Why I hated working on the Trading floor

I worked for an investment banking firm for about 18 years. For the first 12 years or so, I sat with and supported developers, business analysts, marketing and other “back end” folks. This was a tough job, requiring many overtime hours, weekends, overnights and a fairly good deal of pressure. However, I enjoyed this job and the people around me. It was fun, challenging and fulfilling. It was a perfect blend of fun and hard blended into one. Eventually, due to restructuring and the ever evolving nature of the business, that came to an end.

This led me to what is called the “front office.” In this case I was moved to the trading floor. I went from supporting mostly quiet and friendly back end folks, to supporting a very loud, aggressive, pretty wild clientele. It wasn’t just the clients, but the nature of the work had much, much more pressure and time constraints. I was dealing with things I never saw in my life, never had any real formal training and was just dumped right into it.

I was okay at the job and mostly got things done. There were times that I couldn’t solve something, but my team members helped me out during those moments. On some rare occasions I could return the favor and I’d bail them out with problems that I had seen prior. The users liked me for the most part and I did my best to keep them happy. But make no mistake, this space was way more stressful than my prior job at the same firm.

Honestly, I hated that job with my entire being. The only aspect that was cool about that environment was my team. I worked with a great group of guys and gals whom I liked very much. Whenever we weren’t busy putting out fires we were able to congregate together and have some really good laughs. We worked many weekends and nights, and being with the team made it more bearable. Sure, we had some tough times, and we had to deal with a lot of scolding and complaining, but for me, the team I worked with was the highlight.

I think that the biggest problems I had with that environment was shyness! Those of you who truly know me, can attest that I am a shy person. I tend to get performance anxiety when there are a lot of people watching or judging me. I usually pee in the stall because I’m so timid. Also, there is a reason I often put myself in very visible situations like fighting MMA in a ring surrounded by strangers. I didn’t win, I got my ass whooped and humiliated. But I was not there to necessarily win, it was more about “doing it.” Why do you think that I teach group exercise and Zumba classes? There must be a reason why I performed my poetry and music in front of audiences all over the city! Well, this is all therapy for me, it’s a way for me to face my fears while trying to overcome them. I do things like this over and over to make myself stronger.

In any case, the trading floor is a huge, open space. There’s nowhere to hide and it’s very open! Everyone can see you coming and going. They all see you when you walk in the morning, go to the bathroom, step out to lunch, or go to help someone in their area. If you are having trouble figuring something out, they are watching. More often than not there is colorful commentary coming your way, sometimes in a funny way and others in a very pressure oriented manner. This is all happening while you are crawling under desks littered with staples on the floor, dust bunnies, shoes, m&m peanuts, old sandwich pieces and lord knows what else. All this while you are trying to sort out any hardware or software problems.

For a timid person, this was no fun at all. Some of the guys seemed to love and thrive off of the madness, but for me, even writing about this stresses me out. There are many times I still dream about this job and the role that I had there. It wasn’t but a few days ago that I was back there on the floor, walking with one of my old managers as he told me that he wanted me to cover the mornings alone again. Lord have mercy, that was not fun at all back then. Those dreams are more like nightmares for me.

The company had good benefits, paid fairly well, and I had a great team. But man I truly hated working in that support role on the trading floor. Never, ever, again! The only reason I stuck around as long as I did was because I had so many years invested. There was no way I’d quit or leave the job when I knew that I had an 18 year severance payment with my name on it if only I just hung in there. Of course I handled that severance money terribly and took over a year off from work after being laid off, but I got my damn money!

It wasn’t all bad, but I definitely hated working on the trading floor.

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