In part 49 of the Hedge Funds Club’s popular people-focused Good Life series of interviews, HFC boss Stefan Nilsson checks in with Christina Qi, Founding Partner of Domeyard and CEO of Databento, for a chat about looking like a decent human being for work, the value of time, sucking at hiking and skiing, preferring champions over mentors, celebrating wins with video games and ice cream, being paid in Egyptian papyrus and much more.
From where and how do you get your daily general news updates?
I read Reddit and HackerNews usually in the mornings. Before COVID-19, when I had to change out of my pajamas and look like a decent human being for work, I would ask Alexa to give me the latest flash briefings. People might find this strange, but I no longer subscribe to any email newsletters. Since time is valuable to me, I use email solely for work matters.
What do you do to unwind on a weekend?
I enjoy hiking in the summers and skiing in the winters. They’re both activities that I suck at but enjoy the falls and scrapes and bruises. I also love playing board games and video games. It took me many years to realise that it’s okay to relax and do nothing. I went to a competitive college where everyone was taught to hustle 24/7, which caused a lot of burnout and general unhappiness. But there’s no point in hustling if you don’t savour the journey and the rewards along the way. To me, success is the number of hours you can afford to do the thing you truly want to do, without material consequences – whether that’s watching your favourite TV show, hanging out with friends, pampering yourself, travelling, etc.
Can you name a great book you have recently read?
“Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss. If there’s one class I wish I could’ve taken in college, it would be a class on negotiation. If I was a better negotiator, it would’ve saved me a lot of time, money and professional relationships.
Your soundtrack of choice?
Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2”. It’s angsty, it’s emotional, and it’s also extremely difficult to play.
What drink do you start the day with and what drink finishes it?
Honestly – water and water. I don’t drink anything else, not for health or religious reasons – I just really like water for some reason. It quenches your thirst and it’s free.
What’s the worst money mistake you’ve made?
I was on a plane ride across the Atlantic and was shocked, upon arrival in Boston, to see hundreds of messages blowing up my phone. It turns out we lost over 5% of our portfolio value that day, which could’ve been mitigated, but all of the decision-makers were on flights at the same time, travelling in different directions. As they say, money mistakes are more than often operational mistakes at the end of the day.
Have you ever had a great mentor and what did you learn?
I didn’t have long-term mentors in my early career and wrote a piece on LinkedIn about this once. I prefer champions over mentors, as the former alludes to a mutually beneficial relationship, and the latter alludes to an unequal “teacher-to-student” or “adult-to-child” mentality.
What gives you energy?
Chocolate and ice cream. Karaoke before COVID-19. Also, my good friends who literally pulled me out of bed during the worst days of my life.
How do you stay grounded and focused as a person in these turbulent and fast-changing times?
I keep my email inbox clean from sales inquiries, newsletters and spam. I also prioritise important tasks and set alarms throughout the day to stay on track.
Can you name a terrific restaurant that you love?
Bigeye Poke, Cafe Rio and In-N-Out Burger are my go-to choices this year.
What’s your favourite museum in the world?
I couldn’t believe how massive the Louvre was when I visited Paris last year. It’s amazing to see something often depicted in movies, in real life for the first time.
You are based in Boston but earlier in your career, you spent some time in Tokyo. What is your best memory from Tokyo?
It’s hard to pick just one memory. Hanging out with new and old friends, driving around the country, singing karaoke and going to the anime club.
Are you active on social media and what do you actually use it for?
Oh boy, I could go on forever. I use Facebook to be human and post about my deepest problems in life. LinkedIn is purely for professional announcements. Instagram and Snapchat are for interacting with close friends. Strava is to track exercises with friends. I like posting memes on Twitter.
Do you have any secret guilty pleasure that you are prepared to reveal here?
My guilty pleasures are out in the open – public information that I don’t mind sharing. I like fast food and trashy reality shows.
What kind of battle dress do you normally put on for work?
It used to be a nice dress and a necklace, but due to COVID, I prefer wearing free company t-shirts and pajama pants now. It hasn’t affected my work progress at all. In fact, my productivity only improved in 2020.
Do you celebrate your wins? If so, how?
Usually video games and ice cream. Nothing fancy. Maybe a Facebook post if the win means a lot to me for some reason.
What’s the coolest, most awesome thing you keep in your office?
A papyrus that this Egyptian Forbes 30 Under 30 guy gave me as payment for karaoke because he didn’t have any USD in his wallet and was only visiting Boston for a few days. I framed it.
What makes you happy?
Helping people get started with their ventures and hedge funds. Seeing my friends succeed. Also, chocolate makes me happy. I wrote these answers at 5 AM, so apologies for sounding totally unprofessional.