Bye, bye finance. Hello telecoms!

As any of my twitter followers could tell you, I’m in my last week of employment at Barclays Capital, here in London. I’ve been working as a developer in the Market Risk IT department for over four years, a personal record for me.

It’s not a bad job, the pay is excellent along with good benefits. I have a short commute and I don’t have to work particularly hard since I know the ropes very well. When I tell people this, my intention to leave is usually greeted with puzzled expressions and questions like “why the f&*k are you giving that up?”

I’m now going to attempt to answer this question.

I’ve been a developer for almost eleven years. I started my first job on the 1st of August, 2000. Since being made redundant in 2003, I’ve worked for various different companies, mainly as a contractor, on and off for 7 years, before joining Barclays Capital and moving to London. Looking back on my move to London, the reason I went into Finance is one that I don’t fully understand. A good friend of mine at the time was working for a hedge fund in Amsterdam and told me I should get into Finance as the money was good.

I contacted a recruitment agent in the UK, got an interview, fly over to London to do the interview and got offered the job. It actually didn’t take very long, about five weeks in total. I then just packed my bags and showed up for work on a bright, sunny Monday morning in June, 2007. My first project was an ASP.Net web application. I was using VS 2005 on a Windows 2000 machine. Aside from the pre-historic OS, that wasn’t too bad.

However, I soon discovered that the development setup in a bank was always lagging behind. VS 2008 was launched, but wasn’t “approved” for use within the bank. There was always a delay as new IDEs and Frameworks had to undergo rigorous testing to ensure complete compatibility. Perfectly understandable given the industry, but very frustrating none-the-less.

Roll on several years and I got to do plenty of WPF development and got some very interesting C#. I was really blessed to have been assigned to a greenfield project in that regard. We started using VS2008 and WCF. This was interesting and new, which is always nice to get when you’re a developer.

As the project matured, the appetite for change retarded. Suddenly any attempts to introduce change to our UI application or back end was resisted for fear it may impact stability. I wrote several applications using ASP.Net MVC 2, only to have them knocked back as they were “on a different technology”. This was really the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I came to realise that IT is just a service to enable other functions of a business. In an investment bank, the selling of products and the management of the bank’s assets and risk is paramount. This is essentially the problem space. My problem, in a sense, is that I find finance very boring. I’m not interested in the problems that Risk Managers face or how the bank has to manage its VaR number. I find it dull and uninteresting.

And that, in a nutshell, is probably the main motivator for leaving investment banking. I’m off to work for a small telecoms outfit that do rather nifty stuff with inbound calls using VoIP and other such cool things. Telecoms is where I started out eleven years ago and its where I’m returning to now. I think telecoms is more of an pure IT business. The problem space relates to IT and is driven by infrastructure, handsets, protocols, cables, specifications, RFCs and the like. At least that’s what I remember from my days in CMG.

Yes there are customers to keep happy, products to develop, bugs to fix, but the work is solving problems that I find interesting. Sure, I’ll end up working longer hours and getting paid less, but at the end of the day, I’ll hope to be doing what I find interesting and that’s the dream, isn’t it? Maybe I’m on a fools errand and will always end up somewhat unhappy with whatever job I’m doing.

Some of you wiser readers are probably nodding at this now, saying it can’t be done. Maybe you’re right. I know that as we move through life, our priorities change. When I eventually have children, I may end up back in the finance sector purely for the money as I’ll have university fees and such to be thinking about. But those days aren’t here yet!

When my children (eventually) ask, I want to tell them that money and benefits weren’t what motivated me, rather I chased the dream for as long as I could.