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Old 02-22-2020, 06:38 PM
Noob Noob is offline
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Default Are some people just not cut out for programming?

We hired an entry level analyst in a role where there is quite a bit of SAS and SQL work. It has been almost a year but they struggle with tasks involving anything more than a most basic query pull or a date change, etc. This person is otherwise diligent and delivers high quality work.

Are some people just not cut out for it?

We do not have formal training for this stuff - but it does seem as if most entry level analysts come in and understand how to troubleshoot and get better by themselves.

We don't need a high level of programming day to day but they struggle to think about the right way to join, the right level of data to pull, etc.

How often do you run into entry level analysts who just don't seem to get the hang of VBA, SAS, SQL?

Last edited by Noob; 02-22-2020 at 06:41 PM..
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Old 02-22-2020, 06:56 PM
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Some people have the mindset that once they get into a position of management, lower level people will do programming for them, so it's not worth investing a lot of time in it if they won't be doing it later. That's kind of the attitude I got when trying to get someone into it and to a certain extent it was true at the company I was at. Technical skills pigeonholed you, people skills got you ahead. Dunno if that's the case with you...

Times are changing and this is a crucial skill they'll need and this type of work isn't going away anytime soon. That needs to be made clear and maybe formal training will help.
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Old 02-23-2020, 09:00 AM
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A lot of people do not know how to do problem-solving. Because that's not the sort of thing that got them ahead in school. And they often have trouble learning stuff, because they never learned how to learn on their own.

There are lots of more structured resources online, for cheap or free, and it may be a good idea to have them do a more formal course.
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Old 02-23-2020, 09:28 AM
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Did the individual in question present themselves as technically competent in those skills? And with those programs/platforms (SAS or SQL)?

Also, it seems that those skills are more important than what I'm getting from the what the OP is saying about their importance. What is done during the interview/screening process to assess this skill set?


I agree with campbell about the state of "education" in that "learning how to learn" and "problem solving" aren't things that are really taught in many programs. Many programs I've seen are focused on learning a tool or programming language without really looking at how to solve business problems.
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Old 02-23-2020, 09:32 AM
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Old 02-23-2020, 11:55 PM
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You say they otherwise do good work, and the title of the thread is “programming.”

Some people really do have problem with programming. Maybe they do not understand how careful they have to be with syntax, or do not understand basic programming constructs, or do not understand how to google for programming documentation. This can be hard to imagine for those who have been programming a long time.

I think it is somewhat of an open question about whether there is a kind of bimodal distribution for programming talent: does it come really easily for some people, and never at all for others? But in my opinion, anyone who can pass actuarial exams can get good enough at programming sql and sas to get by.

Have they learned a programming language before? In a class? As a hobby (almost certainly not i would think).

I would try to gauge whether it is a programming issue, or a larger one with self education or problem solving as others have alluded too.
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Old 02-24-2020, 08:14 AM
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To me programming is a combination of logic flow skills and in a sense language skills - syntax.

I excel at logical flow, but always had difficulty with language skills. Foreign languages were always my downfall in school (though actually very good with word roots, so I could understand, even if I can't create)

I could always find resources to help with the syntax. I do not believe those who don't possess the ability to see logical work flow can learn it.

In college I was a math major with a computer minor. My roommate was a Computer Major with an English minor. He excelled at the syntax, but was poor at the logic.

Well without knowing the computer language he was studying, I could flowchart any project for him. and since he was a major and I a minor, he was usually ahead of me in the computer language and could help me write my programs.

A very symbiotic relationship
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Old 02-24-2020, 09:28 AM
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It's a skill like any other. Some people are good at math or writing, others aren't. Part of that is effort, part is affinity.
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Old 02-24-2020, 10:21 AM
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Bus some things are learnable and others are more dependent on innate capabilities. It's important to determine what is causing this employee problems. They may never had coded, and are just lost as to where to begin, and once they get a grounding they may be great. Or they may not "get it" on some more fundamental level and should be guided to a job where coding is less important.

There are still a lot of actuarial jobs that don't require much (or any) coding prowess, so they probably don't need to leave the field, if they are doing other work well. That's assuming they really aren't going to get it.

Do they have resources to learn? Have they ever taken a course or done any other coding? Do they have co-workers who can help them get up to speed?
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Old 02-24-2020, 02:40 PM
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Yes. That being said, I have also seen people who are excellent at programming get stuck with making some items too complex. Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture sometimes allows another path or solution to make more sense and that can get lost in the complexities.
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