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Friends Don't Let Geek Friends Work In Finance

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the do-no-evil dept.

Businesses 732

theodp writes "If Vivek Wadhwa remade Pinocchio, instead of The Coachman luring naughty boys to Pleasure Island to engage in mischievous behavior and be transformed into donkeys, you might find Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein luring bright engineering grads to Wall Street to engage in mischievous behavior and be transformed into, well, asses. While the practice of poaching engineering talent slowed after the economy tanked in 2008, Wadhwa is dismayed to report that thanks to hundred-billion-dollar taxpayer bailouts, investment banks have recovered and gone back to their old, greedy ways, snagging engineering grads who might otherwise solve the world's problems, making them financial offers they can't refuse, and morphing them into quants, investment bankers and management consultants. 'Not only are the investment banks siphoning off hundreds of billions of dollars from our economy with financial gimmicks like CDOs,' writes Wadhwa, 'they are using our best engineering graduates [25% of MIT grads in '06] to help them do it. This is the talent that our country has invested so much resource in producing.' He concludes: 'Let's save the world by keeping our engineers out of finance. We need them to, instead, develop new types of medical devices, renewable energy sources, and ways for sustaining the environment and purifying water, and to start companies that help America keep its innovative edge.' Amen, but how 'ya gonna keep 'em down on the Engineering farm after they've seen Wall Street?"

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732 comments

Mama don't..... (5, Funny)

dennis_k85 (828582) | about 3 years ago | (#35629884)

Mama don't let your sons grow up to be bankers........

Re:Mama don't..... (0, Troll)

Graff (532189) | about 3 years ago | (#35630268)

This is a completely ridiculous notion, how do you think the money gets to the "serious research" in the first place? Right, investment banks and the financial services industry! You'd have a far lower amount of research if you can't get money to do that research!

Innovation and efficiency in the financial services industry helps drive money to startups and companies seeking to expand. If the investment banks get some of the top engineering talent then they can build better systems that can be more nimble at identifying tech sectors which could use cash to find these new and exciting projects. Then those companies will be able to hire more engineers to work on the projects.

Besides which, who is to say that there isn't fun and innovative ideas to be explored in the financial services industry? Remember that John Nash [wikipedia.org] (of A Beautiful Mind fame) received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on the Nash Equilibrium [wikipedia.org]. The financial industry does a lot of work in developing new ways to store, access, and analyze data - work that is often highly useful to the scientific community.

By the way, I'm writing this as a chemist who changed careers and became a programmer for the finance industry. I've personally seen some great ideas that would have direct application to many fields of scientific study. Just because many "intellectuals" find the concept of money distasteful and think that the world should follow some sort of communistic ideal, that doesn't invalidate the fact that the concept is a highly useful one. We need money and finance in order to give people incentives to perform and innovate. It would also be pretty cumbersome if we had to barter our services for every single transaction.

Re:Mama don't..... (5, Insightful)

Ben4jammin (1233084) | about 3 years ago | (#35630356)

It is not completely ridiculous.

While investment banks and the like do make important contributions, their industry just recently had a negative effect on the WORLD economy due to their shady practices. Then when it hit the fan, they used their influence to socialize the risk/losses while still keeping the profits. So the taxpayers lose, and they still win, even when it was their poor decisions that caused the mess.

Some would say that because of the above, any benefit they provide comes at too steep a cost. I certainly understand that not all participants in the finance industry should be painted with this same brush. But none of this has to do with "communistic ideals". And you don't have to find money distasteful to find it distasteful when taxpayers are footing the bill for the mistakes of others.

I'm not saying that I agree with the article (I haven't read it yet). But I would hope that it is not that hard to understand why the finance industry is not very popular...when you put everyone on the planet at risk, that is the kind of blowback you can expect.

phoeey on the enviornment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35629902)

Maybe if you skipped the Enviornment more of us would be interested. I await the day I can celebrate the last Enviornmentalist being strangled in the intestines of the last trial lawyer.

Yipe! (2)

Tyler Durden (136036) | about 3 years ago | (#35629906)

If Vivek Wadhwa remade Pinocchio, instead of The Coachman luring naughty boys to Pleasure Island to engage in mischievous behavior...

Phrasing!

There's no hope.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35629910)

As long as the government views the biggest firms as untouchables, this will continue on for some time....

Re:There's no hope.... (5, Insightful)

perlchild (582235) | about 3 years ago | (#35629996)

I'd upgrade that to
As long as the government views the biggest firms as untouchables, and pick one or two as examples/targets, this will continue on for some time....

Letting a few of them fail in the last debacle would have been better for the economy

Jealous much? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35629912)

Don't be jealous that I make more than you. When you're jealous you will scratch my car and then you'll lose your car-washing job.

Captcha? Advice. Word.

Re:Jealous much? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630244)

It's funny. You're either trolling or you're one of those people whose entire self-worth is defined by their bank balance. You lose either way. You're bi-losing, to borrow a phrase.

I thought slavery had been outlawed (0, Troll)

tjb (226873) | about 3 years ago | (#35629914)

Since when should people not get to choose their own career path?

Re:I thought slavery had been outlawed (3, Insightful)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | about 3 years ago | (#35629964)

since when is attempting to convince people to make a specific choice considered slavery?

Re:I thought slavery had been outlawed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630008)

I'd read that again. Looks like you totally missed his point!

