Thursday, February 22, 2007

An e-mail from a reader wanting career advice

About half an hour ago I received the e-mail below. I reckon it's an easy one to answer, so I decided to do a posting and answer it immediately.

Dear GB

How are you? Happy Lunar Golden Pig Year! What a cute pinky pig profile pic you have got there hehehe!

I am a final year uni student in Australia, doing double engineering degree. I am writing to you asking for some career advice :D

I recently did a internship with a big investment bank. I got in as an Equity IT intern, but I managed to score myself one week on the trading floor, sitting with various traders. I am waiting for the graduate offer now. What I really after is a front office role, IBD or Trading(Deriv). HR knew this too and they said they would try to get me the role I really want. They are thinking of deporting me back to Asia (they asked me if I am interested in working in Asia and I said yes.), as Asia is the growth region for the bank and they recently opened a new business there.

I understand that I am more likely to get a position in IT than Trading, because I have no financial knowledge what so ever. I am kicking myself for not doing double engineering/commerce degree. Apparently Australians are a lot less tolerant than English, in the sense that it is virtually impossible to get into the finance industry if you did not study the right course. This is what a trader from London told me anyway.

Anyhow, whinging does not help lol. Do you think I should take the position in IT if I am offered one? How easy is it to make the transition from IT to a front office role? Do you know any trader who started in IT? What did they have to do to make the transition? How do you view your IT colleagues? geeky? freaky? smart, but don't have the personality to be a trader? To be honest, if I accept the IT position, I am just doing it for the sake of getting into the bank.

Is it a smart move for me to go back to Asia now? Is it easier to climb up the ranks in a growth region? I have a feeling that, if I leave Australia now, I might never come back to work. The thought of leaving my family and friends saddens me lol. This is why I decided to work in Australia for 2 years before going back. Should I consider going to a top business school to get an MBA?

Thank you so much for your time! I really appreciate it. I will be looking forward to to your advice.

Kind Regards


I think the short answer is 'yes', take the IT role if you can't get directly into a role you prefer. The work experience will be good, and whatever projects you work on you should learn a lot. All good banks have training budgets too, so once you're in the door there may well be opportunities to take short internal courses to develop your skills.

If you're still in your last year at uni then you're still very young. The good thing is that you've told the HR department what your goals are, so if opportunities don't develop at the bank that hires you, then you can always look elsewhere with a clean conscience. It is true that it's can be hard to switch department. But when you're young, keen and ambitious, it can be quite easy to switch bank. Regarding an MBA, at your age I reckon work experience in a bank would be better.

One way to develop your career would be to get onto a bank graduate training scheme of some sort. Just because you won't be a fresh graduate any more doesn't mean that you're not eligible. On the contrary, a young guy who's got a bit of real work experience in a bank is a good candidate, either within the bank you're working for or at another bank.

Everyone says Asia is the future, and there's no doubt that the region has a lot of room for explosive growth. But IT might also be the future. In my opinion, each day the world becomes slightly more quantitative and computer oriented. So the traders of the future may well be computer programmers designing algorithms for their automated trading bots!

1 comment:

Isabella Snow said...

A non-monogamous investment banker who works in London? Have we dated? Cos I could swear I just blogged about you a few weeks ago...

Wait.. did you say gay? Nevermind..

Uh-oh.. wait again.. actually.. that would make soooooo much sense...

;)