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Barrett Honors College alumnus Steve Stasys remembers his undergraduate experiences – even the challenge of completing an honors thesis - at Arizona State University fondly.
“Looking back at my undergraduate experience, one of the biggest memories was authoring a thesis for the honors college. The process involved a lot of one on one interaction with my underwriting professor, along with developing a working knowledge of statistics and financial markets. A lot of blood, sweat and tears were put into the paper that involved a ton of drafts and time spent in the library. I pulled the thesis from the attic and dusted it off and after 18 years I can still stand by the concepts and be proud of the final product,” Stasys, a 2001 graduate, said recently.
“The paper helped spark my interest in trading and gave me confidence to pursue a career as a professional options trader. I have also used concepts from the thesis to build out two separate business cases during my professional career,” he said.
Stasys, a Michigan native, currently works for the CME Group, a futures and options exchange with operations in Chicago, Ill. and New York City. Its headquarters is in Chicago.
We caught up with Stasys to see where he is now and how Barrett Honors College and ASU helped him get there.
How did you decide to attend ASU and join Barrett?
A good friend had family in Arizona with ASU roots and that led me to take a trip out to Tempe and look at the campus. After not seeing the sun for two weeks straight in the Midwest and convincing my parents I would not flunk out, the rest is history! For Barrett I was looking to push and challenge myself academically after my sophomore year. The honors curriculum was appealing and I wanted to try and distinguish myself from other graduates.
What work are you doing now and how did your studies prepare you for it?
I work at the CME Group, which is the world’s largest futures and options exchange hosting products across six different asset classes. The CME Group had over $4 billion in revenue in 2018, with customers around the globe. I specifically head the exchanges agricultural option complex, which is comprised of Grain & Oilseed, Livestock and Dairy options. The role is similar to a product manager who is ultimately responsible for the performance of a product. This involves maximizing resources such as marketing, sales and technology in the best way possible to drive growth for the agriculture option complex. The role requires working across a multitude of departments, cultures, and personalities and has allowed me to travel around the world meeting clients and co-workers. My studies at Arizona State helped open my eyes to the world and look at situations and concepts in a different light. Classes such as religion, sociology and philosophy helped broaden my understanding and that has been tremendously helpful.
What was the transition from being a student to the world of work like for you?
I graduated from ASU in July 2001 and moved back home with my parents. I started painting houses for income as I searched for a role in financial markets. 9/11 occurred, resulting in a shock to the economy and employers pulling back from hiring. I caught a break when the owner of a house I was painting had a contact at the Chicago Board of Trade. Due to the market turmoil from 9/11, the bond markets were busy and I was hired on as a runner on the trading floor. A runner is not a glamorous job and the salary was barely enough to get by in Chicago, but my foot was in the door in the trading world. When I received my first bonus I was given the option to keep the money or back myself as an independent trader. The bonus was a good chunk of money and I could have cashed out, but I choose to invest in myself. I started trading bond options and continued for seven years as an independent trader across multiple asset classes.
If you were to give advice to current students about preparing to leave the university and enter a job, what would you tell them?
Take risks early. Your personal life has a large bearing on what you can do professionally. You have less responsibility and a lot more options to reinvent yourself earlier in your career. Take shots and don’t be afraid to fail.
Learn to adapt. More than ever the world is changing and careers and business can be wiped away due to technology advancements or changes in policy. To be successful in your career you must adapt and change with the marketplace.
Don’t feel like you have to work for a large corporation.I hear a lot of interns talk about how they want to work at large, big name corporations. This can be a nice resume builder, but don’t feel like this is the only way to develop your career. Working for smaller, less known organizations may give you more experience and develop your career at a faster rate.
What do you wish you would have known or taken advantage of as a student?
Do not fear the unknown. With hard work and determination, over time things will fall into place and your path in life will become clear. As an undergrad there are a million directions your career could go and that is part of the fun, so try and embrace the journey!
What are your fondest memories of ASU and Barrett Honors College?
I look back with fond memories around the people and atmosphere at ASU. Thinking about walking around a beautiful campus, interacting with fantastic people and learning a lot academically and socially puts a smile on my face. My time at Arizona State was special and I hope all undergrads appreciate what they currently have!