It is all about incentives (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630170)

If you want more engineers, make the field more attractive. If the industry sucks people are going to avoid it no matter how badly we need it.

And I took exception with the statement "This is the talent that our country has invested so much resource in producing." That makes it sound like we gave them loads of valuable training for free and then they wandered off and left us holding the bag. What a crock. Most of them graduated with smothering debt in order to get that education...so it seems that the greater part of the investment was their own. That debt just further drives them to an industry that will pay big.

Lately I have really been lamenting the fact that I chose to program computers for a living. I see how much money people in the finance industry make. They are in a higher income bracket, and yet they don't seem to be in a higher talent or workload bracket. Why shouldn't I be envious, and why shouldn't I leave my boss high and dry for a different job that pays twice as much?

Re:I thought slavery had been outlawed (3, Insightful)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 3 years ago | (#35630186)

It's not slavery. Working for the betterment of mankind instead of its hasty demise is liberating. On the contrary, working for greedy pigs is slavery, no matter how much money they give you.
I used to work for the military-industrial complex. It paid very well, but it's a soul-sucking job. After one of my kids developed cancer and 9-11 happened, I decided that I couldn't go on in that line of work, and left the industry. I now work at a university for 1/3 the income, and feel much better about what I do for a living.

Re:I thought slavery had been outlawed (-1, Troll)

Silverhammer (13644) | about 3 years ago | (#35630286)

My goodness, aren't you just the perfect walking cliché...

Re:I thought slavery had been outlawed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630316)

shitty people are the coolest! keep up the good work!

Re:I thought slavery had been outlawed (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | about 3 years ago | (#35630212)

If the career path you choose is to be a thief, robbing the country blind, then yes, the government has every right to try to discourage you from that choice.

The Leaders of Tomorrow. (3, Insightful)

Securityemo (1407943) | about 3 years ago | (#35629922)

Heavier taxes on finance income, or some sort of legal restructuring or limitation of finance itself. If you can't get money for nothing... you can't get money for nothing. The wealth gap in the US is absurd. And don't talk about ability, unless I'm completely mistaken these people are not taking any more risks or putting in any more effort than any of the other MIT grads that continue to work as productive engineers.

Re:The Leaders of Tomorrow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630018)

You do realize that even though it's called the finance industry, it doesn't actually output raw units of finance, right? It's not just a bunch of douchebags sitting in front of computer monitors speculating and earning money on the market, it's primarily a consulting-type business. You could argue that by levying heavy taxes on financial income you would decrease demand on financial consulting services and thus harm the finance/banking industry, but even that would be an extreme oversimplification, primarily because of the ease evading taxes through international arrangements (which raises a host of additional taxation-related issues).

I'm not saying it's not a problem, I'm saying you're grossly oversimplifying an issue that is most likely not within your primary area of expertise.

Re:The Leaders of Tomorrow. (1)

joss (1346) | about 3 years ago | (#35630366)

> You do realize that even though it's called the finance industry, it doesn't actually output raw units of finance, right? It's not just a bunch of douchebags sitting in front of computer monitors speculating and earning money on the market

The first statement there is wrong. The finance industry very much does output raw units of finance, primarily through the use of fractional reserve banking. As for the second statement, I have several good friends in the industry so I'm reluctant to call them douchebags. I just don't respect their choice of profession as much as if they had done something more beneficial to society, like dealing smack. We could do with a lot less of the money in circulation being invented in the form of debt. The cost of the invented money is distributed through society (in the form of inflation etc) while the benefits are disproportionately concentrated in the finance industry. This is not the only possible way of doing things. Take a look at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Grip-Death-Slavery-Destructive-Economics/dp/1897766408 [amazon.co.uk] for a good rant about this. My understanding of this subject is not great: I'm not a professional but I have had extended conversations with bankers who very much are professionals and I'm lot less wrong now than I used to be when my thinking was like yours.

Re:The Leaders of Tomorrow. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630050)

Deciding which industries are best worked well for the Soviet Union. Let's do it here.

Re:The Leaders of Tomorrow. (2)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | about 3 years ago | (#35630118)

thats OK... we will fall in the next few decades because we won't realize that you can't run an economy based on bubbles.

Re:The Leaders of Tomorrow. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630174)

If you can't get money for nothing... you can't get money for nothing.

What does that even mean? That's the most pointless sentence I've ever read.

Anyways, I work for Goldman Sachs. I made $200,000 total (salary + bonus) last year as a developer with a MS in CS (not from MIT) and 5 years of experience. I work on all that financial engineering you hear about - CDS, CMO, Bank Loans, IR Swaps, etc. I worked 24 hours straight the day that Lehman fell. You tell me, am I overpaid, or am I actually paid what I'm worth and the rest of corporate america is under-paying their developers? I tend to think its the latter. I work 60 hours a week, as do a lot of other people on this board. I'd argue that they're giving way too much to their employer who pays them too little.

Oh, and as a side note, I'm working on getting out. I can't stand the corporate environment. I just want to write code and not attend meetings and do pointless paperwork like timesheets and outlines and whitepapers. So I've started my own company, I'm moving out of NYC, and I'm going to do freelance once I get my bonus in February. I'll have about one year's income in the bank, so I should have a nice safety net in order to do it.

Re:The Leaders of Tomorrow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630302)

Anyways, I work for Goldman Sachs. I made $200,000 total (salary + bonus) last year as a developer with a MS in CS (not from MIT) and 5 years of experience.

