I’ve had several candidates currently working in Investment Banks ask me recently about how to make the transition into the tech/mobile/web companies that are popping up all over NYC. Here are my thoughts on what is making this transition so tough for so many:
- At the IB’s most people are given one sliver of a task and told when finished to throw it over the cubicle to the next guy for him to do his part. Within start-ups its end-to-end rapid development, testing, deployment, learn from miscues and repeat cycle. You certainly collaborate, but usually with a few people and the code gets written fast
- Technical problem solving skills are at a premium in the start-ups. They don’t care if you know Java and how to price a swap. Financial domain isn’t relevant anymore. The languages used in start ups are more nimble and flexible/scalable than traditional coding
- Comp: inside the banks you have high base salaries, large year end bonus (sometimes) and a structured work environment. In start ups you have a decent base salary, equity (sometimes) and a very unstructured work environment. Developers at IB’s work 8-6, Developers at startups work 10-12, coffee and foosball from 12-2, video games from 2-4, code from 4-6, eat, sleep and then code from 10 pm until 2 am
- The start-up environment does come at a price. Example, if you are a 7 year software engineer in IB and are earning $175k base + bonus you need to ask how badly you want to be in a start up. Are you willing to take a $25k+ haircut to be surrounded by the passion, excitement and potential upside that equity brings?
- On the flip side, most start-ups are dog shit and they fail. For every firm that secures vc money, figures out a revenue model and actually becomes a viable business there are tens of thousands that don’t see the light of day.
My suggestion is to figure out what’s important to you professionally. If its stability, incremental growth and compensation improvement, challenging work, khaki’s and a button down…that leans towards IB. If its high risk and high reward (sometimes), rapid deployment environment, latest and greatest technology, unstructured, casual, jeans and a hoodie…clearly you are start up material.