A computer science degree may give you all the technical skills
required for a technology career. But when it comes to succeeding in
financial IT, you need to be more than just a savvy programmer.
"Being a technical provider is just one little part of working in
financial services IT," says Natalie Kaminski, CEO of FinCode Solutions,
which develops software for financial firms. "In order to provide a
quality product and be respected on the job, you have to understand how
trading is done."
"Educate yourself on both financial terminology and IT best practices,"
says Mark Bramley, CEO of StatPro North America, a provider of data and
analytics software to asset managers. "This will allow you to truly
understand your internal and external customers and provide a much
higher level of service than someone who just has IT experience."
Consider a degree or certification in finance or accounting. While a CPA
or MBA may not be a good investment of time or money for most IT
professionals, a Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement, or
certifications in Series 7 or Series 63, can advance an otherwise
run-of-the-mill IT career, says Bramley says. "Powerful mixed skill sets
have more earning potential than a specialist in just one area," he
Know How to Finesse a Client
While your job may include creating and managing trading platforms,
that’s not your real job. Your real job is to serve the clients, whether
they’re internal or external. You must know to communicate with people
who are very different than you, who are under extreme pressure, and
probably not very nice, says Eric Goldberg, CEO of Portware, a provider
of electronic trading software for equities, futures, options and foreign exchange.
Adds Kaminski: "You might have to run around the trading floor to ask a
trader questions since they don’t have time to talk to you. If you
e-mail them a question, they may not answer right away. But once they
ask you a question, you’d better answer immediately because their time
costs a lot of money."
Follow Current Events
Stay abreast of regulatory changes that affect clients. Read industry
newsletters, journals, as well as the popular business media. Kaminski
recommends The Wall Street Journal, the SEC’s newsletter,
Hedgetracker.com, Riskcenter.com, and SecuritiesTechnologyMonitor.com.
Bramley suggests maintaining a global focus, including regulations
issued by the Global Investment Performance Standards (GIPS) and
Collective Investment in Transferable Securities. Why? For
one reason, anyone working for a Wall Street firm will certainly have
operations in Switzerland, where they have very stringent security
Be a Good Listener
Ilya Talman, president Roy Talman & Associates, a Chicago based
recruiter specializing in IT and capital markets, says technology
wizards tend to have a superiority complex that makes it tough to
communicate with clients – not to mention impress employers. "It helps a
great deal to listen aggressively to what is really being discussed and
why it’s being discussed," he says. "Then you can ask smart questions."
Be a Good Teacher
Often, clients have an idea of what they want – but not the technical
sophistication to understand what’s possible, affordable, or the risks
and benefits involved in various scenarios. A successful tech
professional can explain the back-end reason why the front-end fantasy
is difficult or impossible – and suggest a reasonable alternative.
"Sometimes tech people have trouble translating technology language into
plain English," Kaminski says. "But if you don’t do a good job
educating the client, the client won’t think youÂ¿re doing a good job
developing the technology."
— Emma Johnson