Q&A: SWE visiting from blind
I saw a few posts comparing life of finance to SWE. Turns out finance people are very confidentially wrong about some things. For example, FAANG isn't isn't full of brainiacs nor is it the highest paying. Very few people actually work "15 hours a week". Careers definitely don't stall out at 300k forever. I know individual contributors making well over 1m.
First job was at a unicorn startup, second was at a major tech company(e.g. stripe, Coinbase, Robinhood) and now senior software engineer at a startup. I have friends all over tech and quant trading. I do distributed systems and machine learning work.
5-6 YOE. 270k cash comp + 90k/yr equity working remotely from the Midwest. Went to a super average CS school on a full athletic scholarship.
How much do people at top companies make 5-6 years after school in IB, consulting, etc.?
Why are finance people so obsessed with top schools? Feels like it's the ante to in finance but more like a cherry on top in tech. Especially after a few years of experience.
do you see people with a background like mine end up in VC? If so what's that path look like?
I'm pretty good at math, systems, and coding. Where to start learning trading and the algo/quant side?
I'll bite on your first couple of questions:
1) For consulting, somewhere in the 300-400K range, depending on how quickly someone gets promoted
2) School brand name is big in finance and consulting because those industries aren't driven by technical skills. For jobs with a technical skill requirement, I imagine it's relatively straightforward to tell whether a person has that skill or not and hire them / promote them accordingly. Thus, schooling isn't that useful of a signal. For finance and consulting (especially as you get more senior) the skills you need are much more nebulous and hard to measure (e.g. management skills, presentation skills, ability to think logically about problems without a predefined structure). And it's not enough to prove that you have these skills to your employer - you also need to convince the clients you are selling to / billing to, who are not usually going to be well positioned to evaluate your ability in your line of work. Brand name schools show that you are "smart" and "capable" in a general sense and therefore serve as a proxy (for better or for worse) for measuring your potential and ability.
Appreciate it :) makes sense. Probably harder to sniff out talent and easier to just pull from the top
$400k feels a bit high, even for 6YOE. I'd expect the average mid-bucket MBB consultant to be squarely in the EM range at the 5-6 year mark. $400k fits better in the AP range.
If you're really good and you're at McK where there are fewer levels and you can speedrun your way to AP, then sure.
A few questions for you:
**** edit sorry for blob of text I don't know how to format bullet points ****
I'll be real what this forum really doesn't need anymore of is SWEs coming over from blind
thanks for the helpful and constructive response, albeit funny
I am happy for you, but why did you feel the need to come to a finance forum and do this flex?
I want to learn more about how compensation lines up with other fields(e.g finance and consulting.
I want to learn more about VC and quant trading.
I see lots of misinformation about SWE. I'm happy to answer questions in exchange for information I'm seeking.
Hi Blinder, I can answer your questions about compensation in consulting and finance as I know those very well. But please don't share information about SWE on a finance platform. It could backfire by drawing eyeballs and strengthening more negative perceptions.
And then to answer your questions:
1. Ibanking usually pay 200k - 300k TC for entry level positions. This includes a variable bonus that's usually 100% of base. After two years, they either stay as associates and make 400k - 500k or hop to PE for better long-term comp. After 10 years, if things go well, they will make millions
2. Strategy consultants make 100k -150k at entry level. After a few years it rises to 300k - 400k. Then they either hop to corporate as director with heavy equity comp, or stay in MBB as partner and make millions
3. Quant trading at prop shop usually starts with 300k base + 100k - 800k bonus depending on PnL. Comp is irrelevant to YoE, only PnL matters. Good quant traders make tens of millions at young age. Quant trading at banks is a different story though. It usually starts with 200k and go up to 1 million
Bye buddy. I'm the only SWE allowed to be here. Back to Blind you go 👋
Fine, only cause I'm bored rn.
Q: "How much do people at top companies make 5-6 years after school in IB, consulting, etc.?"
