SQL and programming languages

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  • #2816832
    Phil
    Participant

    Out of curiosity, who else is proficient in SQL and/or other languages?

    I have seen this come up in quite a few topics recently (e.g. to stay on top of AI we accountants need to really be sharp on the IT side of things).

    My story: I had elementary SQL experience for around the last 7-8 years. There was never a need to do much besides modify existing queries. We had an IT dept that did any heavy lifting for new requests.

    Fast forward – I now have a highly analytical role that basically consists with writing SQL queries from scratch in order to answer various business questions. I would currently consider myself at an intermediate. Nearly all of my learning is self taught (trial and error and research via Stackoverflow and other sites).

    Most of my queries are at least a few hundred lines of code when you factor in subqueries and other complexity.

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    #2817573
    vbmer
    Participant

    A basic level of SQL will serve you well in almost every professional job today. We're mostly CPAs in name only, if at all, but my entire team uses SQL and VBA all the time to build models, which is the most important thing we do. (SQL to gather data, or for a database back end for a large model, and VBA for various Excel things, most commonly breaking circularity in interest calculations) Between us, we also have a combination of proficiency in Python, R, C++, .NET, C, Javascript, and Powershell, for when we want to play scientist. I personally use Python, R, and a bit of C. We use Python and R for data analytics and data visualization, Python for machine learning, .NET for web/desktop apps, Javascript for JQuery and web development, and others as needed. I'm learning Django to build web apps with Python because I can't be bothered to learn JS, although imo JS will be the language that eventually replaces VBA.

    It's really hard for us to hire youngsters to our practice, because ironically, they tend to have little to no proficiency in programming in arguably the most important business language – VBA, and schools aren't really teaching it. Even if it's antiquated, there are millions upon millions of lines of VBA code out there in large companies that perform mission-critical tasks that are too expensive to replace with something better. Even my friends in “pure accounting” practices like Audit or Accounting Advisory have been in situations where they've had to unwind or remediate custom VBA middleware or standalone apps (payroll, leases, etc.) that the client's IT department usually had no idea existed and had no interest in taking responsibility for, as they were usually built by business users without good governance practices back in the 90s/early 00s.

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    #2817792
    jeff
    Keymaster

    Good database people (ninja-level) are hard to find.

    #2827698
    Sunflower16
    Participant

    @Phil@Vbmer, are you both financial analyst? I know Python & SQL are very useful and always want to learn, but I will never use it in my current role. My question is how to make transition to a career that needs these skills? I am a property accountant with 3 years of experience, basically doing the GL work for residential rental business. I see my work is extremely repetitive and “labor intensive” which can be replaced easily if AI is implemented for the real estate rental business.

    I purchased a Python course at Udemy and from 1/4 of the course, I started to feel it is hard to follow. With CPA exams, I know I will get the license after passing them. But with the Python course, I do not see a clear goal at all. Is it worth to continue with the course?

    I appreciated for any thoughts you could share!

    #2828832
    vbmer
    Participant

    @Sunflower16 I was an analyst in my previous job, but I am now a modeling consultant. I picked up Python and SQL through trial and error and searching for answers on places like stackoverflow, along with formal graduate computer science courses after I bad a strong foundation to build upon. I agree it is hard to learn just by watching videos, and I've never been able to learn a language that way. What I might suggest is finding a Python MOOC and doing the problem sets. Then maybe try doing some stuff that interests you personally, like perhaps web scraping or automating tasks.

    The Big 4 are heavily investing in analytics and technology, so there could be opportunities for you as an experienced hire there. You would be getting hired based on your accounting/real estate knowledge and experience, and then you could develop analytics skills after joining. A specialist real estate firm (Cushman & Wakefield, etc) could also be a good place to get some analytics experience given your background.

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    #2828937
    DDylan
    Participant

    @Vbmer I am doing the exact the same thing. I got my CPA and currently learning Python and SQL through Coursera. I plan to apply online computer science or data science master to learn programming in a structured way. I am also in TX btw. Just curious how long did you take from 0 to proficient on programming?

    What does you daily job look like as a modeling consultant as it sounds cool and interesting? If you do not mind, may I also ask what industry you are in?

    #2830809
    vbmer
    Participant

    @DDylan, it took me about 6 months to a year to get good enough with Python to be able to use it professionally at an analyst/hacker level. Most analysts who know Python use it as a glue language, so you don't need in-depth understanding of workflows, algorithms, etc. to be effective. It took another year after that, including some formal grad comp sci courses, to learn the more advanced CS concepts. SQL can be learned in a couple months if you jump straight in and have good material to work on.

    As for what I do, I work at a Big 4 firm. Started out as an experienced hire in the Corporate Finance practice (mid-market investment banking), and then moved on to become a specialist modeler, building financial models for M&A, FP&A, restructuring/insolvency, and project finance. We have also been investing heavily in our analytics capabilities over the past few years, and employ a few scientists and engineers who basically do R&D full-time for us to bring to market, and the entire team, even if they are from a pure finance background (typically CPA/ACA + MBA/CFA) is expected to develop analytics/data visualization capabilities. In the analytics space, the range of work is extremely broad, and basically, if we know how to do it, or we can learn how to do it, we will pursue it, regardless of whether it fits the Corporate Finance label or not.

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    #2830896
    12tang
    Participant

    This thread is interesting. It may seem very elementary but I took on learning HTML 19 years ago and I learned it all on my own. Keep in mind there was no YouTube or vast internet knowledge on the topic. I learned through viewing the sources of web pages. It probably doesn't even compare to modern day languages as far as difficulty. I will be finishing my CPA soon here, and have been entertaining the idea of expanding my knowledge in the tech industry. My professors kept talking about how accountants with IT backgrounds can gain very high salaries.

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    #2831049
    Mercenary
    Participant

    Haha, I did the same thing with HTML. I still use page sources to find ways of downloading things that are embedded at times.

    I was thinking about picking up SQL later, like through udemy or something. I just mainly want to add any skills I can to make myself more marketable as I need every advantage I can get. I am not a huge fan of programming though, the learning process is fine but the debugging of code and stuff seems like it'd drive me insane. SQL seems like it'd be quick enough though. If my goal is to move up in corporate finance and eventually be a CFO, how useful would any of these be?

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    #2831286
    DDylan
    Participant

    @Vbmer Thanks for the info. It's very helpful. Based on your experience, what's the most in-demand skills (VBA, sql, tableau or others?) when pairing with finance/accounting experience? In order to make someone with regular finance/actg background more marketable, what skills would you recommend to learn first?

    #2833356
    vbmer
    Participant

    It really depends on what area of finance, but imho, for a typical finance consultant or FP&A analyst, Tableau/Power BI, SQL, VBA, Python, probably in that order. R is on the decline outside academia, but still good. Data visualization/dashboarding is huge, and you can be a real star at most companies if you can take their often chaotic finance reports and make them easily digestable for senior management.

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    Manager, Big 4 Corporate Finance, CPA (WA)
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