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November 05
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Changing technologies

Financial services are investing in IT

Steady hiring is a welcome change for IT pros

"I have never felt that being a woman has held me back at any time." - Nelda Raful, Lehman Brothers


Senior consultant Ankush Sahai develops IT strategy for Deloitte's clients.

Senior consultant Ankush Sahai develops IT strategy for Deloitte's clients.

Arecka Foote is a project lead and software engineer at the Vanguard Group.Arecka Foote is a project lead and software engineer at the Vanguard Group.

Arecka Foote is a project lead and software engineer at the Vanguard Group.

The financial services industry today offers excellent opportunities for IT professionals, and women and minorities definitely share in that warm welcome.

IT work in financial services may seem similar to other businesses. But Edgar Smart, VP for systems support at MasterCard International, puts his finger on a big difference. "IT is a core function of a financial company," he explains. "It is absolutely essential for the organization to invest in IT technologies to maintain its competitive edge."

Another difference: the pace is likely to be faster. "It's hectic," agrees Nelda Raful, senior VP for investment management IT at Lehman Brothers. "The market can be very hectic because it is very competitive. You need to make sure that you keep moving at the same pace."

Because it is at the heart of so many transactions, the IT function in financial services can be seen as more crucial, and perhaps more satisfying. "You get to see solutions that help clients save and invest for the future," says Arecka Foote, a software engineer and project lead at the Vanguard Group.

Analyze and communicate
Financial IT demands the ability to analyze and communicate. Ankush Sahai, a senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting, says, "We're always doing root-cause analysis. Inefficiencies, for example, may manifest themselves in one area, but when you look deeper you may find the root cause somewhere else."

Daniel Webster, senior systems analyst at OppenheimerFunds, says that while he's a "people person" himself, "There are many very competent programmers who want to stay in their own little corners and write code all day." There's value in both approaches, he feels. "Whatever works for you is good; you just have to love what you're doing."

"Your marketability will increase if you have some understanding of the business as well as the technical side," says Antoine Paden, manager of tech support ops for Synovus Financial Corp. "Your effectiveness at creating apps that meet the needs of the end user will increase, too."

Vanguard's Arecka Foote: teamwork is crucial
As a project lead and software engineer at the Vanguard Group (Valley Forge, PA), Arecka Foote works with both client/server and Web/server applications. Teamwork, she says, is crucial to Vanguard's IT ops.

"A normal day for me includes working sessions with internal clients and development teams as well as testing and design sessions," she says. "I work with different people in various company locations. Our network lets us connect seamlessly via desktop, video and audio conferencing."

Foote has a 1998 BS degree in IS management from the University of Maryland, and met up with Vanguard six years ago at a recruiting event there. She joined the company as an application software developer, integrating technologies that support Web apps and workflow management.

After a few years she decided to move toward a career in IT management. She changed jobs and became a project lead, working with environments and technologies like WebSphere, Oracle, J2EE and Microsoft Office, and content management tools.

"Vanguard has many options available, and encourages rotations to new areas of the business," she notes. The company is also financing an MS in leadership development which Foote began this fall.

Ankush Sahai, Deloitte senior consultant
Senior consultant Ankush Sahai describes his role with Deloitte (New York, NY) as developing business IT strategy for clients. "It involves figuring out what type of technology they should be looking at and how best to enable their business. Even though we develop technology solutions, we always try to keep sight of the business problem we're trying to solve."

Sahai's projects generally involve the CIOs of large banks in and around New York City. His typical consulting assignment lasts two or three months, a "very short, very intense" period, usually doing custom development work.

He's been with Deloitte since 2004. Before that he worked on similar assignments as a consultant with Cap Gemini, which is now part of Ernst & Young. "At Deloitte, what I'm doing is more strategic," he says.

Sahai was born in India and grew up in Oman. He got his 2000 BS in computer science engineering at Cornell University (Ithaca, NY).

While there, he did an eight-month co-op at Microsoft (Redmond, WA). "It was a great experience, but I wanted to get a look at different types of businesses," he says. After brief stints in healthcare and media he found his niche in financial services.

You should be able to learn from any assignment, Sahai believes. "You absorb as much as you can; you may learn something that will prove valuable four or five years hence."