A: Extremely hard to tell - there is just way too much variation, just like in tech, but arguably even more so. Are we talking about someone at a place like Viking/Elliot, or are we talking about some dude in back-office at some shitty search fund? On this website, you'll find a lot of tail-end results. IB -> PE/VC/HF usually results in much higher TC than the consulting route but worse hours. There are a lot of trade offs with each path in finance, and luck/connections is a huge factor. So TC can range from below 100k to even something crazy like 7/8 figures with carry/profit-sharing schemes.
Q: "Why are finance people so obsessed with top schools? Feels like it's the ante to in finance but more like a cherry on top in tech. Especially after a few years of experience."
A: Well because…it does matter much more in finance lol. The truth is, tech is much more of a meritocracy. Like you said, after a couple years of experience, no recruiter/company in tech gives a shit about what school a candidate went to. Does it help to go to a top CS program? Certainly, but it's more of a "nice to have". In finance, it's literally make or break. Strategy consulting, IB, PE, are literally filled to the brim with well-connected IB kids. It's not hard to do these jobs. The barrier of entry in terms of skill knowledge is low, but most non-target kids don't even get a chance to interview at the top places. Meanwhile there are whole funds dedicated to recruiting legacy kids from places like Dartmouth. Meanwhile in tech, even the "top" places like Jane Street, HRT, CitSec will happily interview the kid from the local state school and no connections whatsoever.
Q: "do you see people with a background like mine end up in VC? If so what's that path look like?"
A: Extremely unlikely, but possible. I have a cousin that did a couple years at big tech and is now an angel investor at a well known VC. But he also went above and beyond the role at his company and founded a startup on the side, effectively showing that he knows both the tech side and business side of a company. He also got an MBA from an M7 which certainly helped. You have to put in the work to stand out because obviously VC positions are probably one of the most competitive to get in all of finance. These guys usually make over half a million starting.
Q: "I'm pretty good at math, systems, and coding. Where to start learning trading and the algo/quant side?"
A: I have some experience with this because I currently work at an algo-trading Fintech, and have also interviewed with a lot of the "big boys" in the quant/HFT world. Nearly all of them don't require any previous finance experience. What they look for, on a fundamental level, is really smart people who are insanely good problem solvers and quick learners. And when I say insanely good, I mean easily 99.9th percentile type people that know math/cs concepts like the back of their hand. You are essentially competing against math/cs gold medalists, many from places like MIT/CMU. Your interviewer might even be a sitting board member of C++ ISO, who contributed to STL itself. It can get pretty nuts at some of the smaller shops. All you can do is make sure you are solid at data structures, algorithms, networking, OS, compiler optimization, distributed computing, system design, comp arch, etc. Sometimes statistics/probability as well, depending on the type of role.
lmk if you have any follow up questions
Hi, as an IB analyst dreaming to work as SWE, 3 questions for you:
1. If not 15hr/week, what is the industry norm for hours? Feel free to break it up by Big tech vs. startup etc. I normally work 60 - 80hr/week (get started at 9am and wrap up my day by midnight) and I am hoping SWE provides a better WLB.
3. Any opinion on MSCS degrees that are open to non-cs undergrads? Thinking along the lines of Northeastern Align MSCS, UPenn MCIT.
+1 for these questions.
Also, barebones tell us how difficult your job actually is. Like on a daily basis what are you doing. Do you see these tasks getting automated in the near future? Are you constantly worried about layoffs?
It's weird because you just get better at your job. 4 years ago, my current role would be impossible with the skill sets i had then. Now it's quite manageable. I build a platform to make general purpose machine learning models. My skills are quite transferable to a variety of technical domains. I can't imagine a world where I get "automated out", but who knows. Even with automation, somebody somewhere will have to operate the machine. If there is nothing new to build, worst case scenario I will operate the machines. As far as layoffs, I got laid off 9 months ago the week I started a job. Found a job pretty fast. Once you hit 3 or so YOE, finding new jobs is pretty easy. It was much easier for me back then than it would be today since jobs are a bit more scarce and big tech is hiring slower. Everyone I know who got laid off from meta, google, and amazon has or will likely find a job that pays as much or more.
