# Career switch from Engineering to Finance/Quant. Am I too old for this?

#### XJR

Hello everyone...About myself: I am currently 32 yrs old and working as an Industrial Engineer. Received BS in Mechanical Engineering in 2001. Completed MS in Industrial Engineering in 2005. Since then I have been working as Industrial Engineer.

I have excellent mathematical skills. I have been thinking of making a career switch to Quant. I am very much interested to do MFE than MBA. If I start MFE in Fall 2012, then by the time I finish the program I will be 35 yrs old.

Is it too late for me to make the career switch at this age considering I do not have any financial experience? I am planning to take CFA level 1 in December 2011 to help myself gain some knowledge.

#### Jim

I'm not a financial engineer, but I think it's very important to worry about the possibility of NOT landing a financial engineering job.

Personally, at the age of 35, there might (I don't want to assume anything about you in particular. Talking about how I'd see myself at that age) be other things to worry about if you have a family. Because the financial engineering career field doesn't seem to provide much of a safety net that a 35-year-old might need in his life. From what I've seen, a lot of people end up not finding jobs in finance, or end up switching careers to a different field because (1) they find to too stressful, and (2) they couldn't deliver.

Everyone wants to move into this field. As Paul Wilmott, says, who in the world builds bridges nowadays? This is a field where the money seems easy and quick. There's a lot of competition out there that might not provide the stability that I'd personally want during mid-life.

#### Jim

At 32 I find this industry offers MORE stability than others I've stumbled into, but ymmv.

If you feel the need to ask this question (about any industry, really), I would advise against pursuing such a career.

Starting out at an analyst level (associate if you're lucky) you will need to do your time, take your licks and damn well better "want" it.

5 years on Wall St. and it would be a near impossibility to use my (extensive) engineering background to fall back on, at this point - something to think about.

+1 I like what you said about starting out at an analyst level. I think it may also take a specific type of personality; I'd hate to get my ass kicked and supervised by some dude that's ten years younger than I.

#### lordvid

I'd hate to get my ass kicked and supervised by some dude that's ten years younger than I.

I don't want to take this too much off topic from the OP's premise--but I am wondering about this too.

I have noticed 2 things very prevalent in financial jobs--very very young people in, to put it bluntly, positions of authority, and a real culture of unnecessary rudeness, bullying, putting down-edness, contempt, etc etc. Mentorship and mentor-mentee on-the-job guidance are practically non-existent.

I am wondering why this is?

Is it because ultimately, this job is totally pointless in the grand scheme of things for the company, to the extent that a 20-something-year-old nutjob can run the show and run it like a frathouse?

There is also more bullshitting in finance than every other job put together, but that is only to be expected.

Consider the converse to the OP's question--suppose today, a 32-year old starts off at an engineering company, as an entry-level engineer. His/her boss will most likely be 50-something. The relationship will be one of an older, more experienced mentor, and a young grasshopper. The grasshopper will be much much better than his/her boss in terms of math, programming and whatnot...and indeed, will impress his/her boss by showing these skills off. The boss will be more experienced handling clients...in fact, the grasshopper's first meeting with clients will be more than likely a disaster, and the boss will have to quickly put out fires....with a stern meeting afterwards about controlling yourself in front of clients. Slowly, the grasshopper will learn how the industry works, how there is more to engineering than being a mechanics ace and an AutoCAD ace....and how in life, math plays second fiddle to client ass-kissing, skilful manipulation of contracts, etc etc.
The boss probably makes something comparable to a VP at GS....and the grasshopper maybe 15k less than an entry-level associate at GS...

So why can't you have a comparable relationship in the quantitative financial workplace?

#### amanda.jayne

Mentorship and mentor-mentee on-the-job guidance are practically non-existent.... So why can't you have a comparable relationship in the quantitative financial workplace?

They do exist. On Wall Street such people are called "Rabbi's".

Nonetheless, it is still possible to get stabbed in the back.

To pass on advice given to me my first week on the Street: trust no one but yourself.

#### Jim

To pass on advice given to me my first week on the Street: trust no one but yourself.

This part of the street really scares me. And this is fact, coupled with the high-stress environment, means that it's very possible that I end up extremely unhappy because of things outside of my control.

#### Anthony DeAngelis

Aggression, rudeness and jerkish behavior tend to be something you have to learn how to deal with on the street. You don't get such high pay for nothing. No free lunch.

#### Andy Nguyen

This part of the street really scares me. And this is fact, coupled with the high-stress environment, means that it's very possible that I end up extremely unhappy because of things outside of my control.
Welcome to Wall Street.
This is why a lot of people end up extremely unhappy no matter the relatively high salary they make.
When you see people fresh out of undergraduate talking about wanting to be a Wall Street trader after MFE program, they are set up for a rude wakening.
This is an industry like no other where people eat your lunch/cut your throat and brag about it publicly like a badge of honor. Most people don't stay in their job for a long time so mentorship is rare. It happens but rare.
This is why they also say this is a young men game because once you reach a certain age and have family to take care of, you can't take the same risk anymore.

Again, why this is a surprise for anyone at all? If people care to read a few books about the culture on Wall Street, this is rehashing old news.

#### Jim

Welcome to Wall Street.
This is why a lot of people end up extremely unhappy no matter the relatively high salary they make.
When you see people fresh out of undergraduate talking about wanting to be a Wall Street trader after MFE program, they are set up for a rude wakening.
This is an industry like no other where people eat your lunch/cut your throat and brag about it publicly like a badge of honor. Most people don't stay in their job for a long time so mentorship is rare. It happens but rare.
This is why they also say this is a young men game because once you reach a certain age and have family to take care of, you can't take the same risk anymore.