Nelda Raful: investment management at Lehman Brothers
Nelda Raful

Nelda Raful

Nelda Raful works in the Jersey City, NJ investment management division of Lehman Brothers. It's a new division, only in existence for two years, and she's currently managing about seventy staffers there and another fifteen in India.

"We support external client access to our websites," she explains. This includes financial reporting to clients as well as client relationship management and trade surveillance tools for brokers.

When it comes to IT, "You name it, we have it," she says. "Everything from mainframe and Cobol to Java and Linux plus Windows and Unix."

Raful joined Lehman twelve years ago in ops technology. She worked for the equity front office, then joined investment management when it started up.

Before Lehman she worked in the Dominican Republic as MIS director of a credit card company. "I moved to the States in 1993 when I got married," she explains.

She knew people at Lehman, and was attracted by the company's diversity: "all the individuals from different nationalities."

Since she had arrived in the U.S. speaking very little English, she had to start as a programmer. But soon she learned the language and was on her way up again.

"To be successful, you have to be seen as somebody who is very flexible in terms of what you can do and never afraid to try new things and take on new responsibilities," she notes.

Daniel Webster: senior systems developer at Oppenheimer
Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster

Daniel Webster recently became a senior systems admin at OppenheimerFunds (New York, NY), working on a team of ten people. He started with the company in 1999 as a systems admin.

"That gave me an opportunity to spread myself around and understand different environments," he explains. He went on to Unix admin, then moved into the NT environment. He also administered the AutoSys job management environment. "All of those things made this move very easy," he says with pride.

His work today has a lot to do with applications programming. "We develop most apps from scratch, but there are some off-the-shelf apps that we custom code for, like Actuate Report Designer with Java, and also Mobius."

Before joining Oppenheimer he was a developer at Goldman Sachs, where he worked for thirteen years. He started in IT with MCI in Rye, NY, while attending the State University of New York-Purchase.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Webster began programming on an old Commodore computer, writing low-end video games. In the early 1990s he and two pals started and operated Black Ice, a computer animation and graphics company.

"I love bringing things to fruition," says Webster. "You look at something, come up with a fresh new idea, and watch it from concept to completion.

"If you have that type of mentality, programming is definitely for you," Webster declares. "IT people need to stay on top of their game, because the game changes so quickly."

Fatima Evangelista is a senior tech consultant at CherryRoad
Fatima Evangelista

Fatima Evangelista

Fatima Evangelista joined CherryRoad Technologies (Parsippany, NJ) in 1998. Since then she's worked for clients like the Philadelphia Housing Authority, Brown Brothers Harriman and Pico Energy. "Mostly it's been PeopleSoft HR applications," she says.

She's also into XL Capital's HR application. At one client site she helped install the app in 2001, finished the first phase implementation in 2002, then came back this year for support and other projects they wanted added to the app.

Before CherryRoad, Evangelista worked for Keane Inc, also a consulting firm, doing mainframe programming and tech consulting. And before that she was as an insurance company programmer in the Philippines. She came to the U.S. in 1994.

Evangelista has a 1988 BS in math and CS from the University of Saint Thomas in the Philippines. "My sister went into the field first," she says. "She was earning a lot, and she sent me to school.

"I've been lucky to have clients that didn't see me as a woman or a foreigner," Evangelista says. "They look at what I do and what my work ethics are. I try to focus on being good at what I do."

Antoine Paden manages tech support ops for Synovus
Antoine Paden

Antoine Paden

As manager of tech support ops for Synovus Financial Corp (Columbus, GA), Antoine Paden heads up a group of six PeopleSoft HR developers. He sets the direction and work loads and helps support the workflow, which consists of migration and development strategies and methodologies. Paden is a hands-on manager, working on development himself as well as leading the group.

Before joining Synovus three years ago, Paden spent five years as a PeopleSoft consultant at Answerthink, Inc (Miami, FL). The job had him on the road four days a week, a killing schedule that eventually led him to more stationary work with Synovus.

Paden received his MIS degree in 1986 from the University of Georgia-Athens. His first job involved setting up networks at Aflac Inc (Columbus, GA), where he eventually moved into PC support, then managed the PC-based development group.

Growing up in Georgia, "I knew I wanted a career in computers by the time I was in ninth grade," he says. "I'm a problem-solver by nature. The whole idea of creating programs to resolve problems was intriguing to me."

