Marshall Wace visit

Tuesday 15 December 2020

On Wednesday 9th December 2020, Mr Rye and Mr Forster visited the head office of Marshall Wace LLP, a leading global alternative investment manager who have generously suported Bolingbroke Acdemy with the refurbishment of our Mezzanine floor in 2020 and our Sixth Form computer lab in 2019. Accompanying Mr Rye and Mr Forster were three Bolingbroke Alumni who have gone on to study computer science at University. Mr Forster would like to share their experience with you:

 

Two enormous wooden elephants dominate the foyer to the Marshall Wace (MW) office in Sloane Square. Were they there as a subliminal reminder of the power and strength of the organisation housed within, or simply placed for decorative effect? A group of intrepid Bolingbroke explorers had no time to contemplate their purpose as they were quickly whisked from the ground floor up to the hedge fund’s main offices for the start of an intensive day. Five had accepted invites : Comp Sci teachers Mr. Rye & Mr. Forster together with 3 students who had graduated from the school last summer and were just starting out on their respective degree courses. If this was their first taste of corporate life, then they could not have found themselves at a better place in which to experience it.

The tie-in with the company and the Ark network is still burgeoning, but one that has already witnessed positive benefits for our school : MW having contributed to the redecoration of the 6th form area in the same executive rustic floor-style that we now found ourselves treading. Being ushered from desk to desk against a backdrop of quiet application and hearing overviews from all parts of their organisation induced an overwhelming feeling of high expertise and commitment. Clearly, this was a seriously professional outfit, with employees appearing devoted to their roles.

In essence, hedge funds deal in data farming, the analysis of this information, and the resultant financial trades that are made, based on this process. But like an iceberg that hides its bulk from view, the full extent of their operations was only to reveal itself gradually. The end-result was a glimpse, not only into the activities that come out of these processes, and the people performing them, but also the strategic decisions that global organisations are forced to make in order to remain competitive in an unforgiving marketplace.

Teachers and students were split into 2 groups but we each had the same agenda : a dozen, 15-minute overviews of the areas covering the MW data workflow. From procurement and capture, through cleaning and analysis, to utilisation and processing, the workflow encapsulated much of what we seek to teach in Comp Sci … yet on a scale that goes well beyond any standard textbook. When we illustrate databases in class using tables that may hold a few rows, it is hard to contemplate someone in MW dealing with structures of over 100 million rows. The currency amounts involved were similarly eye-watering.

The stark message was that we live in the age of ‘Big Data’ and that no data is too obscure if it can be used in some meaningful way. For the students and teachers alike, it was a unique insight into how the efforts made to secure this information are almost as great as the decisions made upon them. It would also have crystallised much of the students’ previous learning but also placed it in an everyday working context - a priceless experience. The hope is that similar visits can be organised for current sixth-formers, but also that guest speakers from the organisation can be arranged to visit the school - something that MW are keen to encourage, and that would allow for teaching against a real-life background. Without the elephants, of course.