Q&A: Sell Side Equity Research to Software Engineer



I’m a software engineer who used to work on Wall Street in equity research. My background encompasses both finance and computer programming. My first job out of undergrad was at an investment bank in New York City, but I have since moved into more technical roles and now live in Indiana and write code for a living. Feel free to ask me anything. I can probably give you good insights into what it’s like to work in different roles and industries, and share job search strategies that worked for me.


Purdue University West Lafayette - Computer Information Systems A.S. Indiana University Bloomington - Finance B.S.

Past Work Experience

Sell side equity research associate. During the 2008 financial crisis I was working at a boutique investment bank in New York and covered the healthcare IT sector. Typical duties were writing brief research reports on our coverage space of 12-15 companies, learning about the companies by talking to the executive team, aggregating investor publications, and building financial models. Corporate finance. In Chicago, I worked at a large healthcare systems vendor in their corporate finance department. My role involved auditing multi-million dollar contracts for revenue recognition related events. Software Engineer. Nowadays I build web applications using a combination of platforms including Ruby, Javascript, Postgres DB, and Linux. This career has taken me into a variety of environments - established corporations, well funded startups with big developer teams, small bootstrapped startups, consulting firms, and contracting as an independent business proprietor. Day Trader. In 2014 I tried out day trading full time, but it didn’t work out. I still actively engage the stock market as a swing trader, using a little bit of fundamental analysis, but mostly technical analysis.

Other Cool Things

CFA Level 3 candidate (but I don’t plan to continue) Certified ScrumMaster I recently made a website ustreasuryyieldcurve.com as a tool for studying interest rates.

WSO Podcast:

Member @greenspud graduated from undergrad right during the height of the Great Recession in 2008. Learn how he was able to land an equity research position at an investment bank, what he did when things went south and how he was able to pivot to a new career as a software developer. He explains his stint trading for himself and how he was able to make a quick $10,000 but that the psychology behind trading lead him down a dangerous path. Some very important lessons about culture and timing in this episode.

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Comments (11)

Aug 18, 2019 - 10:05pm

That is such a huge change - what prompted you to make that transition and did you go to school after your stint in research to learn programming?

Most Helpful
Aug 19, 2019 - 2:10am

I did not have to go back to school to retrain for programming. One thing that I think helped build credibility on my resume was that when I was midway through undergrad and changed majors from information systems to finance, I had enough credits to achieve the associate's degree offered by Purdue, so I had sort of a double major. I was lucky in that it was the last year they offered the 2-year option for students. But even without it, I think it could have been done anyway - many of the people I work with in software come from non computer-related educational backgrounds.

What makes my case unique is that I had a talent for computer programming at an early age. When I was 12, I played a lot of games and got curious about how they work. I discovered the QBASIC program which let you write your own software. That sparked an interest and I started reading technical books, learned C, and later started building Windows 98/XP apps for fun in Delphi. During a high school extracurricular summer program, I met an educator who equipped me with some of the development tools and mentorship.

Making such a change after beginning a capital markets career took several steps. After my initial job in equity research at an investment bank, my next job landed me in the corporate finance department of a large company. There, I worked with a lot of software and process automation, which are all skills that led to me qualifying for a software implementations job. While doing software implementations, I did more hands-on work with software and outside of work I started studying web development platforms. What's great about the software industry is there is no knowledge a university has to offer that you can't get for free online, or through a relatively inexpensive a la carte bootcamp course.

What prompted the career change was a combination of the whole financial industry being smashed for several years following the 2008 bank failures, and the realization that my personality just isn't a great fit for working at a bank. When I lost my job in equity research, everyone was fighting for a handful of job openings, so it was a difficult job search environment.

I value my time, physical health and personal freedom a lot, but at any investment bank you are required to put in many hours of face time at the office. I quickly learned that I can't stand the obligation of being sedentary at a desk in the same office for that long. It was interesting work, but the hours don't allow much flexibility for experiencing other things. Maybe instead of equity research, working at a trading desk would have been a better fit.

I also went through an existential crisis and questioned the value of what I was doing. Remember, during that time period the whole country directed much anger at the banking industry for the failed systems that led to the real estate and debt market crash. Both the Bernie Madoff and Galleon Group hedge fund scandals were uncovered. It didn't feel glamorous to be working on Wall Street at the time.

Aug 21, 2019 - 4:27pm

hi there, interesting story.

i just graduated with a maths degree, with a focus on stats, and i wish to work in accounting/finance. However, if I wanted in the future to make the switch to data analytics I think my degree would allow me to, except I fear i will have forgotten most of what I wanted to learn. Did you experience this at all when making the transition to software (for you in terms of coding).


Aug 21, 2019 - 6:11pm

When working on something new, it's inevitable that you are going to forget the details of things you used to do. But I've found that usually if I have to revisit something, getting the skill back is a lot quicker than the first time you learned it. Sometimes it might take a few weeks to get back into the swing of things.

I took the first 2 levels of the CFA exam and aced both of them the first time.... but that was 8 years ago! I forgot a lot of that stuff. If I ever want to do level 3 I'd probably have to spend the first month or two refreshing. I've still kept all the study materials just in case.

What I find more challenging is keeping up with new developments in the industry. Especially in tech, there are new tools and platforms coming out every month, and the old ones constantly update with breaking changes. It's exhausting.

But like if I wanted to back to equity research, the difficult part for me would be getting reoriented with what's changed in the industry from when I last did work on those companies. Players in the industry have changed, business models adapted, etc. The industry has probably even changed some of the accounting and regulatory rules too. Everything is a moving target.

But I wouldn't let that stop you from trying out anything. If you go into accounting/finance and want to do more analytics type work again, just keep track of the new stuff going on in the field. Talk to people in the industry, maybe join some business intelligence groups in your area and get familiar with the topics everyone is talking about. I hope that helps.

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