Saturday, June 21, 2008

Update: Graduation and a Change in Life

They were the best of times; they were the worst of times. This statement – like so many of the clich├ęs out there – is so overused that it has pretty much lost meaning. In this particular case, however, I find it to be a really good description of my experience over the six years that it took me to finish my undergrad college degree. That’s right – I’ve finally graduated! I half expected to see a news flash or people in the LSC plaza on CSU campus hoisting big signs in the air shouting, “Repent now! The end is near! Joe has finally graduated!”

Now that my position in the journey of life has changed so substantially, I’m trying to figure out where to go with my cabbage confessions. It is probably already sufficiently evident that I have enjoyed writing these immensely, and I’m also glad that people have read them and hopefully been able to appreciate and/or laugh at the things that I have experienced. I guess it reaffirms the knowledge (or at least the illusion) that I am a reasonable human being to know that my friends, family, and any potential mystery readers can get something of value from them.

Okay, I suppose it’s at least time to offer an update on what my new status is. In April I accepted a job offer to work at Colorado PERA as a Portfolio Associate. Colorado PERA is the state pension fund for public employees like teachers and law enforcement. I will be working in investments in the fixed income (technical term for bonds) division. I interned there last summer, and it looks like they liked me enough to hire me permanently! Fortunately, when I went down to interview for the job, I didn’t have the same experience as last time, when my gas pedal stopped working on Speer Boulevard in the middle of downtown and I had to roll through a red light to get off the street and fix it while somehow avoiding getting a ticket. It’s a funny story now, though it was a bit freaky at the time. Nope, this interview was completely drama free, so that was a welcome change.

If you want to see a picture of where I work, I used Virtual Earth to get a computer snapshot of downtown Denver, showing my office and where it is in relation to the other landmarks around it. It’s a pretty decent rendition too, at least according to our current technological abilities.

When people ask me to describe what I do, I find it extremely difficult to explain it in a way that they can understand. Even a lot of my classmates in Finance at CSU had a tough time understanding it. As I mentioned, my title is “Portfolio Associate.” In financial speak, I create and use numerous spreadsheets and reports that integrate data from several different sources in order to monitor the performance of our fixed income portfolio and benchmark it to the Lehman index.

If you didn’t fully grasp what that means, I’ll try to simplify it as best as I can. It basically means that I work with the overall bond portfolio at Colorado PERA. I don’t pick the bonds – that’s the job of the portfolio managers. But I do track and monitor how well the bond investments are doing, and that’s a pretty big job when you consider we have about $10 billion in bonds alone. My job doesn’t just end there though. We use a benchmark to determine our performance, so I track the benchmark as well. To accomplish this, I make a nearly unimaginable number of reports by day, week, month, quarter, year, and other undefined periods. I give these reports to the portfolio managers and our director, and they use them to help devise strategies to make more money.

And that pretty much summarizes what I do now. It’s certainly not as bloggable as driving a cab or living in China, per se, but I’m at least hoping to find something interesting to write about. I’m thinking I may start out blogging about the craziness of the financial markets. Like it or not, the financial markets never get dull. Every day is a different adventure – a new tale of what breakthroughs humanity is making or how the world is coming to an end, yet again, despite centuries of such predictions proving otherwise. Whether people are freaking out about the price of a Big Mac in London, some chickens getting sick in Guangdong, or the outcome of the elections in Turkey, it impacts us all to one degree or another. And hopefully I can find some reasons to be amused or at least poke a little fun at it all.