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Do you like Excel? You will love SQL (and automating much of your Excel work)

April 24, 2023

Imagine this: you get some messy data for the French market in Excel, you spend all day transforming the data and doing the analysis. Everyone is happy! A week later, you get something very similar for the German market. How great would it be to do the entire “new” analysis in minutes, so you can go to a fancy dinner/yoga/an underground techno rave instead?

Meet SQL.

Isn’t programming like SQL for super nerd geniuses?

When I started at Google six years ago, I had two banking internships under my belt (so I was familiar with Excel), but didn’t know how to code at all. Six years later, I ended up technical enough to contribute to projects in the Climate Science and Health orgs (a.o. Applying AI to prevent more people from going blind). I now work at a VC as Data Lead, focusing on automating processes and analyzing big data. How does someone average at Excel get to here?

I always thought that any kind of computer code & data science was for crazy hacker people that were assembling computers since they were in diapers.

Fortunately, the main language to work with big data - SQL - is quite straightforward. Pinky promise. It’s also super powerful.

- Want to work with big data (10 billion rows big)? You need SQL.
- Want to run automated reports, and automate work now done in Excel? You need SQL.

This is why for almost all Strategy, Finance and Product roles in Tech they require SQL.

Interesting, but I doubt SQL is that easy.

I pinky promised it wasn’t hard, so let me give you an example.

Imagine we have a table (big Excel sheet in the cloud) called flights with columns price and d_to (the destination the flight is flying to) and we only want flights going to Los Angeles

How do we select this?

Of all the things that should scare you (global warming, economic inequality reaching critical levels) this clearly isn’t one of them. And the upside is huge: imagine the management slides updating themselves, and doing other work in a fraction of the time. On top of this, there’s also some big data work that you couldn’t even do otherwise (trying working with 10 million rows of data in Excel or Google sheets).

Because I’m so passionate about SQL, I co-founded which teaches data science skills to non-technical people. Being good at Excel helps, but it’s not required. We teach our courses live in small groups. Imagine a Google Hangouts with some nerdy friends, minus the covid basically.

Why wouldn’t I use an app or an online video platform?

If people would learn hard stuff with an app, DuoLingo would be bigger than Google and everyone would be avanzado en Español. E-learnings are boring and crappy ways to learn - what do you remember from your last e-learning?

Having a live instructor that’s technical and extroverted (the bar is admittedly low for technical people) just makes all the difference. 

Being able to ask a question when you don’t get it, and having us ask you questions will keep you engaged. And because you learn in small group, you have guilt social cohesion to keep you going. Hence, dropout rates for live courses are close to zero (compared to 97% for Coursera).

Intrigued? The next Data Analytics in SQL for Business Profiles cohort kicks off in September. It’s at 19:00 CET every week for 7 weeks. If you ever miss a class, there’s a recording (we will chase you to check if you saw it, and we’re happy to do another session to answer any questions).

Learn how to love SQL with us and and start to automate much of your excel work. Hope to see you there! 

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