Company culture

What it's like to work at Goldman Sachs

Behind the glitz and glamour, Goldman Sachs engineers struggle with an outdated tech stack.

Goldman Sachs represents the top tier of investment banks. The client base is legendary and you'll receive mentoring from senior leaders with unbelievable credentials. In other words, if you want a prominent career in investment banking or financial services, this is the right place to look.

No matter what department you're in, landing a job at Goldman Sachs is great for career advancement. However, if you work in engineering, don't expect to be doing groundbreaking work.

We talked to current and former employees about the corporate culture at this Wall Street legend. You may be surprised by what they have to say.

The tech stack is way behind

If you're planning to join as an engineer, you should be aware of the outdated technology. Teamwork can only get you so far-- even when they put their heads together, engineers have a hard time working with what they're given.

There are many complaints about standards being excruciatingly low on internal tooling. In fact, the thought seems to be that as long as it works, it doesn't matter if the UI is from 1985 and it takes forever to upload something-- just leave it be.

Even first year hires and former interns noticed the issues with this system. One former intern told us:

"My team used an internal tool called PURE. I've spent more time debugging it than doing actual technical work. I later learned that it was written by a former intern and basically no one bothered to change it for years."

An engineer on the Risk Control team echoed some of these concerns, complaining of a Goldman-exclusive programming language that needs updating:

"The company has developed its own programming language Slang (not much different from mainstream languages such as C, Java or Python) and the database system SecDB. It is only used internally by the company, and people outside may not have heard of it. I personally feel that this may have certain limitations."

An engineer in New York speaks to the low code quality and older generation programmers that maintain it: 

"My programming language is Slang, which is a pirated version of Javascript. The code quality is slightly poor. The people who maintain it are all older generation programmers, so they used JavaScript to implement a copy."

Another common complaint was the lack of code reviews:

"There are no code reviews here. I am a more junior engineer and even at my level of experience I could see that many of the coding practices here are very bad," said an engineer in New York.

There are many similar stories to this. We even heard an engineer complain that a build run takes then more than 3 hours on a good day. This can be frustrating, even if you're on a rockstar team, which is the norm at Goldman Sachs-- they only hire high caliber talent.

It's a catwalk, not an office

As you'd expect, Goldman Sachs employees have a requirement for business attire and formal dress. This may seem normal to someone in investment management, but for a lot of engineers, it feels a little unnatural. How many engineers do you know that don't optimize for comfort?

"Every day wearing a suit, tie and belt is very exhausting...Especially with the overtime I work, I just want to wear comfortable clothes," says one engineering intern.

But not everyone hates it:

"I never saw my female coworkers wear the same thing in the span of months. It's like a catwalk here and I personally really enjoy it," said another employee.

Be prepared to be Social (yes, with a capital S)

"Old School" Culture

Goldman Sachs is still an old school company. After work, there's the unspoken expectation that you'll hang out with your team and your boss. It is largely a drinking culture. 

It's also an elitist culture, which is something Goldman doesn't hide, and even takes pride in:

"I feel that Goldman Sachs is still elitist. The business partners or staff at the front desk are basically Ivy League or someone's relative," said one employee.

However, that doesn't mean everyone is exactly the same. In fact, Goldman Sachs is very multicultural, attracting top talent from around the world. An intern on the Risk Team recalls her experience:

"I found that there were employees from about dozens of countries, and interns came from about four or fifty different majors," she said.

Networking Helps Your Mobility

It's very easy to switch between groups, just by talking to both managers and making a case for yourself. Of course, this requires some networking skills (yet another "Social-with-a-capital-S" aspect of Goldman's culture).

Promotions, however, are much harder. A lot of people make it to VP if they stick around, but very few make it to MD. One VP said:

"Engineer's VP promotion rate is generally 4-6 years, if you can survive 4-6 years. Most people know that they have no hope of gaining VP, so they leave. As for the promotion of MD, especially for technical roles , generally it's rare, there are many VP who have been in the company for 10+ years."

Part of this can be attributed to Goldman's political nature. Internal political struggle mainly takes place at the middle and high levels.

There's a work-work balance

While the hours aren't always crazy, employees are expected to have total dedication and stay as long as needed on some nights. This is typical of banks-- employees at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan make similar reports. In other words, if consistent work-life balance is your priority, this might not be the right industry for you. 

At Goldman, however, there is a major trade-off: employees have more opportunities to lead small projects earlier in their career.

"Because Goldman Sachs does not have as many employees as other banks, it also gives analysts many opportunities to lead a small project. The normal quant working time here is 50 hours a week," said one employee.

Perks are limited

You won't find the same perks here as you would at big tech companies. There's no free food and refreshers are just OK. However, you have a few things to look forward to.

Almost everyone we spoke with exclaimed how much they enjoy a program called Talks at GS, where senior members of staff, celebrities, CEOs, and other public figures to talk to the whole staff. This is a very special perk every employee we spoke with treasured about their experience there.

Additionally, if you're working in a big office like NYC or Hong Kong, you have the perks of the city at your disposal. There is definitely something to be said about location premium.

The information provided herein is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide tax, legal, or investment advice and should not be construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation of any security by Candor, its employees and affiliates, or any third-party. Any expressions of opinion or assumptions are for illustrative purposes only and are subject to change without notice. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results and the opinions presented herein should not be viewed as an indicator of future performance. Investing in securities involves risk. Loss of principal is possible.

Third-party data has been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable; however, its accuracy, completeness, or reliability cannot be guaranteed. Candor does not receive compensation to promote or discuss any particular Company; however, Candor, its employees and affiliates, and/or its clients may hold positions in securities of the Companies discussed.