Sameer Syed believes that Wall Street alumni have a lot to offer the tech world — but he knows firsthand how hard switching industries can be.
Syed started off as an investment banker at JPMorgan, landing his first job as an analyst in 2007. In 2012, he left to join the realm of tech startups.
Today, he works in strategic partnerships at Google and runs Wall Street to Silicon Alley, an organization that aims to help other financiers transition into the world of tech. About 60 people attend each quarterly session.
When he was searching for his first tech gig, Syed says he made the mistake of almost exclusively talking about his financial background during interviews.
“They’re not interested in all that,” he says. “When you go to finance interviews, it’s very different. If I were leaving an investment bank and going to another bank or going to a hedge fund, I’m going to talk about the work that I’ve done in investments and the deals that I’ve worked on.”
So, what do hiring managers in tech want to hear about instead?
For the most part, they want to learn about what you think about their product and how you can help them improve and beat out their competitors.
“They want you to come into an interview and be able to talk about that,” Syed says. “Here it’s like you need to research the hell out of the company. Understand the competitors. Understand where the industry’s going. Understand why someone would want to be a part of this company. That kind of ties into ‘Okay this guy’s really passionate about our product. He really wants to be here. Let’s take him seriously.'”
It’s not just about coming in with great insight and ideas. It’s also about showing passion for the product.
“Passion is a huge part of it,” Syed says. “At small startups, you want to work with people that you really like and you want to work with people who are passionate.”