Qwasar Blog

A 6-Step Guide on How to Transition From Accounting to Tech

Written by Kristen Capuzzo | Jun 8, 2022 4:21:42 PM

The tech industry is one of the fastest growing industries with an immeasurable amount of opportunities to get involved. For the numbers-oriented accountants, tech can be an exciting and simple transition offering different ways of applying skills you already have. With the growth of fintech as an industry and the transformation of traditional banks as well, there are ample opportunities to put newly developed tech skills to use, particularly in building finance and accounting-related software products. 

How an Accounting Background Can be an Asset When Switching into Software Engineering

Coming from an accounting background can be particularly useful for those wanting to switch careers to become a software engineer. Learning software engineering expands upon your current skill set and utilizes your prior experience, particularly if you want to work in a tech role in the financial industry.

Outside of an accounting skill set and accountant experiences, there are a suite of transferable skills (more on that below), but there is also a culture and mentality of being detail-oriented and rigorous that is easily applied to writing and debugging code.

Further, the accounting industry requires a strong level of professionalism and networking throughout the year, which transfers well to conducting peer code reviews and working on a team of software engineers. It takes a team effort to get projects completed in every organization, and understanding your experience of doing the same but from the accounting perspective can enhance the technical journey. 

When applying for software jobs/internships/apprenticeships, companies place a value and emphasis on the background you bring to the table from an accounting career. You can successfully show your accounting experience to be a positive asset to an organization.

The Parallels Between Software Development and Accounting

While at first glance, there may not seem to be much in common between developing software and running the books for an organization, there are in fact a lot of transferrable skills, principles, and concepts that make it unsurprising for so many accountants to have pursued a career switch.

Accounts require a level of logic, rigor, attention to detail, and work with spreadsheets, formulas, and possibly predictions. Likely, they work with several teams and departments, as well as different moving parts that are needed to “deliver an end product” - a completed set of accounts for a given time period or accounting year. Accountants use various software products, and likely have to configure automations, alerts, or actions based on conditions.

Computer programming also requires logic, rigor and attention to detail. Rather than working in Excel, they work with more advanced databases such as SQL, Redis, or MongoDB. They too have to work with several teams and the larger the software, the more moving parts have to be taken into account. In writing code, they will use conditional statements for various actions, automate actions, and test or monitor their code similar to alerts for accountants.

Accountants are arguably already well set up to become software engineers having already had experience with concepts, principles, and technology common to software engineering.

Software engineering, though, is a large landscape, so to help accountants looking to transition, we’ve put together a 6-step guide on how to transition.

1.) Choose Between Software Engineering, Full Stack Development, or Data Science

Accountants wanting to get into tech should first choose between three major tech roles: software engineering, full stack development, and data science. One major way to narrow down your decision is to take a look at job descriptions of these three areas and find common trends. This can help you decide which career to pursue. The job duties and descriptions can vary from each of these specialties so it is important to choose one to guide your transition journey. You can read more about each of these programs at Qwasar in addition to your job research.

Our Software Engineering program focuses on software engineering principles, as well as strong fundamentals in data structures and algorithms. Learners will cover fundamental computer programming concepts including arrays, strings, algorithms, pointers, hash data structures, and software architecture, before moving on to focusing on front-end and back-end languages including JavaScript, using the terminal, C, Assembly, Shell, virtual machines, sockets, C++ and object-oriented programming, network programming, Redis, and advanced algorithms and data structures. Our projects include a focus on software architecture, object-oriented design, and advanced back-end programming. 

Our Full Stack Development program focuses on front-end and back-end development, as well as strong fundamentals in data structures and algorithms. Learners will cover fundamental computer programming concepts including arrays, strings, algorithms, pointers, hash data structures, and software architecture, before moving on to focusing on front-end and back-end languages including Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Javascript, HTML, CSS, Typescript, React, PostgreSQL, PHP, REST APIs, and Liquid. Our projects include a focus on databases, intermediate object-oriented design, and deploying to the cloud.

