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How to leave big tech for finance: from Meta to Millennium

Are you one of the hundreds laid off by Meta? Maybe you were part of the mass Twitter walkouts? New talent is flooding the street, and a lot of it is looking to change career.

So where do all the laid off big tech developers grow? If they’ve grown accustomed to cushy benefits, finance might be the way. Banks seem to pick tech talent up frequently, even though developer compensation in banks is a lot lower than FAANG. Instead, if you want the really big money in technology, you should be looking at hedge funds.

Andy White, director of search firm Upward Trend, says "Hiring from FAANGs is likely to accelerate if tech lay-offs go ahead, as Hedge Funds are among the few hirers that can match Silicon Valley for compensation."

If you want to stand out among the crowd, there’s a few things you ought to know.

Hedge funds have the best roles, but you will need to be special to get them

When asked if the people that left Meta are good enough to join a top tier buy side quant firm, the CEO at one high frequency trading (HFT) firm who also hires talent for hedge funds says, speaking off the record, “the majority of them probably aren’t.”

This is due to the sheer volume of talent that's come out of big tech, and the numbers that might still leave. The same CEO points out that big tech firms have hired huge amounts of people over the last few years. Headcount at Meta, for example, went from 43,019 in the third quarter of 2019 to 87,000 in Q3 2022, before the cuts began. Elon Musk is setting a nasty example of the viability of deep layoffs in future: "Musk has fired around 75% of his workforce and Twitter is still running fine.”

There are areas of big tech that are highly valued by these kinds of firms, though. The CEO says “If you were a lead or built something from scratch you're probably pretty good." The same applies if what you were doing, "was live and in production." Hedge funds don't like people who've worked on obscure side projects that came to nothing.

What they do like, says White, is experience in, “applications handling high-velocity, high-volume data is a good fit for building in-house trading systems."

If you’ve got experience with that, you’ve got a leg up.

You could get a job in a bank, but tread carefully

Banks are easier to get into than hedge funds and are usually more than happy to take on tech talent, but if you’re not careful, you could end up in a team that’ll get you nowhere.

The best teams in banks are the algorithmic trading teams and automated market making teams, says the HFT CEO. These are typically home to, "some pretty interesting people.” Their requirements can be as stringent as hedge funds, though.

Fintech can be better… with a catch.

If you want the more exciting (or more risky) path to a hedge fund, you might want to look into joining a fintech. The middle ground between tech and finance seems the right destination, but where in that broad sector should you go?

Ironically, the CEO says “The obvious answer would have been a crypto firm, but with what’s happened there it doesn’t look so good.” Daniel Balagula, for example, moved to Coinbase from Walmart’s technology team. After 19 months at the firm, he was picked up by Two Sigma two weeks ago.

What can you do in your spare time?

Think your working experience isn’t enough? There are a number of side projects you can pursue to appear attractive.

It helps to engage in competitive programming. Try solving problems on HackerRank and Stackoverflow. Contribute to open-source projects. In July, for example, hedge fund Two Sigma brought in managing director Steven Francia from Google. Straight moves from tech to hedge funds aren’t common, but Francia has been an industry leader in open source programming for decades, which surely played a pivotal role.

Can’t wait? Here’s where you should apply

Taking the long way around not for you? Sometimes the boldest strategies pay off. But if you’re going straight for a hedge fund you need to pick the right one.

The CEO says you should “apply to large multistrat funds. There’s a much more likely chance of getting something there than a smaller high frequency trading firm because we need people with more relevant experience.”

Which are the large multistrat funds? Think Citadel, Millennium, Balyasny or Point72. 

Finally, be prepared for rejection. He says “there’s no better teacher than experience” in the trading world and the firms all know it.

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Photo by Allison Saeng on Unsplash

AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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