It happens all too often: Recent college graduates armed with hard-won technology degrees enter the job market with their sights set on working in fintech, then struggle to differentiate themselves and find their dream positions. Even in a field with excellent career prospects, the talent pool is deep and global, and young, hungry developers can be a dime a dozen.
To survive in this brutal environment, specialization is key. When dozens of sharp, educated individuals are going for the same position, demonstrating that you’ve invested in yourself by delving into the latest technology trends can go a long way toward setting yourself apart.
One of the most significant trends occurring today is the rise of cloud-based technologies. Cloud migration has been a hot topic for years, and rightly so – adoption remains on the rise, and a 2018 study by IDG found that 30% of all IT budgets were allocated to cloud computing. Thus, providers of cloud-based solutions have seen a huge demand for their services, and technologists who know the space inside and out have a big advantage in securing a position at one of these companies.
Even among firms that do not deal heavily in the cloud, there is a growing desire to do so. Organizations across industries agree that this is where technology is heading, and their hiring practices have shifted accordingly.
“The ability to write, test and release clean software remains the most in-demand skillset in the job market,” said Scott Richardson, Head of Marketing at Harrington Starr, a leading staffing and recruiting firm. “Cloud technology, data analytics, machine learning and AI are all experiencing a sharp increase in commercial applications, so a key attribute for anyone entering the industry is to remain hungry to learn and explore as many technologies as possible.”
That’s easier said than done, of course. In many cases, developers who lack a background in the cloud face a steep learning curve; they must dedicate many hours to self-study, reading widely and refining their skills. Even then, proactivity is often no substitute for a resume brimming with cloud experience, especially for younger job seekers.
One way that fledgling developers can add to this resume is by attending a tech university. At these schools, students can choose from a variety of STEM fields, and if you’re looking to tailor your academic experience to catch the eye of the hottest fintechs, there is ample opportunity. The courses are more specialized, allowing students to delve deeper into the intricacies of cloud development, and there are usually strong internship pipelines and plenty of chances to tackle hands-on projects under the watch of faculty with industry experience.
“This field has become fluid to the point that it’s difficult to predict what it will look like in five years. That said, if you have a basic understanding of how the cloud plays into the current framework of systems architecture, you’re in the game and you’ll be able to follow future developments with greater facility,” said George Calhoun, a professor of quantitative finance at Stevens Institute of Technology.
“One of the things we’ve done here at Stevens is install 24 Bloomberg Terminals in our teaching labs, so every undergraduate who goes through our program is certified. That ability bolsters their resumes and provides a substantive advantage in the recruitment process.”
Stevens’ list of alumni is a real who’s who of today’s most prominent developers and a good illustration of the success that tech universities are having in preparing their students for today’s trading and fintech job market. Mike Lazarev has overhauled electronic trading platforms at firms including Morgan Stanley and REDI and previously served as CTO of the hedge fund Trading Machines. Chris Rogers spent eight years as CTO of Instinet, building the core platform on which the firm launched its Chi-X business. Brian Nigito, currently with Jane Street, was head of Getco’s New York office and directed high-frequency trading at Jane Street. Constantine Sokoloff built the matching engine at IEX, and Sonny Baillargeon has held top infrastructure positions at ExodusPoint, KCG, Citadel and Pico.
All have one thing in common: a specialized education that helped them make a material impact from the very start of their careers.
Among vendors, and especially OMS providers, there is a strong push for talent specializing in these areas. Products are starting to bleed together quickly – OMS and compliance, accounting and finance, electronic trading – and employees who studied these areas as part of their majors certainly don’t grow on trees. These “cloud natives” are extremely valuable because they bring a reduced learning curve and a fresh perspective.
Furthermore, many of the best employees at OMS providers come from legacy vendors and other fintech platforms that were built some 20 years ago. These platforms may have been on the cutting edge when they first came to market, but they don’t resemble what SaaS-based providers are selling today.
At LiquidityBook, we are seeing more and more developers who are well-versed in legacy platforms deciding to make the jump to firms that will help them develop their skillsets for future products and future endeavors. These employees were often highly successful in their old roles, but they see the writing on the wall and choose to adapt along with the job market. That alone is a powerful testament to the cloud’s bright future.
In interviews, these technologists can tout their years of professional development experience; but younger job seekers don’t have that luxury. Instead, they must differentiate themselves in other ways, and demonstrating interest and experience with cloud-based platforms is a surefire way to get noticed.
Tethering your skillset to a legacy system might set you up for success at one particular company, but it’s not a prudent move when it comes to your career prospects. Young developers should hit the books and become cloud experts – in time, recruiters will be beating down your door.