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Businesses Programming The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: Jobs For Geeks In the Business/Financial World? 181

First time accepted submitter menphix writes "Hi there! I'm a software engineer in the bay area. I will be moving to Hong Kong where my wife works shortly. I understand that there will be a lot less opportunities to work for software companies there than in the bay area, but they do have a lot of business/financial companies in HK: investment banking, private equity, hedge funds, you name it! So I'm thinking maybe it'll be easier if I transition to work for those companies. Since I got my B.S. and M.S. both in computer science, I have no idea what those 'Wall Street jobs' are like, so I'm just wondering what you guys know about jobs in the business/financial world for geeks? Has anybody made the jump before?"
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Ask Slashdot: Jobs For Geeks In the Business/Financial World?

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  • Hong Kong (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:09AM (#40436217)

    I live in HK, and unfortunately the bottom line is that you're going to find this difficult. Finance companies/banks are your best bet for a job by far, especially if you don't speak Chinese, but they are firing at the moment (much of it under the radar) not hiring. A few friends here want to make a similar transition and have not so far achieved success. This is even for techie areas like high frequency trading.

    If you have time on your hands while you're here, consider taking a finance course and do check out our HK hackerspace, Dim Sum Labs ( You will meet people in the same situation.

    Best of luck.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:16AM (#40436243)

    That's what the business/financial folks read. It will give you a feel for the terrain that you will be trekking through. It's good to be able to converse in the language of the natives. Just like IT has its specific issue areas, business/financial has them as well.

    And it's fun to read and informative, as well.

  • Sadly... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Monday June 25, 2012 @04:29AM (#40436277)
    I think the fact that you are posting this on Slashdot more or less rules you out of getting a job in this area.

    That said, how is your knowledge of statistics, probability theory, game theory and/or real time computing? Finance is basically applied maths with a good dollop of psychology and an understanding of self-promotion. This is as true now as it was in the 14th century. If you want to succeed as a designer of upmarket sports cars, expertise in the design of sparking plugs is possibly not the best starting point.

  • Re:Hong Kong (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 25, 2012 @05:31AM (#40436489)

    I used to work in the Bay Area, now I live in Hong Kong. I am self-employed because the job offerings here are not up to par with what I am used to. My friend is an engineering manager at huge bank, so I know a bit.

    All the banks here are cutting staff, benefits and pay. If you are lucky to find a job in software field, it will be at a fraction of what you get in the Bay Area. You will be expected to work overtime every day, 6 days a week.

    If you really want to come here, best to be a house man. Your wife a bread winner, you do the house work. After all, its the 21 century and it's fair!

  • Required reading.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 25, 2012 @05:59AM (#40436601)

    I made the jump and it was pretty painless. Read "Options, Futures, and Other Derivatives" by John C Hull to get an idea for the maths required. It's the best book for maths oriented comp-scis to read.

    The only problem I've found is this: if you're a software guy at a software company you're doing the "core business", but being a software guy at a finance company you're not. It means that good software is not always the priority.

    Also, if you work for a large bank, the failure rate of software projects can be pretty high, and the bureaucracy involved in getting stuff done can be pretty hard sometimes. Pay's good though.

  • I can help (Score:5, Informative)

    by kTag ( 24819 ) <> on Monday June 25, 2012 @06:03AM (#40436617)

    Maybe it's irony, but moderating +5 Informative something like "reading The Economist" is showing something about the current Slashdot, why not the Wall Street Journal right? There is "Wall Street" in the name it must be good to get a finance job!! Yes it's the usual rant.

    Anyway, I've been in IT finance for the past 7 years, one of the main european financial institution.
    I can code but I'm no math head and have no special social skills (appart from applying good advices you can find from trustful resources that you should already know). I've been expat in 3 different countries and I'm now in Singapore, moved to project manager 4 years ago and soon getting a nice promotion to switch to accounting control. I bet you don't understand how that can be a promotion, I wouldn't have either 7 years ago.
    But outside this, if you can code, you know how the various business of retail or investment bank are working and you did bet on the right technology you'll find a job easily. Here it's all Java if you want to have a nice job. Short term, low budget crap is using PHP/Whatever tech being evaluated at the moment.

    One warning though, this investment bank is very conservative, that is I'm typing this on a WinXP cousin made for the bank and have no idea if or when we'll switch to something more actual. New technology get about 3 or 4 years approval time, so you either stick with standards (IBM, Oracle) or you can forget about the latest fun technology for your time spent in the office.
    Outside this small detail, I obviously love this job and the people here and all over the countries I've been sent to.

    And please, prepare properly for interviewing and do you research before contacting me, if you are interested.

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Monday June 25, 2012 @06:06AM (#40436631) Journal

    ... I agree

    The Chinese can't really handle much alcohol but still they drink as if there's no tomorrow

    You just can't tell the Chinese host that you do not drink - it's outright impolite to do so

  • by rig_uh ( 1733306 ) on Monday June 25, 2012 @06:11AM (#40436651)
    I did the same thing around five years ago. Am still in Hong Kong and still employed (for now), but we've been shedding staff for years and like most financial services companies are probably not going on a hiring spree any time soon. Having said that, I still see jobs posted occasionally.

    Track down the recruiters here - they shouldn't be too hard to find. Somebody mentioned Robert Walters which is a good start, maybe also Aston Carter and Chandler Macleod. Recruiters seem to find me on LinkedIn pretty regularly but that's probably because I've built up a network of other people in the industry.

