Interview With Alumni: Yanchuan Cai’18, CFA shares his experience in Bridgewater as a Trading Associate
Graduating year: 2018
Concentration: Business Administration and Management
- Wishland Capital | Investment Manager (2021-present)
- Bridgewater Associate | Trading Associate (2018-2021)
Q: So you’ve been in the US for 7 years, what makes you make the decision of going back to China giving up so many opportunities in the US?
A: I always know that I would go back to China at one point. I just didn’t know it’d be that quick. When searching for jobs, I look for 2 things that I value most: meaningful work and meaningful relationship. I want to be shaping changes in my work and working towards my goal of becoming a successful investor. Additionally, I am looking to work with incredible people who share similar values. I got an offer with all I want, so I didn’t hesitate at all.
Q: You were selected by Bridgewater soon after your graduation. What are your tricks or secrets?
A: There are multiple dimensions to approach this question. One is from the process of interviewing. It is not only the company interviewing you, but you are also interview the company. You want to make sure that you pick the right company and people there like you. That is the most important thing. For me, I like Bridgewater’s culture and they like me and think that I am capable of my job, that’s why I got the offer. The other perspective is applying to as many companies as you can and meeting more people. Even if you don’t like them, just do it for practice. You need to improve your interview skills overtime. It’s not like you just found your perfect job and you nailed it.
Q: Can you describe what you do at your job？
A: Before getting into my job, I want to say two things. One is that I think many undergraduates do not know what investment banking is exactly, but many of them will claim that they want to do investment banking. I would encourage students to spend some more time researching what IB actually means. Two is that there are different kinds of trading jobs out there. There are examples like sales and trading within investment banks like Goldman, execution trading who focus on making sure the trades are being done and avoiding cost if possible, etc. For my part, I started off as a night trader where I executed trades across different time zones (US hours / European hours / Asian hours). My first year was basically focusing on doing trades. Starting second year, I moved to a senior trading role where I do projects and train other junior traders. I moved to more of an analytics role in my third year where I got involved in how to make the best trading strategy for the company and lower the overall cost.
Q: How did you get prepared for this job?
A: For Bridgewater, they are looking for two things. One is the ability to learn new skills quickly for the job. They do not care what background you have. Additionally， they want you to be a culture fit.
Q: You mentioned culture fit but culture fit is really hard to be tangibe. Could you tell us how to show your culture during different interviews?
A: I can only speak for Bridgewater. Do not pretend to be anybody, just be yourself. They have interviewed thousands of people and you can’t fake anything in front of them. You can do your best to try to be more professional, but being who you really are in a good way is what you need to do. For Bridgewater, if you search online, you can see that we look for meaningful work and meaningful relationships. You need to be willing to do the hard work and build meaningful relationships with your colleagues: give constructive feedback, accept feedback and improve yourself from it.
Q: When you applied for Bridgewater, did you contact any alumni or people within the company? How do you prepared yourself to be ready for the interviews
A: Not really. I didn’t even know if there were any alumni at Bridgewater at that time. I just applied online, they interviewed me and gave me an offer. All I prepared is that I read about Bridgewater online and learned about the culture. During the interview, I just tried to be myself and did my best.
Q: For Asian students, it is relatively hard for us to get into Wall Street and what they call “high finance”. Do you have any suggestions for Asian students, whether they are American born or students from mainland China or other countries?
A: I have two tips. One is more high level and easier said than done. You want to try to figure out what you want to do in the long term during undergraduate. Once you have the long term goal, lots of things would be more straightforward and you will be more determined to fight for what you want to do. People who pursue finance just for a finance compensation would find themselves lack of motivation and may not be driven enough to do the hard work in order to get to where they want to be. But if you have a clear long term goal such as I want to be a successful investment banker in ten years, or I want to do the largest deal in the world, you are way more likely to succeed. With these goals in mind, even if you go sidetrack for a year or two, you’d still know where you want to be and you know what are the steps you can take to get to your goals. The second advice is more practical: reach out to people! Babson has a great network of helpful alumni. They are willing to help you as long as you are thoughtful with your ask (in other words, be prepared), whether it’s job hunting tips, resume critique, industry knowledge, referral, or at the very least, you just expanded your network. Who knows if your professional path would cross again in the future.