I left Goldman Sachs for a three-man start-up in 2003. It was the right decision
When Mark Traudt quit Goldman Sachs for a fintech start-up in 2003, he was something of an exception. Banks might be now battling with Silicon Valley and a raft of disruptive companies for talent, but back then an investment bank was the most well-paid and prestigious place for a technologist to be.
Traudt worked at Sumitomo Bank Capital Markets (SBCM), then ING Barings before spending four years at a software firm called Summit Systems. Eventually, he returned to banking at Goldman Sachs, but after another two years in the financial sector decided that he was better off at a start-up.
By this point, he realised that it was software engineering - rather than the financial sector - that really interested him.
Traudt left Goldman to become the chief technology officer of risk analytics firm Quantifi – the then-startup’s third employee. He recently joined data analytics fintech firm Axioma as a managing director and the head of product engineering.
“It was not an easy decision to leave Goldman Sachs to be the third employee at a startup, especially with two small children at home," Traudt says. “However, I knew that if I were to stay at Goldman I would have been working on small improvements to a very large and well-established system, whereas at Quantifi I had the opportunity to build a completely new front-office pricing and risk system from the ground up with the last technologies and design patterns."
Things could have been very different, for both Traudt and Goldman Sachs. Traudt was brought in to work on a project that would create a new common platform across the bank's equities division, but the bursting of the dotcom bubble - followed by the 9/11 attacks - meant that the project was scaled back.
“Rather than implement a new common platform, it was decided to leverage the existing proprietary SecDB system, used by the FICC division, to support equity derivatives," he says. "Probably the most challenging aspect of the role was keeping up with the changing priorities during this period, especially as I was a relative newcomer.”
SecDB is Goldman's secret sauce that allows it to price trades and assess risk for 2.8 million+ trading positions daily. It also allowed it to see exactly how exposed it was to the risky assets that blew up during the 2008 financial crisis, and is credited with ensuring the bank came out better than most of its peers.
Traudt believes that banking is not the best place to be for a developer now, and that any technologist should ensure they're best positioned at a company at the forefront of the latest technology.
Try to identify firms using the latest technologies and with a proven track record of innovation," he says. “I know developers who are well paid but unsatisfied in their careers because they are stuck maintaining legacy systems using much older technologies,” he says.
There is always a need for smart, motivated developers in this space, but you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Contributing to open-source projects is one good way to do this.
“There are so many interesting technologies out there that nobody can master them all,” Traudt says. “I think it is better to have deep expertise in a small number of technologies than shallow expertise in a larger number just to pad your resume – one of my pet peeves is when people list every version of .NET or some other technology on their resume.
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