I recently made the jump from a Wall Street trading floor to a startup. Increasingly, and especially at universities known to churn out financiers, engineering students are being courted by Wall Street and tech companies alike. Both are tempting, so I’ll share why I decided to make the move.
Models and Bottles
Yes — Wall Streeters are known to make plenty of money, but at least starting out, all of the models wind up being in Excel. For those who stick with it, the sky is the limit on earnings, but to what end?
At the end of the day, the big banks exist to serve clients, so analysts learn the processes in place, do their thing, and repeat (and hey, it’s fair to prefer that). I wanted the opposite — as an engineer at a startup there are no set ways to do task x, so we learn and create new things each day.
Jeans, MacBooks, and Coffee
Trading in the Brooks Brothers wardrobe in favor of jeans and hoodies is one of the first things people think about when it comes to startups. And absolutely, it’s an awesome change to make. But what I’ve found most interesting is the type of work I’m doing as an engineer. My focus is on all things web — database modeling, server communication, user interactions on our site, and more. At a small startup, this means that every web-related feature our team wants will pass through my seat at some point, and this is one of the coolest parts — the amount a new engineer learns in a short window is huge. It might be all in one day that I learn a new concept, understand how it fits into our system, and then implement it. Having new challenges every day is a great source of motivation, and when a new piece of the code is complete, it’s a real feeling of accomplishment.
Welcome to the Future
The other major divide between Wall Street and the startup world in my opinion is the subject matter itself. Surely there is still innovation in the financial world, but the ultimate goals of the business haven’t changed much. The startup community, on the other hand, is touching many different areas, including daily life for consumers. I am excited to have landed in the world of smart homes. At Josh.ai, we’re working on new ways for people to interact with their homes, and I have no doubt that innovations like ours will become commonplace in the future. The opportunity to be on the cutting edge of these new ideas is extremely valuable, and a small team where each engineer has a voice is a fantastic forum to do so. There are no correct answers for the challenges we are trying to solve, and stepping into the unknown gives us a stab at defining how future homes can and should be.
What to do, What to do
I certainly won’t claim that a career in finance is a poor choice — after all, it puts (plenty of) bread on the table, and banks are starting to think a lot more about new technology. But a bank doesn’t have the same flexibility as a startup in implementing brand new ideas, and overall, I place much more value on having a chance to build innovative products rather than optimize the past. Seeing a tangible product build up each day is rewarding, and the hoodies aren’t bad either.
This article was written by Nate at Josh.ai where he focuses on the cloud and web. Previously, Nate was a global markets analyst at RBC Capital Markets in New York. Nate has a CS degree from Cornell and grew up in New York. Nate recently moved to Colorado and outside of work he likes to play golf and tennis, hike, work out, and he’s looking forward to skiing.