Associate General Counsel Erik Rodriguez reflects on his childhood in Miami, experience as a WorldQuant intern and why he decided to join the firm full time.
Where did you grow up?
For the majority of my life, I grew up in Miami, Florida (or “the 305” as it’s referred to colloquially). I’m a descendant of Cuban heritage, and I can say firsthand that the Cuban (and greater Pan-Latin) culture and cuisine in Miami are never lacking. As a popular international city, Miami has dense cultural diversity among its residents. This was something I really enjoyed — and what eventually drew me to move to New York City.
Tell us about your university experience. What did you study?
I was a double major in Finance and Economics at Florida State University (FSU), where I received my undergraduate degree. Contrary to popular belief, not all lawyers fear numbers. FSU is a large state school, with activities and events that occurred throughout campus daily, and I was able to meet all types of different people across my four years there. Moving to a new city also afforded me the opportunity to become more self-sufficient and learn a number of new skills (such as ironing a dress shirt!).
When did you decide that you wanted to be a lawyer?
I decided to become a lawyer during the summer after my sophomore year. I had recently returned from a semester abroad in Spain and began to consider what sort of career path I wanted to take post-university. While I wasn’t thrilled with the thought of an additional three years of post-graduate education, the skillset that lawyers hone during school and in their careers is what initially drew me to take a practice LSAT (the U.S. law school entrance exam) — and ultimately apply for law school prior to graduating from FSU.
Where did you attend law school and what was it like?
I attended Fordham University School of Law in New York City. Law schools across the U.S. tend to be extremely competitive. Fordham was no different — in particular the first year — and most days I preferred to study in my apartment or with a small group of friends rather than in the library where the collective stress was palpable. Nevertheless, I quickly made friends with a phenomenal group of peers during my first semester. This made law school feel more collegial than I expected, and I truly enjoyed my law school experience as a whole.
Tell us about your internship at WorldQuant.
I came across the job description for the legal intern role toward the end of my first year of law school, and I was seeking an opportunity in the greater NYC area for the summer. As if I had willed it into existence, the opportunity at WorldQuant materialized. I was excited about the potential to work at a financial firm where I’d be able to apply what I learned throughout all of my collegiate studies.
My internship started with the major task of reviewing all of WorldQuant’s data licensing agreements and entering specific terms into a database for the Market Data team to quickly assess and understand the critical terms of each agreement with a vendor. I was able to complete this early on in my internship, which allowed me to work on more legal-oriented tasks directly with the Deputy General Counsel and General Counsel of WorldQuant — an invaluable experience as an intern — and I’m grateful to continue to work with them to this day.
Why did you decide to join WorldQuant full time?
As many of our colleagues may attest, there’s a learning curve when starting work at WorldQuant. As with any company you might work at, institutional knowledge and experience are key. I found that absorbing everything I could, including every nuance and preference, and volunteering to assist on any projects that arose allowed me to more efficiently and effectively assist my supervisors and other colleagues. As my first summer ended, I was asked to return part time while I continued my studies. I jumped at the chance to continue my practical learning, especially given this was my first legal job. I was ultimately offered a full-time position, which I knew would continue to provide me with both broad and deep experience in developing my skillset for years to come (and it’s been full steam ahead ever since).
What was it like to work at WorldQuant as a first job?
Working full time at WorldQuant was a natural progression and evolution of my internship experience. I continued to gain additional responsibilities upon my transition and was asked to assist on matters that would typically be assigned to a more senior attorney. The level of trust in my abilities and work ethic grows year after year, and I constantly want to improve in order to produce consistent results efficiently. This level of autonomy has helped me learn, and I feel that I am leaps and bounds ahead of my peers who may not have had a similar opportunity. Additionally, working as in-house counsel was always a career move that I focused on over a big law firm early on.
What’s your favorite part of working at WorldQuant?
The people, first and foremost. Working alongside amazing coworkers day-in and day-out who you get along with and can count on in a pinch makes every day better, regardless of what may come through your inbox. The global nature of our business also assures such a high level of cultural diversity that I’m always learning something new about my colleagues and other parts of the world. This sense of connection and collaboration has helped us immensely in continuing to persevere through the pandemic.
How does WorldQuant support you in your professional journey?
I attribute WorldQuant’s support of me professionally to my manager. She empowers me on a daily basis to take on new projects and provide guidance to all of the teams at WorldQuant. Even if I may be uncertain of my capability to assist on an initiative, she knows that I’m able to accomplish the task. Her confidence in me continues to drive me to improve professionally. In addition, whenever I want to learn a new skill or acquire knowledge in a particular subject matter, she is patient and thorough in helping me do so. It’s this approach that I admire most and one of the many reasons why I have been at WorldQuant over seven years since starting as an intern.
What does a typical day look like?
While we have been working remotely, most of my workday rhythm hasn’t changed. I typically sign on around 8AM New York time. I go through emails that came in overnight or early in the morning from our offices in Asia or Europe; I provide answers or follow up with additional questions depending on the situation at hand. Many days there is a project du jour that I focus on, but my days are typically composed of reviewing various types of contracts and advising my colleagues — who are coincidentally my “clients” as well — on an array of topics that come up in connection with our global operations.
Do you have any advice for incoming WorldQuant interns or new hires?
Lean in. I believe that WorldQuant provides a unique opportunity for interns to learn about the various aspects of a quantitative finance firm with a true global footprint. You are likely going to be thrown into the deep end within your first week and be asked to help on a number of projects; if you dive headfirst and absorb all of that knowledge, you will learn so much throughout your time here. I truly believe that the experience of working at WorldQuant will leave a lasting impression on you.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I’m a bit of a foodie (thanks to my father’s cooking). I love to try new culinary experiences, particularly when I can do so from my own kitchen; I find cooking to be quite therapeutic. Working from home has also allowed me to cook more often — which is a great way to calm my mind. It also makes my wife happy. As they say, the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. 😃
I also find that the expansive universes in video games and science-fiction novels transport me into another world; in particular, anything related to Star Wars is my happy place.
Finally, I’m always itching for a great trip, and my goal is to plan an international trip to a new country or region every year. There’s no better way to gain broad knowledge than experiencing new cultures and customs firsthand.