Hey there! I'm Shanif - a young professional with a background in technology and a passion for investing and trading. I've been developing software since 1997 and have been trading options profitably since 2008.
I have a BS in Computer Science and Systems & Information Engineering, and recently earned my MBA, focusing on Quantitative Finance and Entrepreneurship. These days, I focus on generating high returns with options trading and building up a successful mobile software business.
People, Places, Things - My Best Shots
Just a quick tip to those of you whose browsers are starting to slow down – if you’re using Google Chrome, I’d highly recommend installing AdBlock. It automatically removes all ads (text, images, Flash, etc) from your websites, significantly increasing the speed of your browser. I just installed it myself and it has already made a big difference.View comments →
The Importance of Urgency
Let me ask you a quick question – are you familiar with Parkinson’s law?
No, you say?
Let me ask you something else – have you ever heard the saying “work expands to fill the time allotted to its completion”?
Well, let me ask you something else. Have you ever procrastinated, rushing to complete a task right before it’s due, and then regretted your earlier laziness?
Yes? Good, then you’re familiar with Parkinson’s law, and hopefully this post will strike a chord in you.
People don’t like to do work. We like to laze. We watch TV. We go to movies. We avoid the expenditure of effort like the plague. When we’re not constricted by hard deadlines and due dates, it’s too easy for us to fall into a cycle of complacency. Think about it. How easy is it to put off a task that’s important but not urgent, especially if there’s no deadline? Something that’s more urgent but possibly less important will always take its place.
That’s why when you’re working in an entrepreneurial environment, or you’re working without structure and guidelines, you not only need to be self-motivated, but you need to also have a sense of urgency.
Having a bit of pressure from knowing that time is running out “lights a fire under our butts.” It makes us act. It makes us do. As unpleasant as it is to be stressed by a deadline, it’s better for us in the long run because it makes us productive.
Me 2 years ago
Let me give you an example of what I mean.
When I got into business school two years ago, I arranged for my last day at my old company to be at the beginning of March. I didn’t start school until August. I told myself that I’d use the resulting time off to be super productive – work on Intigril, become a better trader, travel, make myself a better person.
But, at the time, I was under no pressure or stress from anyone or anything. I had plenty of money saved up from working. I knew I’d be moving on to something else in a few months. I had no stresses whatsoever.
So how did I spend that spring and summer?
Well, I did trade a good amount. And I did go to Switzerland for a few weeks. My friend Alain just told me that I even threw a couple of really good parties.
But other than that, I can’t remember anything else of note that I did. I had all this time and I squandered it!
Now let’s contrast that with my current situation. I’m 2 years older, smarter, wiser, and broker. Well, I’ve done okay with my trading, but I have nowhere near the same level of stability and cash cushion that I did when I was working. This is the first time in my life that I don’t have a solid, set in stone plan for the next few months. I’m thinking about my expenses and income every day.
There’s definitely a sense of urgency. That urgency has driven me to get involved with a lot of different ventures that could generate income. It has also focused my trading activities, since a loss now will hurt me far more than it would have before graduation.
I’m working a lot harder, and every day since graduation has been extremely productive so far. It’s because I need it to be. There’s always the thought in my head that if I don’t start making a lot of money soon, I’ll have to either leave New York (gasp), or get a job working for someone else. Both are far from ideal.
My suggestion to anyone that’s spending this summer figuring out their next steps is to develop a sense of urgency. Start thinking about what will happen if you’re not successful. Use those negative emotions as driving forces that, each and every day, will propel you towards productivity.
You don’t want to come out of this summer without anything to show for it except a lot of debt and a desperate attempt to find a job before your rent is due.
Give yourself aggressive deadlines. Learn self-motivation techniques. Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals, and know what it is you’re working to do.
