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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

We Asked Tech Leaders What it Takes to Be Successful—Here's What They Said

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In partnership with Goldman Sachs, we're putting the spotlight on professionals who embody a personal mission to make things possible. Below, we talk to the Vault Team about their career journeys and what it takes to be successful.

Think back to the very first time you built something when you were a kid.

Not the house of cards that would inevitably tumble, but the very first model airplane you built yourself, or the dollhouse you created from scratch.

There’s an unbridled joy that comes with seeing something through and completing it. Often, it’s something we seek out in our careers because we want that sense of fulfillment in working towards and achieving our goals.

We chatted with a few members of Goldman Sachs’s Vault team about just that—creating things from scratch and the types of environments that promote that kind of achievement.

Build Something From the Ground Up

Sarvpreet Kohli, Vice President in the Consumer Banking Division of Goldman Sachs, is a scrum master for the Agile Delivery Team that works on Vault.

Vault is a microservice-based, real-time trade evaluation system at Goldman Sachs. It’s used to evaluate the company’s regulatory infrastructure and to protect the bank from any trade that would violate either regulations or their bank operational procedures. Basically, Vault manages risk across various institutional businesses (which include corporations, financial institutions, investment funds, governments, and individuals).

While Sarvpreet has worked at Goldman Sachs for just two years, he has 20 years of experience when it comes to application development. Sarvpreet was initially drawn to the start-up-like culture of the Vault team and the opportunity to help build something from the ground up.

“It’s the vibe around the floor,” Sarvpreet says. “People are really energetic, helping each other out. It doesn’t take weeks to get a decision going. Once we decide something, then we build. People are swarming and getting things done.”

The Takeaway

Have an “all hands on deck” attitude. If you’re looking to build something from the ground up, it’s going to take a lot of time and effort, so find a group of team players.

Work Together

A communal atmosphere wasn’t something Sarvpreet had experienced at other companies—they might have held a quarterly town hall, but initiatives would be communicated from the top down. Sure, Sarvpreet knew what was happening, but he still felt disconnected from the mission. But, because so many of Goldman Sachs’s working parts run into other departments, whether it’s design or development, relationships are established with many of the stakeholders, and the group’s mission has to be firmly embraced by everyone.

“You know what the larger initiatives are and why we are doing this,” he says. “So, you have a clear purpose and know how your role contributes to that.”

In a lot of ways, it’s the perfect environment for those who are focused on STEM-related careers.

“STEM is in the room with business, which is something I think you really want to look for in a STEM career,” says Arieh Listowsky, the Tech Team Lead for Goldman Sachs’s Bank Controls Engineering Team.

“You’re actually part of what the core business is wherever you’re working. If your role is viewed as secondary, chances are, you’re not going to have as much pride or satisfaction in your work.” And just like Sarvpreet, all members of the team know they not only have an integral part to play in the success of the product, but they’re not alone in their work. You may not be able to leave the office at 5 PM every day if there’s a problem that needs to be solved, but Arieh knows he won’t be alone in problem solving.

“There’s never the put your head down on the table, I’m all alone, I’m done moment,” he says. “There’s always somebody there who’s going to help you out and find the piece of expertise that you don’t have.”

“Really, with the whole team together, you can actually do all those things that you felt were not doable,” Arieh says.

The Takeaway

Learn how to work together toward a common goal. Think about how what you’re doing not only impacts your co-workers, but the team and business as a whole.

Take it Upon Yourself

Aditi Kumar, a Development Tech Lead for Goldman Sachs, remembers feeling very intimidated during those first few weeks on the job just a few years ago.

“During the last three years,” she says, “I’ve discovered that there’s this culture of mentorship where people are actually invested in not just you as a person, but also your career. To help you succeed at your own goals, and also to push you out of your comfort zone and help you discover areas that you haven’t necessarily conquered yet.”

One project, in particular, stood out because Aditi had the opportunity to take on more responsibility and spearhead work in a new area. Aditi took it upon herself to step up and start making design decisions that she wasn’t necessarily comfortable making.

“I brought that up with a couple of my mentors. And they were like, 'If you fail, you fail, but at least that’s a learning experience, and you should absolutely go ahead and do it.' So I think if I hadn’t got that bit of direction or encouragement from my mentors at the time, I would’ve kept in my shell.”

The Takeaway

Find a mentor, but learn to push yourself and be your own best advocate. Mentors will be there to help you along the way, but learning how to stand on your own is invaluable.

Stay Relevant

But even beyond mentorship, if you’re really trying to lock down a career that has a heavy emphasis on STEM, you have to stay ahead of the curve, technology-wise.

“You need to know what’s going on in the world, but also think about how it applies to you personally, and also in your career,” says Donel D’Souza, Senior Software Developer for the Bank Controls Engineering Team. Like Aditi, he’s only been with Goldman for a handful of years, but he understands that in order to stay at the top of your game, you need to learn about all of the emerging tools and open source technologies that are at your fingertips.

“Make sure you keep yourself updated on the technology that’s out there in a way that is going to be impactful.”