Which would you rather do? Work for a big Wall Street Investment bank, be guaranteed a good salary and (in good times), a decent bonus that might make you the envy of your neighborhood (unless you live in Short Hills, NJ or Greenwich, Ct), or work for a small, technically-savvy software company where you can be directly responsible for the bottom line?
This choice was recently faced by a colleague (let's call him T) at the big IB that I work for.
T is one of the top performance architects on Wall Street, and has personally been instrumental at improving the performance of several of our key systems. For various reasons, T felt that he wanted to explore some other opportunities, and within a few weeks, he had a few job and consulting offers. The fact that he could be so successful in his job search in this kind of market speaks volumes about his talent.
The position that T was going to accept was as a W-2 consultant with another large investment bank whose troubles have been in the news lately. T had never consulted before, so he had asked me a lot of questions about what it was like to be a consultant. Between the fact that T was new to consulting, only had a one-year contract, and was involved with an Investment Bank whose management was said to be a bit befuldled, I preferred to see T end up in another place. If this Investment Bank were to lay off additional consulting staff in the future, T would probably be one of the first ones to go. The Investment bank would have probably given T a small chunk of money to buy off the rest of the contract, and then T would have found himself back out on the street.
Coincidentally, a week before T was to resign from my firm, the CEO of one of the Complex Event Processing vendors contacted me to ask me if I knew anyone who would be available for a new position that his company had opened. Immediately, I thought of T. He was on his way out the door anyway, so I felt OK about referring him to the CEP vendor. Within two days, T had a third offer, and after another day, T inked the deal with the CEP vendor!
I spent quite a bit of time with T to help him through his array of choices. Almost every decision point favored joining the CEP vendor. The CEP vendor is certainly not a start-up, as they have been around for a few years and have about 60 people working for them, but it certainly has the feel of a start-up (sans the foozball table and loft in Silicon Alley).
The things that favored the IB were:
- The ability to interact with a large number of people and make a lot of new connections immediately. In consulting, your network is everything.
- The ability to work on a wide variety of trading systems, and to improve his domain knowledge.
- A great hourly rate
The negatives about consulting for an IB were:
- This particular IB has been particularly caught up in the credit crisis, and has recently dismissed a good number of employees, as well as a lot of contractors
- Being subjected to IB politics and processes
- The costs associated with being a consultant, which include paying 14% for Social Security (even though he was a W-2 of the consulting firm, they required him to pay the entire SS tax!)
The things that favored the CEP vendor were:
- Work in a start-up-type atmosphere where there should be very little politics and processes that get in the way of your productivity
- Work in a company of extremely smart rocket scientists that is very close to T's home
- In a pre-sales role, be able to directly affect the bottom line of the company and drive the future success of the company
- Have an opportunity to travel (well, some might look on that as a negative)
- Be able to meet a lot of different technologists from a lot of different kinds of companies. Since CEP appeals to hedge funds, there is an opportunity to gain some domain knowledge into hedge fund operations.
- If T is able to secure any kind of equity position in the company, then there is an opportunity to cash-in if the company gets purchased.
- Have direct interaction with the senior management of the company.
- Been involved in a technology that is visible in the Garter Hype Cycle
- The opportunity to be a jack-of-all-trades ... sales, technology, performance analysis, consulting
The things that were negatives about joining the CEP vendor were:
- Sales of infrastructure products are very difficult right now
- Deal with the very long delays in the procurement process that are endemic to every Investment Bank
- The travel schedule of a sales engineer might be very onerous, especially if you have a family
- Doing booth duty at trade shows
Did T choose wisely? I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
©2008 Marc Adler - All Rights Reserved.
All opinions here are personal, and have no relation to my employer.