Last night I watched a really interesting programme on BBC2 called Traders: Millions by the Minute, which followed traders, from those old-school people who work in 'the pit' through to trainee hedge fund managers, and the future: a Dutch trading company whose billions of dollars are traded by logarithms run by computers, not humans. These traders are lured by money, of course, but the programme also explored the addictive nature of trading. Just like for gamblers, with 'just one more click' they could make a killing. And round the clock, somewhere in the world a market is open, so the temptation is there to remain plugged in twenty-four-seven. In such an addictive and competitive industry, I wonder how any of them can even steal away to make a drink, let alone leave work at the end of the day.
It all felt quite vacuous to me. At the end of the day you all you have generated (or lost) is some numbers on a spreadsheet. It made me think about what I enjoy delivering at work. What we produce for our clients is typically a piece of writing or design, a website, a video, some printed material, a PR campaign or some thinking in the form of consultancy on perhaps employee engagement or social media.
It's great to produce something tangible with real benefits for a large group, or even a whole organisation. Even the more challenging projects usually have an outcome that I and my colleagues can be proud of. That's not to say the money traders earn wouldn't be nice, but on balance, for me personally I'd rather have less of the stress and addiction, and more of the job satisfaction you get from seeing the fruits of your labour.