Skip to main content

Economics, University of Warwick '18 | Interested in Tech, Economics, Comedy, and Storytelling.

commercialconundrums.blogspot.com

github.com/chrisamarks

Christopher Marks

A sincere apology for a poor ping pong showing

2 min read

At work we've started a ping pong leaderboard through Slack. The league rules state that if you lose to a player without scoring a point, you have to write a gushing letter of apology. I lost 11-0. Here's my apology.


Dearest Jake,

To say I’m sorry would be a gross understatement; I am devastated on both of our behalves. When I challenged you to a game of ping pong, I could not have predicted the catastrophe that would befall us both.

The beginning rally lulled me into a false sense of security; I now realise it was merely the calm before the storm. A few wayward shots were to be expected, I thought. Little did I know that these poorly executed shots were a loaded rifle hanging on the wall.

My first serve missed the table. “That’s unlucky.” I thought, “No matter, the game is young.”

My second serve was returned with a resounding crack. “Lucky shot” I mumbled to myself.

I regained my confidence upon returning both of your serves. Sure, I had lost both points, but at least we were able to have a rally.

My serve again. A good return and rally, but my amateurish grip led to the ball bouncing off my fingers and onto the floor. “Pitiful” I thought to myself, “Absolutely pitiful.”

For both of our sakes I will cease recounting the events of our match. I can feel my heart growing heavy. I can only imagine how reliving these events might affect you.

I know it will be hard for you to trust me again as an opponent. I understand that it’s going to be a long healing process that will take many weeks, perhaps months, and that you might not even want to hear from me at all right now. But if you can find it in your heart to challenge me again, I promise, no, vow, to be a worthy opponent.


Yours,
Christopher

Christopher Marks

Zappos Family Core Values

1 min read

I've just finished reading Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. It's a heartwarming, inspiring, and immensely educational book. What's more, I feel like the lessons of the book can be accurately summarised by the company's core values - which is kind of the point of core values:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service 
  2. Embrace and Drive Change 
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness 
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded 
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning 
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication 
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit 
  8. Do More With Less 
  9. Be Passionate and Determined 
  10. Be Humble

Christopher Marks

Excerpts from Michael Lewis' "Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt"

2 min read

"Thus the only Goldman Sachs employee arrested by the FBI in the aftermath of a financial crisis Goldman had done so much to fuel was the employee Goldman asked the FBI to arrest."

"Don wasn't shocked or even all that disturbed by what had happened, or, if he was, he disguised his feelings. The facts of Wall Street life were inherently brutal, in his view. There was nothing that he couldn't imagine someone on Wall Street doing. He was fully aware that the high-frequency traders were preying on investors, and that the exchanges and brokers were being paid to help them to do it. He refused to feel morally outraged or self-righteous about any of it. "I would ask the question, 'On the savannah, are the hyenas and the vultures the bad guys?'" he said. "We have a boom in carcasses on the savannah. So what? It's not their fault. The opportunity is there." To Don's way of thinking, you were never going to change human nature--though you might alter the environment in which it expressed itself. Or maybe that's just what Don wanted to believe. "He's kind of like the mob guy who cries every now and then after a hit," said Brad, who thought that Don was exactly the sort of person he needed. Brad wasn't in the market for self-righteousness, or for people who defined themselves by their fine moral sentiment. "Disillusion isn't a useful emotion," he said. "I need soldiers." Don was a soldier."

"If the incarceration experience doesn't break your spirit, it changes you in a way that you lose many fears. You begin to realize that your life is not ruled by your ego and ambition and that it can end any day at any time. So why worry? You learn that just like on the street, there is life in prison, and random people get there based on the jeopardy of the system. The prisons are filled by people who crossed the law, as well as by those who were incidentally and circumstantially picked and crushed by somebody else's agenda. On the other hand, as a vivid benefit, you become very much independent of material property and learn to appreciate very simple pleasures in life such as the sunlight and morning breeze."

Christopher Marks

TUNES

4 min read

In no particular order: 

Alright that's plenty, the rest are in:  https://play.spotify.com/user/christopher.marks14/playlist/0dGAGKIlBFI9TJbChyQO1j 

Christopher Marks

Christopher Marks

Good habits

1 min read

  • Remembering you're a monkey on a dirtball zooming around a fireball on a cosmic blanket
  • Not getting hung up on definitions or technicalities when you're having a broad discussion
  • Asking yourself why you think & feel the way you do without overanalysing it
  • Using original metaphors to clarify your point
  • Stopping what you're doing when someone's speaking to you
  • Thanking people graciously for doing things for you, especially when it's their job & they have to
  • Asking people for their opinions
  • Asking open ended questions
  • Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations
  • Writing lists
  • Leaving spaces for pause
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Not thinking the world should be a certain way, but acknowleding it for how it is
  • Not thinking people should be a certain way, but accepting them for who they are
  • Making people feel included
  • Reflecting without being narcissistic
  • Reading

Christopher Marks

On workplace coffee

1 min read

The coffee machine at work fills the cups so that they’re about two thirds full. Since it’s an all-in-one latte machine, it dispenses hot water first, an espresso shot second, and then milk last. The guy in front of me thinks he’s being clever by pressing the cappuccino button twice. Rookie move. After his first cappuccino is dispensed, his cup starts overflowing with boiling water. He turns to me, with wet, burning hands: “Bollocks. Story of my life.” He takes his watery cappuccino back to his desk; the machine dispenses the espresso shot and milk all over itself.

Christopher Marks

Conservation of proverbs: for each proverb there is an equal and opposite proverb

1 min read

I'm currently re-taking a class called Model Thinking by Scott E. Page of the University of Michigan and he mentioned a website called "Opposite Proverbs." It's a list of pairs of proverbs that have opposite meanings.

