Practically every major firm in the financial services field offers work experience programmes to give students a taste of the roles in technology they offer. These give you experience of what working in the finance industry is like, allow you to get to know a particular organisation and its business areas, and work on real projects with technology staff and fellow interns.
Spring week schemes are usually for first year students and, as their name suggests, typically last for a week over the Easter holidays.
Internships are geared towards second year students and will usually run over a couple of months in the summer before your third year.
Why should I do a technology in finance internship?
As many technology students may not immediately consider a career in finance, internships provide an ideal opportunity to "try before you buy" and decide if this is the right industry for you. The experience is also likely to be an asset when you return to study for your final year, as you'll have picked up extra knowledge along the way.
An internship is also an invaluable asset when it comes to future applications. Spring week students may be fast-tracked for internship places, and former interns are more likely to be hired by a bank than an external applicant. For this to happen though, it's important you make a good impression: a spring week or internship is as much an opportunity for an employer to assess you as it is for you to assess an employer.
What can I expect to experience on a technology work experience programme?
Before you're likely to get started on any serious work, it's important you understand the firm and the role technology plays within it. Presentations will touch upon the various divisions which make up the firm, ensuring you're not at a loss later on when you're given work to do.
To help you learn about the different areas of finance it's likely you'll spend some time shadowing people in various roles on both the business and technical sides of the firm. Use this opportunity to gain a feel for what the work is like on a day to day basis.
Often, interns are put together in teams and assigned small-scale projects to work on. In many cases, the aim of this is not only to provide you with some experience of actual work but to produce a tool or service that will go on to be used by the firm after your work experience is over.
Doing a job
Once you've settled in at a firm, most internships will remove the training wheels and give you the opportunity to work on real projects alongside full-time staff. This glimpse into the working world will give you your best idea yet on what will lie in store in the future, while also providing you with a great chance to practice what you've learnt so far.
Thankfully, internships aren't all work and no play. Social events will often be organised by the firm, allowing you and your fellow interns to get to know each other better and practice your networking skills. Senior staff may also be present at these events, so be sure to strike up a conversation with them to make sure you stick in the memory once your internship's over.
What skills or knowledge will I need to apply for a technology in finance internship?
While some technical knowledge is expected of you, internship places are not solely limited to computer science students. Extensive theoretical knowledge is great but employers place greater importance on your understanding of the practical uses of technology and your awareness of the role of technology in financial services.
You also won't be expected to know about all the intricacies of the finance world but a comprehension of basic terminology, key concepts and the main business areas will go a long way to helping you stand out from other applicants.
How can I make the most of my internship?
Technology is a vital part of the finance world now, so long gone are the days of technical staff being kept in the margins of a business, writing code in isolation in the basement. Now, technology staff will have frequent interactions with employees in all aspects of the business. So try to learn as much as possible about how the firm as a whole operates, as this level of knowledge will come in handy when it's time to apply for graduate programmes.
But the single most important thing on an internship is to throw yourself with enthusiasm into everything you do. The interns who really stand out tend to be those who show an enjoyment for the work they do, a desire to learn more, and an ability to get on with other members of the organisation and fellow interns.
Charlotte Gleadle, a computer science with management student at King's College London, took part in BlackRock's Spring Week scheme, working in their technology department. Here, she gives us an insight into a project she worked on alongside her fellow students and what she got out of her time at BlackRock.
"We were essentially performing the role of business analysts. We were asked to look at a particular system and then interviewed different people in different departments to ask how they used it and to what extent they found it useful. It was exciting because this was a genuine BlackRock system, a small program written in Java, that was in use every day."
"Having spoken to everyone, it was really interesting trying to take what they said and determine how successful the system was at doing what it was built to do. As we moved towards the end of the week, we designed a proposal for improvement, mocking up a potential new system for them and presented it to our bosses. Our presentation even got videoed and is now kept on file at BlackRock for future reference. Hopefully we did a good job!"
"The great thing about the Spring Week was that it let me trial something I was interested in. I was able to meet loads of people in the company and check with them that my perception of the job was accurate. It was also great to interact with a lot of different business people and learn how the finance world worked. I was so impressed by the level of skill of people in finance companies that I'm pretty set on going into finance now."