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Hey guys, I have a quick list of questions that I hope you could provide some insight for~

I have a pretty good background in IT (for a guy my age) - worked in several good IT companies, got a BS and an MS in IT Management. Then suddenly, I decided I wanted to switch!

I went and got an MBA in Asia, in International Business (I wanted Finance, but they didn't offer that in English). Upon graduating, I've found getting a Finance job almost impossible. As such, I've started preparing to take the CFA level 1 exam, but that is not until December, and it would be nice to get a paycheck before then! :)

My questions are here:

1 - Does the CFA exam really help get a job in Finance?

2 - What can I do (in spite of or because of) my IT background to switch into the industry?

3 - Any other tips about what Finance people look for when hiring a newbie?

Just curious~

EDIT>> I just heard a Wall Street Journal Podcast about MBA vs. work and that has spawned a 4th question for me (sorry).

4 - Is it possible that employers will think that all of my degrees are just an excuse to avoid working? :shock:

jhack's picture

Most accounting work involves computers. Many computer systems exist to support finance and accounting. There is tremendous overlap between the fields, and yet there are few folks conversant in both.

Consider finding a job supporting, maintaining, or developing financial/accounting systems. Your multiple degrees would be seen as assets. And you could use that experience as a springboard to move into the area you truly enjoy.

John

bflynn's picture

I don't want to discourage you. My experience with moving into finance may not be encouraging. As background, I have fifteen years of IT experience and an MBA in Finance.

In the United States, I have found the finance and accounting industries to be as insular as health care when it comes to hiring experienced people. If you want to be in a non-entry level job, you must have prior financial experience and school experience doesn't count. This is true even for jobs that have nothing to do with finance directly, such as an IT auditor or software development manager. I can understand a preference for prior financial skill, but they are making it a requirement.

It is unfortunate for them because they have a tougher time hiring and wind up paying more when they do hire. Selfishly, it is unfortunate for me because it translates into fewer opportunities.

My fear is that you will find it very difficult unless you're willing to accept an entry-level job.

Your experience may differ.

Brian

skwanch's picture

We should probably differentiate here between 'Accounting', ie. keeping the company's books, and 'Finance', ie. managing the company's investments. (Those are my distinctions, not necessarily 'industry standards'). There's also raising capital via various financial instruments, which would probably also fall more under 'finance'.

They're two separate disciplines and it would be helpful to understand which you're interested in. Based upon your CFA interest, I'm guessing it's 'Finance'. If so, you should be ready and willing to take an entry-level role - that's just better for the company and for you. There's more to the field than can be taught, and the company should rightly be timid about handing over money to an untested manager - better that they have some track record before they do so.

eagerApprentice's picture

Thanks for all the great responses - this is indeed a good community~

I also realized that I'd probably have to take an entry-level role as well, which is a bit of a blow to the ol' ego, but I guess that's the price of switching industries... besides, as mentioned, it's probably the best for both me and the finance company if I start at the bottom... most likely an Analyst or what-not.

The surprising thing, however, that is causing much confusion to me, is that even with my MBA and some experience, an entry-level role is proving to be very hard to snatch. I'm not sure why that is, either... perhaps they think I'm too old? (I realize that is not easy to say in the US or other western countries, but this is Asia so... I guess I'm not sure. :wink:

Either way, I'm hoping that passing level one on the CFA will help, but it seems odd to have gone for several months and not have gotten a single reply for an interview... makes me think that perhaps I'm doing something wrong... and it makes it a bit hard to believe that one test could suddenly change my luck...

juliahhavener's picture

Have you been through the resume podcast? Are you highlighting your previous accomplishments and how they relate to the change you're seeking?

eagerApprentice's picture

Ah - good question! I have done that, and I've had a finance HR rep look over it, but the whole process was a bit hurried to make a submission deadline. I should go back and review.

Thanks for the recommendation~

bflynn's picture

[quote="eagerApprentice"]I also realized that I'd probably have to take an entry-level role as well, which is a bit of a blow to the ol' ego, but I guess that's the price of switching industries... besides, as mentioned, it's probably the best for both me and the finance company if I start at the bottom... most likely an Analyst or what-not. [/quote]

Review your resume and make sure the marketing message you're sending is "I want to work in Finance." I believe managers are probably having trouble getting past your previous great experience to think of you as an entry level finance person and not an experienced "whatever" person.

Consider removing some things from your resume to make yourself less in terms of your previous job. You're probable creating confusion with all the stellar experience in a different field. And, a CFA or similar financial certification course couldn't hurt.

Ultimately, I was able to get an offer on an entry level finance job, but with a family to support, it wasn't possible to consider the offer. Setting aside the hit to your ego, the hit to your wallet is probably what employers are more concerned with.

Brian

mpolino's picture

I have to agree with John Hack. I've actually swapped back and forth a couple times between an IT centric role dealing with ERP software and various Accounting roles. I'm currently the CFO for a division of a publicly traded company.

Both Accounting and Finance have huge needs for IT centric folks who can move between disciplines. You mentioned entry level but there's entry level as in AP Clerk and that probably won't get you where you want to go. Then there's entry level as in junior analyst which should be possible given your background.

An IT style role supporting financial software also opens a lot of doors. It puts you in regular contact with the finance folks and gives them a chance to see your work.

If you're following the Manager-Tools way you won't have any problem moving up.

Follow everyone else's advice about the interview casts and other resources. They are phenomenal. What continues to blow me away about Manager-Tools is that so many of these things don't even have to be done all that well to really make you stand out. Of course if you do them well, its phenomenal. But even if you have a few false starts or don't get a few things right away you still look so much better than all the other managers who don't even know what to try.

Mark Polino

asteriskrntt1's picture

My buddy who won our gold medal in the MBA program started in IT. Did a Masters in Comp Science, worked in that field for a number of years, then decided to do an MBA in finance over becoming an actuary. I am eternally grateful he chose this route as we would not have become friends if he had gone actuarial.

After graduating from the MBA, he continued working in IT and looked for a finance job. He finally found one at an insurance company (asset liablity management role) and took a serious income drop (mainly as this company is known for not paying anyone well except the senior actuaries). His total compensation package went from about $140,000 to just over $100,000.

He decided to enrol in the CFA, just completed that, and now the company has asked him to take over a senior IT role. Now I doubt he could do this IT role without his finance background, so it all worked out, although circuitously. It is doable. (BTW, when he told his wife he was going back to the IT side, he ended up sleeping on the couch for two days! :lol: )

US41's picture

[quote="eagerApprentice"]I've had a finance HR rep look over it[/quote]

I don't know a thing about finance. But my experience matches up with the MT soap box speeches about how to find a job. Networking, relationships, friends, past coworkers, cousins, in-laws, neighbors, etc are the path to your next job, whatever it might be.

Forget about HR or going through HR departments. Let the people who are helping you deal with that stuff.

Do you know someone in finance? Maybe someone you know knows someone in finance somewhere and they can help you get placed in a job that will give you a leg up?

Reach out to recruiters also, and work use the suggestions in the podcasts about dealing with recruiters.

More than likely, someone you know somewhere knows someone working in banking, mortgage brokering, investment advising, or something somewhere having to do with finance to get you into that world.

Another possibility is to join a large company's IT department and seek the job from the inside rather than the outside. Make friends with the people in finance. Get shifted over to the application groups that support finance, and start going to lunch with your clients. They will eventually put a job out there for you.

Any IT person practicing MT principles will make themselves a target for hiring rather rapidly, ime. Since I started working things such as the Solution for a Stalled Technical Career podcast, I have been offered multiple opportunities to move to marketing/sales and leave IT.

eagerApprentice's picture

You guys have given me some great advice in this thread, I must say - sorry not to respond rapidly - I had no idea that MT forums were so active!

I know your advice is good because many of the things you suggested I've either found to be true by myself or taken from your posts and realized some gains with. I do believe that there is a door to finance for me through IT - I've had a few interviews and all of them have been for Financial software (which I do believe would give me a nice look at the nature of the industry as well as provide a doorway into Finance if I wanted it) and as an analyst for the IT/Telecom sector.

I've also found that the analysts and bankers in my social network have been much more helpful than my HR friends... which surprised me actually, but does probably give M&M's disapproval of HR some more merit.

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences as well - it's good to see that others have been able to successfully do what I'm attempting here - as for that podcast about IT careers... I need to go back and listen to that! I have no idea how I missed it.

I've been continuously tinkering at my resume as well - one of the biggest constant problems is that everything is put into IT terms and not Financial terms. I have to go back and re-listen to the MT podcast about that too. Yikes... I have a lot of MT to listen to!

Just out of curiosity, how long do you all recommend a resume to be? 1 or 2 (full) pages? I feel I can do a 2 page resume, but some people swear to me it is wrong to try it.

James Gutherson's picture

You do have some MT to listen to - Find the resume casts - they are not all in the interview series. One of Marks strongest points is ONE PAGE, ONE PAGE, ONE PAGE

eagerApprentice's picture

Heh heh heh, glad I asked - I think I might need to start taking notes when I listen to these podcasts! :)

jhack's picture

Paid membership includes all show notes, ready for use.

:wink:

John

eagerApprentice's picture

Ah I know... I've been debating with the cheapskate in me about buying them - it's a bit hard to convince myself to buy anything when I'm not working and living in Hong Kong... pricey pricey... but they really do help?

icepisces's picture

Hi, eagerapprentice.....
im from singapore..and im an eagerapprentice myself too...i worked as an engineer in semiconductor field for over 1.5 yrs...now im pursuing cfa level I (jun 08), hoping to get into equity analysis or work in a asset management company one day. I have difficulties getting an entry job in finance now cos i hav no relevent qualifications/exp....

now, i need to find out, if cfa is enough to kick start a new career, or do I need more than that.....

dbobke's picture

Did your past IT positions report up through the Finance organization? This is quite common in mid-size business. If so, you can probably leverage some of that experience of reporting into the Finance organization - but it really depends on if you had a management role in IT.

shamwise's picture

Hi my situation has led me to read this particular post very very carefully. I just graduated with an IT degree from top Uni in Canada and I have about a years worth of exp. I am sick of the field I am in and have registered for CFA Level 1 in December. So much so I have quit my job and am moving back home from Canada to look for a job as a Management Trainee in a bank. I am originally from Pakistan so I will be looking in the area and in the middle East. Any suggestions warning etc. Do you guys think I will have a problem landing a management trainee position. My friends in the same trainee position say they know ppl with Literature and Political Science that got into the program i.e. not finance or eco. I am hoping the same will work for me. Oh yeah and I have a concentration in Math, hoping that helps, what do you guys think?

sharecafe's picture

Hi ,

I am an also an engr for telecom BSS/OSS with M.E. from top Univ. in Beijing , 12 yrs' experience in a world leading vendor .Is CFA sufficient to transfer ? I am prepared for the exam L1 in June,2009 .

Appreciate your comments.

Thanks,

J.

eagerApprentice's picture

Hi all! Little update - I did well on the CFA level one test, but won't be taking the level 2 (I heard that's VERY difficult, whereas Level 1 was a review of my college experience).

The reason is I'm quite happy with my current job - although it is still IT-related, it is managing the IT function for the entire business, across the organization.

I want to say, the CFA was a GREAT experience, and I recommend that for anyone - even if they aren't thinking of switching - there is simply no replacement for being able to understand what the heck people from Finance are saying/writing the first time, without needing constant clarification for all of their terms and Acronyms. :wink:

[b]ABOUT YOUR QUESTIONS[/b]
From my experience, from meeting with many headhunters and recruiters, it seems that it is easier to switch to Finance from IT when you are younger, because you have to start from the very bottom, and if you're older many recruiters don't think you can handle that... but this is just a VERY general bit of feedback from my own limited experience.

Apprentice_finance's picture

Thanks Eager Apprentice. This thread has helped me so much.

I'm 26 years old with 4 years of IT experience and its hard to take a cut in paycheck. I guess I'd rather make the switch now than wait till I"m 30 years old :). Thanks everyone for your valuable inputs.

bendjamin's picture

I think the major reason to pursue the CFA credential would probably be if you want to enter consulting. From personal experience, the CFA credential lends credibility to the non-actuarial community. In consulting, if you are speaking to the CFO of an insurance company, for example, the CFA credential may in fact mean more than the FSA designation.

I think personally the CFA exams are of incremental value in terms of study time. My prior employer paid for all study manuals and seminars for the CFA exams. I also got 40 hours of paid study time.

I would not recommend the CFA designation if you plan on staying in an insurance setting throughout your career. Nobody in an insurance company will care much if you have a CFA designation.

Just my 0.02. Feel free to PM me with any other questions relating to the CFA designation.

Sorry, it's my work - [DELETED - sorry, MSA] , please don't delete

biladam's picture

If your interest is towards consulting, then you should go with CFA. The CFA exam can add additional value in your study and experience, but its exam preparation is little bit expensive.

I was also looking to move with CFA, as I also have 5 years computer background. After consulting with another experienced person, who is already working in this field, I decided to go with erp software deployment and consultancy.

My computer backgound is helping me a lot to work with ERP software like oracle and sap.

diem's picture

You should also consider which qualification is going to be most appropriate. Being based in the UK my knowledge of your locally accepted qualifications may not be 100% accurate, however initial reading suggests that CPA would be most beneficial if you want an investment analysis / research role.

An alternative would be a qualification from (say) AICPA, which appears to focus more on management control (audit, financial control etc). 

anise's picture

I think you can have too many qualifications.

The funny thing is most accountants change to something else, never heard of it the other way.

Good Luck.

Heather Smith

sandeeppampati's picture

hey guys i have a question:

i have 4 years of IT experience in the insurance vertical, i am planning to take up CFA this year, i wanted to know the job prospects and how difficult will that be to shift from IT to finance role(cfa)

brock173's picture

 Look for a personal finance software that provides its users with the tools needed to manage stocks, bonds, mutual funds, 401K, etc. Personal investment options within the software will also allow you to plan for retirement, home purchases, how to manage collage expenses, debt relief and other financial goals. we have good Mutual Funds software for your investment.

sandora's picture

If you are having degree in IT and willing to do finance for better job opportunities it is no doubt you can opt. It will also be more beneficial. An extra degree will also help you to switch job dpending on your interest.
Regards,
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jookilp's picture

Personal investment options within the software will also allow you to plan for retirement, home purchases, how to manage collage expenses, debt relief and other financial goals.

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jookilp's picture

I think personally the CFA exams are of incremental value in terms of study time. My prior employer paid for all study manuals and seminars for the CFA exams. I also got 40 hours of paid study time.I would not recommend the CFA designation if you plan on staying in an insurance setting throughout your career. Nobody in an insurance company will care much if you have a CFA designation.

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jookilp's picture

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jookilp's picture

I also got 40 hours of paid study time.I would not recommend the CFA designation if you plan on staying in an insurance setting throughout your career. Nobody in an insurance company will care much if you have a CFA designation.

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dony_22's picture

 Upon registration, the curriculum eBook is available online or to download to your personal computer, iPod, iPad, or iPhone.

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tim_tay's picture

 Have you been through the resume podcast? Are you highlighting your previous accomplishments and how they relate to the change you're seeking?Have you been through the resume podcast? Are you highlighting your previous accomplishments and how they relate to the change you're seeking?

 

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