So, what do you do?

If you've been to any social or professional networking event, you've probably been asked the question, "What do you do?" I'm not a fan of asking that question in a introductory setting, and I'm particularly not a fan of answering it. It has the potential to put the emphasis on the wrong part of a potential connection - what you do vs. who you are - before a genuine bond or interest takes root.

I'm not a fan of asking the question for 2 main reasons. First, I'm not a prude and don't want to be mistaken as such. And, depending on the person, the question can be received any number of ways. I'm more interested in the person as a being and the experiences that have shaped their lives. After learning more about the person (where they are from, what they enjoy doing, etc.), then I'll ask more generally, "what industry do you work in?" And from there, delve into more questions depending on the report that we've built during course of the conversation.

Lastly, I strongly believe that we are much more than what we do. In our society, we unfortunately associate what you do and who you are too closely together. This may sound crazy, but we've never told our children "Good girl" for a job well done. This was a conscious decision to separate the action from the person. For jobs well done, we acknowledge the action, e.g. fantastic job, great job, good job, etc. And, we acknowledge them as individuals be complimenting their personalities and individual qualities.

I'm not a fan of answering the question for 1 main reason. I do not have a concise, one-sentence, single breathe, exhaustive answer that covers everything that I'm responsible for and do on a daily basis. Most people do not understand what I do unless I give them some background context and a primer on electronic trading. So usually, when I'm asked this question, I have to reply with a series of questions to qualify their understanding of financial markets, technology, and APIs. I've experimented over time and developed a series of answers depending on the person and there relative experience and understanding of the aforementioned factors. Here are the most common:

To someone in the industry with a software/tech background:

"I manage the trading APIs for ICE."

To someone in the industry without a software/tech background:

"I manage the applications that allow clients trade on ICE electronically."

To someone outside of the industry with a software/tech background:

"I manage the trading APIs for ICE, the company that purchased the New York Stock Exchange."

To someone outside of the industry without a software/tech background:

"I work with computers."

The "I work with computers" response was actually synthesized from the responses that I received when I tried to explain to people what I do and not from me being a prude :)