Graduate profile: Big data and making movies
Jie Song, a second-year graduate student working on a master’s degree in statistics at Rice University, has plotted a career based on long-deferred gratification.
“My first love is film. I want to make movies, and I have already made many of them. But I need money to finance the kind of movies I want to make. Statistics is part of my plan,” said Song, who at age 27 has already accumulated much experience in film, academia and the financial industry.
Starting at age 14, he taught himself to use video-editing software, and proceeded to learn writing and directing on the job. Between 2002 and 2012, Song wrote and directed six short films and four plays for the stage, all in Mandarin, most in the genre he calls “serious drama,” but also comedies and documentaries. Song’s parents were skeptical. They were part of the first generation after Mao’s Cultural Revolution to attend university. Could their son earn a respectable living making movies?
“I understand their concern. I am their only child. They worry about me,” said Song, who in 2012 earned B.S. degrees in mathematics, and in finance and technology management, from Indiana University. Even before that he was building a rich résumé in finance and academia.
In 2010, Song went to work as a commercial loans intern with the China Construction Bank in Hangzhou, his native city. Two years later he was a research assistant for a professor of business administration at the University of Southern California.
For two additional years he worked as a research assistant for a professor in the College of Economics and Management at Zhejiang Sci-tech University in Hangzhou. At the same time he was working as a trading analyst with the Zhejiang Yong’an Futures Co. His next job was as a data analyst for the Hangzhou Yunbang Data Co.
“There were two parts to that job. I made strategic solutions to credit risk assessment for the Hangzhou United Bank, and I also implemented the Salford system for data solutions and coached bank personnel with the way to use the system,” Song said.
Song’s academic adviser at Rice is John Dobelman, professor in the practice of statistics. With him he has worked on pairs trading strategy, machine learning in portfolio construction and a platform entrepreneurs can use to make connections. Song’s goal after getting his master’s degree is to secure a job in the financial industry, preferably in the Bay Area, and eventually organize his own startup company based on the algorithm he has devised for a trading platform.
“I want to work while working on my own project, and save money. Then I can get on to my own project, which is making films,” Song said.