You work there because you couldn't make renumeration like that in an industry that creates wealth instead of "money". Even before the bailouts, it was everyone else that paid because the act of creating new money devalues existing money. The finance industry has always been a giant fraud and now, due in part to the greed of the industry itself, it is one that we can no longer afford to let run rampant.

Re:The Leaders of Tomorrow. (1, Troll)

maztuhblastah (745586) | about 3 years ago | (#35630192)

Heavier taxes on finance income, or some sort of legal restructuring or limitation of finance itself. If you can't get money for nothing... you can't get money for nothing. The wealth gap in the US is absurd.

I agree with this idea. We should take money from people who we don't believe are deserving of it. Then we can redistribute that wealth to everyone.

Honestly, I'm just surprised I never heard of someone suggesting this before. Of course I never studied world history or political philosophy, so maybe somebody did try this before...

Re:The Leaders of Tomorrow. (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 3 years ago | (#35630238)

And don't talk about ability, unless I'm completely mistaken these people are not taking any more risks or putting in any more effort than any of the other MIT grads that continue to work as productive engineers.

That has never been the issue. In the financial industry you can make big money if you're really bright for the same reason that CEOs make the big bucks, instead of making decisions over lots of people you make decisions over lots of money. There's a helluva lot more inept executives who have run a whole business into the ground than there are inept engineers that have managed to run an otherwise sound business of significant size into the ground. In the financial industry, you will start out managing a tiny client portfolio but if you're skilled that can grow 10x, 100x, 1000x because the one who is the best of the bunch gets to manage the big clients or the big funds, handling hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.

Even if you're an exceptionally bright engineer, you can't replace a whole engineering department. But it's quite doable for someone to manage a billion dollar portfolio just as well as a million dollar portfolio, if only they get the chance. Of course the flip side is that poorly skilled people don't last long in finance, if your analysis sucks and the market beats you every time you might still sell to mom and pop savers but you'll never get any real responsibility or the big bucks. But everyone thinks they got what it takes. Same with real estate agents, the papers like to pull up the guy who manages to sell the million dollar luxury apartments and get fat commissions but he's the exception, not the rule.

Besides, there's a lot of skill overlap particularly in mathematics. If you can't grok that, you'll never get far in finance and the same is true for most of the hard sciences. So it's really no surprise that they're competing for some of the same people. Particularly if you go into statistics and probability, feedback systems and things like that the tools are much the same. Though if you want your systems to act rationally, you'd better stick to science...

keeping engineers (4, Interesting)

simoncpu was here (1601629) | about 3 years ago | (#35629932)

...but how 'ya gonna keep 'em down on the Engineering farm after they've seen Wall Street?

Give them the opportunity to change the world.

Re:keeping engineers (1)

Locutus (9039) | about 3 years ago | (#35630140)

like the last bunch of financial geniuses who came up with selling, reselling and reselling of mortgages over and over? And lets not forget out the geniuses who came did all the fancy work for those financial firms to produce record quarter after record quarter only to find out they were really losing money by the boat load. How about those going into the commodity business just to purchase and resell oil and energy. I just saw a piece on some software developers who quit doing IT and polled their money and are now making big bucks driving up the cost of fuel and then selling before someone else. A chance to change the world and drive us all into another mess where those who lost the most get bailed out with money from those who were able to just keep their heads above water.

Wall Street is more like a Sewer Street.

LoB

Re:keeping engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630324)

...some software developers who quit doing IT and polled their money...

Don't leave us hanging; what were the questions and what were the results? Is it true that money prefers South Sea vacation?

Re:keeping engineers (3, Insightful)

zoroaster37 (1950444) | about 3 years ago | (#35630298)

Here's a thought. Why not add a stick to that carrot? When Wall Street screws the rest of us, find the people responsible, throw them in prison, and seize their assets to pay back the taxpayers. If current law doesn't allow this, then the law should be changed. This will have 2 outcomes. Fewer people will go after the really lucrative positions (those that involve stealing from the rest of us) if there is an actual real risk of punishment. Second, possibly we might see a Wall Street evolve that actually does some good, rather than the greedy parasite we have now.

Capitalism at work (2, Insightful)

xetovss (17621) | about 3 years ago | (#35629936)

You sir have discovered capitalism at work! Why do people demonize businesses who seek out the best and brightest and PAY them for their knowledge and skill. Perhaps because they didn't get those well paying jobs themselves.

Re:Capitalism at work (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630046)

Bullshit. Nobody is "demonizing" anybody. A discussion of whether intelligence can be better utilized in other sectors is not out of line.

Re:Capitalism at work (0)

samkass (174571) | about 3 years ago | (#35630300)

Re-read the article summary from the point of view of someone who works for Goldman Sachs (disclosure: I do), and I think you'll find that while perhaps such a discussion isn't out of line, this article sure does "demonize" finance.

And good luck getting those thousand green and innovative startups going without any capital investment.

Re:Capitalism at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630364)

Fuck off and get back to work front-running pension fund trades - it's magic money, nobody gets hurt!

Re:Capitalism at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630358)

Bullshit. Nobody is "demonizing" anybody.

