If you are a Software Engineer, SRE or Infrastructure Engineer in 2021, chances are you have been approached, or at least prompted with ads, about a career move into financial technology. The reason is simple: as financial companies are catching up in innovation and technological advancements, they are actively looking for the skilled technical experts to build out their systems. You think the best place for a meaningful tech career can only be a big tech firm? It might be time to reconsider.
Read the story of an ex Google Senior Site Reliability Engineer who moved to a Hedge Fund in London and does not look back.
Why did you want to consider working with financial technology?
I find economics, statistics and psychology extremely interesting and I feel like finance intersects these very nicely. Accurately predicting macroeconomic factors is difficult and the response to these plays an important role in the wellbeing and long-term stability of a society.
If everyone would know everything, the economy would be in perfect equilibrium, but of course that's not true - markets, companies and people are extremely inefficient. The way you gather data, process and correlate it, create knowledge and use this to make decisions (often very fast), dictate your ability to create or destroy value. Getting this right at scale is a super hard and interesting technical challenge.
What are the main differences between working at Google to your current firm?
Google has 140k+ full-time employees, thousands of internal projects and decades of iteration. There is a strong culture of engineering excellence, which delivers high quality and scalable products. The upsides are that you get to work with some of the smartest and most interesting people in the world and potentially help ship software to billions of people. The downsides on the other hand are that most engineers won't work directly on something like Search, but instead own a very small piece of a small service that sometimes interacts with the storage layer of Search, or something like that. Additionally, the process of improving current services or designing new ones is very elaborate and long, often taking many months to review and ship code. This feeds into a common feeling of "a small cog in a large wheel", all while the machine keeps growing and growing (fun fact: over 50% of Googlers have joined less than 2 years ago).
My current firm has under 400 employees, so it's not really a fair comparison, although the main similarity I've noticed is the relentless focus on good engineering and automation at scale. In contrast, things move a whole lot faster and engineering processes are overall much lighter - it's not uncommon to build something new, get it reviewed and have it in production in less than a week. People have a lot of autonomy and trust to implement change and have an impact on the business, often wearing different hats and owning many critical services and pieces of infrastructure. Overall very similar feel to a growing startup but without sacrificing on the benefits and compensation of big tech.
Do you think more engineers should consider working in the finance industry? If so why?
Yes for sure. A lot of funds and trading firms are looking for talented engineers to solve complex and exciting challenges, offering very lucrative compensation packages and benefits. There are huge opportunities for growth, impact and disruption, just look at what's happening in the cryptocurrency and DeFi space - many hedge funds and trading firms are already contributing tech, expertise and capital/liquidity. Additionally, a lot of firms have started investing heavily into ESG and shifting out of fossil-fuels, so it's the perfect time to drive change from the inside.
Is the myth of “The finance industry is boring” true?
Absolutely not. Sometimes I wish things were a little more boring when there's huge volatility in the markets or when a critical service goes down, but all this keeps things fresh and exciting, every week is different and we learn new things.
What do you enjoy the most in your current position?
Definitely the autonomy and trust to improve and build things that I think are high impact and are helping the business be more efficient and successful. Seeing the services you build and iterate on being used by many teams. Finally, working with like-minded engineers that are not afraid to challenge the status quo and push for continuous improvements and best practices.