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Where have all the smart people gone?

Gone to Wall Street, every one ...

Well, not literally, but for those who are wondering why there aren't more engineers, it's an argument I've made in the past. (Some) people who might otherwise have gone into engineering decided to work on Wall Street because the money was better.

There are numerous articles, blogs, clips, etc. that mention warnings that were not heeded about the financial instruments created on Wall Street. Why weren't they heeded? Did the smart guys ignore the doomsayers? Why weren't the doomsayers' arguments considered? Scott Berkun's Why smart people defend bad ideas offers an explanation. As in my past arguments about the dangers of pay-per-click advertising, especially when web publishers are paid a share of ad revenue, if you're not (considered to be) as smart as the people espousing something you see problems with, you may be ignored, especially when lots of money is being made.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Oct. 26th, 2009 01:19 pm (UTC)
Interesting article.

One issue that I rarely see anyone else bring up when discussing why people from top colleges go to Wall Street, is just how hard Wall Street recruits them compared to, well, any other industry. I remember, from undergrad days a few years ago, walking through the Career Fair, and the finance/consulting types would all but mug people to get them over to the booths. They were like good street canvassers, or those obnoxious credit card salespeople in airports. Meanwhile, the folks at the engineering booths mostly sat back and waited for students to come to them.

Another issue that I rarely see anyone else bring up is people from top schools who go to work on Wall Street for 1-5 years after they graduate. They want to gain some impressive-sounding career experience and make a whole bunch of money, and then they can go to grad school, or teach, or go into a lower-paying save-the-world type job, or whatever, and not live in penury. Or even, go into a normal professional job like engineering and be more financially secure than they would have been. Sure, they have to work a zillion hours a week in a high-stress job, but they figure that they might as well do that for a short period when they're young and single, and then have the rest of their life be easier. I don't know how common these people are, but I know they exist.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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