Read the first sentence of the summery:

If Vivek Wadhwa remade Pinocchio, instead of The Coachman luring naughty boys to Pleasure Island to engage in mischievous behavior and be transformed into donkeys, you might find Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd C. Blankfein luring bright engineering grads to Wall Street to engage in mischievous behavior and be transformed into, well, asses.

Re:Capitalism at work (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630082)

Or perhaps because many of these businesses can only afford to pay these people so much because they corrupted the government and got bailouts and handouts? I also don't begrudge sports salaries because I don't make that much, I begrudge them because they can only exist due to the hundreds of millions of dollars corrupted government officials dole out to them to build their stadiums (in some cases, after referendums specifically on the funding were voted down). Take away the corruption, takes away the billions of dollars in unnecessary handouts to these companies, and suddenly the playing field becomes much closer to level for more productive professions.

Because people have different ethical viewpoints? (1)

fantomas (94850) | about 3 years ago | (#35630138)

"Why do people demonize businesses who seek out the best and brightest and PAY them for their knowledge and skill. Perhaps because they didn't get those well paying jobs themselves."

In some cases because some people feel that businesses do not operate with high enough ethical standards and object to their ways of undertaking their work. Some people don't want to work for such companies because they don't want to contribute to their success and feel that such companies broach their personal ethical guidelines.

For example, some Christians won't work for arms manufacturers because they believe this contradicts their religious beliefs, some people won't work for Nestle because they feel Nestle's promotion of baby milk powder in countries where there is no safe water supply is unethical, some folk won't work for companies that they feel are at odds with their political beliefs.

Lots of people make choices in life that are drawn from their personal ethical and moral beliefs, not just based on envy.

Re:Capitalism at work (3, Insightful)

sa666_666 (924613) | about 3 years ago | (#35630148)

Right, pull out the jealousy card as soon as someone sees a problem with this recruitment. The only possible reason one could have for disagreeing is that they're jealous they don't have the job themselves.

I don't demonize all (or even most) businesses who seek out the best. What I do object to is the organized cesspool of crime that is the finance industry. They are directly responsible for the current economic conditions (a recession that could lead to a depression). They produce nothing of value, and now want to leech away the best and brightest so they can make billions more. These filthy rich will do everything they can to amass more wealth, even as society crumbles around them. It doesn't matter to them, they have a huge buffer zone, and can just up and move out of a country after it's been screwed up enough.

And before you mention again that it's just sour grapes, note that I don't live in the US and haven't really been adversely affected by current economic conditions. Its just really boils my blood that people that could be making real improvements in this world are being sequestered into amassing wealth for the top 1% elite. Pure, unadulterated, unrestricted capitalism at work no doubt, but destructive just the same.

Re:Capitalism at work (1)

skids (119237) | about 3 years ago | (#35630198)

Or perhaps they didn't take the job when offered, because they actually wanted to accomplish something productive during their lives, instead of just leaching off those that do.

Re:Capitalism at work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630216)

A business (also known as enterprise or firm) is an organization designed to provide goods, services, or both to consumers.

I would argue that the financial fields we are talking about are not businesses in the traditional sense. They produce nothing. They create zero-sum games where they themselves get wealthy. This provides no goods or services to society and definitely doesn't help it advance. They are merely a side-effect of the system.

I am all for capitalism, but feel that government regulation should offset the negative side effects of the system. Such creating taxes on trades. Can you imagine how much a 1 cent tax on all trades would affect high-frequency traders?

Less money, less prestige, and... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35629940)

less pussy I'm sure. There is zero reason for a bright college grad to go into engineering today. Law, medicine, and finance are all better options in the US today.

Hidden message? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35629942)

Smartasses will always chip in.

Competitors? (1)

mr100percent (57156) | about 3 years ago | (#35629944)

Who is Goldman competing against here? Are they trying to snatch these people up with huge bonuses because there are other financial firms (any major ones left?), or is it just Goldman's desire to grow their profits, or both?

Re:Competitors? (2)

perlchild (582235) | about 3 years ago | (#35630036)

Who is Goldman competing against here? Are they trying to snatch these people up with huge bonuses because there are other financial firms (any major ones left?), or is it just Goldman's desire to grow their profits, or both?

The implication I got from the summary is that by working for these firms which have been working to "Game" the system in the past, those engineers are working against our collective interests, whereas normal engineers work for our collective interests(this is the common belief, one I won't comment on).

They would be competing against firms like IBM, Oracle, SAS, SAP, CSC, etc... Who "merely" charge a premium of 25-30% on a candidate's rate and bill the client.

Re:Competitors? (1)

Skreems (598317) | about 3 years ago | (#35630262)

They also compete against software firms like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc. I'm definitely on the side that sees a distinct lack of value in making money through pushing money around, as opposed to making money by actually creating new things. Especially after some stuff I heard from a friend who left Microsoft to work at a NYC hedge fund. It's all micro-trades and arbitrage, so you can't even make an argument about it being "investments that support other companies" like some people try to do when you point out that finance doesn't create anything.

Re:Competitors? (1)

samkass (174571) | about 3 years ago | (#35630350)

My guess is this article was written on behalf of some of his friends at Google, who's trying to hire from the same pool of engineers that Goldman's is in NYC. Because, you know, advertising is SO much more noble a profession than determining how to provide capital to innovative startups.

Engineers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35629956)

Are we talking about engineers or computer scientists? How is someone with the skill set to create renewable energy devices or develop new and better water purification techniques going to help a financial firm?

