Best way to get into the tech/I.T. side of finance? - Specifically chicago?

rageking16's picture
Rank: Chimp | 11

I've been in I.T. (server admin and web developer) for one year in Chicago and find getting interviews at any sort of financial firm nigh impossible....stereotypical start up environments? No problem!

Any advice or leads in the Chicago region? I don't mind moving to other states if the opportunity exists.

Comments (9)

Mar 28, 2014

Tell me about your undergrad and your current role. Is it with a big firm?

Chicago is a little less picky and a lot less elitist than New York, but you need a decent resume to get an interview from many firms. CS or Computer Engineering at a Big Ten school or a school roughly on par- UIC, UWM, Notre Dame, and a 3.0 GPA would be a really good start.

The web development part of your background is going to make a transition tricky. We don't have a lot of roles for javascript or django developers. A lot of HFT code is written in C++. A lot of the analytics code requires a language like Java or C#. An analytics developer who's never seen web development code before sees ancient greek, and my suspicion is that the same thing will happen to a web developer who has to provide coverage for 300,000 lines of analytics or trading code in a statically-typed object oriented language language.

Finally, there's been some consolidation in HFT. It is a sort of winner-takes-all game on strict execution. So there may not be a lot of newly created seats for developers these days.

Those are some of the themes I see going on here when a manager at a trading firm looks at your resume. For the record, my background is as a desk strat at an NYC bank, so I am not a total expert on the Chicago HFT scene. I grew up in and went to school in IL and have some friends working at Chicago prop shops. I suspect their work is similar to mine, but I don't know for sure.

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Mar 28, 2014

Admin and web dev are not really transferrable skills to a finance firm. At the minimum you need experience in an industrial object oriented programming language (Java/C#/C++/C). Leave your current job, get a new job at a company solving difficult distributed multithreaded problems using the languages above. Reapply in one year.

If you are really motivated and your current firm uses some of those languages, spend nights after working learning the code base. Learn the language really well. Put on your resume as having used those langages at your company (i.e. lie). Pass the interview and dont fuck up at the firm. If you want to make it to the top, do this a few times, making a big career jump in between each lie, this is how you get to 1M a year.

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Mar 28, 2014

If OP wants money, I don't see a huge need to switch, here. We will both have very nice comfortable lives, we will both face some risk of having our firms blow up, and we will both never get rich.

In general, techies are a lot nicer and calmer to work with than traders. That said, traders in Chicago are a lot nicer and calmer than many traders in New York.

If OP still really wants to switch, despite the fact that he won't earn much more in finance, I second mike's advice.

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Mar 28, 2014

lol, I meant doing backend server administration. Not switch to being a quant.

You guys have servers and developers? You likely have an I.T. back end.

Mar 28, 2014
rageking16:

lol, I meant doing backend server administration. Not switch to being a quant.

You guys have servers and developers? You likely have an I.T. back end.

Sure. Every firm has a couple SAs. I am pretty sure the HFT firms colocate rather than run their own datacenters, though, and I'll bet (I'm not sure) they outsource the stuff that needs to be done on-site at the datacenter.

Goldman Sachs and Barclays are big enough to have their own datacenters. However, a smaller firm like the Gelber Group or Spot Trading does not want to rent a large earthquake-proof building and get three gigabit lines coming in. I'll bet they probably are big enough to have a few SAs. I'll bet most of Spot Trading's "IT people" are hardcore C++ developers who really aren't IT- they're traders.

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Mar 31, 2014

What a strange coincidence, I got a phone interview with Gelber Group this week....Illiniprogrammer, have you worked there before? Any advice? I'm finishing the phone screens today and likely a in-person interview after that.

Mar 31, 2014
rageking16:

What a strange coincidence, I got a phone interview with Gelber Group this week....Illiniprogrammer, have you worked there before? Any advice? I'm finishing the phone screens today and likely a in-person interview after that.

No. I have just heard of them. My Dad does taxes for a lot of Chicago prop shops.

Look, expect a typical technical interview for an SA role. I'm not 100% sure what that would entail for an SA as compared to a developer. If you don't know what a technical SA interview would look like either, my guess is that whatever OS you've been working with, you'd want to know it's advantages and disadvantages, how to fix stuff on it, etc. What the most recent kernel updates are for, etc. They just want to know that whatever they're hiring you to do, you're a total expert on it.

Be humble. Limit your claims on stuff you can do to stuff you've already done. Try to limit the scope of the interview to stuff you know well, but don't be completely averse to trying a technical problem you weren't expecting.

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Mar 31, 2014

So far the phone screen wasn't too hard, standard Linux stuff.

I'm guessing standard SA salary range for 1-2 years experience or do trading firms pay better than average.

Mar 31, 2014
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