…or lambs to the slaughter as it should be correctly known.
All of the Big 5 have graduate recruitment schemes for technologists. Every year they send out teams of recruiters along with a selection of staff who’ve drunk sufficient quantities of the corporate cool-aid to campuses in Southern Ontario in an attempt to trick a few of the less savvy computer science and related final year students into coming to work for them. The pitches are slick, often delivered by a tame bank big-wig (or maybe middle-wig) and often come with some free corporate merchandise of the type that no actual employee of the bank below VP level will ever get without buying it with their own money.
What happens to a developer that applies to one of these schemes and is successful then? It all starts reasonably with a good initial salary – for someone with no experience that is – and, quite likely, the chance to work in a few different areas before settling on a permanent home. This is where the problems begin…
The first issue is that chance of working on anything remotely technically up to date are slim to zero.
The best outcome to be hoped for is to work on something written in a reasonably recent version of Java or, if you like that sort of thing, C# .net. Note that the majority of Toronto bank applications are for internal use and, if they’re modern enough to have a web interface (and that’s a huge if) it’ll be written for the single approved web browser, most likely IE 6 or IE 7.
The worst outcome is that you’ll end up hacking around the edges of some hideous 3rd party piece of software long deprecated by the vendor and seemingly glued into place by a troop of baboons.
Next, and even more of a problem, is that you will likely never get a pay rise beyond a couple of percent a year unless you move job within the bank or manage to get promoted into a supervisory position. All the banks have annual pay reviews but have no formal policy for reviewing the compensation of graduate hires who, by their very nature, become rapidly more valuable as they gain experience. The reality is that most either leave the industry after a couple of years or join the procession of programmers working their way around the Big 5 merry-go-round in order to keep their compensation at somewhere near to their market value. I’ve interviewed people who have worked at all 5 over a 10-15 year period and are then quite happily starting on a second circumnavigation.
Finally, and I think this is the biggest issue and which underlies the others, what you do is wrongly seen as not ‘the business’ of the bank. Banks consider building software as equivalent to piling bank notes into a heap and then burning them and you can be certain that anyone you interact with that doesn’t work for the IT organization will let you know this at every available opportunity.
If you don’t know why these are not good things then, go ahead, send your application in, you’ll fit in just fine!