When you’re on your own and without structure, you’re taking a lot of risk. Don’t add on to that risk by being lazy.View comments →
Why You Really Should Sleep On It
I’m not one for old wives’ tales. I rarely believe the stuff that my mom tells me. I never believe the stuff that my grandparents tell me. But when it comes to the adage of “sleeping on a problem,” I’m fully convinced.
It seems that whenever I’m able to sleep on a tough issue, regardless of the nature of that issue, I’m able to come up with a quick, efficient, and effective solution. Until recently, I’ve taken it as a given that sleeping over an issue can probably help solve that issue. As a programmer, I’ve witnessed this to be the case many a time. I can’t even count the number of times I ran into a coding or algorithmic issue that I had spent multiple hours on throughout the day, only to come back from a good night’s sleep and find the solution within 20 minutes. But regardless of my empirical, and albeit extremely unscientific observations, I never really knew whether getting a good night’s rest could actually help solve a problem, so I decided to do some quick research to look into it.
There have been several studies designed to study the effects of sleep on productivity. It seems that the essence of it comes down to two significant points. First, unconscious thought helps the brain create associations between disparate ideas – essentially, unconscious thought makes us more creative. Second, sleep can help the brain effectively organize and analyze information gathered during our waking hours. I’m also of the opinion that taking a step back from a problem can do wonders in helping your brain solve it later on. I suppose this relates back to the point about unconscious thought from above, but regardless of any other proven or unproven theories, we know for a fact that sleeping provides a defined break from time spent on a problem. That break in and of itself could significantly help in finding the answer to a complex problem.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about sleeping. Nobody can doubt that it’s not massively beneficial for us, and initial research seems to show that it serves a myriad of purposes. What’s interesting is that it seems like REM sleeping provides most, if not all, of the benefits of sleep. Apparently, even if you get a solid eight hours, if it’s all broken and unsettled, it may be worse for you than a quick nap that’s half as long but primarily composed of REM-time.
Ultimately, I don’t think that the benefits of sleep come as a surprise to anyone reading this, but the consequences of this whole idea of sleeping on a problem are very interesting. For example, I’m sure you’ve heard of married couples saying one of their secrets is that they “never go to sleep angry.” Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this saying. Not only do I think that trying to work out a problem late into the night with a significant other is unhealthy (because of lost sleep), but I also think it’s less effective than letting both parties take a step back, get some rest, and come back to the issue the following day. Of course, I could just be generalizing my own experiences here, so feel free to take that with a grain of salt.
Similarly, it’s probably more harmful to work through the night on a complex issue than allowing yourself enough time to look at a problem while you’re awake and then let your unconscious/subconscious mind take a stab at it while you’re sleeping. Some of the most creative and influential discoveries have been made after a good night’s rest.
So the next time you’re struggling with a tough analytical problem, or you’re looking for inspiration for your next masterpiece, or you’re even having a lovers’ spat, think about calling it quits, temporarily, and getting some rest. If experience is any guide, you’ll probably solve your problem the next day.
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/haoz/5319509248/sizes/l/in/photostream/
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Plans Can Go Wrong But Planning Is Crucial
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
Have you ever wondered what good planning does? Sometimes, it seems like every single plan you make can fall apart, and sometimes, that may be the case. But the benefit of planning doesn’t come just from having a preconceived idea of what you’re going to do. The real benefit of planning lies in its ability to help you think through all of the alternatives, scenarios, and possibilities and figure out what you’re going to do if they happen.
Eisenhower’s quote from above reflects this. He realized that nobody can fully predict what is going to happen in the future, however, he knew that by thinking ahead to what could happen, he’d be able to react more effectively when something unexpected came his way.
This is something that I’ve internalized and taken to heart over the past couple of years. Any time I’ve tried to accomplish one of my “far reaching” goals without planning, I’ve failed, without exception. Without thinking through exactly how and what I need to do in order to reach my goals, I’ve never had the clarity or focus that I need to actually reach them.
Alternatively, when I find myself thinking ahead, to all of the possibilities, all of the things that could happen, and all of the ways I’ll handle negative events when they happen (and they will happen), I’ve found myself able to react effectively.
