Want to climb the ladder? Learn to program
All accountants will be programming Python in the near future says Yemi Aguda, a rising star in accountancy and finance.
Yemi Aguda’s career has moved at a lightning pace. After taking work at the Department for Work and Pensions while studying for his degree, before becoming finance co-ordinator at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
It was at his next role, as area accountant for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, that he discovered digital finance practices, and got involved in finance business partnering. The potential for technology was clear.
“I think the widespread adoption of technology, especially in finance, is inevitable,” he says. “The problem is getting through to people who are used to the old way of doing things.”
As an ACCA member, Yemi started working with the professional body to aid its agenda to educate members about technology. He also used his time in lockdown to completely re-skill, learning the programming language Python and brushing up on other complementary skills. “It’s been a real opportunity to learn. I’ve done maybe two-to-three years worth of learning in the space of five months.”
Yemi now works at pharmaceutical company as business controller, which is very much a business partnering role. While much of his work is still done on Excel, he’s also able to apply his new digital skills.
“I want to be good enough at the core skills of digital finance to be able to train people and convince them: this is what we need to do,” he says. “But what works in your finance function depends what kind of company you’re operating in. For example, if you’re a manufacturing company, the automation/AI side of things would be incredibly useful because if you want to forecast five years and model different scenarios. That might not work as well for other sectors.”
For the time being, Yemi is focused on expanding his knowledge, skills and experience. He’s particularly interested in the innovations going on within financial services and believes there’s a lot that accountants can learn from the sector. He also sees the SME market as a source of real innovation in digital finance.
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“If we wanted to start a business and I’ve spent two or three years learning how to use various languages like Java and Python, we have got an advantage over a company of 250 employees, of which maybe 10 are accountants in the traditional sense. I can effectively deploy technology from the start.”
For young accountants looking to progress their careers quickly (and more experienced ones looking to upskill), Yemi recommends that they learn the Python programming language to give them an edge on the jobs market.
“Python is very easy to use,” he explains. “New accountants should obviously learn how to use Excel, the basics of visuals in particular, but we’re innundated with data now, and the volume is increasing. The pandemic has also sped up progress. We’re going to start seeing companies utilising things like Python and R to create unique modules designed to fit their needs.”
It won’t be long before accountancy’s professional bodies start offering courses on these sorts of skills as part of their membership packages, in the same way that they offer discounted courses for Excel, says Yemi.
“ACCA already do a course on digital finance, and I think that’s brilliant. They’ve been leading the charge. I think we’re also going to need to have an understanding of a language as part of CPD requirements.”
Until these courses become more prevalent, Yemi recommends a number of sources through which you can learn these skills, either for free or at a low price. For example, edx.org offers CS50’s Introduction to Computer Science – “It’s a great launch pad.
You’ve got a 10-week course from Harvard, another from MIT. you can learn the basics of computer science, how to use Python, how to build an app, and the key things you need are free – you only need to pay for the tests and the certificate at the end. You have to persevere, but it’s worth the effort.”