In June, Lloyd Blankfein went on Bloomberg TV and told a dirty little secret: Goldman Sachs is a technology company. What he meant, of course, is that electronic platforms run everything that Goldman – and every other bank – does. And the world of banking is only getting more automated.
As such, Goldman’s employee base is heavily skewed toward tech. The company employs roughly 8,000 people within the division, accounting for around 25% of total headcount.
Late last week, Paul Walker, co-head of technology at Goldman, sat down with a few colleagues to talk about the unit and offer a few suggestions for people who are interested in joining. We took part and put together some notes on what you’ll need to get the job.
You don’t necessarily have to be a computer science major
One of the misconceptions that Walker tried to dispel was that a background in computer science is a must for any role in technology at Goldman. Walker himself was an aerospace engineer with a background in physics. He worked on black holes and hadn’t taken a class in computer science previously to joining Goldman. Another one of the panelists had an engineering degree.
“No, you don’t necessarily need to know software, but you certainly need to be interested in understanding it,” Walker said.
It doesn’t hurt to speak multiple languages
While you can probably say this about any job in banking, speaking multiple languages appears to be particularly useful in technology, where you’ll be working with people from across the globe.
“My cellphone always has an opportunity to ring from anywhere around the world,” Walker said. One of the other panelists said that she speaks five languages.
Walker’s top piece of advice for new employees is to remain humble. Technology changes constantly, and thinking you know it all is a recipe for failure.
“You will be surrounded by people who are better than you at many things,” he said. You’ll rely on them just as they’ll rely on you.
Never stop learning
Again, this is something you can say about all roles, whether in banking or not, but the amount of self-education required to work in technology at Goldman is substantial.
Panelists said that they’ll often download open source software that they’re unaware of just to keep they’re tool chest full. They’ll read new and even old code to improve their skillset.
They attend hackathons, judge technology competitions and take part in forums and user groups within Goldman. Goldman's tech groups are siloed – technology personnel can cover distinct business units like asset management, equity trading technology, investment banking and others – but having a willingness to collaborate and learn from others outside of your immediate colleagues was stressed.
One panelist told a story about being called out for not asking questions in a meeting during her first month, with a colleague assuming she knew everything already as she wasn’t speaking up.
Get ready to be trained
Goldman’s training program for new hires is significant. Walker said that people are brought to New York for a two-month program where rookies refine their tech skills, perform case studies and get to know future peers. Expect plenty of Java training. “We have the best Java experts in the world,” Walker said.
Training in one fashion or another will take place over at least the first three years on the job, he said.
Get to know finance
As software experts, technology workers don’t need to know the markets as well as front office personnel, but being blind of how the industry operates is a mistake. Understanding how the markets work and keeping up on current events in the industry can help you produce better software, Walker said.