Small goals don’t require much insight and forethought. You can accomplish them even if something goes wrong. But the path to achieving large goals is a lot longer, and one small problem can turn into a huge detour along the way. That’s why planning is much more crucial with anything that requires a large effort or has significant consequences.
One day, we may have computer models and systems that can predict all possibilities up to six standard deviations, and they’ll be able to tell us exactly what to do in each case. We’re not there yet, and until we see that day, we’re going to need to keep planning.View comments →
Why Multitasking Sucks
We all have too much to do these days – way too much. Personally, I struggle to balance classes, working on the startup, keeping up with trading, taking care of homework, and partaking in the multitude of “networking” opportunities that business school affords me. It’s no wonder that with so much to do and not enough time to do it all multitasking becomes our “go to” solution.
Unfortunately, it seems like this is a pretty crappy way of solving our problems. Humans aren’t very good at multitasking. In fact, if you look at some of the studies done, even simple tasks that we try to accomplish simultaneously can confound our feeble brains. Think you’re an exception? You’re probably wrong. I know I was.
When my days started getting jam-packed, I tried to ease some of the stress by doing homework while watching some of my favorite shows. Instead of killing two birds with one stone, I ended up missing the best scenes of Top Chef while taking three times as long to absorb an accounting concept. The very solution that I thought would increase my productivity and give me free time was causing me to be less efficient and worse at time management.
I realized this was a problem and set out to resolve it. One of my goals for the future is to “live in the present.” Part of that is to be fully “there” whenever I’m doing something. That means focusing completely on conversations while out to dinner, instead of thinking of the next trade I’ll make. It means paying attention and taking notes in class, as opposed to thinking about the weekend. It also means focusing on one, concrete, individual task at a time.
Since the new year started, I’ve separated my leisure time from my work time. By sitting at my desk and focusing on a task, and then watching a little TV afterwards, I’ve found that I’m not only more efficient at getting things done, but I actually end up having more time, on average, than I did when I tried to multitask. These days, I’m able to finish two serial tasks in less time than I used to when I did them at the same time.
I have to admit, it’s a little disturbing to think about this. We’re all strapped for time, and it only makes sense that we should be more efficient by doing two things at once. In fact, I’m still trying to get over the mindset that by not multitasking, I’m wasting time. The fact of the matter is, this simply isn’t the case.
Want some more proof?
I tried to write this article last night while watching TV (I know, I know, I’m still getting used to not multitasking). It took me over an hour to get my basic thoughts down, and I still didn’t finish it. Today, I banged it out in about 25 minutes sitting in the study lounge.
If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself. Take a week to focus entirely on your present activity without cramming in multiple tasks. If you find yourself more efficient, then stick with it. Plan out time for work and leisure. Prepare for the day ahead. Use a calendar. Become more efficient.
If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to texting your friend while writing an essay and cooking dinner with the TV on in the background. I’ll be surprised if you can make it happen.
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Make Sure To Capture That Fleeting Idea
A lot of us have great ideas. Some of us have some pretty crappy ideas too, but for the most part, we’ll all think of something brilliant and novel at one point or another in our lives. But chances are, we’ll push it to the back of our minds to focus on what we’re doing at the moment, urging ourselves to write it down later. Except that “later never comes.”
We forget it. If we’re lucky, we may be able to remember the fact that we even had an idea, and from there, we’ll try to rack our brains trying to remember what it was. We probably won’t be able to.
Many of these times, these ideas won’t be worth following up on, but there’s always the chance that one great idea may really be a big hit. Whether it’s a well-written lyric, business model, or movie plot, I believe that we should always make sure we’re recording the flashes of brilliance that we all periodically experience.
That’s why one of the habits I’m trying to get into these days is to record any sort of “good” idea that comes my way. On top of that, I try to do it in a way that’s most conducive to making me follow up on that idea. What does that mean? Well, let’s take an example.
