The Challenge

Many of you are incredibly talented at finance and want to get to the Googles and Amazons of the world (BigTech).  We know Wall Street is shrinking for finance professionals in favor of technologists.

Goldman Sachs boasts that 1/3 of its employees have a technical background. I suspect many of us do not have a technical background. I learned BASIC in high school and quit programming immediately.

However, what is a Wall Street finance professional to do?

You want to make the pivot, but maybe you are having a hard time. With a smooth resume, optimized LinkedIn profile, and an aggressive networking strategy, you still can’t break into:

  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • AWS
  • Amazon
  • Facebook
  • Apple

This phenomenon is global as I speak with European bankers also.

The Data

We ran some numbers on the top 10 Wall Street banks and how well they have done sending professionals to Microsoft, Google, AWS, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple in the US.  These 6 names currently have about 18,000 employees formerly from the top 10.

Given that 18,000 represents about 1% of these BigTech’s combined US workforce, this number seems low. 50-60% of these professionals are IT-related and 40-50% are finance-related.

So the bottom line is that 8,000-9,000 former top 10 Wall Street finance employees work for these 6 names. This is a low number given the talent of Wall Street finance professionals who want to move.

With the size of these companies and their current finance-related professionals, they are sourcing significant talent elsewhere. Why?

If you want the breakdown by the investment bank, shoot me an email at mike@mikemittleman.com.

The Solution

From my observations, the 3 reasons Wall Street professionals have a hard time getting into BigTech is because they:

  1. Don’t understand the BigTech mindset
  2. Lack the skills necessary for the transition
  3. Lack the ability to market themselves properly

Solution 1: You must understand the BigTech mindset

Although as finance professionals on Wall Street you probably work with technologists, you are paid for revenue generation or cost-cutting.  You most likely do not spend time trying to understand how your developers think.

I will use “developer” for the rest of this article to represent technologists in general.

Guess what? Developers think differently than you do! They generally don’t identify themselves with Wall Street but with technology.  Finance professionals identify themselves with Wall Street.

They really care about the cool technology and not necessarily the end product. There are exceptions of course.

Following a plan of action that is concrete with very specific goals and steps to achieve those goals is important to developers.  Finance professionals tend to be more market sensitive and realize that if the market changes, they must change also.

Developers think long term, finance professionals have to think more short and medium term. True Agile developers, who are extremely flexible, are a different breed which I will cover in subsequent articles.

Solution 2: You must gain new skills for BigTech 

When you start with solution 1, you realize you have a skills or understanding “gap”. You can fill that gap with courses that will provide certifications. Coursera has plenty of courses that are light on the technology side but will introduce you to basic concepts of:

  • Data science
  • Python/R/Tableau
  • Cloud applications
  • Others

Coding is not your future.  However, you have to understand the coder mindset.  The CTO of Big Tech has immense power.  How can you interact with a CTO if you don’t have a fundamental appreciation for how he/she/they think?

Solution 3: You must change your job search strategy for BigTech 

Even if you gain a certification, how do you build it into your 30-second elevator speech? In addition, altering your answers to common interview questions such as “Tell me about yourself”, “How well do you work cross-functionally”, or “What is your management style” is essential.

For example, when answering “Tell me about yourself”, try this narrative:

  • I have been involved in the fixed income markets for 15 years at Goldman and JPMorgan in sales. I have grossed over $15 million in commissions for both firms and created relationships with the top 10 largest hedge funds including Fortress, Millennium, and DE Shaw
  • Over time, I have noticed how technology has come to play a significant role in my job
  • Working with internal and external developers to create systems for me to easily access more market data and automatically feed this data to clients has afforded me more time for strategic asset allocation discussions
  • A recent course in data science really opened my eyes to how a developer thinks about his/her/their value add
  • I don’t want to go into data science, but I recognize that since developers will continue to play a more vital role going forward, I must adapt my management style and project time frame expectations

You can see how you can cover your sales skills, but then show your wider perspective in working with developers.

Conclusion

A square peg in a round hole never fits.  A square peg with edges that you round, smooth, and soften will fit a lot better.

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