Q: Suppose a developer X works shorter hours and on the peripheral, and Developer Y works longer hours, and in the core modules of a complex financial system, and they join another finance company after 2 years. Does Y bring more value to the new team? Suppose both are smart, ambitious developers.
A1: Yes for a hands-off architect role. The intimate knowledge of the previous system are relevant and somehow “portable”.
(For the rest of this email, let’s assume it’s a developer role.)
A2: Yes if X’s projects are really, really peripheral, like database clean-up, wrapper scripts, high-level testing without touching java/c#/SQL source code.
Now suppose X does touch source code. Many trading systems have core components as non-web components, so if X only works on the web layer, then I would be worried. Similarly, if X only works on some nice-to-have reporting module, without any exposure to the core business logic in the system, I’d be worried too.
Actually a business intelligence module can have complex SQL logic and also technically challenging if data volume is huge. A complex SQL join often defines relationships between tables, so whoever writing the join knows that business logic. Now suppose the tables joined are the important tables (like positions, trades, prices, risk, volatility, model parameters) in a financial system, then that business logic is rather critical. In short, there are important value-adding work as well as a ton of unimportant work in the BI space.
Another role to avoid (for a hardcore developer like me) is non-developer roles like trading floor support or BA. I feel they know quite a bit about trader’s world, and also the IT world, but they don’t see the link between the 2 i.e. the implementation.
A3: the level of value-add depends on asset class. For equities (including eq-derivative) front-office trading, volume and latency are a real challenge, so pure generic technical experience might be valuable even without domain knowledge. I was told FX and Treasuries trading are similar. Note middle office and back office equities trading is said to be less demanding, so technical expertise is probably less valued. If our original question is about a high speed eq trading system, Y probably gets more exposure to the technical challenges.