From Finance to Tech: How to Pitch Yourself When Switching Careers

Phil Haslett
Mar 3rd, 2016
There’s a changing of the guard in New York. The financial and professional upside of a career in banking, sales and trading, or most other roles in institutional finance has diminished in light of the Financial Crisis of ’08. Smaller bonuses. Increased regulation. Less risk appetite. Did I mention smaller bonuses?

Thus, the opportunity cost of switching from finance to tech has dropped drastically. Time to join a startup! Hand me a ping-pong paddle and an Odwalla juice: let’s do this.

But…there’s a problem. You don’t know anything about the tech community, let alone anyone in it.

And you don’t know how to code.

And what’s all this stuff about MongoDB and Python and Ruby on Rails? Don’t people just use Excel?

At this point, you feel like you’re relatively….screwed. So you convince yourself that your soul-crushing, innovation-free, six-figure job is in fact a blessing, that the job market is terrible, and that your parents were right: it’s nice to have this kind of job security.

(Throws water in reader’s face) You’re better than that! Wanna get involved in the tech scene? Fortunately for you, this corner of the world spends 70% of its time tweeting the rest of the world what they’re doing, how they did it, and why they’re doing it. Secrets are shared: you can learn very fast.

The playbook

I switched. In fact, a lot of people switched. Turns out, it’s not unlike getting any other job: it requires:
  1. Research
  2. Networking
  3. Exhibiting passion in the subject matter
  4. Persistence
  5. Leveraging your current skillset
(At the bottom of this article is a list of resources.)

You can go about finding a job in two ways. You can try to leverage your sector-related skills. This may include:
  • Rolodex of institutional investors
  • Modeling skills
  • Understanding of financial markets, and large trade sizes
  • Understanding of the “pipes” behind financial markets (honestly, most of finance relates to pipes that connect one person’s dollar to another person’s wallet. Your job involved providing a service in exchange for a piece of that dollar)
Or, you can leverage your softer skills in a new environment. Examples:
  • You know how to navigate a 150,000 employee mega-bank and get things done
  • You have managed people (don’t overlook this. Most <20 person startups have little leadership experience)
  • You played a leading role in developing new products based on feedback from sales teams and technology teams

The Unsuspecting Product Manager

It turns out you may be more qualified than you think. When I’ve had this chat with current finance folks (about switching to tech), I usually hear something like “well I looked at all the jobs at Startup ABC and I wasn’t a good fit for any of them. I don’t even know what a Product Manager is.”

Really? But…didn’t you just tell me that you noticed some glaring inefficiency in how the Emerging Markets bond quotes were being routed to clients, and then worked with the sales team and your technology team on an enhancement? And then you got signoff from your management on the implementation worldwide? And then you tracked the cost-savings? And you used that as a template for future improvements?

Um, congrats. You’ve been a Product Manager masquerading as a trader for 5 years. 

Summary: you have a useful skillset, but you need to communicate it in tech/startup terms. 

I’m inspired! What should I do next?

Don’t just pin yourself to FinTech. Your skills are transferrable. And most companies (EquityZen included) hire for aptitude and fit, not on rolodex size and accomplishments.

HOWEVER, if you do want to go down the FinTech road, I get it. It’s familiar. It’s mostly in New York. Maybe other employees will empathize with the fact that you had to terminate your Brooks Brothers wardrobe and re-learn how to untuck your shirt.

Start with lists of top FinTech companies. As a shameless plug, check out the Forbes FinTech 50. I hear company #16 is the coolest.

Read Dan Primack’s Term Sheet. Every day. You’ll start to learn about different companies raising money. When companies raise money, they can usually afford you.

Read Connie Loizos’ StrictlyVC. Every day. She has a great roster of interviews with operators and investors. 

Subscribe to CB Insights. Awesome research, delivered to your email inbox. Bonus: it’s often in picture-form, saving you time (the tech industry calls that a “life hack”).

Learn about the main FinTech sectors: Payments, Lending, Personal Finance, Data.

Read from folks that successfully transitioned. Vinicus Vacanti (Founder of Yipit, came from private equity) and Adam Besvinick (VC at Deep Fork, came from banking).

And network. A lot. Alumni are the friendliest. 

Is that it?

Yup, that’s it. Just, read a lot, network, be persistent, re-vamp your resume, and work your a** off. Doesn’t sound much different than Finance, does it?


Sites for job postings in VC/Tech:
Leading Tech Blogs From Venture Capitalists:
Leading Tech Publications
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