Re:Engineers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630156)

They can do math, which puts them well ahead of MBA graduates.

Misplaced anger (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35629984)

The author is blaming the financial industry of enticing smart people away from an industry that under-appreciates its talent. Horrors!

Oversight (5, Insightful)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 3 years ago | (#35629986)

Finance needs effective oversight, they need watching. If you solve that problem then your engineers won't be getting the offers they can't refuse.

The work itself (3, Insightful)

ImABanker (1439821) | about 3 years ago | (#35629992)

As a nerd that has a passion for finance, one thing worth considering is that the work of finance itself is tremendously fulfilling (outside of the demonizing that happens from some ill-informed quarters). The problems that you are presented with are fascinating, you are surrounded with motivated people of incredible ability, and have unbelievable responsibility at a young age - where else would I get to advise the CEO of a company on his strategy at age 25? If you have never helped a desperate company raise capital to avoid going bust by working consecutive 100 hour weeks, I suppose I can't really explain the feeling. Most of all, the work is just interesting. Or maybe I'm the devil.

Re:The work itself (2)

Securityemo (1407943) | about 3 years ago | (#35630070)

No, that is productive work in my (ill-informed) eyes. The implied Devilishness is bright young people being snatched up to manipulate Finance and The Market (through magic or whatever, realize that finance is as foreign to me as ancient Greek) to get ridiculous profit for "normal" work. Then the question becomes, does this occur?

Re:The work itself (1)

lenski (96498) | about 3 years ago | (#35630100)

This may perhaps explain why the finance industry seems to be run by spoiled teenage boys with the keys to the family corvette.

I've *never* worked a week as small as 50 hours in the 34 years I've been in industry, and worked with motivated people, the best and brightest all along. It's just that in a bygone era, we could make a good honest income doing it, without having so many bright and motivated people poached by the finance industry.

With the finance industry raking in the cream of every reasonable investment vehicle (check returns available to retail investors these days), it's no wonder they can make young and bright people offers that they can't refuse.

Re:The work itself (1)

jo42 (227475) | about 3 years ago | (#35630110)

the work of finance itself is tremendously fulfilling

Yup. I too find it tremendously fulfilling to add a bunch of zeros to the end of the numbers in my accounts.

The hard part is creating the financial slight of hand to make it all look legitimate and not part of a massive global fraud by all of the financial institutions.

Re:The work itself (4, Insightful)

Skreems (598317) | about 3 years ago | (#35630296)

Yes, but there's fascinating work elsewhere too. And when you're done, you've built a system that does something, as opposed to shuffling money around. I realize that everything comes back to money if you're going to get paid, but most other places have a layer of "actual product" in between their work and the money it generates, and that product has some intrinsic value in itself. My sincere feeling is that working in Finance, you miss out on creating a tangible product that's useful to people outside your 20-person company.

Re:The work itself (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | about 3 years ago | (#35630310)

I'm sure bank robbers (not you, the types with guns) get the same thrill.

The demonizing isn't coming from ill-informed quarters. It's coming from the people who know what you do, know where you get your money from. The cash you get from HFT isn't just magically appearing from no where. It's being stolen from legitimate investors. You're all a bunch of thieves, skimming money off the top of every transaction, and using every loophole you find so that you don't even pay taxes on it. You've drained the country of its lifeblood, and in a few decades will leave it a rotting husk while you move on to another nation to loot. If telling yourself that I'm just "ill-informed" is what lets you sleep at night, then go ahead. Keep lying to yourself. But when your middle-class friends and family (do you even have any?) are suffering, know that it's because you helped your company loot their savings and run their employers out of business.

Or not (2)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | about 3 years ago | (#35629994)

One could certainly turn this argument around and say we need *more* smart people doing finance, since the current crop of bozos keeps making messes the rest of society has to deal with.

I'm sure there are plenty of smart engineers out of work right now because some jerk decided to put a bunch of no-doc loans in a CMO. What if someone at Goldman or BOA had the brains to figure out that this was a dumb idea and counterproductive in the long term?

Re:Or not (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630158)

I don't know, there are plenty of smart people doing finance already.

1. Game the system to pull in as much unrealistic money as possible
2. Siphon the money out of the system so society can't take it back
3. .....
4. Everyone realizes all that unrealistic earning can't be sustained by the system and rush to get money back
5. Find out the pot is much smaller now that the rich took the money out of the system
6. The whole system is falling apart
7. ......
8. The collective society pays into the system the money that was taken out by the rich
9. Repeat step one and continue

Sounds like those "bozos" of yours successfully did what they set out to. Make as much money for themselves before they break everything and then start again. Kind of like ponzi schemes.

If they can get rich by taking risks and have society bail them out if things go bad, there's no downside of making major risks.

France? what did they do now? (1, Funny)

Locutus (9039) | about 3 years ago | (#35630010)

I thought it said, "Friends Don't Let Geek Friends Work In France".
Never mind.

LoB

Re:France? what did they do now? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 3 years ago | (#35630342)

Why not? Great wine, great mamoiselles, great food, nice places to live, friendly labor laws ...

Trust me, if my French didn't completely suck, and I had the opportunity, I'd probably take it.

