After working at JP Morgan for about five years, Sameer Syed began to realise that he wanted to move on in 2012.
But Syed didn’t just want to change banks, roles, or switch out of investment banking. He wanted out of finance altogether.
“Working in a bank is safe,” he told Business Insider. “You get paid well. You know what to expect. And it’s very much the same thing every day. It’s much more secure.”
However, Syed didn’t see himself sticking with corporate finance.
“I had always been interested in tech,” he said. “It was an area that I actually would have liked to have covered, even in finance, but the opportunity just wasn’t there.”
So Syed decided to make a change. He started networking, submitted some applications, and eventually lined up a few interviews. Unfortunately, whenever he received the opportunity to interview with the founders of a tech startup, he always seemed to run into the same roadblock when it came to his CV.
“They didn’t understand a word I was saying,” Syed said. “They were like, ‘Oh wow, this guy’s super finance. Probably not going to be a good fit. Probably not the right guy for what we want to do here.’ I was so used to creating the finance résumés and talking about deals and transactions and the millions of dollars that we’ve helped raise for companies. No one really cares at startups.”
He was overusing financial jargon, both in his interviews and on his résumé.
“I struggled a lot and then I met some folks through my networking who were also ex-bankers who were working at startups,” he said. “They gave me advice: ‘Take some of that stuff off your résumé. Simplify it. Put it in terms that a normal person can understand who doesn’t work in finance. You have to really translate your financial skill set into something that can be valuable at a startup.'”
Eventually, those suggestions paid off. Syed landed a job at a startup. Today, he works in strategic partnerships at Google and hosts a quarterly roundtable called Wall Street to Silicon Alley, a group that helps financiers transition into the world of tech. Syed said that since he’s switched industries, he’s been inundated with requests from people looking to make a similar change.
He has some advice for how financial professionals can avoid scaring off tech opportunities on their résumés: Emphasise your skills in terms that anyone can understand.
“If you’re talking about a financial model that you built, you can talk about all the detail that went into building that model, and understanding the business that you’re translating into that financial model,” Syed said. “Talk about how you analyse data and how you look for trends. Those kinds of things are important to startups. You can go to an operations role at a startup and maybe apply some of those skills.”
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