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Meet our alumni: Jolie de Miranda


Blue graphic with mortar boards and the words Meet our Alumni

Jolie completed both her BA and DPhil at the Oxford University Computer Laboratory (the department’s former name). Her time armed her with the core skills for her current role in systematic trading in the quantitative finance industry. 

What course did you study here and when?  

I studied Mathematics and Computation as an undergraduate (1999-2002). This was followed by a DPhil in Computer Science under the supervision of Professor Luke Ong (2002-2006).  

What was your background before Oxford?  

I am half Brazilian and half Chinese and moved around a good deal as a child. I had lived in six countries and studied at five different schools by the time I reached university. My working definition of ‘home’ was wherever my parents happened to be at the time. It’s much the same now – home is where my husband and daughter are!  

What attracted you to studying Computer Science as a subject?  

I fell in love with computers at the age of 11 when I first saw a PC running Windows 3.1 in my aunt’s office. I was blown away: I had never seen a colour screen PC before, nor a mouse! After that day, I campaigned relentlessly for my parents to buy me a computer and on my 12th birthday my dream came true. Within a few weeks I had written my first few lines of code in BASIC and I was hooked! My fate was sealed from that moment on; it was inevitable that I was going to end up studying Computer Science.  

What aspects of the course you studied here did you particularly enjoy? 

Oxford places a great emphasis on the mathematical foundations of Computer Science. I strongly believe in this approach. For my undergraduate degree, I originally enrolled to study Computation and I am embarrassed to admit that I was initially a little dismayed at the prospect of having to spend half my first year on maths courses. However, my opinion of this changed rapidly: not only did I enjoy the maths courses but I started to realise that, above all, I was learning how to think in a mathematically precise and rigorous way. I was becoming a much better computer scientist as a result of this. At the end of my first year, I changed to the joint degree of Mathematics and Computation.  

What did you do when you left Oxford? 

I left Oxford to join the world of quantitative finance. After experimenting with a few different roles at both banks and hedge funds (the quantitative finance industry is enormous), I finally found my niche in systematic trading. Over the last five years I have been running systematic trading strategies that trade a wide variety of financial instruments including commodities, currencies, bonds and global equity indices. My work combines developing mathematical models to forecast security prices and the risks involved, but it also involves coding up the systems and infrastructure to generate the trades and execute these trades electronically. Although the work is occasionally stressful (particularly if I’m going through a losing streak!), it’s a huge amount of fun and I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to work on such interesting problems day in and day out. I currently work for Balyasny Asset Management as an associate portfolio manager, and am based in London.  

How has the course you studied here helped you in your current profession? 

The joint degree of Mathematics and Computation has armed me with the core skills I need for my day-to-day work: mathematical modelling and development skills to turn these models into robust real-time trading systems. Although the topic of my DPhil is unrelated to my current line of work, it taught me a great deal about the highs and lows of research and how to keep my motivation up in times of adversity. In other words, it taught me to persevere.  

What advice would you give to current students on applying their knowledge in the workplace when they leave university? 

Don’t be put off if the end application doesn’t immediately grab you or fall within your immediate area of expertise. My knowledge of financial markets was virtually non-existent when I first entered the world of finance. But that didn’t seem to matter to anyone: what mattered was that I had been equipped with a good tool set to analyse and tackle problems in a logical and efficient manner. The domain-specific knowledge will come.