I'm an ex-IB analyst at a no-name boutique in a major city. I recently left my job at the boutique after a year and a half for a new position in data science/artificial intelligence at one of the largest quantitative hedge funds in NYC. My career path sounds a little bit strange to many people, but in a nutshell, I like many students out of college was really enamored by the idea of working in IB and the "exit-opps" associated with IB. I really wanted to work for a large bank, but my interview skills were not the greatest, and I ended up working at a small boutique for a year after college. My plan was to lateral to larger bank after a couple of years.
Made me think twice about IB career...
However, working at the boutique really made me think twice about pursuing a career in IB, I felt that at the entry-level at least, the work was really not intellectually stimulating and even though I got to work on a lot of transactions (I closed 2 transactions while I worked there), I felt that I wasn't really developing as many sought after skills as I hoped. Granted, I now know how to make a powerpoint and an excel model better than I did before I started, but being able to make a powerpoint presentation or an excel model wasn't exactly rocket science in the grand scheme of things.
I also realized that I probably would not succeed in IB, which at the partner level would be completely driven by the ability to build relationships, etc. Given my lack of ability with networking, I felt that it would be very difficult for me to climb to that level. And moving to private equity didn't sound that much better either, as it would be a fairly similar role except you didn't have to write CIMS, which was one of the things I most disliked about IB.
Interest in AI/Machine Learning
While I was working at the boutique, I was reading a lot of articles in my spare time about AI/Machine Learning and the transformative effects that this technology could have on society and it got me interested in exploring this further. I knew how to write some basic code from high school, as I used to like writing simple video games in Java as a hobby (yes, I am kind of a nerd), and some basic calculus and statistics from courses in college, but I knew absolutely nothing about AI/Machine Learning.
I spent hours after work watching youtube videos, reading academic research/blogs, and working with courses on Udacity, and just teaching myself the basics. After several months of pretty intense studying, I started building machine learning models and started competing in machine learning competitions on Kaggle. My first couple of competitions, my models basically were in the bottom 20%. But I kept on making improvements, and experimenting with different features, algorithms, hyper parameters etc. and making small improvements to my models, and my score slowly increased and I consistently ranked in the top 10 - 20% in new competitions.
Sent out 40-50 resumes
At this point, I felt much more confident in my own technical abilities and started to apply to new jobs. I added my projects to my resume, and basically applied online whenever a job came out. I didn't care where I worked, but I wanted to work in data science/AI/machine learning. I sent out about 40-50 resumes, and heard back from two companies for interviews. One was a fintech company that used AI/machine learning for commercial lending, and the other company was a large quant hedge fund/trading firm.
I really enjoy my current position, and I just about doubled my salary from my IB position before, but most importantly I feel that I am learning a ton everyday.
Feel free to AMA about my professional experiences!