Article by Riley Hutchinson, Practice Manager in Workbridge Chicago
I have been recruiting in the UI/UX market in Chicago for two years now, and recently have seen a huge increase in demand for developers and designers in the financial space. Right now, my client list ranges from huge trading firms like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, to companies on the verge of going public like Enova Financial, and up-and-coming start-ups with serious funding looking to build a product from scratch, like Avant Credit and Dough.com. For UI engineers, architecting the user experience of a financial product provides some really interesting challenges to solve.
Financial technology or fintech, as it is more recently known, has seen a huge increase in popularity, especially in Chicago which has historically been a financial hub. Most of these fintech companies are centered on taking the archaic, slow moving, and overly corporate stereotype out of the finance industry. In a recent article in ChicagoInno, an online publication focused on online innovation, Will Flanagan, General Manager, sited, “With the city's storied history of innovation in the financial service industry and its emerging tech and innovation economy, Chicago will play a critical leadership role in the evolving worldwide financial frontier.” From my experience, that couldn’t be more accurate, and because of it there are a few points worth considering when talking about a career at a financial company.
Engineers at trading firms are responsible for highly trafficked, low latency applications— companies recognize the high-pressure nature of this task and pay extremely competitive. This is, in part, why engineers rarely leave fintech companies. Their competitive salaries and overall benefits package makes for very low turnover.
Generally, there are two sides to working fintech that attract engineers searching for a challenge. First, there’s the task of taking complex – and arguably boring – B2B tools and designing them so that they’re easy to understand and navigate. Making algorithms, numbers, graphs and large sets of data look aesthetically appealing is a huge UX challenge. Then there is the UI challenge of exchanging money. Startups are popping up all over the place, making it easier and easier to make payments and exchange cash and with that ease comes an increased need for payment security. Ask any security expert and they’ll tell you constructing those secure channels is no easy feat. Additionally, any company where money is exchanged internationally brings with it many additional complex legalities and moving parts.
If you’re looking into a well-funded startup not only will you be compensated competitively, but you’ll also be able to build a product from the ground up. Sure, that comes with working at any startup, but the financial industry isn’t going anywhere any time soon— a financial startup is a safer bet than investing your career in the next deal website or car sharing app. Many people don’t like the thought of working at financial companies because they view it as working for “the man”, but the reality is the work done is relevant, helps people, fast-paced and always changing.
One of the most popular misconceptions surrounding fintech is the perceived culture or lack thereof. The common stereotype has been that financial firms and companies are overly corporate, out of date technically, and giant cubicle farms where you have to wear a suit. But that is no longer the case.
Take, for example, CME Group which uses one of the most cutting-edge Ruby on Rails stacks in the industry and has been at the forefront of obliterating that stereotype. Enova is another company that invests in their engineers and is very involved in the community. They host the Ember Meetup and senior engineers at Enova contribute to Ember on Github. Additionally, companies like Avant and other Ruby shops are putting a huge premium on company cultures and seriously investing in their engineers. They pride themselves on hiring smart people who can problem solve. Recently, I helped them hire a Notre Dame graduate with a couple months of internship experience at a very competitive salary solely because he was smart. To me, that seems like the most un-corporate move of all time. They’re confident they can fit him into their company structure as he matures technically. This candidate probably wouldn’t have been hired by a more traditional company because he didn’t have a ton of relevant experience. But Avant recognized his potential and snapped him up before their competitors.
So if you’re a UI engineer or a UX designer in Chicago or elsewhere, turned off by the idea of working for a seemingly slow-moving, out-of-date, and overly corporate finance company—it may be time to rethink your stance.
Article by Cory Eustice, Division Manager of Workbridge Orange County
“One interaction at a time.”
Everything that you do in business can be defined by this phrase, and one of the most important things that a business can achieve through interactions is their “hiring brand”. Your hiring brand is an extension of yourself and your business, and it can either open doors to potential employees for you or it can shut them out before you even have the chance to interact with them.
Building a hiring brand starts with having a clear and defined vision of what you want it to represent. Your brand could be as simple as a personal reputation, or as large as the representation of your entire organization. Do you want to be known as the company that constantly has open roles, but is a resume black hole? Or do you want to be known for having a continuous feedback loop in your hiring process that gives potential employees an enjoyable hiring experience? Obviously these are two extremes, but where you sit on the spectrum will either bring you topnotch candidates, or it will shut someone off to giving your company a chance.
As Division Manager of a technical recruiting agency, I deal with companies every day that find it incredibly difficult to attract top talent for their organization. The first thing I always do is dissect their hiring process and typically find that there is a breakdown in the feedback function of the process. Either candidates never hear back from the company, or they hear back in an untimely manner. Companies too often are drawn to solely focusing on their top targets, which causes them to let talent slip away and create an ‘outside looking in’ dynamic. What companies and employees forget is that everyone knows someone and that someone could be their next lead engineer, head of marketing, or vice president of sales. If you or your company left a bad taste in the mouth of a jobseeker, it can spread to their network and lead to individuals in their network not reading your emails or answering your calls without you ever knowing why.
The way I practice having a quality brand in my office is making it a point to get back to everyone within 48 hours, whether it be about a resume submittal or an interview. These simple interactions help build my office’s own hiring brand and make it easily maintainable. I get that everyone is busy, but taking the time to write a quick email can save you the headache of not capturing top talent down the road. I have worked with countless people looking for jobs that were so appreciative of the feedback they received, good or bad, that they later referred their friends and colleagues to me even if I didn’t successfully find them a new role. The fact of the matter is this – because my hiring brand has a quality reputation based on the experiences of the people I interact with, my hiring brand brought candidates to me that I would have most likely otherwise not found. I strongly believe building this strategy within an individual company can bring the same results.
Once your hiring brand is established, it is important to maintain it and ultimately expand it. There are various avenues a company can take that will do this. One of the most effective I have found is through networking events, like meet-ups. By going to meet-ups, you develop a face in the community and if you actually interact with the people, (I know, novel idea-right?), you can become an expert in that community on your subject matter. You can also take your brand a step further by either hosting your own meet-up or simply sponsoring one, which will give your company some type of interaction with a particular community.
I’ve seen the advantages of building a hiring brand and encourage you to do the same. In what ways has your company established its hiring brand?