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  • Computer Skills

    For people who are working in the industry, how much Excel and Access skills are necessary to do your jobs?

    Do you code macros in VBA?
    Do you use math programs like R, ''''', Matlab?
    Do you have to process text files from legacy programs?
    When you complete a report or something, is it easy to know that you did it right? (Can you check that numbers "balance" or are realistic?)

    Thanks.

  • #2
    I use Excel and Access all the time, they are fundamental to being able to perform analysis and manage data. I have written lengthy codes in VBA and SQL for both applications. I have also used some statistical software (SAS) to perform simulation based work.

    If you are reporting role, then yes, all numbers should be reconciled and checked. As you gain experience it becomes easy to check your numbers to know that the numbers you are producing are correct.

    Sometimes your numbers will not immediately be correct and some judgment will need to be employed to determine why the variance occurred and if it is reasonable. This is usually not an easy task.

    Usually when dealing with a legacy systems or applications (Lotus 123), it is common to get the techinical dept. (IT) to handle the conversion, as Actuaries we rarely have the time to deal with tasks like this.

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    • #3
      I used Excel and Access primarily, but also TAS. Knowing how to program macros in Excel and Access comes in very handy.

      With the new Sarbanes-Oxley requirements, not only must your reports reconcile, you must also show where every number came from and how it was derived.

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      • #4
        Thank you Quirk and Trojan_Horse! That's exactly what I needed to know.
        I use Excel a great deal, but I haven't gotten into VBA in Office yet. The object model is something I haven't been able to get my head wrapped around. I usually end up dumping data out to text and using Perl to process it.
        I think Access will be easy to pick up after using MySQL and Paradox for some time.

        What percentage of time did you spend using Excel/Access in your first job? Were you tested on those skills in an interview?

        Finally, can you recommend some resources for learning VBA in Excel?

        Thanks.

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        • #5
          I too would like to know some good sources(books or sites) to learn more about Excel (I am decent in it, but dont use it that often, especially applied to actuarial work), Access (no clue on this), and VBA to program for these (I didnt even know you could program for Excel and Access).

          That way once i get an internship i could actually learn the stuff rather than learn how to use excel.

          Thanks.

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          • #6
            MrExcel gives away a chapter a week for free by email. I've learned a lot from reading those. He shows you how to solve popular tasks by using Excel, rather than going through the functions one by one without application.

            Also some people have recommended the John Walkenbach Excel books, but I haven't gone through any of them yet.

            Hope that helps.

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            • #7
              I suggest going to your local book store or library and picking up a few books on Excel and Access. Microsoft Press publishes a series called Step-by-Step that will literally walk you through everything; this is great if you've never had any exposure to the program. I have a book from Microsoft called Programming in Excel that has been a great reference tools.

              To answer a previous question, I used Excel and/or Access about 90% of the time at work.

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              • #8
                ''' 90%?! I'm surprised there isnt an exam on Excel/Access, haha, JK.

                Do you have any recommnendations for the books Trojan?

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                • #9
                  The three books that I keep at my desk are:

                  Excel 2003 Programming ISBN 0-7356-1985-9
                  Excel Data Analysis and Business Modeling ISBN 0-7356-1901-8
                  Access 2003 Step by Step ISBN 0-7356-1517-9

                  The company I work for also sent me to a few all day Access workshops so I have the manuals from those that I use. These books are from Microsoft but there are many good books out there. Be sure to get one that includes a CD with practice databases and examples to work with.

                  Writing macros for Excel and Access is very, very similar to writing Visual Basic programs (same language) so if you're still in school I recommend a entry level VB programming class.

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                  • #10
                    I use Excel about 30% of the time and APL programming the other 70% of the time. Some of my coworkers use Access to pull up information such as distributions of products.

                    The workspaces we run in APL generate reports. If we make a coding change and run a new report we compare the new results with the old results and make sure it makes sense. We spend a lot of time figuring out why we get the answers we do because sometimes they are counter-intuitive.

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                    • #11
                      Apl

                      Originally posted by PhillyP
                      I use Excel about 30% of the time and APL programming the other 70% of the time. Some of my coworkers use Access to pull up information such as distributions of products.

                      The workspaces we run in APL generate reports. If we make a coding change and run a new report we compare the new results with the old results and make sure it makes sense. We spend a lot of time figuring out why we get the answers we do because sometimes they are counter-intuitive.
                      I recently accepted an entry level actuarial position and my company also uses APL quite often. I have been reading through an old book called "APL Is Easy!", trying to learn the language. Can you offer any advice as to some good sources to learning APL?

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                      • #12
                        Excel and Access

                        At Illinois State University, we offer an Excel and Access class with actuarial emphasis for our actuarial majors, because local employers told us this is what they want for entry level students looking for internships and jobs.

                        Yours,
                        Krzys'
                        Want to know how to pass actuarial exams? Go to: smartURL.it/pass

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by hectorr607
                          I recently accepted an entry level actuarial position and my company also uses APL quite often. I have been reading through an old book called "APL Is Easy!", trying to learn the language. Can you offer any advice as to some good sources to learning APL?
                          I used a tutor to learn the basics. It came on a floppy disc and loaded into DOS APL. It had readings and problems at the end of each chapter. I beleive it was called APL tutor by Zark. It was good for learning the basics. I also have looked through the "APL is easy" book you have used. If you can learn how to do all the problems in that book, that should cover most of the code you will need for your job. I probably learned the most from just browsing through other people's code and understanding how each line of code works. Good luck

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