When I graduated from Columbia University, I landed a dream job in technology at a bulge bracket investment bank. I still remember the day I got my offer asking me to join as an associate. It was one of the best days of my life and I literally couldn’t stop smiling for about a week. I was sold on the investment banking career path–challenging, numerous learning opportunities and significant growth, or so I thought.
After a year and a half of working at the company, it was clear that the system I was working on was archaic and simple enough to be maintained by a high school student. Instead of upgrading this legacy application, I saw my superiors consistently play the blame game, where as soon as a prod issue arose, the priority was finding a scapegoat as opposed to fixing the issue.
Thinking it was a one-off scenario, I decided to move to another bulge bracket bank, transitioning into a more quantitative role. Things were fine for a while though I always got the feeling that I was on the cost side and thus was somewhat of a second-class citizen as an employee of the company. Slowly, as I settled into the role, I began to see the political angles. The same work being done by multiple teams resulted in a dog-eat-dog work environment.
If that wasn’t enough, there was a big push to move everything into a multibillion dollar, in-house platform running on commodity hardware and antiquated design principles, where even the IDE was proprietary. In the age of technology, it felt like my company was actually moving closer to the Stone Age. The never ending red tape, lack of tech knowledge and lack of interest in exploring and adopting technologies was frustrating, so I started interviewing again. This time, I was determined to find a tech-centric company that was smaller but still stable.
I began to look at start-ups. After interviewing at a few, I stumbled upon Eyeview. Their business model looked very interesting and they had a highly analytical approach to targeted advertising, which was a perfect fit for my background in machine learning. While interviewing and learning more about the position, their technology stack and challenges, I was sold.
The experience has been amazing so far. Not only is the work fascinating, it’s a very cool place to work at, complete with an old Nintendo and a Stella brewing machine. Working with and developing on the latest cutting edge technologies like Spark, AWS and Aerospike is an everyday thing here. Sometimes, it can be a bit overwhelming. But, there is always someone willing to sit with you and help you with whatever you need. It’s a team of really bright engineers talking about everything from Kappa architecture to Quantum physics, and it feels great to be an active participant in those discussions.
Things can move very fast here. Something may go from the whiteboard onto AWS within a matter of weeks. Experimenting with new stuff and owning your component is highly encouraged. Meetings are spent discussing solutions and workarounds, not passing blame and designing strategies to undercut a rival team. The company is serious about building and leading the category of outcome-based video marketing through superior tech and dedicated people, and they empower the technology division to truly succeed on that objective. Simply put, if you’re a good techie, it’s a great experience.
Now, I consider myself lucky in a different way. Although it wasn’t on my list of “dream jobs” when I graduated, I found a company that doesn’t make work feel like work, but rather like pursuing a passion and getting rewarded for it. In my experience, this stands in stark contrast to the investment banking world that I thought I wanted to be a part of.
The main lesson here is that I had many expectations of what I thought I wanted at the start of my career–and even achieved them– but I quickly found that everything I had been striving for wasn’t actually rewarding or even interesting on a day-to-day basis.
Is this my final goal? I don’t know, but I certainly feel like I have taken a right step towards achieving it.