He's a musician as well, and finds that writing music and writing a program or developing a system have a lot in common. "They call on your creative energy and problem-solving ability."

The major challenge he finds in the financial industry is the time constraint. "There's a high degree of pressure put on almost everything you do. Being able to resolve what the customer wants, and translating that into a workable application, constantly stretches your problem-solving ability."

Edgar Smart: systems support at MasterCard International
Edgar Smart

Edgar Smart

Daily life at MasterCard International (O'Fallon, MO) "is exciting, challenging and rewarding," says Edgar Smart. Smart manages the systems support tech services team at the company's global technology and ops HQ.

"On those few occasions when an unexpected condition occurs on any of our core systems, that becomes the focus of my team," he says. "We identify and remedy the condition and restore the system to proper operation without impacting our customers."

One interesting challenge is ensuring that various vendor technologies work well with MasterCard's systems. Data retention in support of legal, regulatory and compliance requirements can also present a problem in terms of storage. "We manage that by enforcing our systems backups and record retention policy and performing regular reviews," says Smart.

He works to enhance productivity in his teams by "investing in best-of-class technology." He's also on the lookout for good candidates for systems programmer, storage area network (SAN) admin and Unix system admin positions.

Before joining MasterCard, Smart spent twenty-two years in the U.S. Army as a chief warrant officer and technical automation officer. He was responsible for programmer/analyst teams, systems admins, programmers, computer ops and data-center management.

In 1980 Smart graduated from the programmer/analyst course at the U.S. Army Adjutant General Computer Science School (Fort Benjamin Harrison, IN). In 1994 he got a BA with a focus on IS from Columbia College (Columbia, MO), and in 1998 he finished a masters in computer resources and info management from Webster University (St. Louis, MO).

Larry Quinlan is Deloitte's U.S. CIO
As U.S. CIO for the Deloitte & Touche family of companies (New York, NY), Larry Quinlan is responsible for all the firm's technology. That, he says, includes infrastructure, application development, technology strategy and knowledge management and structure.

Quinlan has been with Deloitte since 1988. He started as a systems analyst and then, after a merger, was asked to lead Deloitte's technology infrastructure organization. He did that for five years.

He want on to seven years as CIO for Deloitte Consulting, and took on his present job two years ago.

Before joining Deloitte, Quinlan was IS director of a small fundraising firm. Before that he was at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York, where he got his MBA in management with a minor in computers in 1986. His 1983 BS in industrial management is from the University of the West Indies. He grew up in both the Caribbean and New York.

What skills are especially important in his position? "One, you've go to be able to spot trends," he says. "You've got to be right more often than not in terms of the technologies you pick and the applications you develop.

"Two, you have to be able to lead. At the end of the day it's the people in the organization who deliver the results."

Third is the ability to articulate a vision. "People don't know where you're going unless you can tell them."

And working closely with others, whether customers, sponsors or vendors, is very important. "In this day and age, you can't do it alone."


Michael Gates is a freelance writer and editor based in Jersey City, NJ.

Check the latest openings at these diversity-minded companies.

Company and location Business area
Automatic Data Processing
(ADP, Roseland, NJ)
Computerized transaction processing
American Express
(New York, NY)
Credit and charge cards, travel services, financial planning and consulting
Bank of America (Charlotte, NC)
Financial services for individual customers, small and middle market businesses and large corporations
CherryRoad Technologies, Inc
(Parsippany, NJ)
Technical and management consulting services
Deloitte Consulting
(New York, NY)
E-business consulting for healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, energy, communications and the public sector
Deloitte & Touche USA LLP
(New York, NY)
Audit, tax and financial advisory services and consulting
Edward Jones
(St. Louis, MO)
Financial services for individual investors in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
Freddie Mac
(McLean, VA)
Housing finance
Lehman Brothers Inc
(New York, NY)
Investment banking
MasterCard Inc
(Purchase, NY)
Credit and debit cards
OppenheimerFunds, Inc
(New York, NY)
Mutual-fund management
Synovus Financial Corp
(Columbus, GA)
Bank holding company
(New York, NY)
Wealth management, investment banking, asset management
The Vanguard Group, Inc
(Valley Forge, PA)
Mutual funds and brokerage services

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