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How I Got Here: Cecelia Lee, Head of Data Sourcing at Cubist

March 2024

Woman sitting at conference table

Cecelia Lee, Head of Data Sourcing at Cubist, joined us to talk about how her team inspires her, why she loves philosophy, and her journey to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.


So, let’s start by telling us about what you do here.

Sure, I run the Data Sourcing and Strategy team within Cubist. We’re primarily responsible for researching and onboarding new datasets that could be beneficial for Cubist and Point72. We’re also responsible for managing all of our external vendor relationships and proactively working with them to establish a sense of partnership.

 

What does your day-to-day look like?

Most of our day-to-day is spent talking to people. I would say we spend half of our time speaking with data vendors and partners, the other half speaking with our portfolio managers or internal stakeholders. Our conversations can range from talking about current industry trends, what market activities we’re seeing, what new datasets and research are out there, et cetera. These types of conversations give us the opportunity to work closely and collaboratively with our PMs and the business leaders, and that’s really the fun part of being on this team.

 

What do you like most about your role?

The most fun part about this job is the people. I like the people I work with. My direct team is lean, and because of that we get to push ourselves to be creative and collaborative and really care about what we do as a team.

I care so much about what we do and how it impacts not just Cubist, but the rest of Point72. And I am grateful that the people I work with also embody this same amount of care. This role has been rewarding in that the more you invest in it, the more you get in return. This includes all the relationships, all the learning opportunities, all the exposure you get across every business line, and more.

 

Walk me through your career path leading to Point72. How did your experience prepare you for your role today?

Before joining Cubist, I was at Bloomberg for about five years. I had no finance background—I studied philosophy in school, and I just somehow ended up in this analyst class, where everyone came in with a business school degree and a finance internship. Then there was me: I came in knowing absolutely nothing—I literally didn’t even know what a stock was.

I was very fortunate with the mentors I’ve met at Bloomberg, and they really pushed me to go above and beyond and challenge myself to learn everything I can about the market and the business. The work honestly paid off—when Bloomberg acquired Barclay’s fixed income index and analytics business, I had the opportunity to join a team that would put me in front of managing C-suite level relationships from big buy-side institutions. And I learned so much from being on that team, especially understanding how different types of data get used from the back office to the middle office to the front office. Every firm runs their data operations very differently, and it was amazing to be a part of the team that drove that conversation.

I was in that role for about two years when this opportunity at Cubist came about, and I had to jump at it. Funny timing, because back then, Cubist was just starting to focus on growing its credit and macro business, so I didn’t know to what extent I could be useful to the PMs when I first started. Then here we are—the role kind of took a life on its own.

 

What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t working in this industry?

If I wasn’t doing this, I think I would be a philosophy professor. Maybe a yoga teacher on the side. I still have this goal of getting a PhD in philosophy and continue studying—I probably will go back to school when I’m old and be this old student surrounded by a bunch of young kids.

 

What do you find interesting about philosophy, and what have you applied from that to any of your finance roles?

There’s a branch of philosophy called epistemology, which is thinking about how you know things and why you know things. That concept blew my mind, because it never occurred to me to think about thinking—you know, you just experience the world the way you experience the world, and that’s it. Epistemology takes it a step further to really makes you question, “How do you know what is a fact? What is a fact to you? Is that a different fact for other people?”

As to how I apply this to my day to day, I mean, we negotiate a lot with people and I always try to think, “Okay, what does this person know, what is their reality, and what does this person incentivized to do? What about me? What can we give and take to meet halfway?”

At the end of the day, you’re dealing with people and every business has their mandate. We’re trying to meet our mandate, they’re trying to meet their mandate; our job is to find where the overlap is. And to find what that overlap is, I see myself applying some the things I used to read about and think about in my philosophy classes, you know?

 

Tell me more about your hobbies growing up. What did you enjoy doing?

I grew up very active and played a lot of sports. I also read a lot—I didn’t grow up with a TV, so reading was the thing to do when we weren’t outside.

We moved around quite a bit. For instance, I lived in Sapporo, Japan, when I was younger, where I learned to speak Japanese as my second language and got really into skiing. We lived in Indiana for a bit, where I learned how to play tennis, and I kept that throughout college as well.

I went to college at the George Washington University in D.C., where I studied philosophy, economics, and Japanese literature. I also studied philosophy at Oxford, where I joined the college rowing team as a coxswain and started running marathons. I still run one marathon a year, which is a fun habit I picked up from Oxford.

I still try to be remain active here—I do yoga, I spin, I box, I run. I especially love boxing, because it’s really empowering to know how to throw a punch!

 

Where’s your favorite vacation spot and where would you like to visit next?

woman standing on top of a mountain  

I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro a few years ago, and that was amazing. It was also anxiety-inducing in that I didn’t have Wi-Fi for nine days, and I knew in the back of my mind my work inbox was just exploding. (Shout out to my team for holding down the fort!) That was the first time I’ve been to Africa, and it was just incredible to be there.

The thing about Kilimanjaro is that, with climate change and everything, the glacier at the top is melting very quickly. The fact that I got to see it in my lifetime and appreciate what’s still intact, I think that was an emotional journey for me.

For my next trip, I would like to say I want to go to Nepal to climb the Everest base camp, but I need 14 consecutive vacation days without Wi-Fi. We will see!

Who inspires you?

I hate to sound cliché, but the people that I work with truly inspire me and push me to be better and constantly think about ways in which I can grow. It’s honestly incredible how many impressive people work at Point72—there are truly so many smart, compassionate, and interesting people here. We have this running joke that if you look at anyone’s resume or even Google their name, you’re going to find that they’re a low-key celebrity in their field. And you’re just like, “Oh, that’s just my coworker, and sometimes we get coffee together.” I think that’s so bizarre, and this does not happen every day to most people—but it happens here.

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