When Goldman Sachs announced its new managing directors last month, there were plenty of technologists on the list. However, the Goldman technology staff who didn't make the MD cut won't be that cut up: they have other things to aspire to.
While most people in banks can simply climb the established analyst-associate-VP-director-managing director hierarchy, technologists in investment banks can aspire to be "fellows" or "distinguished engineers" as the highest (not necessarily managerial) rank. Goldman Sachs has fellows; banks like Citi and J.P. Morgan have distinguished engineers. And at Goldman Sachs, next year is a fellow promotion year.
"Technology fellow is the highest accolade given to "technical thinkers" within the organization," says former senior technologist at Goldman Sachs. "Goldman Sachs has a long history of building a technical career path alongside a management path, and the tech fellows are the leaders of the technical route. They own the technical strategy of the firm," he says.
For the moment, Goldman has around 80 technology fellows, including Mark Langham, the London-based global head of futures trading technology, or Christopher Mathie, the global lead for prime services technology. Some fellows are also MDs. Many, though, are VPs. If you want to be a fellow, Goldman technologists say you'll need to display your, "authoritative knowledge...technical leadership, innovation and problem-solving expertise."
While Goldman has 80 fellows, J.P. Morgan insiders say the bank only has 22 distinguished engineers. 21 are men. The only woman in the category is Tracey Pletz, an enterprise architect. Male distinguished engineers at JPM include Carl Nolf, an MD who's been with bank for 20 years, Ian Miller, the chief architect for commercial and investment banking core processing, Matt Tice, an executive director-level network engineer in Ohio, and Suresh Shetty, an ED-level architect in NYC.
Citi's distinguished engineers include Chris Clayton, a storage specialist in London, and Lajos Csémy at its office in Hungary.
So, should you aspire to be a fellow or distinguished engineer rather than an actual managing director? Yes, if you have expertise in a particular domain and want to develop that further rather taking a step up into a broader management role.
"Distinguished engineer is something to aim for if you're very technical and want to extend your sphere of influence," says the J.P. Morgan technologist. "You might still get to manage people and core technology functions, but only in your area of specialism," he adds.
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