As opposed to what? (-1, Flamebait)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 3 years ago | (#35630034)

I'm sorry, but if these people were to work for the "betterment" of "society at large", what would that mean exactly? That would mean that middle Americans and other flyover territory morons would have better lives? Fuck that shit. An MIT graduate has NOTHING in common with such people. A high-paying career where one gets to mix among people of similar interests would be far better. "Start companies that help America keep its innovative edge" LOL. Anyone here think that America having fewer resources means that America can start much less trouble in the world?

Re:As opposed to what? (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | about 3 years ago | (#35630104)

So it's fine to live in hell to you, as long as you're on top and have clever workmates so you can feel all clever and young and powerful?

Re:As opposed to what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630154)

Grow up. I'm a MIT grad and live in Indiana. I associate, and work, with people of all classes.

If you dont, you're just out of touch.

Re:As opposed to what? (1)

skids (119237) | about 3 years ago | (#35630252)

I'm sorry, but if these people were to work for the "betterment" of "society at large", what would that mean exactly? That would mean that middle Americans and other flyover territory morons would have better lives? ...probably. It would probably also mean that they would no longer be morons, because someone from MIT figured out how to educate them effectively.

Re:As opposed to what? (1)

Overunderrated (1518503) | about 3 years ago | (#35630344)

As an engineering PhD student in a computational math-heavy discipline at a non-MIT but nevertheless highly-respected institution that gets approached by these financial recruiters that also just happens to originally be from "flyover territory," I can safely tell you to shove it. You bash a generic "America" for greed and resources and desiring a better life, but suggest an individual pursuing high income over scientific and technological advancement is ethically superior?

We do face serious dilemmas with job offers; most everyone I'm involved with wants to apply their skills to the world's engineering problems, with energy being at the top of that list. The choice would be easy if the payscales were similar, but they're not. Academic jobs we qualify for are mediocre (but increasing) pay, engineering industry jobs carry considerably more pay, but financial engineering jobs are so far above in terms of compensation that we can't simply cast them out of mind.

No need to worry. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630042)

The really smart AND creative engineers will be too bored with finance to stay with it or won't even be tempted by the great paychecks.

Why go to Wall Street and maybe make tens of millions when a highly creative engineer can go and make billions? Assuming of course those people are actually motivated by a paycheck.

If you look at the true greats in science and engineering, they were driven by their visions: if they got rich in the process, it was just a side effect.

Wall Street will just get the uncreative, albeit smart, lamoes.

Re:No need to worry. (1)

skids (119237) | about 3 years ago | (#35630320)

If all we had was the "true greats" we would be nowhere near where we are today. A handful einsteins can push theory forward, but to actually apply theory on a scale that has impact requires a large workforce of cooperating competent, if not genius-level, intellectual workers (and the manual labor to back them up.)

That is who this article is about.

Ah, this again... (0)

Millennium (2451) | about 3 years ago | (#35630052)

The old idea that people working in some specific profession produce nothing of value to society. How many times over the years has it been used to blame innocent people for society's problems, usually in preparation for a movement to purge the scapegoats?

Or, to put it another way, should we be saying this of geeks who go into teaching, especially at the primary level? It is true that they're unlikely to have the time (and, in this case, resources) to invent The Next Big Thing or make The Big Breakthrough. But truth be told, even for those people who go into engineering or research, how many people ever manage that? The answer: not enough that a few more minds working on the problem are likely to make much of a difference. Even in today's increasingly anti-intellectual society, we still produce enough great minds that we can spare some of them -enough, in fact, to accommodate all who want it- to go off and do other things than research and invention. And even if we did not, those minds are not wasted. Society still benefits when those minds go into other fields, just in different ways.

Re:Ah, this again... (1)

skids (119237) | about 3 years ago | (#35630370)

we still produce enough great minds that we can spare some of them -enough, in fact, to accommodate all who want it-

Not if you ask recruiters in many industries.

What is it with the "breakthroughs"? Don't people realize that many exceptional engineers don't invent, they implement? There's a lot of types of work between "grunt level" and "oracle of knowledge." In fact, in a properly engineered system, most work is done in the midrange where you need a lot of smart actors to do things other than paint fantastic pictures of the future.

The problem (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630078)

Five years out of school and working as an engineer, I make a mid five figure salary. Friends I went to school with who now work in finance make low six figures.

America is not interested in keeping its innovative edge.

Wall Street IS "all the world's problem" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630080)

Problem is they are going to work for the wrong team.

Invested so much resources??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630096)

"This is the talent that our country has invested so much resource in producing."

If this were true then engineers such as myself who now work for a financial institute would not have left college massively drowning in debt. You think we all wanted to move on to work for a finance company rather than working in a research lab or more innovative company? The fact of the matter is the all mighty dollar draws us in because of the massive debt that college placed on us after we left. This country did not invest ANYTHING in producing resources like us. Thats the major problem, you want these people to go elsewhere how about actually investing in them and ensure they don't have to make a decision based on the money.

Reality check, we go where the jobs and money exist so we can live a good life sooner. I'd rather not be paying my loans off and just getting by for 30+ years when I can pay it off in 10 years. Its a quality of life issue and the people bitching about Goldman and company sucking up talent have done nothing to improve the quality of life for this talent. Its not like they cant, how about investing in there debt and requiring a certain number of years from them early on. Beat these institutes to the punch.