Our Data Science program focuses on end-to-end data management and use from collection to business decision-making, as well as strong fundamentals in data structures and algorithms. Learners will cover fundamental computer programming concepts including arrays, strings, algorithms, pointers, hash data structures, and software architecture, before moving on to the fundamentals of data analysis and machine learning, data collection, cleaning, storage, analysis, display/visualization, and real-world use. We cover Python, Panda, Jupyter, Keras, and TensorFlow, and projects become significantly more complex using large data sets that must also be optimized for implementation costs.


2.) Dive Deeper Into the Numbers: Is the Switch Worth it Financially?

When it comes down to considering the financial aspects of a career change from accounting into tech, it's important to focus on the figures before you dive into switching careers: is the switch financially worth it for you? Over a 3-year period, given your goals, does the data show what you consider to be an acceptable situation?

The numbers below show the potential salaries in the tech industry and how many years of experience before leveling up to a higher salary grade. In tech, there aren't nearly as many barriers to entry or strict structured forms of “climbing the corporate ladder”. Job functions and duties change over time with innovative digital technology and developers’ compensation may change as a result of demand for new languages and systems. The standard percentage increases in wages found in many accounting firms does not translate over to tech careers. Skills and capabilities are highly valued and appreciated in this field. Along with this comes the importance of staying on top of emerging technologies and future proofing yourself. 

This chart details some of the average salaries for both entry-level and junior positions within the tech industry. These numbers are relative to geographic location as well as the individual organization, but do reflect true averages. There is a positive trajectory of growth within these positions as shown by the increase in base compensation with just a few years of experience. Not to mention the other forms of compensation that are common in the technology industry including 401k (with company match in some scenarios), retirement funds, pensions, stock/equity options, PTO, tuition reimbursement, continuing education, health/dental/vision/life insurance benefits, lifestyle reward programs, HSA accounts, relocation assistance, performance or yearly bonuses, etc.


3.) Understand Transferable Skills From Accounting to Software Engineering

A career in accounting helps you develop many transferable skills for other industries. For the tech industry, you already have experience working with data from the accounting side, including analyzing it and interpreting it through accounting software. Many accountants already have a foundational set of technical skills including Excel programming with Macros, pivot tables, etc. The skills used to create advanced spreadsheets with inner workings of functions and algorithms are technical in nature and would transition well into technical roles. This prepares you for the other side of data from the technology end where you will manipulate and utilize that data in new ways. Analyzing how each piece of information fits into the grand scheme of the project is part of what programmers and developers excel at.


Delivering Work at Client-acceptable Standards: Balancing the Books, Debugging Code

One important skill that accountants already have are reconciliation skills. Accountants must always validate the data to their customers (i.e. billing to an individual must equal the services rendered or cash received must match what was billed to an individual). In software development, reconciliation is also critical though it’s called debugging. If a code has bugs in it, it won’t work as it should, therefore likely upsetting the client or user. 


Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Also, another transferable skill is the ability to think critically at a big-picture and detailed level, and to solve problems of any size. This might come naturally to some but others will bring lots of experience from the accounting industry. There are times when the numbers don’t add up on the spreadsheet, a formula is not executing correctly, or there is missing information. These problems are encountered often in the accounting world, but your ability to effectively and efficiently solve them will transfer well into a tech career when a bug appears in your code or something is not displaying correctly in the front end.

As an accountant, you often work with vendors, clients, customers, legal, internal, and management to complete a project or task. As you develop software programs for the end user in tech, you work with many of the same parties to ensure the final output is exactly as desired. 


Attention to Detail

Great accountants are very good at attention to detail: no invoice, missed payment, missed revenue, or line item gets past them without being flagged or noted. This attention to detail is also present in good engineers: adhering to coding standards and best practices, being exact in what you tell the computer to do through your code, writing clean and well-structured code, and more.

Being comfortable paying attention to detail also helps: you won’t feel as uncomfortable working in lower-level languages that require intense attention to detail. If you’re comfortable finding multiple small rounding errors, then you’ll be comfortable debugging a code base.


Being Security-minded: Protecting Against Fraud in Accounting, Vulnerabilities in Software

Accountants bring audit skills to the table which is necessary for validation of workflows, adhering to corporate rules and governance and overall standards in accounting practices. Accountants follow strict guidelines to adhere to the standards set in place by Congress and the accounting boards. In terms of tech careers, programmers follow coding norms and best practices in their work.