Again, why this is a surprise for anyone at all? If people care to read a few books about the culture on Wall Street, this is rehashing old news.

The general idea for a lot of people here, though, is that they can quickly get in and get out after making a couple of million dollars before they reach the age of thirty. I honestly admit that I've dreamed of this possibility as well. But the more I read into things, the more unrealistic of an opportunity this widely sought-after goal appears to be.

#### lordvid

They do exist. On Wall Street such people are called "Rabbi's".

Nonetheless, it is still possible to get stabbed in the back.

To pass on advice given to me my first week on the Street: trust no one but yourself.

This thread was getting depressing, thank God for your reassurance that they do exist! Call them rabbis, vicars, priests, imams, who cares

As for stabbing in the back, to be fair--that's part of human nature with some people, and you find it everywhere regardless of industry, nationality, whatever. I know it can be especially vicious in academia and it occurs more than you'd imagine...but maybe given the type of person that goes into finance, maybe it is more prevalent?

#### Andy Nguyen

The general idea for a lot of people here, though, is that they can quickly get in and get out after making a couple of million dollars before they reach the age of thirty.
What are we supposed to say to those people? "Good for you"? "Remember the year 2000"?

#### lordvid

The general idea for a lot of people here, though, is that they can quickly get in and get out after making a couple of million dollars before they reach the age of thirty...the more unrealistic of an opportunity this widely sought-after goal appears to be.

This would appear to contradict the fact that a large fraction of MFE students are in their 30s....no, not posters in their sophomore year dreaming up get-rich-quick-now schemes....but committed, enrolled students.

#### amanda.jayne

This would appear to contradict the fact that a large fraction of MFE students are in their 30s....no, not posters in their sophomore year dreaming up get-rich-quick-now schemes....but committed, enrolled students.

Really?? Where??

I must have missed that memo

My experience with the NYC programs (both full and part-time) has been that I am definitely in that third sigma band. <20% >30yrs would be my guess but I'd be curious.

@Andy Nguyen I don't suppose anyone publishes stats on admit age demographics?

#### Joy Pathak

##### Swaptionz
This would appear to contradict the fact that a large fraction of MFE students are in their 30s....no, not posters in their sophomore year dreaming up get-rich-quick-now schemes....but committed, enrolled students.

Not true. Most are in the 22-27 age. Either fresh out of undergrad or 1-2 years of experience. Very few are over 30. Some might be in the 27-30 range with 2-3 years working back office and are trying jump up. There are some part-time who are in the 30-35 range, but very rare.

#### lordvid

Really?? Where??

I must have missed that memo

My experience with the NYC programs (both full and part-time) has been that I am definitely in that third sigma band. <20% >30yrs would be my guess but I'd be curious.

@Andy Nguyen I don't suppose anyone publishes stats on admit age demographics?

By "NYC", did you mean anything besides Baruch? Do you know the profiles of students at Columbia's program? Or Princeton's program, or MIT's program for that matter?

#### boneil

By "NYC", did you mean anything besides Baruch? Do you know the profiles of students at Columbia's program? Or Princeton's program, or MIT's program for that matter?

I feel like an idiot posting this (probably because I am), but 2 of those schools aren't in NYC, and therefore don't really add much to your argument. Unless you're trying to prove that amanda doesn't know what she's talking about and to that I say ad hominem attacks are NOT WELCOME HERE! (p.s. you're stupid).

#### boneil

Welcome to Wall Street.
This is why a lot of people end up extremely unhappy no matter the relatively high salary they make.
When you see people fresh out of undergraduate talking about wanting to be a Wall Street trader after MFE program, they are set up for a rude wakening.
This is an industry like no other where people eat your lunch/cut your throat and brag about it publicly like a badge of honor. Most people don't stay in their job for a long time so mentorship is rare. It happens but rare.
This is why they also say this is a young men game because once you reach a certain age and have family to take care of, you can't take the same risk anymore.

Again, why this is a surprise for anyone at all? If people care to read a few books about the culture on Wall Street, this is rehashing old news.

Can't it be said that there's likely a great deal of hyperbole in those works of, dare I say, "fiction?"

#### Ken Abbott

##### Managing Director
Wow. You all seem negative. Really negative. While there's some truth in every post here, I think I can make a few statements based upon my experience as a trader and a risk manager.

1. There's plenty of mentorship going on, but you have to seek it out - It doesn't plunk itself down in your lap. I've had the benefit of some great mentors and I try to pay it back every day.
2. If you're only in it for the money, you're likely to be disappointed. Nobody starves, but it's hard to make the big bucks.
3. There are cutthroats out there, but they're usually quite obvious and can be avoided. If you're too worried about that you're likely to become one yourself.
4. Trading is a young person's game due to the stress as least as much as it is due to the risk. Both my highest highs and lowest lows came while trading.
5. Trading is also the hardest job I've ever done, bar none. A day being tossed around in the markets can feel like the first time you spend a full day speaking something other than your native tongue - totally exhausting, and NOT in a good way.
6. People claiming that trading is their career goal right out of college are generally clueless; they can't possibly know what traders do. Paper trading and playing with money from mom and dad in a few stocks don't count.

#### lordvid

I feel like an idiot posting this (probably because I am), but 2 of those schools aren't in NYC, and therefore don't really add much to your argument. Unless you're trying to prove that amanda doesn't know what she's talking about and to that I say ad hominem attacks are NOT WELCOME HERE! (p.s. you're stupid).

no ad hominem attack was intended. apologies if anything was inferable...it was not intended.

i'm just saying that you cannot generalize about student age distributions in programs generally based on Baruch's rather skewed age distribution, both in other NYC programs like Columbia...as well as other places.
if anything, joshi says that MFEs are increasingly done after PhDs....adn the typical PhD grad is pushing near 30.

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