Real Talk About Transitioning To Silicon Valley From Wall Street (or Consulting or ...)

By Houman Fardin, Director, Strategic Partnerships Wealthfront Inc. 

Rainbows and Unicorns (Part I)

Friends and LinkedIn connections often ask how I made the jump from the world of finance to “The Valley.”

Common questions include:

  • Q: Are you happy you made the move? A: Yes!

  • Q: Do you have any regrets about the decision? A: None.

  • Q: How did you make the transition?

What people rarely ask is “WHY did you make the move?”

I saw a Quora post recently which reminded me that we all are motivated by different things. The post went a little something like this: “I make around [$XYZ] working on Wall Street. Could I make this in Silicon Valley if I made the switch?”

I’m not saying that there aren’t people in technology who are motivated by money. Don’t get me wrong, of course there are. But I highlight this because if getting paid is what drives you, my perspective likely won’t be useful to you (and you will likely be very disappointed if you make the switch).

Eyes Wide Open

If you think that once you make the switch from finance to tech, your life will be filled with rainbows and unicorns (e.g., abundant riches, better work-life balance, and less bureaucratic work environment), you’ll probably be disappointed. These low probability end results should not be WHY you make the change.

Working at a startup is not glamorous — it’s filled with blood, sweat, and frustration. I think most people actually understand this at a high level. What people who transition from finance to tech do not appreciate is this: If you aren’t an engineer or haven’t worked closely with engineers before, then not only will you be grinding it out at a place with limited resources, but you’ll also be grinding it out at the bottom of the tech totem pole.

This is for good reason and based on something I’m sure you learned about in college or business school: basic supply and demand. Good technology can replace people at scale, and to build good technology requires talented engineers, product designers, and data scientists. MBAs like myself are a dime a dozen (Supply > Demand). I can hire 20 people to replace me in my role tomorrow. Finding strong technical folks is another story (Supply < Demand).

Another way to think about it: on Wall Street, people ARE the product. There is a massive support system ($$$, assistants, first class flights, nights at the Four Seasons) to help them get the most out of you. In technology, the product is the product, and technical folks build the product. The closer you work with those who build the product, the more important your role. If you’ve spent your career so far in Excel and Powerpoint , it’s unlikely that you’ll get close to the product — at least in the beginning.

So why make the switch from Wall Street to Silicon Valley? I'm approaching my 500-word limit. To be continued…

[author] [author_image timthumb='on'][/author_image] [author_info]Houman is a Director, Strategic Partnerships Wealthfront Inc. Before that, he was Head of North America SMB Sales & Operations Dropbox. Before that, he was a co-founder Blue Zebra LLC, DBA MemorialPath and Quantified Medical, LLC. Before that, Houman, was doing Institutional Equities and Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley.[/author_info] [/author]

Originally published in Linkedin