This blog post itself was a quick idea that came to me about a month ago. By all means, it would have been a fleeting idea if I hadn’t done anything to follow up on it, but as soon as I thought about it, I created a new draft post on my site to make sure I would follow up on it and complete it later.
Similarly, if you’re a musician, you probably have lyrics flowing through your head at all times of the day. One of the best things you can do is write down any of those lyrics that really makes an impact on you, and try to come up with a tune or melody for it in your head. Record that tune as soon as it comes to you. Many of us have smart phones these days and they have voice recording capabilities, so you wouldn’t even need to carry around a recorder. The lead singer and songwriter for my favorite band, the Goo Goo Dolls, has a notebook of lyrics that he’s always writing in, and some of his best work comes from mixing and matching lyrics from that book.
Regardless of what your idea is, my suggestion is to get it out of your head and onto something tangible as soon as possible, whether that be pen and paper, iPhone, or scratchings on the back of a napkin. If you can, put it into whatever medium its final form is going to look like right then and there. If that’s not possible, write it down and follow up on it that night.
Chances are, your idea won’t be a big hit, but then again, most things in life don’t achieve huge popularity. But ultimately, it only takes one. If you keep at it long enough and follow up on your thoughts and ideas, with enough time and a little bit of luck, you might just have something successful on your hands. Ultimately, it’s all about the numbers, so my suggestion is to put the odds in your favor by following up on your incredible brilliance by putting pen to paper.
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Location, Location, Location – Why It Still Matters, Even Today
During the past five months, I’ve dealt with more extreme weather in New York than I’ve ever dealt with before, anywhere. In the summer I sweated through sweltering heat and 100% humidity. In the fall I walked through rain and dodged hail the size of golfballs. Throughout the course of this winter, I’ve been fighting gusting winds, icy sidewalks, and nearly daily bouts of intense snowfall. These harsh conditions have consistently made me ask myself if I’d rather be anywhere else right now, and though I’d love to be relaxing on a beach somewhere, my answer is consistently and resoundingly no.
Ultimately, the troubles that the weather causes me is no match for the amazing benefits I get from living in the city, and I’m not just talking about the social scene. Being in New York has motivated me, inspired me (yes, I realize it’s cliche). Since I’ve been here, I’ve worked harder, played harder, and been happier and more productive than ever before.
When you really think about it, that’s actually a bit strange. These days we a ton of technology to help us close the distance gap. Email, IM, Skype, and texts all help us communicate instantaneously, regardless of where we are. More and more companies are adopting policies that facilitate working from home. Sitting on my couch in an apartment in NoHo, I can directly control a computer in California. Why is it that, with all of these gadgets, a change in location can drastically change someone’s level of productivity?
Well, it turns out that nothing makes up for good ol’ human interaction. Humans are social creatures. We need to be around other people, and the people that we choose to spend our time with can completely change our day-to-day mindset and experiences. It’s true that if I wasn’t in New York I could still work to build Intigril, update my quantitative analysis software, write about business and entrepreneurship, and go out with my friends. But in all honesty, I just wouldn’t be as motivated to do so.
In New York, my attitude is different. Like I said, I’m motivated – extremely motivated. In fact, I have a newfound energy and drive that I didn’t have before (I imagine people in the tech scene in San Francisco feel the same way). I’m surrounded by people who are the same way. This city has a certain energy to it, and that energy meshes really well with my current goals and where I want to be in life. Without these intangibles, I really wouldn’t be able to produce as much. No new gadgets or electronics could change that.
Location doesn’t necessarily refer to just your city. It can be your job, your apartment, the people you’re around, anything – as long as it’s something that can really improve your attitude and change your perspective. I needed a new city – you may need a new home, a new office, or even new friends.
