I've spent the past two summers working in the technology divisions of major investment banks. As a result, I have a pretty good idea of what it's like to join a big banks' technology program as an intern. I also know that it's not what a lot of people expect before they join.
The first thing you need to know is that banks' technology programs are not actually that technical. Believe it or not, but a knowledge of programming is not necessary for a lot of technology roles in banks. When you're doing a technology internship you'll often work as a business analyst (BA). As such, you'll usually liaise between the front office and the back office of the bank, usually undertaking a project management role or helping out in a related capacity.
The second thing you need to know is that you probably won't get much in-depth coding training when you're an intern in bank. Most interns expect they'll ave some sort of coding training, or will be split into groups depending upon the language they'll be using. This doesn't happen. Training typically focuses on soft skills and if you get technical training at all it will focus around methodologies lie Agile. What you learn in terms of coding will therefore probably be picked up on the job. If you're using a new language. you'll have to get yourself clued up on the first few days and this can be a steep climb.
The third and maybe the biggest misconception about technical internships is that banks will have work to do when you get there. This is not always true: there is always a sizeable number of interns who are not initially assigned work, maybe because their managers have changed. If you're one of these unlucky ones and your manager is busy or has not prepared a solid plan of work, it will be up to you to navigate and to look for projects you can bring to your manager. This often comes as a huge surprise.
If you survive the internship and receive a full time job offer, it's likely to be open-ended to the extent that many banks rotate their full-times hires through developer, testing and business analyst roles before deciding which suits you best. Even if you don't like one of those options, you'll have to put up with it before you get a chance to move on.
Steven Lee is the pseudonym of an intern on an technology programme at a bank in London
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