What does a financial engineer do?
Financial engineers straddle both the IT world and the finance side of things, so if you've maybe a bit of passion for IT, maybe for development, if you're technically based but also interested in financial products and markets, it straddles the two in a unique way which is nice in terms of getting exposure to different backgrounds. At the moment I'm working on a client site in Dublin where there may be 40 people as part of the team where we are effectively implementing lots of different financial products. I'm heavily involved in the testing side of things, so once our developers and analysts implement various changes and begin to build different financial products throughout a range of asset classes they need to be tested rigorously in order to ensure that the products work as expected in a testing environment before they can be signed off and reviewed and agreed that they're working effectively by the business. Then we're able to launch them into the live production environment.
What skills are important to be successful?
In terms of hard skills, if you're analytical or IT oriented or have a development background, they're all necessary strengths. However with the training First Derivatives provide on site and in the headquarters in Newry, I've never found people found wanting in terms of their hard skills. These are skills able to be learned by people from all different backgrounds, so we would have people from law backgrounds, engineering, financial and personally coming from an accounting background myself. There is a real blend in terms of the hard skills and I wouldn't encourage you to be put off by thinking it might be too technical or anything like that. What I found is much more important is your soft skills, your communication skills, your general level of awareness, and as funny as it sounds, just having good manners and good etiquette is very important.
What do you love about your job?
The opportunity to travel and the dynamism of the range of exposure you get in your day to day work. I worked in South Africa for 12 months and I had always been in Belfast growing up until I joined First Derivatives, so to be able to live in South Africa and experience the culture was incredible, but more than that I was able to do an incredible amount of travelling around that continent.
What advice would you give a first year student?
Get as heavily involved as you can in student societies. I probably got the role in First Derivatives because when I was in university I was heavily involved in a society called Enactus, which is in all the major universities and financial institutions. It's a social enterprise where you come up with different charitable projects. It gives you more exposure and experience of organising events, of dealing in a different professional context than you would in your typical part-time job. During university you would maybe have a sporting team, a part-time job and your undergrad. If you can also fit in a student society, which all universities have and which are interlinked with IT and finance, it will only take a couple of hours out of your week and will give you that little bit more when it comes to your interview.