The Ones Wall Street Wanted


And then there was finance.

For some reason it seemed even more morally repugnant than going to war for the Bush administration. It also appeared to be off-limits. Job ads for banks and hedge funds insisted on graduates from a few particular schools and with perfect GPAs. I thought about the preppy kids in Honors Chemistry back in high school. They were the ones Wall Street wanted.

I wasn’t one of them but I could maybe act the part.

Even though Wall Street seemed evil, I didn’t get it. I had thought the dot-com crash would be the end of capitalism and Wall Street. Then I had thought 9–11 would be the end it. But the stock market rallied heavily as the war began and they were filling up the Dice boards with jobs for coders, so long as you were sufficiently “elite.”

Capitalism, and Wall Street, were alive.

The media narrative about a biotech/nanotech boom to follow the dot-com boom finally died out and new one took its place. They were saying that programming was going to move “offshore”; primarily to India. And that programming was to be a lower-paid, blue-collar sort of profession.

In the new narrative you didn’t want to be a programmer at all. You wanted to be the guy managing the programmers. For that you needed an MBA. At least that was the story being told in the business press. But I had read enough of Chomsky by then to know that the business press was often full of it. And I didn’t want to go for an MBA any more than I wanted to go for a PhD.

I wanted to create things that made some kind of difference in the real world. However, I was open to the idea that programmers, like artists, needed a better understanding of business.

At the same time that outsourcing and offshoring were the topics in the tech world, my Dice emails were full of financial coding jobs demanding higher GPAs than mine. But one thing was pretty clear, Wall Street wanted more programmers than it could find. While academic elites were preferred, their demand could be met with the other forms of elitism, like the ability to crunch numbers in real-time without messing up.

I thought about the systems that must be driving those scrolling price tickers on tv. I fantasized about the elaborate machine behind the curtains of capitalism. I thought about the money I could make for myself. And who knows, maybe I could still change the system from within while I was at it.

I sent my resume to recruiters in NYC. (Oh yea, that was the other thing. Wall Street was in New York.) After sending dozens of resumes I got exactly one call back to be told there is no way anyone would talk to me given that I didn’t meet their standards for entry-level hires and I didn’t have any REAL work experience.

But he said things might be different if I had some REAL experience building .Net apps.

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