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Why and how you should learn to code

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Financial services firms are battling for the best and brightest with Silicon Valley, but most who end up in banking are not technologists. Yet, as the industry becomes more automated, traders need to learn how to code and they’re not the only ones.

Knowing how to code is a powerful tool in many industries, and that is especially true in the financial sector. Knowing how to code will give you superpowers. Your goal in learning to code shouldn’t be to rebuild your company’s website or mobile app; it should be specific to your individual needs. This is how you go about it.

1. Automate rote tasks

You probably spend a lot of your day in spreadsheets. Spreadsheets can easily become monstrosities: dozens of tabs, links to other spreadsheets and files, and hard-to-find dependencies that if broken, result in incorrect data.

Most people don’t know how spreadsheets can be customized and improved if you’re willing to code. Microsoft Excel, for example, uses a programming language named Visual Basic for Applications, or VBA. You can use VBA to program macros, build dynamic forms for data entry, import and export data, and automatically update frequently changing data like exchange rates.

Instead of manually formatting and exporting Excel data to a PDF document, you can use VBA to automate that process. You don’t need to be a VBA master to do this; Excel provides an intuitive interface to build VBA functions. Here’s a free tutorial for learning enough VBA to be dangerous.

2. Act on your interests

It’s easy to become consumed with your daily tasks. Many people feel they only have time to do what’s absolutely required, and never consider thinking more strategically.

Perhaps you have a theory on the US Presidential election’s impact on the euro. To prove your theory you’d need to leverage probability equations and statistical analysis, but you don’t need a degree in those fields. This free course will give you a solid foundation to build on. After you take that course, try this free R programming language tutorial, or this free MATLAB tutorial. R and MATLAB are programming languages that specialise in statistical analysis and data visualization. With a foundation in statistics, and some knowledge of languages meant to visualize statistical data, you can develop new theories, and report them with sound data.

3. Mine your own data

Your company uses databases, which are probably complex and contain hundreds of millions of rows of data. The chances are you run packaged queries for weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports. Running a query is easy enough, but writing your own requires experience. SQL is a universal database language that is used to interact with data in a database. By learning SQL, you’ll be able to explore your company’s databases, run queries on your own, and generate new and useful reports that didn’t exist before.

Many companies rely on a person or team of database programmers to create queries for non-technical people. Learn to program SQL, and you can do it yourself. You’ll also be able to do it better, because you’ll understand the underlying data and what it means to your business in a way that a dedicated database programmer might not.

4. Create a tool for your team

If you have a pain point, there’s a decent chance someone else has the same pain, or at least something similar. By learning how to code web and mobile applications, you can generalize the solution of a problem, and make it accessible to your team, department, or company.

Perhaps your company is particularly bad at communication. Everyone receives hundreds of emails per day, and most are not important. By learning how to code, you could build a more efficient way to communicate, like a real-time chat room or forum. Imagine how incredible it would be to build a tool for your company that made everyone more efficient. Building web and mobile applications isn’t as hard as it may appear, and there are many ways to learn how.

We offer 12-week online bootcamps, paired with 1-on-1 mentorship, in Web Development, iOS, and Android.

Learning to code can both enhance your current skills and potentially open up another career path. Many of our graduates have started out in finance and gone on to work in tech. One even started her own firm, Data Simply.

Yes, technology is viewed as a threat to a lot of finance jobs currently, but learning to code is more of an opportunity to become a more valued employee. Coding has a low barrier to entry and opens up a plethora of potential career opportunities.

As the head of curriculum at Bloc, Mike leads the development and management of all Bloc’s courses. Prior to joining Bloc, Mike was a software developer at IBM and founded a software consulting firm specializing in financial and accounting systems for Federal Government and Fortune 500 companies.

Photo: Ra2studio/Thinkstock

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