looking to make a career switch (from software dev), suggestions?

Discussion in 'Professional Trading' started by keyser1, May 20, 2007.

  1. keyser1


    I'm currently a software engineer, and I'd like to make a career switch.

    Just some background info; I'm 27, have an MS in comp sci from Columbia, and 5 years software dev experience...I'm pretty good at analytical tests, although its been a while since I've been in school so I'd probably have to do alot of studying to get back my forgottten probability/stats/calc knowledge...Currently work for a .net startup...

    My goals for a new job:
    1. Something more quantitative/analytical
    2. Would be okay if some software dev was part of the job descrption (ie coming up with models & then coding them up)
    3. Not take a pay cut (I'm currently at 100k including bonus); or would be willing to take a small cut if there's alot more upside than sw dev.
    4. 9-10 hours/day avg. Not looking to work 8am to midnight. Would be willing to stay late for studying/classes though.

    My questions:
    1. Would it be even possible to get hired (having no financial classroom/real-word experience) at this stage in my career?
    2. Are there some tests I can self-study for and take to show that my interest is serious? And if so which ones?
    3. Any specific job title recommendations to look for?
    4. Any tips on how to go about getting this job (other than looking in the paper & responding)
    5. Have any of you ever made the switch into finance after being somewhere else for x years?
  2. nitro


    Instead of leaving software development altogether, work for a trading firm as a software developer. You will find that most if not all of what you need to implement while there will help when you make the transition to trading.

    Domain knowledge is huge, but not a must to get hired.

  3. lwlee


    It's pretty tough to do a switch to the business side, especially without a MBA. I worked in the big investment firms for the past 10 years on the IT side. A number of my colleagues did make the switch since the compensation is potentially much higher. Some firms have sponsored MBA program that they help subsidize. Someone I knew got in and when he completed the program, eventually moved to a business unit.

    Each and every years, thousands of newly minted MBAs join Wall Street. The incubation period that the firms put you through is a fairly rigorous one. Take a look at Working the Street: What You Need to Know About Life on Wall Street by Erik Banks. It details the progression of a career on Wall Street.
  4. rosy2


    i agree with nitro. work for a trading firm or bank's desk (not in the IT dept). i cant think of a more challenging programming environment.
  5. keyser1


    Thanks for the replies.

    I've thought about an mba; although it doesnt match my near term goals (ie doing quantitative stuff doesnt require an mba) and the effort for a ms in math finance I think is too much (ie I'm not going to go to school full time for a year for it)...

    I've also pondered the 'get a job as a developer in the finance industry' route. As long as its a position where gaining domain knowledge is part of the job, I'd be willing to take that & then gradually lessen the % of development that the job entails.

    So the follow up question is, should I simply be looking for development jobs at trading desks; or should I be looking for 'quant dev' job titles? Or are they one in the same?

    And what types of things, if any, should I start to learn in prep for interviews -- ie should I start studying specific domain things, or just general math/probability/logic?
  6. It depends on what you eventually want to do. If you want to eventually be a trader / portfolio manager ...

    For you to find a non-IT related job in finance, the answer is no. And this is sincere. I worked for 12 yrs on wall street in IT (ran IT for a division), and have been trading for the past 5-6 years. You won't get past a 5 second glance at your resume, at the present time.

    As to point 3 and 4 of your job goal. I hate to be negative here, they are not realistic. if you are to go to a quant / analyst role, you will start at the bottom, which means maybe 60-70k salary + bonus. Second, a 9-10 hr work day would be extremely light, figure easily a 12-13 hour days, plus maybe 1.5 day on the weekends.

    The most classical way to change your career is to get a new degree. A masters in quantitative finance / financial engineering maybe your best bet. Since you graduated from Columbia, Emanuel Derman now runs the FE program over there, good program, talk to him (he is quite accessible).

    Think about your career change from this perspective. If let's say a trading desk head is looking for an associate, what would differentiate you from the 500 other resumes that he gets? If you did some programming competition (ACM programming contest come to mind), that might stand out, if you published some paper on say scientific computing (reputable journal), that might stand out, etc, etc ... in terms of quant skills, a typical position would get quite a bit of applications from hard-science phd graduates, in terms of programming skills, i had a person who was on the original Java dev team (with Gosling) apply once. A certain well-known tech-oriented trading firm last year hired the person who wrote router firmwares for Cisco (no, not tradebot, but close).

    All I am saying is that you need to find your own differentiator when looking for a job, financial service industry is red-hot right now. When I gave a small informational lecture to the CS grad students at my alma mater last year, and then asked the question, "who here would want a job in finance?", over half of them raised their hand.
  7. nitro


    A development job and a quant job are nowhere near the same. Quants often know how to program, but when they come up with a model, it goes to a developer, since most of a quants models are dreamt up in Excel or Matlab or Mathematica or R.

    There is no preparation. If you are humble and are willing to learn, there are plenty of jobs out there at financial firms for developers. Even if you don't get hired at the beginning, you can learn a great deal from the interview by asking lots of questions. Being interested and curious as to what a firm does is never bad. Really, don't over complicate things. Just go on a lot of interviews, and then choose a job.

    If you want a quant job, you need to get a degree in a hard science, preferably math or physics. The other choice is the FE programs. Look here for more insight:


  8. keyser1


    rufus...I appreciate the harshness of your reply(not being sarcastic).

    At this point, I'm more looking for plausible/realistic avenues I can head to since I'm starting to get bored with software dev (its okay, but I find it a bit lacking in the cerebral side) & also I'd like to have a higher income potential...

    I'm going to leave being a developer at a trading firm on the table as it would probably be interesting (atleast initially)..

    Another question is:
    I'm probably not ready to yet (since I dont know exactly what I want and I hence shouldnt make the commitment). But if I wanted to go into say the portfolio management side, would an MBA (at a top finance school) be the way? Would it be possible to get a good investment/finance job with an MBA even though I'd lack the work experience? Or would it just be a waste of time (if the good companies expect prior work experience)?
  9. These are contradictory you realize. A dev job at a trading firm may not be any more exciting, but may allow you to make contacts within the firm who can help guide your career. Go for it!

    If you decide to go the MBA route, where will you the tuition money? From savings, or will you have to assume a lot of debt? As pointed out earlier, you can forget being a quant unless you have the FE degree or science PhD.
  10. 2ez


    It's not always what you know but who you know too. If you don't have an "in" , IMO it will be hard getting your foot into the door. I would also suggest looking into the CFA designation. ...in addition to the MBA if you are interested in Portfolio Management.

    Moreover, longer hours and traveling may be a reguirement. I worked at an investment advisory for 4yrs. 8-9hr days were non-existent and you will have to travel to clients and to meet with officers of the various companies your firm may have or take an interest in.
    #10     May 20, 2007