back to article A short, sharp tool kit to get you to the top in financial IT

Congratulations, you’ve started moving up the food chain. But there is still a long way to go. Having been an occasionally competent head of IT at a midsize City firm after working my way up, I’d like to share with you things I should have known then. These are the lessons I’ve learned at some cost to both my employers and …


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  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "Good ideas" and jail time.

    Something the like of Enron seemed to have trouble balancing.

    As ever an entertaining (if somewhat ruthless) read.

    But is Jake really your long lost American brother?

  2. IHateWearingATie

    Great stuff

    Understand the rules and play by them. Don't try and change the rules of the game until you're sufficiently senior.

    If you don't agree, you won't progress!

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Great stuff

      On the other hand, if you play at agreeing, there won't be any progress!

  3. Risky


    I assume your next article would be "Situations when a BA will be useful" but if you're paid by the word it it's going to be worth bothering with.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: BA?

      A Bullshit Artist is always useful aren't they?

  4. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    @ Risky...

    If it helps... I can't think of any either ;-)

    Seriously though - a good BA should be worth his weight in gold. The problem is finding BAs of that sufficient weight and calibre as in my not inconsiderable experience the profession seems to be degrading to the same standing as "recrutiment consultant" in that it is the career of choice for professionals who can't actually handle a career at the cold hard coalface. That, or it's where you are going when you can't be either (A) fired, or (B) made redundant.

  5. Caff

    when the fan is hit

    I especially like the bit about the lightning rod. I wish more managers acted that way during issues with mission critical systems instead of acting like a headless chicken and interferring with staff trying to fix it.

    Fix first disect later and prevention after that, the blame game can go jump.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: when the fan is hit

      Lightning rodding works at multiple levels - I'm a senior tech with a couple of engineers below me and the tech director above me. I'm not strictly a manager, but I take the crap that the engineers below me don't want to (be it due to complexity or arsy/upset clents), and they cover the low hanging fruit work for me when I have something bigger/better/etc to work on.

      Tech director appreciates us all taking the work from him when required, and generally backs me up when I come up with crazy plans for future business etc.

      You don't have to be senior management to have these things work for you.


    this is not

    how Google works ...

    1. Midnight

      Re: this is not

      By an incredible coincidence, Google is not very successful as a bank.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great article as always.

    However, does anyone proof read it? ;)

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: Great article as always.

      "Get yourself off the critical path. Do it now. Hello? Why are you still reading this? Go away and make sure no time-critical task is on your shoulders and come back here when this is done."

      The proof reader took Dominic's advice.

  8. Arachnoid


    One should always remember some folk are "promoted to the level of their incompetence" so needed a good team behind them to hide the fact is even more paramount so its best to stay away from these types.

    And on the subject of employees, on all levels from lowly shelf fillers up to cloud breathing Adonises there are always shirkers and workers and its always better to surround oneself with more of the later than the former.

  9. Getriebe

    Excellent - them and us!!

    Cracking article. As a senior manager in a big IT firm I agree with damn well all that you have written

    I like this

    Any good book or course on leadership has “integrity” as a key virtue, being trusted and trustworthy. I’m not so naïve as to say you should never lie, because I see integrity as a capital asset. But to have value, your lies must be surprises rather than what people expect of you

    'cause that is how I operate. Also smile as you lie

    I also agree with protecting your chickadees from irrational rantings from self important and truly important people. The chickadees remember.

    Also my subtext is always about empowering my reports. I always carve out some time every week to check they can do their job.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think you're confused.

    You quote, indirectly, Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle and compare yourself to Sir Terry Pratchett (without giving him his deserved title.)

    On a separate note, I think you need to tip your editor a bit more...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      I prefer the 'defender' type.

      I've worked for both kinds: the ones who will stand behind you while on the phone (with an important customer who currently has no service) while you're trying to type a long, complex boot string into a console*, and one who stood outside the computerroom door and intercepted /all/ of the questions like "when will the system be back up**."

      * - It took the SA and CE several tries to get it right, with a power-cycle between each one.

      ** - Unfortunately, this started Wednesday morning and it was back up at 3am Friday.

  11. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Never let a BA near a computer system

    Unless it is switched off that is.

    One BA I had the dubious pleasure of encountering recently decided to execute an update to a critical table update (2500+ rows) right in the middle of a full system test. Isn't remote access via RDP a wonderful thing.

    The result was hundred of thousands of extra messages for the system to process.

    If the BA hadn't been two continents away (ironically in BA (Buenos Aries)) I would have given him a dose of verbals. Needless to say his access to the system has been removed.

    BA's are the bain of my life. There are many unprintable versions of what 'BA' stands for and none of them refer to British Airways.

