The technology department at Goldman Sachs is not only one of the biggest divisions at the Wall Street giant, but it’s also one of the most crucial.
The firm executes millions of trades on exchanges all around the world and none that that would be possible without a technology infrastructure that could scale and support that type of volume.
And of course, one way to secure a job in this division is to intern for the summer.
We spoke with Hari Moorthy, a managing director and technology fellow at Goldman. Moorthy is the global manager of margin risk for prime brokerage, futures, clearance and execution in Goldman’s global securities services division.
When he’s evaluating a candidate for a technology department position, he told us that he looks for three key skills — technology background, analytical skills and communication/leadership.
Those, he explained, fundamentally cover a large gamut of skills that they look for in the technology department of Goldman.
He added that they also emphasise innovation and using cutting edge technology for those who work in the technology division.
Moorthy also told us what an intern can do to impress him and the biggest mistake they can make.
We’ve transcribed our Q&A with Moorthy below. (Note: This has been lightly edited for clarity).
JL: Can you talk about your background and how you got to where you are today?
HM: I joined Goldman in December 2007. I joined into the margin technology group within prime services technology. Prior to that, I worked at a firm called CheckFree Investment Services, chief architect and of software development, focusing on their strategic software development within that division.
JL: Can you describe what the typical day is like for an intern in your division? What sort of responsibilities do they have at Goldman?
HM: Sure. Part of our motivation within the intern program is for them to get to know us and for us to get to know them. So in that spirit, we actually give them full responsibility for them to take them through their project which normally takes them about eight weeks. One of the things we do prior is define what kind of project they have to do so that they can actually run through the entire lifecycle of that project. That includes giving them a requirement for what they need to deliver, developing the software, testing it, productionizing it, talking to users, so they get a complete flavour for everything that have to do if they were working at Goldman.
JL: How do you decide how much responsibility to give an intern?
HM: Within the context of the eight weeks that I talked about, we want them to get a flavour for enterprise software development practice. It’s easier for an intern to say I’ve developed a particular piece of software, but developing it in the context of a bank and making it production quality is very important. So we do give full responsibility for them to the extent that they can take it and we want them to be successful in that framework.
JL: How about preparing for an internship in this division. What sort of skills does somebody need?
HM: I think broadly speaking, I would actually say that about three major skill sets, if you will. Obviously, technology background. This being a technology division, you would expect interns to have some idea and basic course work in that regard. The second broad category I would mention is analytical skills, right. You know understanding what a particular data set would mean within that context. And then the third broad category I would say is communication and leadership — The ability to interact in a fairly big, complex organisation.
JL: For someone who is interested in interning in the technology department, what classes should they take in school? How do they prepare for an internship?
HM: As the name implies, as it’s all about technology, having basic coursework in programming languages such as Java or C++, having coursework in data structures and data-based technology would be useful and then brushing up on basic capital markets knowledge would also be useful.
JL: OK, just going back to the more day-to-day stuff? What’s the work day like?
HM: I think it’s no different from employees, we really strive hard for them to be part of our family during their stay and make sure that they get the same level of time from their senior managers and peers to they feel really like part of our family.
JL: Do you mentor interns in your division?
HM: Yes. That’s one of the major programs that they’ve instituted in our division. We have a formal mentorship administered and organised by our Human Capital Management department. We also have an informal network of buddies who had been interns at the firm at some point in time spending some time with interns. I can’t emphasise how much time our senior management within our division spend to make the intern program successful. To illustrate that point, this year we started a half a day long hosting of interns. And pretty much the top 40 of our senior managers, all MDs, have spent time with interns explaining what each our divisions within technology have been doing and the direction they’ve been heading to. So yes we do take the intern experience and internship very seriously at the senior level of this division.
JL: So I want to talk about intern advice now. So in your opinion, what’s the biggest mistake an intern can make?
HM: I think the biggest mistake is when a person is stuck with a problem or a problem appears to be to complex or too huge, not talking to someone else for advice or seeking help. To me, that probably is the biggest mistake because a person can spend a lot of time trying to understand on their own time. That’s something that would be easily available from somebody else’s prior experience and knowledge.
JL: What’s something that impressed you about an intern?
HM: I think innovation, right. Looking at a problem in an entirely new way and solving it within the context of enterprise technology I spoke about. You know, technology is evolving at a very high speed, you know, and it’s actually very difficult to catch up. To the extent that they have understood the problem they’re trying to solve and they are able to look at it in a brand new prism, that’s very impressive.
JL: If I was an intern in the technology division, what would be a good way to stand out?
HM: I think completing the project at hand in the best possible manner and also going a step ahead and seeing how to best to change or innovate within the context of that project. It’s always good to look at the problem in a brand new way… that would be a standout.
JL: What advice would you have for an intern who really wants to get a job offer from Goldman?
HM: I think doing the best possible job within that project context that the intern is working on and hitting that out of the park is probably the best advice I’d give. After all, it would be at a firm where actions speak louder than words…
JL: We have a very competitive job market out there, so what are some of the details which make a difference on a résumé or in a job interview?
HM: I would use the same classifications I spoke about earlier. Technical skills — illustrating prior experience or prior coursework any sort of familiarity with the technology background the person has had would be really useful. And then, the second one is difficult to explain in a résumé, but very important in an interview is to display analytical skills. Obviously, learning a piece of technology is useful only if that is applicable in a real problem in a real scenario. And then the third broad category is all about communication and leadership, right. The ability to convert a thought process into an actionable system within the context of our firm requires a lot of leadership and communication.
JL: So in an interview, do you test them on analytical skills?
HM: Even if it’s not an explicit question in an interview, I would always advise them to demonstrate that aspect of their ability and skill. So kind of showing what sort of work has interested them in the past and what they have done. It’s one of the important skills that would differentiate a great intern from a good intern.
JL: Just in case people aren’t familiar, can you speak to how crucial the technology department is to Goldman Sachs?
HM: I think the technology department does two major, among many things in my opinion, two major functions — One it serves as a way to improve efficiency and process. Another one is to act as a control function in our ability to understand and appreciate the entire business model that Goldman has. So it’s very crucial and we have senior business leaders confirming that often and often again.
We have been doing these Q&A’s with Goldman managing directors. You can check out our investment management division managing director Q&A here. Up next is the securities division.