Two outstanding explanations of what happened: (4, Insightful)

rwyoder (759998) | about 3 years ago | (#35630098)

1. RollingStone: "Why Isn't Wall Street in Jail?": http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-isnt-wall-street-in-jail-20110216 [rollingstone.com]

2. "Inside Job"(2010): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1645089/ [imdb.com]

After reading/watching these, I found myself wondering why I spent all those years accomplishing nothing in IT, when I could have been robbing banks from the inside with no worries about being prosecuted.

Listen to your betters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630120)

Good to know that you can work your ass off getting through a tough engineering or physics program and then be told where you should make a career, or better yet, have someone crap all over you because you aren't doing what they want you to do. These guys aren't just having a pile of money dumped on them and they sit back and idly code away. That is a very high pressure and cutthroat environment, and they pretty much know what they're getting themselves into. Heaven forbid that some of them might even find modeling and trying to solve complex nonlinear systems to be intellectually satisfying as well as coming with a nice paycheck. It also isn't the case that if they don't follow a career in financial analysis that they'd be out saving the world. The ones who stay in the field, the ones who don't go into nice academic positions (remember, we're referring to the cream of the crop ones here) still enter as engineers and physicists into industry working on the same things most of their colleagues are working on, most of which isn't save the world stuff.

And who is to say that you can't save the world from within the financial sector anyway? A while back it was fashionable to blame the physicists on Wall Street for ruining the economy (those guys running the investment companies were just poor saps duped by those crafty scientists, and really are blameless for what happened). My favorite was in the 90's, Orange County went bankrupt and the Robert Citron, the Treasurer, blamed the physicists. Turns out that he was making all his financial investments based on consultations with psychics and astrologers.

dollar = empirical something (1)

gordblair (2026202) | about 3 years ago | (#35630128)

Engineers can't push 5% real growth year over year, but banks who can print-up money can push 20%+ pseudo-revenue. Make the dollar a literal of something (oil, eavestroughs, carpets, metal, something as long as it's real) and watch banks magical profits turn to nothing. Why be a General Motors engineer where they can't empirically push 6% real growth year over year even working with an army of assembly line robots, yet General Motor's finance arm which received massive bailouts regularly boasts 20%+ pseudo-profits? Think bitcoin, when you have a hyperinflatable fraud-currency as the basis for 'profit' and Wall street can literaly print numbers out of thin air, watch what happens....

Please recall what happened 100 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630130)

In Switzerland, the best graduates of their technological institutes
proposed to the best students workplaces there.
        Very fortunately, Albert Einstein and many other individualists
went to other places.
        Our science and industry need all the kinds of people,
from anarchists to yes-men.

Re:Please recall what happened 100 years ago (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 3 years ago | (#35630232)

In Switzerland, the best graduates of their technological institutes
proposed to the best students workplaces there.

        Very fortunately, Albert Einstein and many other individualists
went to other places.

        Our science and industry need all the kinds of people,
from anarchists to yes-men.

I am pretty sure nobody "needs" yes-men. Except executives that plan on running their company into the ground and getting out with their bonus before the shit hits the fan, or using their golden parachute.

Government Gave Engineering Jobs to H1-B Visas (1)

Shuh (13578) | about 3 years ago | (#35630132)

If an H1-B visa guy has your job in the electronics industry, where else is an engineer to go?

Pay and Future potential! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630152)

I'm a graduate from a top 10 engineering school in the USA. Wall street didn't come to recruit anyone in our program, but if they had, I'd ask:

a - Current salary
b - Advancement potential
c - In 5-10 yrs, can I take my skills elsewhere or to my own company

With most engineering jobs, "a" is low, "b" is promised, but seldom delivered, and "c" is impossible.

In finance, "a" would be high. "b" would be unknown and "c" would definitely be possible. With what I know about systems and investing, I think I could write software to help investors and/or traders. Sure, it isn't easy and without any "finance" background, nobody would pay me for it.

I'd be the finance route every time now that I'm in the middle of my career. When I started, I refused to take military engineering jobs. I was an idealist. Over the years, I've learned to enjoy stock investing, but I resent many "finance people" because their lives appear overly easy for the effort required. Petty, for sure.

these things go in cycles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630160)

The software industry is working off the glut of grads who went into the business during the boom years of the '80s and '90s, many of whom had little talent for it. Some have since moved on to other fields but many others are ensconced as managers in big software firms, helping to choke off innovation with their endless meetings and bug report spreadsheets. In many companies, platoons of these middle-aged managers work at home 2-3 days a week - what useful work can a manager accomplish at home? For the last eight years or so, though software has lost its attraction for many college students, who are now more interested in traditional professional fields like law and medicine, and hot fields like finance and biology. Good. Let the masses go elsewhere, maybe we'll get our critical mass of people who actually want to come to work on Monday morning and help create something new.

Pay them. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630206)

What it really boils down to is society as a whole values that third luxury yacht more than something as trifling as clean water, based upon what each pays.

But wait, it gets better. Society also says that those with the ability to bring us into the 22end century should toil away in middle-class respectability while the financiers engage in a bacchanalia unlike any other time in history.

We pay those who are adept at twiddling their thumbs or some other related physical feat millions, as well as those who entertain us from paying attention to the very real, pressing needs on the planet, and have the gall to wonder why the best and brightest pursue other career paths.

Yeah, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we just won't be here to see it.

