So, the first step to programming your VCR is to set the time. Hold the “Time” button for 3.5 seconds; no more, no less. Wait for the flashing display screen. Enter your time according to time zone, unless your community does not subscribe to daylight savings time, then use time zone closest to you… oh wait… wrong programming.
No, thankfully we will not be learning how to program a VCR. Don’t know what that is? Good. They were horrible. What we are going to be discussing is learning how to write programming language for developing computer programs.
I know what you’re thinking, “But, Matteo, I want to be a financial analyst, not a tech guy (or gal)”. Well, they’re kind of the same these days.
More and more, programming has become a major part of finance. Quants have become such a popular method of analysis. What’s the reason? Well, probably because it’s faster than fundamental research, it’s cheaper to pay a few guys who can program than to pay a whole staff of analysts, and you can get the computer to automate all trading. A program can scour markets to find arbitrage opportunities and exploit them within a matter of milliseconds. That’s something a human will never be able to do.
Is this good? Is it bad? Well, probably a bit of both. It could possibly be argued that by using these arbitrage seeking programs, the market becomes more efficient. But, programs are models, and models aren’t perfect. But regardless, firms seek employees who know how to program (or at least have some programming knowledge), and our goal is to get hired, so it’s probably a good skill to learn.
This doesn’t mean you’ll be making full out programs to scan the markets, but it will mean you will probably use programming in your Excel files to run complex tasks (VBA), or grab information off of a server (SQL), or use MatLab to build portfolios.
I personally don’t have a ton of programming experience. I took C++ in high school, learnt some engineering programming while studying Mathematics and Physics at University, and I taught myself HTML and CSS for making web pages. I would like to learn Java script, VBA for Excel, and SQL, so I started poking around the internet trying to find a site that would help me.
I came across an article about two young men who developed a web site called Codecademy to teach people how to program. The web site is a gaining popularity and thousands are learning to program by using it. But, the best part… it’s FREE! So I signed up.
You can check it out here. www.codecademy.com
I took my first course this morning. It was an intro to java script and I’m pretty sure it’s the default course for all new programmers. It was pretty easy to follow. The site breaks programming into steps and uses examples to help you learn. You are tested along the way to see if you are grasping the concepts. If you find yourself stumped, don’t worry, they have a “Hint” button to show you the way. I must admit that I used the hint button once; turned out the code had the wrong kind of bracket, uugghh! As you complete courses you get badges and a ranking number so you can track your success.
I like this site for two main reasons: First, you can learn in small steps. I can dedicate 30 minutes of my day towards learning programming. This way it doesn’t feel like such a big task. Second, the badges and point system makes it feel like a game and it gives you a little sense of accomplishment when you achieve them.
My next course is either going to be using java script, HTML, and CSS together (to brush up on some skills) or to develop a hangman game or a checkers game (because that sounds more interesting than HTML). I will keep you updated as I learn and maybe post some games I write.
The only downfall is that there are no VBA or SQL courses yet. But, it seems like they have new courses coming in from programmers around the world, so maybe we will see some in the future. I think I’ll also try and contact the company and request they make a course on it.
So check it out. Try some programming and boost your resume’s skills. The site again is www.codecademy.com
Thanks for reading and good luck out there!