Is computer science the best degree for a banking technology job?

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If you’re studying computer science, you might think you’re in with a good chance of getting a technology job in an investment bank when you graduate.

Banks certainly like to hire computer scientists for these roles, but my own experience suggests you’ll find some significant gaps in your knowledge.

You won’t be able to answer the behavioural interview questions

A significant portion of the technology interviews involve a behavioural element. Banks want to know about you and about your soft skills, and if you’re a technologist this can be tough. What will you say when you’re asked to talk about a situation when you worked in a team, or where someone didn’t pull their weight, or how you’d react to uncovering a colleague’s malpractice? You need to know because these are the kinds of questions that crop up, and HR departments complain that students aren’t prepared.  

You won’t be ready for the teamwork interview

Banks will also want to see that you can communicate effectively in a team environment. If you’re studying computer science, you’ve probably participated in a lot of group projects, but this doesn’t mean you’re prepared for this element of the banking interview process. – The style of communication in these group projects is very different to the way you communicate in an interview setting.

Banks’ teamwork interviews typically consist of reading a case study and then communicating your thoughts to the rest of the team, or taking sides in a for-and-against style debate. Technology degrees don’t really give you much practice in communicating your ideas effectively to an audience and this can be awkward to navigate in an interview.

In the teamwork session you’ll also need to be able to very quickly read and process a large amount in information in a short amount of time, andto structure an argument around the points that you may need to attack or defend it.

Degrees like engineering provide much better preparation for this style of debate.

You won’t understand all the old technologies banks use

Banks are often a few years behind the rest of the world and still use the kinds of technologies that have fallen out of fashion elsewhere.

Most technology degrees will teach you the more common and newest technologies, but won’t teach you about older tech in much detail. – Could you really work in a legacy system in C for example?  

You won’t really understand all the different technology jobs banks have

Banks’ technology jobs aren’t just about coding. For examples there are roles as business analysts (who talk to stakeholders to help establish the problem and the solutions required) or in UI and UX (which look at how users behave and try to devise solutions optimized to user behaviours). If you’re applying for front end technology jobs in banks, it will also help to have some knowledge of financial products and financial markets. Just because you’ve studied computer science, don’t presume that you understand what will be required.

Caspar Jones is a recent computer science graduate who's interned in the technology division of a major investment bank.

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