    What I'd like to do to more than a few BA's. -->

    1. JeffinLondon

      Re: Never let a BA near a computer system

      You let a BA have access to a test system??

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sad commentary by a saddo in a totally fvcked up industry.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      where's the rest ?

      Dude. The title goes in the 'title' section. You're supposed to add your commentardry in the big text area below. You've put your title in the body section and without your actual comments we have no way to determine if you're as sad as you claim.

    2. Getriebe

      Colin old chap

      You misspelt fuck - it’s a u you need.

      fvck is incorrect

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As a permie I heard this all too often...

    > Do not promise anything at this stage, but be clear that the information flows both ways.

    > Since the message they must get is that successful delivery is rewarded by assignments

    > where they can get into a tech skill they desire or a business area they see as useful.

    I got bored of being led on in job after job regarding training and learning new skills so I went contracting: I doubled my gross and also became better at my job because I was tougher on myself regarding - yep, that word again - deliveries! That's what bosses want and that's why they were hiring contractors with enough of the required skills and a lot more bullshyte (as became apparent once they left and their solutions fell apart) rather than train up their permies.

    Having two young children means that it's difficult to find time to study new tech, but I'm hungrier for continued progress now than I was as a permie because I've got one of the best people on my case: me. I've found that getting up an hour before everyone else is the only way I can study in peace.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As a permie I heard this all too often...

      Yep, having worked for many years in IT in the City the methods the author speaks of are falling by the wayside as more and more self-first bullshit monkeys populate the management layers and the perks for those who deliver are non-existent. I also went contracting to avoid the pointless political crap. The days when senior people in IT had an ounce of ability and those who delivered were rewarded seem long gone. They are all now just back-stabbing spineless yes-men.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As a permie I heard this all too often...

        I couldn't agree more: in my current place there is little of the meritocracy for which some parts of the finance industry are famed. However, there do seem to be a number of old friends of the boss who surf the web for a lot of the day and keep the local coffee chains in clover.

  14. ecofeco Silver badge

    "We’ve all had bosses who seemed to take pleasure in being rude to juniors. Yet when I meet leaders, some of whom you’ve read about or seen on TV, they are unfailingly polite..."

    I have found this to be true time after time.

    The trick, as this article points out, is navigating between the bosses who will throw you under the bus and the ones who appreciate effort and results and will literally help you achieve them. Or at the very least, not interfere.

  15. OzBob

    Classic Dom.

    looks like the next chapter in "work politics for techies". Wish I had read this before I became a team lead and the lightning rod for many complaints.

  16. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    > third gripping hand,

    It's just a "gripping hand", unless you are a mutant motie with 5 arms.

    1. Midnight

      But on the third, gripping, hand it could just be poor punctuation combined with a need to overly explain a reference which might be unfamiliar to at least 5% of the intended audience.

  17. JeffinLondon
    Thumb Up


    As one who's was chucked out on his ear for violating at least one of these rules, I just wish I'd had this piece in my hot little hands a decade ago!!

    Seriously good piece..

  18. Eugene Goodrich

    Lovely article!

    Just wanted to say so.

  19. Joe Loughry

    Turn these into a book NOW.

    I hope you understand that I'm accumulating these articles in a folder. And regularly re-consulting them before I make career decisions. Having worked in both finance and aerospace, let me tell you the principles are surprisingly portable. A few word substitutions ('line' for 'traders' and 'security' for 'compliance' come to mind) and it matches the environment inside a large government/military contractor.

    Turn these articles into a book, now, and I'll see to it that a few hundred copies are bought by engineers at my site.

    1. Dominic Connor, Quant Headhunter

      Re: Turn these into a book NOW.

      Thank you Joe, the problem I face is that the market is flooded with touchy feely, "Careers" books with titles like

      How the power of positivity can tubocharge your career

      Unleash the superman within you

      Why you are man of destiny

      How any fool can be as rich as Bill Gates


      To ensure that readers knew what they were getting I'd need a title like:

      How to stop your career going tits up

      The Antifragile Career

      Shut the fuck up and code

      Politics for programmers

      The last one is actually a lecture I occasionally give...

      My current favourite title is "Memoirs of a Mediocre Programmer", since the best (sort of ) careers book I know is "My life as a Quant" which is about bankers.

      Wiley have offered to publish a book of mine, just so long as they get to keep >80% of the cash which is both standard and unacceptable.

      That means it would have to hit sales of 30,000 to be remotely feasilble, Your kind words imply that I might hit that, but 99.9% of books do not and however arrogant my tone on The Register, I'd be naive to just assume that I could be the 1/1000

      I could self publish and keep a bigger %, circa 60-70% of the cover price which means the number I'd need to sell would be a lot lower, but that would mean I had to do all the marketing and that can be a time vampire.

      Oh yes and I'd have to write it as well.

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