Silicon Valley Pulls Top Grads From Wall Street

For years, the Ivy League colleges have sent many of their best and brightest mathematical and scientific minds to Wall Street as financial engineers.

One of the drivers, of course, is money. Wall Street has always topped the list of the highest-paid industries – even rising above generally good pay in the tech sector by a factor of two or three. Yet, there’s another, more subtle reason for the conduit between these Northeastern Ivies and Wall Street. It’s the same reason there’s a conduit between Stanford and technology companies.

It’s simple really: Young people tend to follow their peers into careers where paths are already carved for them. If a dozen of your engineering-major friends end up at Deutsche Bank, you are likely to, as well.

The phenomenon explains why one of the other big draws on college campuses is exactly the opposite of an investment bank. It’s Teach for America, which every year turns away thousands of the nation’s top college grads.

Now, there’s a little bit of hope that a crack might have appeared in that golden conduit that runs from some of the nation’s top schools straight to the morally vacant heart of Wall Street. There’s a backlash growing against the Street, one that will surely be deepened by last week’s Goldman Sachs retirement letter.

An article in last week’s New York Times Dealbook section covered the growing movement.

“Groups of protestors at Yale and Harvard stood outside bank recruiting sessions last fall, shouting slogans and holding signs with messages like “Take a chance, don’t go into finance.” At Princeton, a group affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement interrupted sessions by JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, urging their fellow students to rebel against what it said was “the campus culture that whitewashes the crooked dealings of Wall Street as a prestigious career path.”

Where are students going? Tech firms aren’t necessarily paragons – but given the extent to which young people interact with the world via technology, it’s no surprise that technology is drawing more new graduates.

That trend will most likely continue. The more students graduate into technology companies, the more their peers will follow them.

“A 2011 survey of 6,700 young professionals by the consulting firm Universum ranked Google, Apple and Facebook as the most coveted workplaces; JPMorgan Chase, the highest-ranking bank on the survey, was 41st.”

Here are the top 10 employers of choice in business, engineering and IT (and last year’s ranking). Somehow, we’re guessing Goldman slips off the Top 10 this year.

Top 10—Business

1.  Google (1)
2.  Apple (8)
3.  Walt Disney Company (5)
4.  Ernst & Young (2)
5.  PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (3)
6.  Deloitte (4)
7.  J.P. Morgan (7)
8.  Nike (10)
9.  KPMG, LLP (6)
10.  Goldman Sachs (9)

Top 10—Engineering

1.  NASA (1)
2.  Google (3)
3.  Boeing (4)
4.  Lockheed Martin Corp (2)
5.  Apple (10)
6.  Microsoft (6)
7.  General Electric (5)
8.  U.S. Department of Energy (7)
9.  Walt Disney Company (12)
10.  Intel (14)

Top 10—IT

1.  Google (1)
2.  Microsoft (2)
3.  Apple (3)
4.  Facebook (new entry)
5.  IBM (4)
6.  Electronic Arts (8)
7.  Walt Disney Company (11)
8.  Amazon (19)
9.  Cisco Systems (5)
10.  NASA (10)

The shift in mindset among young people is another sign of the ascendancy of technology firms over Wall Street’s broken business model. That can only be a good thing.


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