in downtown SF was sizzling with activity as they listed options on various tech stocks and they went as far to advertise the need for exchange staff such as pit reporters on craigslist. I was certain that once out there I'd be virtually guaranteed a job at the Pacific and with a lot of family in the Bay Area, I'd find a free place to stay until I got on my feet. With very little money and the blissful ignorance of youth, I put in my notice to Dan and planned to drive to the West Coast a few weeks hence. Being short on cash didn't allow for the possibility of a fun road trip but one benefit would be to escape the Midwestern winter that was bearing down had I opted to stay in KC. Packing when one is 19 and doesn't own much couldn't have been easier as it was just kitchen supplies, clothes, books, CDs, and a stereo which would all fit nicely into my Geo Prism for the drive out west. Dan and the guys at the KCBT said they'd send me off with some drinks after the close on the upcoming Friday at the nearby dive bar called the Peanut which never carded me when I went w/the KCBT guys. A proper sendoff at the Peanut was happy but for a different and most fortunate reason. On the Wednesday of the week I was leaving, my phone rang and it was Brian from Nomura in Chicago who wanted to followup and wondered why I didn't. It was pretty shocking for him to contact me but after thanking him for doing so I mentioned that I was just looking to only work on the floor and not upstairs doing electronic executions. Once again Brian gave me a conversation that'll never be forgotten, “Well how about this, one of desk guys at the S&Ps is leaving to do some arbitrage trading so we have a position to fill. It's be mostly handing the S&P order flow but also some NASDAQ, neither of which are too busy, and assisting our Japanese broker with orders in the Nikkei pit. We're also looking for that person to get trained at every desk so we could substitute coverage on the eurodollar, Dow and bond desks as needed so they'd have floor access at both the CME and CBOT. Is this something you'd be interested in?” I was rather speechless but managed to reply, “You just offered me my literal dream job and I can start on Monday.” If given the chance to craft a more ideal job to learn and experience the Chicago trading pits, I couldn't have done better than what Brian offered me. Being able to work a desk for one of the largest financial futures contracts in Chicago, especially for a respected firm, would have in

itself been a dream but to rotate between large desks at the CME and CBOT was beyond belief! Sometimes in life there are reasons to believe in destiny and this is one such instance where it feels like the entire reason one is put on Earth is to live in such a moment and opportunity. As the market and life would also teach me time and again, the easiest way to find something is to stop looking for it. Accepting a new job in a different city always presents its own challenges but telling Brian on Wednesday night that I'll be there on Monday ready to start work left me without much time to figure out a living situation in Chicago. In the morning I was pretty anxious to break the news to some guys on the KCBT who were all happy to hear that I'd now be heading to Chicago as originally desired. We had drinks at the Peanut the following day and with a hangover on Saturday, the drive to Chicago began. Just outside of Chicago I spent the night sleeping in my car at a rest stop and early Sunday morning drove into the city and look for a place to live. The feeling of excitement I had while driving in, that I was getting to work my dream job on BOTH of the exchanges, was just amazing. In reflection, the biggest wealth is youth and very few accomplished individuals would be unwilling to give up all they've earned to be young again to take on the infinite opportunity of what the world has to offer. Once in Chicago, I drove to the neighborhood around Lincoln Park looking for rental phone numbers to call for vacancy as every ex-Chicago guy at the KCBT suggested that as the best place to live. One on sight management office was open on that Sunday morning and after a quick viewing, took the first reasonably priced apartment they offered me. Getting a lease signed before noon on Sunday isn't too bad and it left me w/a good feeling that this whole Chicago thing might work out. I still had to stay the next five nights in a hostel on the far north side while I waited for some formalities to clear regarding the apartment but things were working out quite nicely.