Im a bit confused why you say school doesn't matter. It absolutely does if you are going for prestigious tech roles. Try getting into the elite hft firms from a no-name school. Your odds are much worse than a non-target breaking into MBB or IB.
The roles you've held are well paying, but not prestigious.
I've interviewed at citadel, Jane street, and HRT. They didn't give a shit about where I went to school. Citadel made an offer. The others rejected for reasons that were technical interview related(e.g. didn't like a system design answer or my background in low latency work). I bet McKinsey wouldn't even give me a phone screen for a consulting gig.
Just to comment on your last paragraph it's the same for finance/consulting. Transaction experience / what projects you've done for client work matter a lot more for lateral hires than school. But in general the target kids were the ones who found themselves in roles with the desired experience, so they get the lateral jobs as well.
Are you in tech? A lot of this information is just false
Surprising to see blinders on WSO. Thought we'd never cross roads lol
Anyways, we should stop the tech vs finance comparison. It's getting way too old. And people are getting tired of this. Even if you see some misunderstandings that you'd like to clarify, don't clarify it. Misunderstanding will always exist between different professions, and explaining won't help yourself nor others. People have different routes, interests, and perspectives. Let WSO be pure finance, Blind be pure tech, and leave each other alone. Don't make information more transparent, it won't help your TC ( as Blinder, you should get my point )
we are all trying to be CEO, right? I'm trying to see what the other paths look like. Transparency feels like a good thing to me. When a company knows that's a company is happily paying my N dollars… it makes other companies that may offer me more confident that I'm worth it.
The pushback OP is getting us why Finance is a stagnating industry in almost every aspect.
As a person with many relatives and friends in tech, honestly many finance kids don't understand how high the salaries have blown up, not just for engineering managers, but for ICs, even at no name companies like Captial One (yes I get that it's not no name af, but compared to FAANG , big N, etc..). 10 years ago, SWE was just starting to ramp up and was just an 85 percentile white collar career, whereas now, its a legitimately better place to be than finance for about 50% of students (especially if you're technically inclined, but that bar isn't even that high). Finance is a tail outcome career, and the vast majority of regular, unconnected, non savant kids, won't see an ounce of that gold. Not saying tech is a goldmine either, but it is more accessible to a wider cohort of the population, one just needs to put the work in in terms of CS fundamentals.
Layoffs, higher interest rates, and less moronic herd mind VCs won't change the trajectory of this career. While I don't think its the end of all white collar jobs outside of tech, I seriously encourage everyone to be at least somewhat technical in this age. It will determine whether you can sleep easily at night at 45, if you haven't already gotten your bag by then.
I'm super unconnected and didn't realize that my school was disqualifying. I'm the first generation to go college in my family, so in my mind, taking a full athletic scholarship seemed better than trying to go somewhere prestigious. Had a 3.9 in CS and tech companies were very eager to get in touch. Finance and consulting firms wouldn't give me the time of day nor did I even know what the path looked like. Felt like it was too late before I even explored the field.
For people who went to non-target, not well-connected, or not sociable, tech is an above-average career. But tech is not even close to the prestige of ibanking and consulting that are the goals of well-connected target school kids. The career progression is also far behind. Tech pay quickly stagnates and is equity-heavy ( most equity being illiquid or unstable ). Not to mention the lack of social networks and upper management exposure. It's an okay career, but far from being prestigious enough to be discussed on WSO. So these swes should seriously stop coming to WSO. It was fresh and fun in the beginning, but now it's just annoying.
I thought I was being mildly douchey but pushback has made me feel moderate-extremely douchey lol
bro go back to blind ur contaminating the pure prestige of this platform
Couldn't agree more. OP should delete this post.
$270K cash comp + $90k equity working remotely in the Midwest working prob ~40 hours a week....
Jealous. It's assholes like you (half joking) that made housing prices so ridiculous in LCOL places like the Midwest...
I live in a 250k condo so it ain't me lol. Most weeks are 50-60sh with 24/7 on call
Btw, if you want to look for a business co-founder, what characteristics & skills are you looking for ?
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