Q&A with a Two Sigma recruiter

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Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

At UC Berkeley, a school renowned for its computer science program, students vie for some of the most competitive technical internships in the country. Familiar among the campus’s ambitious students is Two Sigma, a New York City hedge fund that utilizes technology to sift through financial data.

The Daily Californian spoke with Evan Anger, Two Sigma’s senior vice president of human resources, to ask about its selective intern-hiring process. According to Anger, the company receives thousands of applications for its summer internships and selects approximately 50 to 60 interns. Sound daunting? Anger walked us through what an aspiring intern can expect from Two Sigma.

The Daily Californian: First off, can you tell us more about Two Sigma and why internships with your company are so attractive to students?

Evan Anger: Two Sigma, broadly, is a technology company with a deep expertise in investor management. We were founded in 2001 by a computer scientist and a statistician with the idea that data and technology can drive strong investing decision-making on behalf of clients. As Two Sigma has grown, we’ve expanded to apply methodology to other businesses. Today, we’re looking at insurance. We’ve expanded into venture investing and early stage tech companies, with a specific focus on (artificial intelligence). Broadly, we look like a bunch of scientists, we think like a bunch of scientists.

DC: What are the varieties of tech internships that Two Sigma offers, and in what cities do those interns work?

EA: I think the two most relevant technical internships that we have are our software engineering program and our quantitative modeling internship program. The software engineering internship is majority based in our New York City office, so it’s offered to rising seniors and rising juniors. We additionally, as of this year, have launched a freshman intern program to be based in our Houston office.

Software engineering internship in New York is 10 weeks long. It’s meant to mirror a real-life work experience, so we essentially pair interns with a manager who has a pre-approved project, and we look very carefully for real, meaningful, impactful projects. They work one on one with that manager, and they’ll officially get mentorship from that localized team and from other individuals in engineering and broader company organization.

The freshman internship program is actually new. It will be similar, although I can’t speak in great detail, as we are still working out the specific project plans.

Our modeling internship tends to be focused more on the students who want to conduct research, and that could be people with backgrounds in math, computer science, statistics, physics. It’s an approach that is also based in New York. That is, again, a 10-week program. The modelers have a project, or a kind of scope of research. It may be a novel data set that we’ve never had time to explore, it may be a new market that we want to look into, and they will own some portion and hopefully as much of a full cycle of research as possible that may be all the way to taking a new data, understanding what it could be used for and actually building a model.

DC: What makes for a strong application to a tech internship with Two Sigma? Can you give any specific examples of strong resume elements?

EA: We’re looking for engaged students who’ve taken a strong interest in bettering themselves through the academic curriculum that they choose. We’re looking for individuals for, let’s say our software engineering internship, that have taken more than just the basic computer science classes that they have to. We like lateral thinkers, so we like folks that have engaged in coding competitions, entrepreneurship contests. We like folks that have interesting outside activities, are part of organizations. We do like certainly strong academic records in terms of GPA. We want our interns to come from a range of different backgrounds so that they can also learn from each other. It also helps us learn from them.

DC: What does the typical internship interview entail?

EA: Overall, it’s pretty similar. The first step is usually connecting with somebody on the recruiting team. Depending on where we are in the recruiting cycle, it may be that we just connected with you via email. If it’s early enough in the cycle, it’s going to entail a phone call with the recruiter. If we’re short on time and bandwidth, we err on the side of getting people into our interview process quickly so that they don’t receive offers that time out, essentially. That first phone call is just to find out what you’re interested in, what do you know about Two Sigma, to tell them about the interview process. The next step is usually some sort of coding challenge for either internships.The next step is usually a phone screen with the hiring manager, and the hiring manager is usually going to cover a bit about your background and discuss the types of technical questions. And then once you make it past that and that goes well, we’ll bring you in for an interview day.

DC: What can a student do to prepare for an interview?

EA: One is be aware of what’s on their resume. Two, ask the recruiter what they should expect in the interview process. Most recruiters are there to tell you and give you expectations. We have a guide on our website that actually helps candidates prepare for our interviews, so we try to be very transparent about that. They should practice their coding if they expect they’re going to do that in an interview. They should think about the types of problems that the company is interested in. I think they should get plenty of sleep, they should eat well, they shouldn’t stress themselves out too much. Our interviews aren’t meant to trip you up. We’re really just trying to give you a really comfortable and safe forum to show us what you can do. It doesn’t always feel that way to students, especially when they haven’t had tons of interviews previously.

DC: Let’s say you get through this whole process, you get hired. Can you walk us through a typical day in the life of an Two Sigma intern?

EA: You’re in the office in the morning. You’re probably sitting at your desk, talking to your manager about what you’re going to work on that day, or maybe other colleagues or other interns you happen to be sitting nearby. Let’s say you spend a couple hours working on the project that you’re working on, and then perhaps there’s a TechX. We have a lot of internal talks here. Then you’re back at your desk for another hour or so, and you’re going to go get lunch with your team. Maybe after lunch, you have a session designed for the internship, where you’re going to learn about one of Two Sigma’s businesses, and one of our business leaders is going to come present to you for an hour or so and give you a chance to ask questions. Maybe the rest of the afternoon, you’re back working on your project. Maybe you have a one on one with your manager for 30 minutes to an hour. And then very often, we have events. We do things like going to Yankees games, we do walking food tours, we do scavenger hunts — things that helps the interns get out and interact with each other, interact with employees and experience New York City.

DC: What do you think college students ultimately take away from internships with Two Sigma?

EA: I think they get a real good sense for what it’s like to work here. They hopefully learn a lot, because we try to give them projects with real depth that will challenge them and let them grow. They get a really good sense for what life is like in New York City. They get a really good feel for what Two Sigma’s business really is, what type of people work here.

DC: Do you have any final words of advice for aspiring interns?

EA: Ask lots of questions.

Contact Andrea Platten at [email protected].

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