It's pretty amusing.

Christopher Marks

Mental models useful for understanding the world

1 min read

Though I think economics has a ton of great models for understanding how the world works (though some are a bit shit), I've recently been trying to broaden my understanding of the models used by other disciplines (statistics, maths, natural sciences, sociology, etc.). This article (sent to me by my dad) is an extensive list of mental models. Really worth checking out.

Mental Models I Find Repeatedly Useful | Gabriel Weinberg

Christopher Marks

First day at Property Partner

6 min read

I don't like to post publicly about myself because it feels imposing. Old, narcisstic Facebook posts make me cringe really hard. But today I felt like 9 years of pursuing random interests came together and I really want to share it.

 

When I was 10 years old, I started playing Runescape. I loved the game. What I loved most was being able to trade with other players, learning how the different markets in the game operated, and using that understanding to increase my in-game net worth so me and my brother could buy cool armor and go on adventures. This is still true, but cool armor has become secure housing and investment portfolios and adventures now include traveling and trying new foods together. I inadvertently developed a deep interest in markets. I also learned how to type real quick because of all the "shouting" I made my character do in order to trade with other players.

 

When I was 14 years old, I started playing Team Fortress 2. I also loved this game. I was addicted to trading and analysing the in-game economy. So addicted that I would stay up until 4am updating my trades on auction sites while spamming the chats of trading servers. I still remember the value of pretty much every tradable item in the game. My grades and extracurricular involvement predictably tanked. I regretted and beat myself up for it incredibly hard at the time.

 

The summer after my sophomore year in 2012, my wonderful dad encouraged me to apply to deliver an Ignite speech at the Google I/O web developer's conference in San Francisco on what I learned about economics from trading on Runescape and Team Fortress 2. I didn't realise what I was committing to when I sent a pitch to the Ignite committee. I have never felt so surreastically nervous in my life before getting up stage to nerd out in front of 800 people. I don't think I would've gone up if it weren't for the years my mum devoted to getting my very shy self involved with theater performance and public speaking from a young age. When I walked off that stage, I remember thinking that I'd said all the interesting stuff I had to say in the world and that it was time to learn some more interesting stuff.

 

This was a tipping point for me. I started reading tons of economics books and taking tons of online classes in economics and finance. My interest in economics stemmed from my interest in markets, which stemmed from my interest in wanting to know how the world worked. I became particularly interested in behavioural science after taking a MOOC in Gamification from Prof. Kevin Werbach, and subsequently beginning to read the canon of Thaler, Sunstein, and Kahneman.

 

These interests somehow managed to land me a spot at the University of Warwick to study Economics. The circumstances make me laugh. I learned of the school 5 minutes before sending off my UCAS by shamelessly googling "uk university rankings in economics" and almost withdrew my application when I got rejected by every other school on my UCAS list. I lucked my way into an incredible economics department at a school I had never heard of. It was so surreal that the first month I was there I kept thinking the school was going to go belly-up and the degree would be worthless. It seemed too good to be true.

 

In my first year, the two most valuable things I did were participating in a Nudgeathon, a behavioural science policymaking conference put on by the WBS Behavioural Science Group, and enrolling in an advanced web development coding seminar. At the Nudgeathon, I had the opportunity to work alongside PhD candidates in Behavioural Science in an array of activities and competitions for a weekend. In the coding seminar, I gained familiarity with HTML, CSS, Javascript, SQL, and PHP.

 

In the summer following my first year, I interned at a real estate investment firm. I learned the fundamentals of real estate investing, and had a great deal of exposure to all sides of the business including marketing, CRM, bookkeeping, website management, client outreach, data analysis, and more. It was an incredibly thorough grounding in the general workings of a business on a small enough scale that I was able to interact with all of its aspects. I tried to learn as much as I could.

 

Throughout the whole of 2nd year, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I applied to a few places for internships but my heart wasn't really in any of them. I changed my career ideas about twice a month. I've always had trouble committing myself to things where I couldn't see the bigger picture. I hate feeling extrinsically motivated to do things. I eventually stumbled across financial technology through my wider reading and became fascinated. I would spend hours a day researching the fintech ecosystem. I eventually decided that I wanted to get experience working in the fintech space.

 

I first learned Property Partner existed by reading a Business Insider article saying they had secured a huge sum of money in Series B funding. My curiosity was piqued, so I went on their website, and went to the careers section. I noticed they were hiring for a graduate placement position, which I wasn't exactly the perfect fit for, but I figured there was no harm in applying. I sent my CV, a letter of recommendation, and a short cover letter. I then completed two "challenges" -- a 300 word investment case pitch based on a sample property they were soon to release on the platform and to estimate the number of letting agent businesses in Spain. I sent these back and was invited to a graduate assessment day. At this point the jig was up; I sent them an email saying I was interested in an internship and not a graduate placement. I got a phone call saying they were interested, went in to be interviewed, and got the internship I somehow created for myself. YES! I had somewhere to work for the summer!

 

Today, I started work at Property Partner. Throughout the day, I realised that all the skills I had been developing over the years really came together. My understanding of real estate markets and trading platforms gives me a useful background in understanding the dynamics of the primary and secondary markets of the platform. My own self-study into behavioural science and economics has given me the skillset to understand consumer insight analysis, choice architecture, and general growth hacking techniques. My exposure to CRM systems and web-development tools has given me the skillset to understand effective web marketing procedures.

 

I'm amazed by how my general curiosity lead me to this. It's nuts how pursuing seemingly disjointed interests can come together. I don't think I could be happier about where I'm working this summer. I'm so excited for the next 3 months.

 

Life can be real groovy.