Aaron Mielke on Hard Work and the Right Connections

Aaron Mielke “Programming is debt management.  Code is debt. Keep it simple. Don’t unnecessarily increase your debt.” Aaron Mielke, Rice University Computer Science alumnus, (’02) advised current CS students in a lunch-and-learn session on February 24.

As an analyst and software developer for Quantlab Financial LLC –a high frequency trading (HFT) private equity hedge fund– Mielke knows the importance of keeping code simple. He also knows about performance pressure and hard work. “We are our own customer, we write our own software and we make our money on our software.” Even though his company’s success depends on his and other developers’ programs, he considers the CS work he completed at Rice much harder.

“The best part of Rice for me was that there was a LOT of code.  We wrote more code in CS per week than I’ve had to write in any job. Rice teaches you by doing. Really. My first job, I started working and realized this is so much easier than being a CS student at Rice.” Mielke’s first job was in a new start-up. “In 2002, we were in a downturn and it was hard to get a job, but there was a Rice alumnus with a multimedia startup, and it was a good opportunity, good synergy. I had a lot of opportunity to make a difference there.” Mielke stayed at SnapStream for eight years working in a very customer-focused environment. Comparing that with his current work with Quantlab, he says, “There is no sales aspect to my job now, other than to get my colleagues to use my stuff.”

Aaron Mielke (second from left) and several members of the Quantlab Financial team.

Asked about his company’s logo, Mielke pointed to a plain gray T-shirt with two words in white. “That’s our logo. All the excitement is inside the company, in what we’re doing. We make a lot of money.”

He feels everyone should seriously consider CS as a major and career. “I really think people should program. My friend who was an architect is now programming. My brother, a lawyer, he’s programming. Everyone’s going to be programming something. The CS department is amazing at preparing you to do that [program software].” Mielke said the synergy at Rice makes it easy to combine CS with other majors. “I almost got three majors just because I could. I didn’t really need three majors, it was just possible.”

Aaron Mielke talks about working as a developer in a high frequency trading company

Mielke continues to credit his Rice connections for about half of his career success.

Rice’s CS program is also known for helping students get promising internships. He said, “My first summer job, I had an internship at Microsoft, and Rice made it very easy to get that kind of experience.  And the CS internships are also lucrative.  I was able to pay for a significant part of my education with my summer internships.  That was really useful.”

Mielke credits both the rigorous CS program and his Rice connections for his career success. “Every job I’ve every gotten was because of Rice,” he says. When his younger brother was asking about which colleges to consider, Mielke advised him to choose the best school he could get into. “He asked me, ‘how much of your success is due to Rice?’” Mielke shrugged, “About half.”