MBB wannabe to FAANG Software Engineer

While the odds are this post is relegated to the WSO trash heap-to grace the eyes neither of monkey nor MD-on the off chance my story could be helpful to someone in a similar position as I was a year ago, I wanted to share. The moral of the story: if you're better at math than schmoozing or stuck at a non-target school due to finances save yourself years of pain and self-loathing and GO INTO TECH!

After discovering WSO during my junior year at my T30 semi-target UG, I spent most of my waking moments of the following year in pursuit of an analyst slot at an MBB/T2 firm. I became obsessed. My school is largely a feeder into Big 4 / corporate-rotational / lower-tier IB positions with 1-2 making it into top tier consulting firms a year. Based on what I read on this site I assumed my pedigree would be the main thing keeping me out, as no consulting firms have proper on campus recruitment / interviews. I spent so much time regretting earlier life choices / not attending a proper target school, despite having been accepted to several / not getting on the business track earlier in college. Still I kept on-improving my resume, networking, and case-prepping.

Come fall of my senior year, my grind seemed to be paying off as the hundreds of cold emails I sent out resulted in first-round interviews at all of MBB and ~half the T2 firms. My good luck ended there. While I made it to final rounds at MBB and one T2 firms, I walked away with zero offers, despite dozens of hours of case prep. When it came down to it I got too nervous in final-round interviews, I cared too much, and I failed to meet the salesmanship requirements of the role. 

After several weeks of wallowing I happened upon an article about software engineer salaries at the big tech firms. I couldn't believe my eyes-Facebook SWE's starting out at 200k, SWE's at quantitative hedge funds starting at 400K total comp in their first year. From my pre-professional focused UG to this forum, I'd come to believe that medicine/law/business were where the money was and that engineers generally had to move into management to see still inferior levels of comp.

While I have relatively decent social skills-have always had friends, no trouble with dating, regularly go out-I get anxious under intense pressure, and I've always been more successful in academics than gaming social systems. If I'd know it was possible to get rich by solving math problems (essentially the deciding factor in SWE interviews) I would have been on that track from the start. Also while Big Tech has its own set of target schools, the culture is much more meritocratic and open to people without the proper pedigree, which is liberating for someone who had to turn down offers from a T1 undergrad due to finances.

After graduating with no job offer, I hit the math/CS books. After 10 months of grinding, I went from a zero coding skills to a software engineering offer at the SF office of a FAANG company. I'll be pulling in roughly 170k with an additional 30k signing bonus in my first year, working 40-50 hours a week. 

I'm not posting this to try and shit-talk consulting or finance careers-I have enormous respect for this community and the work you all do. I wanted to get this story out there to provide an alternative path to wealth for people who may not know about tech careers and lack either the pedigree or innate disposition to succeed in consulting, law, or finance without going through the hell that is medical school/residency.

If you're smart and have adequate social skills you can break into software engineering and pull in six figures (and even seven if you move into management after 10+ years) with a good work-life balance. For those of you who are better at math than politics or who missed the HYSP golden ticket, seriously consider giving software engineering a try if you aren't 150% sure you were born for banking. 

Finally much thanks to all you monkeys for making this community such a helpful resource. And for anyone looking to learn more about pivoting into tech check out Reddit's CSCareerQuestions forum, TeamBlind (the WSO for tech), or feel free to send me a PM.

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Comments (34)

Apr 18, 2021 - 3:56pm

at first I was going to shit on you for not being concise enough, but then I kept reading and think your story is awesome. In a similar boat except I landed in AM. Interested in making the switch to SWE or maybe product management. Congrats! Glad things worked out for you. 

What resources helped you learn to program the most btw? 

Apr 18, 2021 - 4:16pm

You right shit was long as fuck, but I wasn't asking others for advice, and I figured anyone who might benefit could use the detail. Congrats on breaking into AM. PM is also a great career but imo it is more about stakeholder management than anything else and maybe includes even more bullshitting than professional services. So if you don't like that side AM you probably won't like PM. 

In terms of leaning to code I took intro / intermediate programming classes at an online community college but in terms of prepping for interviews Data Structures and Algorithms in Python by Goodrich was killer and then you just have to grind practice problems on Leetcode.

Apr 19, 2021 - 7:51am

I still firmly believe that if you're the banking/consulting type then Product is absolutely the best role in tech for you.

Way better impact / growth trajectory than a strategy & ops or corpdev role, still very much strategic / biz focused and you're owning the process of ideating / building what is core to the value prop of most tech companies (rheir products) without having to solve narrow scope technical problems or troubleshoot broken code all the time.

  • 1
Apr 18, 2021 - 5:25pm

What was your major? I'm considering doing a masters and going the data scientist/analyst/decision analyst kind of thing. I studied Industrial Engineering at a top 50 non-target and reckon the applied stats/OR background would be useful . Or do you think SWE is generally the best path. 

