Michelle Executive Director/Vice President, Mission Control Technology division, London
If you thrive on change, and challenges, then finance is a good place to find it
I never intended to work in finance, I stumbled into it! I studied computer science and thought I’d end up in a software house, but after a year-long pre-university work placement in one, I discovered that that wasn’t quite for me. I did a summer work placement in an investment bank after my first year at university, which I ended up really enjoying. That led to an internship, and then a graduate position.
Starting Out at Goldman Sachs
Right from my very first interviews I was impressed with the people - very straightforward, open, and clearly all knowledgeable in their fields. That continued into my first few days. I find that in general everything is run like a well organized ship - efficiently, economically, and with a real sense of teamwork and collaboration.
Working in Technology
Technology within finance is not just technology for technology’s sake - you are exposed to a fast-paced, dynamic industry, which means your technology has to be fast-paced and dynamic to keep up with the changing business models and requirements. Commercial awareness and an interest in the underlying business are necessary if you’re going to be able to really add value in the job you do. The nature of the banking business makes for hard work, but if you find a role and a division that suit you and offer you something that will keep you motivated, you’ll find it that much easier. If you thrive on change, and challenges, then finance is a good place to find it.
A Typical Day
I lead one of the ‘Mission Control’ teams in Equities Technology, for the Goldman Sachs Electronic Trading (GSET) desk. Mission Control is sort of a central hub within the electronic trading area. On any given day we will be speaking to external clients, the trading desk, various development teams responsible for sub-sections of the flow, middle office teams responsible for booking out the trades, and possibly even compliance. It’s a great place to get an understanding of the business and what our clients are trying to do. We sit on the trading floor so we get a real-time view on what’s happening in the markets and the industry in general.
Our key focus at the moment is on improving our operational efficiency across the Mission Control teams. Operational efficiency is about looking at the things we do in our day-to-day and finding smarter ways to do them – whether through automation of manual tasks or investing in appropriate tools and applications to make those tasks easier. I therefore spend a lot of time doing analysis on what we’re doing as a team and what we need to change to get the biggest benefits.
There’s a mixture of team-based and individual work in our team. When investigating a particular problem, you often end up looping in various subject matter experts so you have a number of people looking at the same issue from different perspectives, trying to find the root cause of the problem. This is particularly true when there are system outages, either internal or external—at exchanges, for example. These problems affect large proportions of the order flow, and we get “virtual teams” together on conference calls to restore service as quickly as possible.
There is a real emphasis here on developing you as an individual and advancing your career. If you are willing to take responsibility and want to move ahead, you will definitely be given responsibilities and assignments intended to help you do so. Right from my first interviews, I was told about the internal mobility programs and how the firm wants you to be able to move across roles and teams as part of your development. I joined the firm three years ago, and two of my original team members have had mobility changes—one moved to join a technology team in our New York office, and one moved into the electronic trading business team.