《The Man Who Solved The Market》中文版翻译连载59
The Man Who Solved The Market (63)
David Magerman shut the door of his Boston apartment well before dawn on a cool morning in the fall of 1994. He jumped into a silver Toyota Corolla, adjusted the car’s manual windows, and headed south. The twenty-six-year-old drove more than three hours on Interstate 95 before catching a ferry to the tip of Long Island, arriving for a job interview at Renaissance Technologies’ offices in Stony Brook before ten a.m.
Magerman seemed a shoo-in for the position. Jim Simons, Henry Laufer, Nick Patterson, and other staffers were acclaimed mathematicians and theoreticians, but Renaissance was starting to develop more-complex computer-trading models, and few employees could program very well. That was Magerman’s special. He’d completed a productive stint at IBM, getting to know Peter Brown and Bob Mercer, and it was Brown who had invited him for the morning visit, giving Magerman reason to expect things to go well.
They didn’t. Magerman arrived exhausted from his morning journey, regretting his penny-pinching decision not to fly from Boston. Almost immediately, Renaissance staffers got under Magerman’s skin, presenting a serious of difficult questions and tasks to test his competence in mathematics and other areas. Simons was low-key in a brief sit-down, but one of his researchers grilled Magerman on an obscure academic paper, making him work out a vexing problem at a tall whiteboard. It didn’t seem fair; the paper was the staffer’s own overlooked PhD dissertation, yet he expected Magerman to somehow demonstrate a mastery of the topic.
Magerman took the challenges a bit too personally, unsure why he was being asked to prove himself, and he overcompensated for his nervousness by acting cockier than he actually felt. By the day’s end, Simons’s team had decided Magerman was too immature for the job. His appearance added to the juvenile image. Sandy-haired and husky, with a babyface and rosy-pink cheeks, Magerman looked very much like an overgrown boy.
Brown stood up for Magerman, vouching for his programming skills, while Mercer also lent support. They both saw Medallion’s computer code growing in size and complexity and concluded that the hedge fund desperately needed additional firepower.
“You’re sure about him?” someone asked Brown. “You’re sure he’s good?”
“Trust us,” Brown responded.
Later, when Magerman expressed interest in the job, Brown toyed with him, pretending that Renaissance had lost its interest, a prank that left Magerman anxious for days. Finally, Brown extended a formal offer. Magerman joined the firm in the summer of 1995, determined to do everything possible to win over his doubters. Until then, Magerman had spent much of his life trying to please authority figures, usually with mixed results.
Growing up, Magerman had a strained relationship with his father, Melvin, a Brooklyn cabbie plagued with awful luck. Unable to afford a taxi medallion in New York, Melvin moved his family to Kendall, Florida, fourteen miles southwest of Miami, ignoring David’s heated protests. (On the eve of their deaprture, the eight-year-old ran away from home in a fit of anger, getting as far as a neighbor’s house across the street, where he spent the afternoon until his parents retrieved him.)
For several years, Melvin drove a taxi, stuffing cash into Maxwell House coffee tins hidden around the home as he and his brother-in-law, with help from a wealth patron, crafted a plan to buy a local cab company. On the eve of the deal, the patron suffered a fatal heart attack, scuttling Melvin’s big plans. Plagued by depression throughout his life, Melvin found his mood turning still darker, and he was unable to drive a cab. Melvin collected rent at his brother-in-law’s trailer park as his mental health deteriorated further. He grew aloof with David and his sister, both of whom had close relationships with their mother, Sheila, an office manager at an accounting firm.
The Magerman family lived in a lower-middle-class neighborhood populated by a mix of young family, criminals, and oddballs — including drug dealers across the street who entertained visitors at all hours, and a gun nut who liked to shoot at birds, which landed with some regularity in the Magerman backyard.
For most of his youth, David skirted serious trouble. To raise spending cash, he hawked flowers on the side of a road and sold candy in school. He’d buy candy bars and other merchandise with his father at a local drugstore and sell it out of a duffel bag to classmates at slightly higher prices. The unsanctioned business thrived until the school’s rival candy man, a muscular Russian kid, was busted and pointed to David as his operation’s ringleader. The school’s principal, who already had labeled David a troublemaker, suspended him. While serving time in a library room with other miscreants, as inThe Breakfast Club, an attractive female classmate asked David to join her cocaine-delivery operation in Miami. (It wasn’t clear if she realized David had been busted for distribution Snickers and 3 Musketeers bars, experience that wouldn’t have been of much use when selling cocaine.) David politely declined, noting that he had only a bicycle for transportation.
David placed most of his focus on his studies, relishing the unequivocal praise he received from teachers, parents, and others, especially after winning trophies at academic competitions. David participated in a local program for gifted students, learned to program computers at a community college, and won a scholarship after seventh grade to attend a private middle school a forty-five-minute bus ride away. There he learned Latin and jumped two grades in math.
Outside the classroom, David felt ostracized. He was insecure about his family’s economic position, especially compared with those if his new schoolmates, and vowed to enjoy his own wealth one day. David ended up spending large chunks of the day in the school’s computer lab.
“That’s where we nerds hid from the football players,” he says.