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Is learning Slang a good career move?

It's rather predictable (and fairly well-known) that Goldman Sachs uses its own in-house programming language, Slang, to gain an edge through its electronic trading processes.

Currently, it's facing a headache as the bank looks to spin off its prop trading desk in that the new venture will no longer have the rights to use Slang, according to a report on CNBC.

Consequently, it's "scrambling to hire computer programmers and project managers" in an apparently cloak and dagger recruitment spree to "translate its trading programs into a more standard computer code usable by the new spin-off trading company".

But this all this begs the question as to whether joining Goldman, and immersing yourself in a computer language which is not industry standard, is a very good career move for a technologist. Particularly if you harbour ambitions to eventually leave the hallowed halls of the US bank.

Yes, according to one headhunter who has recruited for the bank in the past. They claim that all the top jobs internally go to people who have mastered Slang because "they are the best techies" and that should they choose to leave "their business knowledge and object-oriented programming ability are so strong that they will be snapped up."

Others are not quite as glowing in their assessment of long-term career prospects.

Dominic Connor, headhunter at P&D Quantitative Recruitment, says: "Technologists benefit from having the Goldman brand name on their CV, and are paid very well, but can also end up with skills that won't be particularly beneficial if they want to move to another bank, which is why so many stay put."

Still, while other firms don't might not have their own programming language, this doesn't mean that it's easy to gravitate between investment banks with generic development skills in languages like C++, C# or Java.

"Getting to grips with the nuances and syntax of a particular banks' system is part and parcel of joining a new firm. Re-acquainting yourself with mainstream development having spent time with a proprietary language shouldn't be an insurmountable challenge; regardless of systems environment there's always a period of adjustment when starting a new role," says Paul Bennie, director of IT in finance headhunters Bennie MacLean

AUTHORPaul Clarke
  • Do
    25 February 2011

    To reiterate there is no one language that is the one true path. Mixed language programming is probably the best approach for designing a system. However, c++ is seemingly obsessed over only because it's widely taught, learned, and does almost anything you want with good coding and execution effciency. Most quants come from non-computer science backgrounds and don't have knowledge of how to program let alone mix multiple languages. If slang teaches good low-level computer science techniques then the more power to you. You can always learn and even master a language like c++ on the side. It's not a zero-sum choice.

  • Do
    24 February 2011

    I've read several posts on this topic where someone would insist that learning joining GS and only programming in slang for years was a bad thing. I must completely disagree with anyone that thinks this way. First of all if you get hired at GS you must at least have an above average intelligence that would allow you to easily learn learn other languages 'on the side'. I myself have learned 4 languages to a high degree of proficiency within the past year and half while holding a full time job. Second all computers operate using the same pricincples of processor commands and memory management. High level languages allow a person to not have to understand these important concepts, but at the cost of gaining an in-depth understanding. From my experiences, gaining greater understanding of low-level computer prorgamming concepts will make learning higher-level languages much much easier and more likely to master these languages. If slang is truly 'low-level' then I see no reason why it wouldn't give a programmer good experience and allow them to easily learn another language.

  • Ju
    24 August 2010

    I dont have a problem with SecDb/Slang -- its a cool platform, great working environment, open source (Slang), agile and is the standard position / risk management platform across all the major trading desks.

    That said, my post-GS interviews have been mixed when it comes to SecDb/Slang -- some recruiters can't get past the fact that I haven't done a pure C++/Java role, others have been totally fine and put a greater emphasis on analytical skills, OO concepts, general software development concepts etc etc.. If you are confident in your software dev skills, don't be put off by SecDb/Slang but DO ask lots of questions about it when you interview so that you get a better understanding of what you're letting yourself in for.

  • kt
    19 August 2010

    #2 Mike - That must be Urciuoli right?

    #4 "Off graph" shurely?

  • on
    17 August 2010

    Meanwhile the rest of the world is getting on fine with open source: Java, Spring, hibernate etc etc....

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