Leaving banking for big tech requires horrible Leetcode practice
If you're a developer at an investment bank, you are probably paid well, but maybe not that well. - At least, not compared to a big technology firm. The FAANG firms (historically Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, but also Microsoft and any big tech giant) still dominate when it comes to pay, and that's still a source of frustration for engineers in banks whose salaries rarely exceed $250k even after five years' grind.
"Big tech still pays a lot more than banking for similar levels of experience," says a recruiter with experience of working inside and outside banks. How much more? Thompson doesn't say but, LevelsFYI has a newly graduated full stack analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York on $118k in total compensation (of which $9k is a bonus), and a similar person at Facebook joining on $189k.
It's not just Goldman Sachs and it's not just Facebook. This is typical for the two industries.
What can you do about it? Mark Ross, a former Morgan Stanley strat and quant developer turned career coach, says you need a strategy. And that strategy should involve using your banking job to get a job in big tech.
"It happens frequently," says Ross. "I went from being a desk strat at Morgan and now I'm COO (soon to be promoted to CEO) at a tech start-up...my neighbor was a director at Morgan Stanley and now runs a tech team at Amazon."
The only problem, says Ross, is that because coding work in banks is often elementary, tech firms will want to validate your competence.
"Most investment banks aren't coming up with crazy quantitative models to trade for themselves," says Ross. "Their developers are generally building platforms rather than using hardcore logic."
Developer jobs in banks often require experience with very specific tech stacks, adds Ross. "If a platform has been built in Java they will want you to have five years' Java experience."
By comparison, Ross says technology firms tend to be more ambivalent: they only really want to know that you can code. They'll find this out with coding tests. And those coding tests require practice.
This, then, becomes the number one reason why people who might otherwise want to move to big tech end up staying in banking jobs and earning half the money they would if they moved. Preparing for tech firms' coding tests takes time, which you don't have when you're working longish hours and taking calls with India at 3am.
Of course, not all banking tech jobs are that bad and not all big tech engineering jobs are that good. Recruiters point out that FAANG engineering jobs are often now just as bureaucratic and mired in legacy code as banks' engineering jobs. If you get a seat in a bank on a project developing a new app, you'll be in luck. The trouble is, you can't specify this as a requirement when you apply through the banks' graduate program, and you'll be paid the standard rate salary no matter what.
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