Sarah recently moved from the fast-paced world of Wall Street trading to a strategy role at a FANG tech company. For several years, Sarah worked at an investment bank as a rare female derivatives trader.
Early in 2020, she accepted a tech offer after several salary negotiation rounds. She’s also a personal friend of ours who has developed tough skin after spending years attached to the trading floor. We love her self-awareness and ambition that shines through in this interview.
*Name is altered to protect identity.
Interview with Sarah:
What motivated you to switch from trading?
It is understandably not the easiest path to get to trading. Young traders have to work hard (12+ hours a day and weekends) non-stop during the day. (Note that trading roles do differ by the team). It’s a brutal lifestyle and people easily burn out. You have to love the markets and develop tough skin to stay in this industry. You also need an amazing bladder, because there will be days where you’re too busy to run to the bathroom!
I loved markets and worked hard, but despite the “everyday is different” mentality, I was getting bored. The work became repetitive, and I found myself stagnating. For most traders, this means they should try to take on a different financial product (maybe venture into different exotic products). Alternatively, junior traders can try putting on some risk. Bored? Put on a 50k 10s30s steepener and see how that plays out. It will definitely keep you engaged!
My decision to jump ship was more nuanced. I was not finding happiness creating money for a bank, and I did not envy the lives of my successful buy side clients. I also did not want my director’s job, impatience, and temper at his age. People were constantly stressed and glued to their computers, waking up several times a night during Asia markets to monitor their traders. Some people thrive in these environments and love the monetary reward. I began finding it meaningless. When I evaluated my happiness quotient, I realized I valued an actual work-life balance, social happiness, and intellectual happiness.
I have always been in love with tech, so the switch made sense. I valued (1) being able to drive strategy that impacted people around the world and (2) being in a profitable sector of my new FANG company. I’m also excited to learn new, transferable skills because Wall Street trading tends to be more limited in terms of providing applicable skills for other jobs.
Young Money: Usually, groups that are profitable in a company tend to have more power, visibility and support from leaders. We also appreciate that Sarah is self-aware and honest about how much money and time she’d like to feel happy.
Tell us about your new tech strategy role! How did you find it?
I was referred for this position from a friend of a friend that had exposed me to tech. From there, I scoured LinkedIn for similar roles and talked to as many people as I could. Usually after talking, they would refer me to Human Resources which helped me get the interview. All of the tech companies have great and easy referral programs for interested employees (often with monetary incentives), so do not hesitate to ask while networking.
My strategy was based on the following:
- Find a job that I was interested in
- Include keywords of job description in resume (Yes. I updated it constantly. Yes, it was annoying but worth it).
- Reach out to people in the company. Be open about the opportunity I was interested in by including my resume and job ID link.
- Have a call or coffee with the employee. Impress. Ask for referral.
YM: This is so important, so pay attention folks! Most online applications and cold HR emails get ignored, so we always recommend a “warm” introduction. Find people who might be open to talking to you and let your friends (but not coworkers) know that you’re job searching. This is the time to put yourself out there!
When in the interview process did you start talking about compensation?
HR asked me what I expected from the start. I gave her a range after doing extensive research. HR unsurprisingly said my number was high. I said I was open to other forms of compensation and did not discuss further. There is no reason to aggressively negotiate before you even have an offer and may even work against you. Just make sure you’re happy with the minimum number you said and expect to discuss after you get an offer.
What research did you do to prepare for the compensation talks?
I devoured information on Glassdoor, Quora, and TeamBlind. Teamblind was new to me and gave good insight on relocation packages since I was switching coasts. I looked into information on competitor firms and salaries. Recruiters asked me expectations in the first call, and I responded with ranges, citing my experience and unique skills (programming languages).
In my experience, Glassdoor gives the lower end of salary range and the real number is $30-70k higher than what was reported online for both tech and trading, so there is potential for negotiation!
What was your negotiation process? Juicy details please!
If you’re going into tech, it will usually be split up into (1) base salary, (2) sign-on bonus, and (3) equity. I negotiated for a slightly higher base salary in FANG than trading. Then, I negotiated the sign-on bonus $10k higher than their initial offer. This lowered my equity, but I knew that my year-end bonuses in tech would add equity too. Given the volatile nature of stock options and vesting requirements, my goal was to increase cash as much as I could.
Since I still have a trader mentality, I prefer to build my own portfolio rather than have all my money tied in one company’s stock.
In total, mid-level tech positions range $160-200k not including equity and bonus at big tech companies.
Since I was negotiating at the brink of COVID, I was sure to ask for various scenarios for relocation (ie, when would I move, until what period would my relocation package still be available, remote working expectations).
YM: Other factors to consider negotiating include: relocation stipend (which Sarah received), paid vacation time, schedule or even commuting / working remotely.
Any other advice?
- When evaluating a job, you should imagine yourself in your manager’s role. If you don’t want their responsibilities, you probably should plan not to stay forever. Set goals for yourself, and constantly reflect, evaluate and update. And self-love for achieving them!
- When you feel like you would learn more by moving, start as soon as possible. If you have the ability to do so, try networking 3-6 months before you realize you really want to jump. What helped me strategize was bonus payout time — I wanted to have offers by the time I got my bonus so I could leave as soon as possible. That’s why I started networking in November to get a job by March.
- There is no reason to be miserable at a job unless you have heavy student loans (for which there is an interest-waiver). The key is to pay off those loans in a way that allows you to pivot into the industry you would have wanted if you went to college for free.
For more thoughts on negotiation, we at Young Money chat about our personal experiences in this blog post, inspired by our immigrant parents fighting for what they want!