So ultimately, even in today’s day and age, location matters. Being around the right people, in the right environment, with the right support is hugely important. If you find yourself confused about where you are and uncertain about the direction you need to take, look at your surroundings and figure out if a change of scenery is in order. You may be content where you are, but unless you’re working as hard as you can towards a goal, and enjoying it, a new location could be in order.
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Founded an investment club focused on generating consistent, periodic income by using the aid of custom-developed analytic methodologies and computer programs to trade options
• Generated an average annualized return of 40%
• Coordinated the research and analysis efforts for myself and two partners
• Developed and automated several quantitative analysis algorithms that assist in the investment process by providing rankings of publicly traded companies based on financial fundamentals, listings of stocks with the highest options premiums, and predictions of stock movement based on trending and momentum criteria. Created the algorithms using the fundamental principles of weighted trade studies and later automated them using Ruby on Rails
• Created a website that enables the publication of investment articles and provides access to the aforementioned automated algorithms, a portfolio management tool, and educational resources
• Performed market research on publicly traded companies, focusing on industry standing, historical performance, competitive advantage, and future prospects
• Managed legal, financial, accounting, logistics, long-term strategy, and investment objectives
Software developer and member of founding teamoGolf
Member of the management team on an early stage startup that developed technology to provide data analytics and game management software for golfers.
• Created a website allowing golfers to review a comprehensive set of analytics about their game
• Developed financial projections and investor presentations, presented the new business and software at conferences, pitched to potential investors, and demoed the product to customers
• Developed strategy and marketing plans for growing the business
• Recruited new talent to assist with software development, marketing, and operations
AssociateBooz Allen Hamilton
Provided information and communications management solutions to public and private organizations as an IT consultant at a large, multi-national consulting organization.
• Managed timelines, resources, and a staff of up to 10 software developers and testers in the technical implementation of a project management application that allowed over 4,500 users on 500 projects to easily collaborate on key deliverables, organize project schedules, review budgets, and create financial projections. Coordinated the efforts of staff from multiple departments across the firm to implement a new development process that reduced the number of hours needed to create and test new software by more than 50%, eliminated the need for overtime work, and ensured the timely delivery of new functionality. Received a performance award for ensuring product quality, meeting deadlines, and effectively managing personnel
• Led and managed the technical implementation, logistics, timelines, and activities of myself and two other developers in the delivery of a web-based traffic simulation engine that provided a testbed for industry-specific application developers to test their proprietary algorithms. Received a performance award for “leading the team and ensuring critical deadlines were achieved without sacrificing quality.”
• Assisted in domain administration for a server farm consisting of SharePoint front-end web servers, Microsoft SQL Servers, domain controllers, and a SAN
• Lead developer for a Ruby on Rails and Flex-based application designed to automate the deployment of SOA-based military service offerings. Implemented a RESTful methodology for saving and delivering data to a Flex front end
• Participated in university recruiting and interview efforts for the firm. Provided recommendations that led to the hiring of approximately one-quarter of the total staff on sub-team, as well as the hiring of approximately 30 junior staff straight from college
• Progressively increased managerial responsibilities over the course of two promotions in three years
Software DeveloperWamily, LLC
Member of the management team on an early stage startup that developed web-based group communication, management, and coordination software.
• Worked with a team of web developers to create an Internet business centered on a website that would allow its users to easily manage and interact with their real-life groups in an online setting
• Developed widgets for communication and collaboration, permission models and security implementations, and user interfaces for site features
• Assisted in recruiting 500 alpha users and raising $20,000 in angel investments
• Participated in board meetings to determine long-term strategies
Intern Research AssistantBooz Allen Hamilton
Provided research and development support as a technology intern to a large, multi-national consulting firm.