    Might be tough also as they generally prefer people with industry experience, and there are plenty of them on the market given recent layoffs, so competition will be fierce. Might be better outside of financial services but I kind of doubt it.

    For me - I got a job with a consulting company whose client was an investment bank, so got my foot in the door for a job I probably wouldn't normally have been considered for. Once I had the experience (there's a lot to get used to) I switched to working for the client. Probably difficult to emulate but you never know. I initially got offered a job at a blue chip consulting company at a terrible rate, but ended up at an obscure one at a merely not-so-great rate. It eventually improved but you might want to lower your expectations in advance. At least the tax is low (although if you're American I guess you get screwed on paying US tax anyway) although housing is nuts.

    Oh, and Hong Kong and mainland China are like two different countries. You can pretty much ignore any advice which relates to the latter. Hong Kong is a very easy place to live in - I love it. People generally struggle more in the mainland. However, if your wife is in Hong Kong you could consider working in Shenzen, over the border, although might be tough to pull off (and the commute to see eachother would be unpleasant).
  • by catmistake ( 814204 ) on Monday June 25, 2012 @06:17AM (#40436673) Journal

    I saw your irrelevant and pedantic reply on others as well. Are you an insecure CS major? computer science is IT work. Or are you saying " the scientific and mathematical approach to computation, and specifically to the design of computing machines and processes" is unrelated to information or technology?

    You are mistaken. The posts I replied to are irrelevant because they were attempting to answer a question that was not asked. OP is not seeking an IT position. The distinction between IT and computer science is not pedantic, but considerable, and there is merit in understanding the difference. Yes, I am saying, as a systems administrator with 25 years of experience in IT, that what I do, and what my peers do, isn't science or mathematics, like, say, working in finance is. When I work for a bank or an investment firm, I don't say I work in finance... I'm still working in IT. OP's credentials vastly overqualify him for any position in IT, yet historically have shown to be applicable in modeling how investors allocate their assets over time under conditions of certainty and uncertainty, generally known as finance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 25, 2012 @06:49AM (#40436803)

    Ok, before I set off on a rant, I'd like to point out that, unlike most of the posters here, I actually work in the industry you are trying to break into. I have been a software engineer (contract) in the finance industry for about six years now, most of that in London, where I live now. I can tell you it is not a piece of cake to break into the industry, but it is possible, and well worth it to do so. It's difficult to get in for the following reasons:

    1) They often "require" business experience. In theory, this means that the will want to see evidence that you've worked in finance before, vis-a-vis a job on your CV for some sort of bank or related institution. Depending on the specific job, they may ask you questions in the techical interview to ascertain your level of experience, knowledge of algorithms and financial math, etc.

    2) There have been a number of layoffs in the sector recently, which means there is a bit of a glut in IT staff right now, all of whom have more experience than you.

    HOWEVER, you must read this with a grain of salt. As with any endeavor, things are often more subtle in practice. Bear these facts in mind:

    1) Many of the people on the bench right now, a.k.a. your competition, were let go for a reason. The financial sector attracts many for the very lucrative salaries, but not all of these people are really that good. Every so often, the banks go through a house-cleaning phase to get rid of the dead wood. Many of these people don't interview well, and are not able to perform well on technical tests. As someone who interviews and hires many developers for our team, I can attest that there are some very poor candidates out there. Many of them got in during the earlier boom, when banks hired anyone and everyone. Some people just weren't cut out for the job, though. I'm constantly being told by recruiters, "There are plenty of candidates, but it's hard to find GOOD ones."

    2) Many people are leaving the industry. Frustrated by the recent downturn, byzantine immigration policies, rethinking their life goals, or whatever, thousands of people are turning their back on the finance industry, or even IT in general. Those who stick it out are rewarded.

    3) It wouldn't be any easier to transition into another industry, either. It's always difficult jumping onto another ship. The trick is getting that first job. Once you learn the lingo, a bit of the business, and make contacts, it gets much easier.

    4) Not all banks require experience. Bearing point 1, above, in mind, I personally know a lot of managers who don't care a bit whether someone has experience in banking or finance. They want good developers first and foremost, and view any business experience as a bonus. Most of my job is just good software development practice, coupled with algorithms and data structures. I rarely need to know anything about how the business works, or I'm capable of learning it in a short time. Most good managers want people who can learn, not those who know it all already. Also bear in mind that finance is not as hard as most people like to make out. ;-)

    5) Many banks over-cleaned, and now need to hire people back. Since a lot of folk have left the industry, that can be harder than it seems. Again, despite the glut of developers, there is a dearth of good talent.

    6) Permanent jobs are better for first-timers. Many will try to step into the contract world immediately. The reason for this is the contractors running a limited company make far more than our permanent counterparts - as much as 40-50% more when tax savings are factored in. This used to be easy to do from the get-go, and I admit to being one of these folk. However, if you've never worked contract, never been in the finance industry, and/or have less than 10 years' overall experience in I.T., my advice is to start off permanent. Get some good experience, as little as 2-3 years, and then decide if contract is right for you. (Then you can make the big bucks.

  • Re:Alcohol (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 25, 2012 @08:05AM (#40437207)

    It might sound weird, but it's true to a degree. A friend of mine from university was recently promoted to manager in a major consulting company, and in the first meeting with her mentor she was told that in order to progress higher, she would have to start going out for drinks with clients and colleagues more often. Don't underestimate the value of relationships forged while lying under the table...

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein