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A day in the life of a London bank's software contractor

5:45am - Alarm goes off, time to get up and get ready
6:30am - Head to bus stop
6:40am - Bus to train station.
6:55am - Arrive at train station, purchase coffee.
7:15am - Find seat on train
7:30 (ish) - Train heads off to London - usually read a book or the Economist or similar.
8:30ish - Arrive at London Bridge train station
8:35 - Head to tube stop to grab the tube over to Canary Wharf
9ish - Arrive at desk at bank (sometimes with Krispy Kream in hand)
9-noon - Work on software and meetings with stakeholders
12ish - Head down to canteen and grab some lunch - if it's a Friday go for the Pie, mushy eas and chips.
12:15 - Eat at desk whilst working.
12:30 - Work on code, meetings etc.
Fridays: 5 - head home.
Very good day - 5:30/6 head out the door (maybe grab a pint on the way with other team members).
Regular day - 6:30/7: Head to tube station.
Not so good day: 8:30: Head to tube station.
6/7/8/9pm: Grab train back home.
7/8/9/10pm: Get to station and grab bus home
7:30/8:30/9:30/10:30pm get home.

Some Saturdays I'd be in the office from around 10am until 3pm.

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poor fellow......by the time he finishes reading his economist i just woke up, and by the time he gets home i already went to gym and had dinner with my family. also eating at your desk is gross....i hope he gets paid a fortune to compensate him for the lack of life.
also eating at your desk is gross
What other options would you suggest?
Go out for a long lunch while your coworkers labor away at their desk?
Would you like to stay in the long line at the nearby lunch places and then trying to fight for a seat?
Would you want to sneak into the bank's cafeteria and pick what they have to offer?
Would you like to seat on the outdoor patio?

Depends on your job, desk, not all of them is a viable choice.
What other options would you suggest?
Go out for a long lunch while your coworkers labor away at their desk?
Would you like to stay in the long line at the nearby lunch places and then trying to fight for a seat?
Would you want to sneak into the bank's cafeteria and pick what they have to offer?
Would you like to seat on the outdoor patio?

Depends on your job, desk, not all of them is a viable choice.

I choose option number 1.

...I should really write up my own "a day in the life" thing. My story will create an explosion in the number of MFE applications!
Seems to be a 2 1/2 hour commute each way, door-to-door. Just the rail component seems to be one hour. Looks like he's living 40-60 miles away from London. His season ticket must cost a fortune.


Quant Headhunter
London contractors commute long distances suprisingly often. One guy I know lives on the Isle of Wight, which means he has to catch a ferry to the mainland before he can catch the train.

Typically contractors do earn more than permanent staff, but on the quant/dev side it is often the other way round. They are also paid usually by the day.

Banks canteens are in my experience pretty good, I suspect I've eaten at more of them than anyone else, and my call is that the HSBC one is the best.
GS canteen in London is the best..at least, it used to be.
DB canteen is terrible.

My choice is Wanchai noodle shops in Hong Kong. excellent local food lunch for a price of 5 USD.
At least, it helps New Yorkers realize their commute is a breeze compared to fellow Londoners ;)

They are roughly comparable. A 2 1/2 hour commute one way is something of an anomaly. One hour or an hour and a half would be more usual. If you are living in New Jersey or Staten Island, I think it can take an hour and a half. The problem with London is the unreliability of the Tube (London Underground). Cancellations and delays seem to be the rule rather than the exception. And road traffic seems to be more congested. I don't know about now (it's probably worse) but average speed on the M25 during rush hour used to be 4 miles per hour. In this regard (and in others) I wonder if any European city is as bad as London. Maybe Rome or Athens? I don't know.
Since I'm the OP I am more then happy to answer some further questions on the above (obviously within reason). Daniel you're right, it does sound mostly like catching trains and to be honest that is how it felt for the 7 months of the contract ;) however I will endeavor to expand on my role below.

So distance commuted:

bigbadwolf - Yes you're right, it was about 60 odd miles. I was commuting in from Sussex each morning to give you an idea. I had to get to the bus stop, then to the local train station, then obviously into London. If you missed a bus then well.. ughs. Especially if it was raining.

To add to that, there were folks coming in from Staffordshire each day as well which was a haul.

Thinkdifferent - Yeah eating at your desk isn't much fun. However when you are sitting in an office with a lot of full time folks who know the contractors are on a lot more than them, you tend to feel like you are "taking the pi$$" of you stroll off for a long lunch - especially when they are bitching about other full-time team members who aren't pulling their weight
One thing I did notice was that, with there being a number of consultants and contractors in our area, some of them get a frosty reception when they rocked the boat somewhat.

Also to add to that, we billed for every hour we worked, so over-time and short lunches made sense, especially if you wanted to head off early on a Friday.

As for the actual content of the work.

I was developing software that was going to be rolled out to the various teams in all the countries the banks had offices in. This meant TC's with folks in Hong Kong and Mexico for example.
As a by-product of that, it wasn't unusual to stay late to catch a call with folks in NY for example.
Our work days were pretty intense in that we had a lot of coding to do and testing. Thank god for my ipod, which thankfully we were permitted to use.

My specific role was integrating the new software into an existing delivery system. This in itself was fairly interesting although you soon come into contact with bank I.T bureaucracy which has a habit of slowing the job down somewhat.

As for compensation (since it was brought up) the money was very very good and made the contract well worth it. I'd happily do seven months a year and take the other five off if it was guaranteed ;), but the bank certainly got its money worth.

As a side note, working on a Saturday afforded me an excellent view of the Red Bull stunt plane event over the Thames one Saturday which was pretty good fun.

Also I have to say, I was lucky in that, the project involved two phases. Around halfway through the project we had a break of about a month, whilst the SME's produced documentation for the next phase of the project. I took advantage of that month and spent it in France which was great.
The second half of the project though was pretty intense with a tight time-line and huge amount of work, but the month in France helped! I can see how people get burnt out.

All in all I was with the bank for eight months, a month of which was off, the other seven working.

Hope that sheds some more light on the role.
OP, there is evidently more meat in your follow up than your original post. Mind if I append them together for an article on our front page?
This is really fun reading what people do at their job. Maybe I'll share mind at one point ;)

Andy - No problem, go for it :).
Sounds like a horrible commute. My day is similar but I live 25 minutes from work right by the City so I I have a heap of free time compared to this guy.

Also Canary Wharf isn't the City.