Maybe... (1)

benjamindees (441808) | about 3 years ago | (#35630220)

Maybe these firms are just trying to limit the Fed's ability to inflate the money supply by preventing technological advancement and productivity improvement? They're really doing us all a favor in encouraging monetary responsibility. Think of it this way: if you worked on inventing some widget, it's value would just be stolen by the Fed's printing press and redistributed to some bailed-out group of failed bozos. This way, you instead spend your time working on models and bottles, monetization is kept in check by rising inflation, and we let the losers fail as Adam Smith intended.

Screwed in Finance (2)

Foofoobar (318279) | about 3 years ago | (#35630226)

I just finished working for a Hedge Fund management company that 'merged' with a larger company in Denver. They were all Windows with 10 engineers (sys admin and developers) and we were LAMP and I was doing everything. At first, theirs was a typical response to that stack reacting like a deer in headlights and not wanting to touch it but then they decided that it was important to integrate the systems and get rid of the redundant IT (IE me). But since I ran everything and got tremendous results (employee of the month and such) their only option was to try and make me look bad so they tried to say it was my attitude and my emotional response to which I let them know I was bipolar and on medication and seeing a counselor regularly for several years and high stress situation (like mergers) made the condition worse and I was trying to correct for that but they needed to be accepting of a condition that is seen as a disability.

Long story short, both HR and upper management then colluded, ignored my requests and I documented everything and they were investigated by federal agencies. A year later, we settled through federal mediators for a years salary.

In the end, I found out that they were just a good old boys network and one person would protect the other to protect the other to protect the other. Lies upon lies upon lies to cover their asses. In talking to others, this is typical in finance. If this is something that you want and like in your employers, I say go for it. Otherwise stay far away.

this is nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630256)

The dream ai that will find the most effective way to organize society of the future is on its way to becoming reality. What everyone is refusing to believe is that the way it will manage the flow of information is the same way it has always been done: through enumerable tokens of exchange (aka money). And for all it's complexity, Wall Street is in the business of going through an iterative process of becoming that AI. If you think that's not an engineering endeavor, or an endeavor which engineers should aspire to be part of, then you are not an engineer.

And nothing of value was lost! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630280)

Who is to say that these 25% of MIT grads would have really done anything meaningful in an engineering field anyway?

Just because MIT is known for having a few sharp pencils in its box doesn't mean that all MIT grads are that way.

Last time I checked (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 3 years ago | (#35630318)

Math geeks weren't used all that much to "develop new types of medical devices, renewable energy sources, and ways for sustaining the environment and purifying water". Medical devices? Biomedical engineers and physicians. Never mind the added taxes on these devices now. Renewable energy sources? Theoretical physicists and material science people. Sustaining the environment? Don't throw crap in the water. Purifying water? Again material science and don't throw crap in the water.

Math geeks historically have been used for cryptography (forward and reverse), ballistics (before and during the development of computers), and in the case of one Nobel laureate, John Nash, to develop economic theory.

IMHO, we'd be better served by severely curtailing athletics budgets in this country. Beyond that, severely capping class action lawsuits, changing of venues thereof in order to find sympathetic juries and awards thereof would go a long way to relieving the millstones hanging over everything produced and the loser pays.

As far as finance goes and the whole mortgage crisis, ask yourself why the mortgage system worked fine and dandy for decades before it blew up. Mortgage-backed securities were invented in 1981 and CDO's were invented in 1983. When you have government officials in direct collusion with activist groups threatening the small banks to issue risky loans, did you really think they would sit there quietly and take it up the a$$? As for why companies like Goldman Sachs isn't in jail, show me one law that they've broken (violations of someone's moral code doesn't count) and remember how many millions they contributed to the election campaign of the current administration. Why do you think that GE posted billions of dollars in profits yet this administration not only isn't going after them but is in fact embracing them and steering tons of subsidy money their way?

The pattern I've noticed... (2)

DavidR1991 (1047748) | about 3 years ago | (#35630346)

(here in the UK, at least) ...is that actually, the ones who get sucked in by the finance sector easily are the ones who talk a good talk (and seem to do plenty of ass licking) but aren't any good at the technical skills.

I'm not just saying this because of sour grapes or anything like that - it does seem to be a trend that the jerks who everyone dislikes (or the jerks that are awful at working in a team) get picked up by financial firms. So to be honest, 'nothing of value was lost' springs to mind

the problem is rewards (1)

rpgdigg (2027406) | about 3 years ago | (#35630360)

The problem is an example of what is happening in STEM (Science, tech, engineering, math). Various folks say we need more students in these subjects, but there aren't so many great jobs on the other end. Not as many jobs, say, as those studying finance and business. The system doesn't really reward people graduating in these subjects (at least not those people going on to create new technologies, as you suggest). That has to change.

Just go there and earn something (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35630374)

I can talk for science, physics - you work hard, make quite interesting things, and of you are good, people in the field respect you very much. But your salary rises linearly, at best and has a cut-off. There's no difference here between a brilliant scientist and average one, the brilliant one is not financially rewarded.
So I urge everyone smart to simply _run_away_ from the (academic) science. It is a system designed by enthusiasts (and great minds) who cared about making progress for sake of progress, and their own curiosity. It works for greater need but doesn't really doesn't care about the individual. YOu will be only working ant. Also your boss takes nobel prize if you ever reach that level. You have zero chance of becoming rich, because they pay you just enough to have a pleasant life, not a dime more. Governments don't care. There's influx of chinese etc. and they all find condtions better then in their own country.

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