I had a meeting with someone I met on a course who is in a similar position and we discussed the kind of employee roles we should/could be looking at. It helped clarify some of my own thinking. This post is an attempt to bring together a couple of threads. Firstly I should state some basic values and needs distilled from an earlier post. Then I’m going to drill into my experience and background, and consider what I am good at and enjoy. Then I am going to state my current career goals for employed work.

Values And Needs

  • Short Travel Time to full-time work (< 1hr) Or WFH AT LEAST 2 days a week.
    • OR work Part Time ( to allow more time to improve tech skills / work on Plan B )
    • OR work Contracts With Breaks
  • Income: 40-70K

The lower end is higher than I thought was the absolute minimum. I came up with this range by putting together a Budgetsplit into priorities, and then putting the corresponding monthly amounts of take-home pay through this Salary Calculator to get a Gross Income. To be fair, there are some things that could be trimmed off the Bills estimate to get to a lower Survival Income, but bear in mind that I’m assuming my Wife is covering most of the groceries ( and stuff )  and the dreaded school fees. Obviously, anyone earning less than this and “surviving” is just going to laugh at this, and quite rightly, but it does highlight that you need to earn quite a bit in this country to support a family of 5 on what people would think is a basic standard of living. And then you need more if you want to pay off any of the mortgage, put money in a pension, or god forbid, save any money for a rainy day.

Required Gross Income Yearly Monthly Weekly Daily
Bills 38,466 3,206 740 148
Mortgage Repay 45,967 3,831 884 177
Pension 58,724 4,894 1,129 226
Savings 71,940 5,995 1,383 277

Next, it’s worth restating where I’m coming from and why:

Exit Statement

My career to-date has been in Equity Risk IT  in Investment Banking. The last role at Morgan Stanley was moved to Budapest so I was given this great opportunity to have some time off and explore new options.

Elevator Pitch

I have 18 years experience working in Equity Risk IT as both a developer, manager and team lead. I’ve performed a variety of roles in my career and I’m well used to working on the full life cycle of projects and systems in a delivery focused environment. Over the years, I’ve specialised in a number of core functions, particularly Valuation Risk, and I founded, built out and evolved the Mark Review function in IT for the Equity Derivatives Business. I’m an accomplished global team worker and communicator, and a typical day would involve collaborating with IT colleagues in London, New York, Hong Kong or Budapest, and with clients across Valuation Risk, Firm Risk Management, Equity Trading, Finance, Quants or Operations. I particularly like solving problems for my clients and working with them to enable and improve their business processes. I’ve been told by my clients that I provide them with excellent support, and I’ve been told by people who have worked for me that I have been a great coach. Lastly, I think the longevity of my career at a demanding Firm demonstrates that I am an adaptable, motivated and delivery focused employee. 

I’m looking for a similar role in IT that is in line with my career values which are:

  • Building, maintaining and supporting software and systems.
  • Working in teams on the full life cycle of projects and systems.
  • Solving problems for my clients and working with them to enable and improve their business processes.
  • Having a sense of ownership of ‘my’ systems and ‘my’ clients.
  • Doing work that improves my skills in a measurable way.
  • Generate enough income now and in the future in a way I can enjoy.
  • Have enough time to progress my other goals in life.

 

ideal-job

 

Job Roles – the Product Owner – the Expert Generalist

The conversation with my new friend was, we realised, largely about the types of job roles in Finance IT. Reflecting on my role in recent times, it was as it has largely always been, made up of a number of roles:

  • Product Owner
  • Systems Owner
  • Business Analyst
  • Technical Data Analyst
    • Investigating, defining and solving data issues
  • Application Support Analyst
  • Team Lead
  • Systems Developer and Tester

I am the proverbial Jack of All Trades ( though I’m pleased to see that the internet thinks this is a good thing ). I like the phrase Expert Generalist.

That said the common denominator in these roles for me is Ownership. I found myself drifting into lead roles largely to fill a vacuum and take ownership. It’s surprising how people are less keen to do that in IT. The kind of ownership I am writing about is facing off to clients, and infrastructure groups, and IT managers, taking ownership of issues, and needs and things that need to get done. Product Owner is the description I feel most affinity with. All the other titles are subsets of that. It’s about having an understanding of the vision and the direction and the priorities of what needs to be done. Owning systems and delivering products and resolving issues naturally follows from it.

To some degree what I’m describing is also an argument for small teams. You have to be Expert Generalist when there’s no one else available to get things done!