• Provided a fully functional, database-backed web application for use by overseas military personnel in a shortened timeframe of 3 weeks as part of a 3-person development team
• Created a collaboration site that provided Navy leadership with near-real time critical information to streamline the decision making process in the Navy Gulf Coast Region in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina
• Designed and created several web part solutions using APIs from Active Directory, Microsoft MapPoint, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Microsoft SharePoint
• Created a Macromedia flash proof-of-concept dashboard for a status reporting application integrated with SharePoint
Researcher and Lead DeveloperUniversity of Virginia
Developed software, created algorithms, and analyzed information management processes that would optimize the battery life on micro-sensor hardware devices as part of a university thesis project.
• Coordinated the efforts of a five-member team focused on developing an approach to optimize the use of resources on wireless sensor networks
• Designed, implemented, and maintained a simulation engine capable of simulating enemy solider movement and sensor network functionality in customized, loadable, user-defined scenarios. The application was written in C#, supported XML-based loadable scenario files, and utilized various optimization algorithms (such as Dijkstra’s algorithm and A*). The simulation engine provided users with an intuitive graphical user interface for simulation control as well as the ability to view and report on simulation progress
• Performed statistical and quantitative analysis on results to determine optimal resource allocation policy for the tested scenarios
• Lead author and presenter of a paper at the IEEE Systems and Information Engineering Design Symposium describing results
Researcher and DeveloperPersonal and Academic Projects
Developed a variety of software for a myriad of purposes on several different platforms and programming languages.
• Developed and tested a C# desktop weight management application using Access as the database backend, and later migrated it to the Internet using PHP and MySQL
• Lead developer on a team that created, documented, and tested robot control and communication software for the Evolution ER1 robot. The software allowed users to remotely control the robot by way of a specially created communications protocol
• Developed a prototype for an interactive Macromedia Flash map that retrieves external data and allows users to easily view them in a geographically organized format
• Created a discrete event queuing model simulation of a dining facility located on campus using Rockwell Arena, based on data gathered and interpreted by the project group
• Created a prototype Peer-to-Peer application based on the Gnutella search and communication protocol in Microsoft Visual Studio .NET using C# and TCP/IP socket programming
Branch ManagerCollege Works Painting
Participated in an internship designed to hone and cultivate the entrepreneurial skills of college students by allowing them to run their own local branch of a large, nationwide business.
• Operated a local house painting business, which generated over $15,000 worth of gross revenue in contracts with 25+ clients
• Responsible for sales, payroll, recruitment, operations, customer relations, and marketing
VolunteerAmerican Red Cross
Volunteered as a member of the executive management board of the youth community service organization of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the American Red Cross.
• Served as president (2001-2002), vice president (2000-2001), and member of a local youth community service organization as part of the National Capital Chapter of the American Red Cross
• Managed and coordinated the execution of various community service projects and their logistics, including fund-raising, logistics, marketing, and management of personnel
• Served as one of five United States youth representatives to the international Youth Exchange in 2000
• Received various formal volunteer recognitions
• Gained skills in leading multi-person projects, effective communication, and time management
Master of Business AdministrationNYU Stern School of Business
Completed two years of a rigorous MBA program at a top business school, focusing on acquiring the skills required to improve my trading activities and start a new business.
• Graduated with specializations in Quantitative Finance and Entrepreneurship and Innovation
• First Year Activities: Associate Vice President of Technology for the Stern Hedge Fund Association and Associate Vice President of Communications for the Entrepreneurs Exchange Club
• Member of the Technology and New Media Group and the Association for Investment Management and Research
• Completed one course on Doing Business in China at the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University
• Studied abroad at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy
Bachelor of ScienceUniversity of Virginia
Completed four years of study in the engineering school, focusing on acquiring software development, statistical analysis, modeling, simulation, and data analytic skills.
• Received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and double majored in Systems and Information Engineering
• Received a minor in Math
• Part of a team-oriented effort to improve resource usage in sensor networks. Main author of a paper published at the IEEE Systems and Information Engineering Design Symposium
• Graduated with distinction
• Achieved Dean's List in 3 different semesters
- Name: Shanif Dhanani
- Address: New York, NY, USA
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 703.477.1438