While his 13-year-old classmates at Seattle’s Lakeside Middle School ate on plastic trays in the cafeteria, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates coded during his lunch break on a giant computer. A self-taught programmer, Gates applied the first software program he developed to construct a digital version of tic-tac-toe.
Gates opened the floodgates for other self-taught coders, from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey, who quipped, “Most of the best programmers are self-taught.”
Like these famous computer programmers, global investor and quantitative analyst Toby Carrodus taught himself to code Python. He calls learning the popular computer language his “biggest leap” among his autodidactic achievements.
As a quantitative analyst, Carrodus says, “Harnessing the power of computers in an age of such technological advancement has allowed me to ride that wave rather than being run over by it.”
All humans educate themselves to an extent. But continually self-educated people are called autodidacts. They voraciously read, experiment, practice and travel, among other things, outside of the framework of formal education. Indeed, schools and universities are temples of knowledge, but they’re not the only way to learn, as many luminaries have proven throughout time.
Among the historically famous autodidacts are Frida Kahlo, David Bowie, William Faulkner, and Vincent van Gogh. Leonardo da Vinci became the ultimate autodidact, regardless of his disadvantaged childhood.
Born to a peasant in a small village, da Vinci had no formal education beyond essential reading, writing, and math. Not only was he an autodidact, but he also became a polymath with a deep knowledge of many subjects. His mastery extended to architecture, science, music, mathematics, anatomy, geology, and botany.
Toby Carrodus was born in Cairns, Australia, where as a teen, he lived with his single mother and received government support. He was awarded multiple scholarships and earned a Bachelor of Economics and a B.A. in political science from the Australian National University and a Master of Science in Economics from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. While studying in Germany, Carrodus learned the native language.
While a university education underpinned Carrodus’ career as a global investor and quantitative analyst, his voracious curiosity underpins his love of learning. Beyond university classes, Carrodus credits the book “Market Wizards” by Jack Schwager for fostering his passion for trading. The book, well-known to financial C-suite types, reveals what the world’s top traders do differently from average ones.
Like other quantitative analysts – nicknamed “quants” – Carrodus helps companies identify profitable investment opportunities and manage risk. He uses quantitative analysis methods to help companies make business and financial decisions.
Toby Carrodus learned Python via books such as “Learn Python the Hard Way” and “Python For Data Analysis”, as well as websites such as Udacity, Udemy, and Codecademy, modern modes of learning that didn’t exist when Guido van Rossum debuted his computer language debuted 1991. In case you were wondering, Python was not named after a snake, but instead took its moniker from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a British television comedy.
Compared to a simple scientific calculator or Excel spreadsheet, Python improved Toby Carrodus’ considerable skills at sourcing and cleaning data and analyzing large datasets considerably. Python showed Carrodus that he could cultivate better data analysis by letting code do the heavy lifting.
Carrodus also mastered Pandas, a package of fast, efficient data analysis tools within the Python ecosystem. Pandas’ popularity has surged in recent years with the rise of data science and machine learning. Within Carrodus’ investing and quant analysis wheelhouse, Pandas supports portfolio construction and management and makes data preparation, analysis, and visualization much more effortless.
In the last decade, the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism has experienced an explosion in popularity as entrepreneurs, political types, and financial gurus grasp its promise of managing one’s emotions and thoughts while the external world spins out of control. Like Buddhism, Stoicism teaches that life is impermanent. But Stoicism lacks Buddhism’s monkish asceticism, rendering it more worldly.
Stoicism’s practical outlook encourages people to control what is within their control and find happiness in themselves irrespective of their environment.
Toby Carrodus agrees with Stoicism’s tenets of self-sufficiency and self-education. He has also formed a philosophical goal to manage a tumultuous industry.
“I’m consciously creating a nicer, more thoughtful environment in the trading industry, in contrast to the menacing “dog eat dog” experience which tends to prevail,” he says.
In 167 A.C.E., the private diary of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, a legendary Stoic, became public in the philosophical tome Meditations, a favorite among Silicon Valley types who have adopted Stoicism as a system of ethics. Like Aurelius, busy, hyper-successful types seek inner tranquility in a chaotic world.
Carrodus keeps a “diary of quotes, lessons, and anecdotes on hand” to remember critical lessons and fundamental principles as he learns them. He examines it daily.
“Keeping a small diary allows me to separate the ‘signal from the noise,’” he says. Some of the Bon Mots from his diary include: “Things don’t need to be difficult – they can be as simple or complex as you make them,” “Focus on the people,” and “Relationships are key.”