We felt that a lot of Finance IT development roles are moving offshore. I described a possible trend towards hiring Business Analysts who are performing a large part of the Product Owner role, working with an offshore dev team.

I’ve observed the following roles performed by a  Business Analyst and they overlap a lot with those I’ve described above.

  • Product Owner
  • Faces off with Clients
    • Defining Projects
    • Owning and Coordinating Projects
    • Capturing Requirements
    • Defining Priorities
    • Understanding the Business Function/Process
  • UAT for Clients
  • Issue Owner
  • Escalation Contact / Primary support Contact for Clients
  • Technical Data Analyst
    • Investigating Data Issues, e.g. writing q queries in kdb
    • Creating Jiras, Defining Business/Functional test cases

What Kind Of Developer Am I?

My colleague was finding it hard to get interviews for Developer roles. “What kind of developer are you?”, I asked. Personally, my career has been in Product Ownership and my Computer Science training has been ‘on-the-job’.  It means my development experience is in:

  • Designing Data Flows between Systems
  • Functional and Process design, i.e.
    • What do we need to build for the Business?
    • How should this work to support the Business?
  • Adding Features to Systems
  • Fixing Issues
  • Implementing Infrastructure Upgrades to code bases and hardware
  • Testing and Coding for weekly analytical library releases

Although I may have specified what new systems should do and designed a chunk of them, my experience has not been in breaking ground on brand new code projects and coming up with the software design patterns. Like me, I think my friend should not be going for Senior Java Developer roles which imply a lot of experience in this.

What Kind Of Project Manager Am I?

A similar question can be asked about Project Management. A Product Owner by definition does project management. My style works best on short timeframes (<6m) and focuses on:

  • Prioritisation
  • Short Iterations
  • Finding the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • Defining how long the MVP will take and how it fits in with our Roadmap and Vision.
  • Working in an environment where, on the whole,  Cost ( i.e. Resource ) is fixed,  and Time and Quality ( e.g. Functionality) are most flexible.

I’ve done it but I have not enjoyed project management on a larger and more formal scale. My brain views a Gannt Chart as pretty much an unsolvable problem. In practice, the development process I’ve used in my teams seems is closest to Kanban and is described in more detail here.

What Are My Current Career Goals?

IdealJob

 

  • Generate Enough Income Now And In The Future In A Way I Can Enjoy.
    • How Much Income Is Enough? 40K appears to be the absolute minimum but this can be put to the test.
    • I’ve Enjoyed My Career To-Date So I Know I Enjoy:
      • Building, maintaining and supporting software and systems.
      • Working in teams on the full life cycle of projects and systems.
      • Solving problems for my clients and working with them to enable and improve their business processes.
      • Having a sense of ownership of ‘my’ systems and ‘my’ clients.
      • Doing work that improves my skills in a measurable way,  e.g. improve tech skills – measurable by writing notes and reusing, improve my systems and product knowledge – e.g. by being able to answer the question next time or solve the problem more quickly.
    • Instinctively I gravitate towards being a Product Owner and Expert Generalist, and will seek out the types of IT roles that support these descriptions:
      • Product Owner
      • Systems Owner
      • Business Analyst
      • Technical Data Analyst
      • Application Support Analyst
      • Team Lead
      • Systems Developer
  • Have Enough Time To Progress My Other Goals In Life.
    • How Much Income Is Enough?
      • Short Travel Time to full-time work (< 1hr) Or WFH AT LEAST 2 days a week.
      • OR work Part Time ( to allow more time to improve tech skills / work on Plan B )
      • OR work Contracts With Breaks
    • My Other Goals In Life Are:
      • Study Piano And Music
        …because I’ve worked hard already to get to the point where I sang and played at my own Wedding, I am studying Grade 3, and I want to be able to perform for others with confidence.
      • Study Software Development And Build My Own Apps To Demonstrate Progress
        …because I would like to feel like I am a more skilled coder rather than a maintainer of code or someone who mainly works through others.
      • Progress In Weight Training
        …because I’ve worked hard,invested over a year in following a planned program, and I am making real progress.
      • Go Cross Country Running With My Dogs 3 Times A Week
        …because this is how I like to do cardio and I need to exercise my dogs for their health.
      • Progress In Decluttering And Decorating My House
        …because I believe our lives and minds are better with less clutter and because there is decorating and maintenance that really needs doing.
      • Spend Time With My Family
        …because I have grown used to being at home and available to them, and in the past, when they have been out of sight they have been out of mind. I know I am not good at staying connected with people that I am not around.
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