Google is hiring. Headcount at parent company Alphabet increased by 23% last year to nearly 100,000 people, with employment at the cloud division growing among the fastest of all. If you work in finance and have aspirations to join the technology giant, now is therefore a good time to apply.
But what if you want to leave banking and work for DeepMind, Google's famous AI division where staff earn an average of around £280k ($363k) each? Speaking at this week's Women of Silicon Roundabout Event in London, Nira Goren, a senior clinician strategist at DeepMind Health (which is being moved into Google), said her team contains various people who've left banks. And that there are points of commonality in how they came to be there.
DeepMind's Health division works on interesting problems, including screening for cancers and predicting eye disease, but this doesn't mean Goren's team is comprised of ex-healthcare or pharmaceutical bankers who studied computer science. Nor is it comprised of people who once worked in machine learning in finance. Instead, one of her colleagues worked in credit research at Bank of America, another spent nine months working for a fintech, another completed a Masters in Finance and worked as an industrials analyst on Credit Suisse's M&A team, and a third completed an internship at Bloomberg.
Each of them took a circuitous route in working in machine learning for Google. None of them became machine learning specialists straight out of finance careers.
Firstly, though, why leave finance in the first place?
Goren said the ex-BofA credit researcher left banking because of a lack of creativity, a lack of role models, and a feeling that the role didn't really "resonate." She took a month's sabbatical and then went back to university, where she studied machine learning.
The ex-Credit Suisse industrials analyst did some "really interesting work" in corporate finance where he "really excelled," but ultimately burned out and quit. He subsequently joined some big tech firms (eg. Uber) and moved into product management after taking online courses in his spare team. He's now a project manager at DeepMind.
The ex-fintech coder joined Google as a software developer before going through Google's Machine Learning Ninja program, which was previously used to train its staff. She applied to DeepMind and joined earier this year.
And the ex-Bloomberg intern completed 13 interviews to get a job in a Google engineering sales team five years ago and then studied a part time Masters qualification in cognition and computation at London's Birkbeck College before applying successfully to DeepMind.
If you want to leave finance for a machine learning role at Google, you will therefore need to be patient and to supplement your skills before you even attempt an application. Devote time to self-study in the evenings at at weekends. And don't worry if it doesn't seem like you're making progress. "Very few people had a linear path and even if it was a linear path, it probably didn’t feel linear going through it," said Goren.
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