Employees with financial backgrounds are flooding the tech industry. Surprisingly, this curious transition works!
A few years ago, if a financial professional said they were abandoning the world of money for the world of software, they might have been laughed out of the room. But recent examples (including a banker who went to work for Google, a Barclay’s exec who joined a tech firm, and an economist who launched a healthcare technology venture capital firm) illustrate that financial prowess is exactly the sort of expertise that tech companies desperately need.
A recent Business Insider article described the journey of Sameer Syed, a JP Morgan investment banker who took a position working in strategic partnerships at Google. According to Syed, financial training requires the development of a tremendous work ethic, communication, and a fresh perspective that traditional technology workers sometimes don’t have.
Attention to detail and flexibility are two other traits that often aren’t represented as strongly in tech firms. For instance, Syed’s colleagues have commented on his emails and presentations. "They were like, 'Oh wow, this is very clean and professional. It looks like we hired a bank to do it,'" he told Business Insider. “Working in banking, you can’t have mistakes or errors, and sharpening this skill is super valuable.”
Despite the stereotypes about stiff bankers, Syed said that financial professionals are taught to adapt to changes and learn on the job quickly. Tech startups want to know that a prospective employee can pick up a new concept and get it immediately. Financial pros can do this because they’ve been in the position of having to rapidly pick up new regulations and products.
According to Trusha Chokshi at CNBC, when Cathy Li left Barclay's restructuring group to join tech startup Gilt Groupe after Wall Street’s bro culture pushed her away. Gilt hired Li to conduct website analytics, identify metrics and solve business challenges, valuing her problem-solving skills and creativity.
Interestingly, just a few months earlier, the startup was only looking for salespeople and engineers. “If you couldn't sell or make something, they weren't interested in talking to you," Li told CNBC. Companies tend to go through a lot of money in the early stages and then realize they need to be smart about it. “Gilt wasn't being analytical enough,” she said.
In the CNBC piece, Hired co-founder Matt Mickiewisz agreed. “Startups desire business people, as their skills are an important asset to grow their companies. Their ability to do market-sizing and devise strategies to build businesses and drive revenue, especially if they are post-MBA.” Brendan Browne, LinkedIn's senior director of global talent acquisition, also cited finance pros’ ability to put structure around business problems, draw meaningful value from data and communicate these insights.
MedCityNews’ Deanna Pogorelc recently shared the story of Sharon Knight, an economics degree-holder with finance experience at Gap and KFC. In 2009, Knight found herself working for the first time in the healthcare industry, at One Medical Group, a membership-based practice of tech-savvy physicians. During a three-year stint in that role, she found that her previous experience with market site selection, operational efficiency, and revenue growth models in the retail and gaming industries were directly transferable to the healthcare industry.
Knight then launched Avik Ventures, which invests in startups, and advises entrepreneurs and connect them with other investors and resources. She specializes in technology that lies at the intersection of consumer tracking devices and electronic medical records, with the potential of to bridge the gap between patients and providers, and her background allows her to sensibly evaluate the financial potential of new companies in this space.
Do you know someone who moved from Finance to Tech? Share your thoughts in the comments!