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Apr 18, 2021 - 5:48pm

I was a business major which is frankly looked down upon by tech people on the SWE / data science side of things. Having done IE definitely signals well for you and should make the transition a bit easier. 

In terms of data science / analytics vs SWE, I personally think there are few upsides to the data science route. From my (admittedly limited) understanding of industry trends, "data science" is becoming more of a buzzword, with roles listed as data science become closer to what has traditionally been called "business/product analysis." As data science tools have grown increasingly advanced they have become much easier to use, and many data science positions are quite removed from doing any independent stats / machine learning work. Meanwhile software engineering has maintained a pretty stable entry bar over the past decade, and I see core SWE skills remaining valuable for some time into the future.

Either way, deciding to go data science, OR, or SWE, I think a proper CS masters would be a more valuable add-on to your IE undergrad than either stats or OR, as a CS degree is looked on quite favorably for OR and DS positions, but the reverse isn't necessarily true.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Apr 19, 2021 - 7:44am

I mean... great? This just boils down to: consider different career paths, pick one and do the necessary grind to set you up. If you fail, pivot to something else and repeat.

Tech paying well is old news.. started happening around 2013 or so when valuations (and ergo size of vesting equity / year or startup equity exit payouts) took off. Not exactly a revelation or anything that it's supplanted itself as a "high paying yuppie career path" alongside medicine/high finance/biglaw/consulting etc.

Good on you for taking matters into your own hands to do what needed to be done to break into another high paying yuppie gig but there's no need for an overdramatic post. People should pursue the fields that fit the type of work they want to do / want to be able to do eventually. Plenty of routes to make cash as a young professional.

Most Helpful
Apr 19, 2021 - 1:13pm

What did you hope to accomplish with this comment? Make sure everyone knows how cool you are / how little you care?

Maybe consider the fact that the vast majority of the population does not live in a major tech hub and has no idea how well tech pays. I spent countless hours on this site, and I never came across a single post which mentioned that first year SWE's make more than first year IB analysts. No one at my undergrad knew this and it was a T30. 

  • Analyst 1 in AM - Equities
Apr 19, 2021 - 1:17pm

^^^ It was only in my senior year in college that I realized how much various tech roles pay. I would have rather discovered this early on then found out about AM/IB, but that's just me. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Apr 19, 2021 - 1:17pm

Didn't look hard enough then..

There's a tech v finance debate literally every other week on this site where people go into comp details. And honestly, you'd really need to be living under a rock to not know that tech pays well in 2021 (esp. with 4 companies at 1tn+ market caps). 

I mean there is literally www.levels.fyi and blind where all this info is shoved in your face.

Apr 19, 2021 - 3:14pm

This site makes it seem like once you hit like the top 10% of the IQ distribution EQ / pedigree becomes more important. Plus physicists, chemists, ACTUAL mathematicians, civil engineers, chemical engineers, nuclear engineers-none pull in anything close to what you make after 5 years at FAANG

Apr 20, 2021 - 2:30am

This is a phenomenal post, thanks for sharing. I think most of us can agree that we chose to enter the grind of landing a career in high finance due to wealth creation, and found out through friends/google searches in high school.

If the ultimate goal is financial stability, I think this post can be applicable to many of the younger students on the forum who may enjoy math and want to avoid some of the bs that comes with finance.

Personally speaking, this post would have super clutch for me back in high school/early undergrad. To anyone reading, don't let a set mindset/insecurities cloud your judgement from seeing tech as a genuine opportunity for a more fulfilling career and lifetime of better work-life balance.

And for anyone older seriously considering leaving finance, this is a great example of that it's never too late to make the change. I believe that was the author's original intention, to provide hope, and definitely not to shit on high finance/consulting, which of course can still be very fulfilling for many.

Apr 20, 2021 - 6:14pm

If you've started your job, how long have you been working in your current role?

I would be interested to hear about your experience working in tech and whether has been everything you expected it to be. This has definitely made me think more seriously about tech roles, but I also understand not everyone is cut out for SWE.


  • Analyst 1 in AM - Equities
Apr 20, 2021 - 11:48pm

LOL. The irony is that finance attracts the worst kinds of personalities (out of competent people). I would much rather sorround myself with employees at Google for the rest of my career than folks at Apollo. 

Apr 21, 2021 - 6:03am

LOL. The irony is that finance attracts the worst kinds of personalities (out of competent people). I would much rather sorround myself with employees at Google for the rest of my career than folks at Apollo. 

Grass is greener I guess. As someone who has experienced both tech and finance personalities, I'd rather surround myself with finance people.

Many tech people are annoying assholes constantly complaining about how little they get paid. They live their lives under this BS about how they're "making the world a better place".

Most of these people are big fishes in a small pond and will continue to live their lives as narrow minded fools. Rich fools but but still fools.

May 8, 2021 - 11:35pm

not OP, but sorta going into tech. generally the process is CS degree or bootcamp into applying online. ideally you'd have referrals from current employees, but they're mostly helpful for getting past the resume screen

May 18, 2021 - 12:19pm

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