In accessing spreadsheets and accounting software, there are typically encrypted logins and passwords required to ensure authorized access for appropriate individuals. This ensures that just anyone is not able to contribute to spreadsheets and adjust numbers to public or private gain. Also, the industry standard is to share documents as read-only to ensure data cannot be manipulated in error. There are teams of accountants who work together to ensure checks and balances on large accounts with multiple moving parts and protect worksheets from corruption. In both careers, individuals go to great lengths to ensure compliance with best practices and ethics in security and preventing fraud - whether through monetary or cyber-attacks. Having this mindset already is particularly useful as a software engineer when writing code and designing systems.


Time Management

Finally, being able to efficiently time manage and prioritize tasks is key. Many aspects of a technical project rely on multiple moving parts so it's important to spend time executing the right steps in the right order to ensure everything will be completed by a deadline. This is very similar to accounting careers where deadlines come multiple times a year with the closing of each fiscal quarter.


4.) Understand Entry-level Requirements for Tech Jobs

Programming is a role with comparatively low barriers to entry given the salary ranges. In most cases, technical roles are more focused on skills, proven capabilities or experience, and showing what you’re capable of rather than college degrees. The old standard of requiring a Bachelor’s degree is disappearing from more and more tech jobs, particularly as employers look to recruit a more diverse workforce. Companies are committing to hiring from alternative routes and removing degree requirements from many open positions.

Companies have not, however, compromised on the technical level and hard skills they expect from applicants. This means that whatever learning journey or training route you end up pursuing, you need to be sure that the level you will obtain matches with the level that companies are looking for, whether it’s as a software engineer, full stack developer, or data scientist.

Luckily for us, there’s plenty of data out there to look at: 200,000+ job descriptions available at any given moment for tech jobs in the US! So look at job descriptions for the roles you’re interested in and note the trends in what companies want! This is the level you should be aiming for in your transition from accounting to tech.

A willingness to learn, self motivation and a desire to be successful are key components to the pathway to successfully landing a tech job. Being well versed in 21st-century skills will ramp up your learning and help you get in quicker.

5.) Research & Analyze Your Training Options: Do the Numbers Add Up?

The average cost of a coding bootcamp ranges from $11,272 - $13,584 depending on data source. This figure varies depending on topic of study, style of instruction, geographic location, and student status (Full or Part time). At $2,400, our programs are a minimal financial investment with a huge career advancement and endless opportunities. As of January 2022, we have a 90%+ employment rate for students who have completed our programs. Investing time and financial resources into this program can be a great way to transition from the accounting to tech industry with minimal barriers to entry and the least amount of delays and wasted resources. 

There are already a handful of accountants or learners from the financial industry in our programs, all of whom are looking to transition into tech careers. In the last 9 months, a manager of a small financial accounting team joined our program and was recently accepted to the LinkedIn REACH apprenticeship program, a distinguished and highly recommended software engineering apprenticeship for talent without a Computer Science degree. In the last 12 months, a different accountant joined our program from Canada and just launched his own business, a SaaS company selling a particular accounting software he built based on his experience as an accountant. Both are excited about their career prospects, their progress, and their current positions.


6.) Forecasting How Long the Transition Will Take

The entire transition process from accounting into tech will take around 10 - 24 months, depending on time from application to a technical training program, commitment ability, how quickly you progress through the material, and how many jobs and apprenticeships you apply to. This includes completing a technical training program and technical interviewing. This will vary depending on how quickly a learner progresses through the projects and how much time they are willing to dedicate to their education. The final season in our programs called TIPP (Technical Interview Preparation Program) will prepare you for the technical interview process with resume reviews, technical portfolio building, and mock interviews. Most students receive employment offers before finishing their bootcamp.

There are many scenarios that affect how quickly you may progress through our programs. If your commitment is full time (40 hours/week) and you dedicate extensive time to completing projects, you will gain competency faster than someone who has part time (20 hours/week) availability and other responsibilities such as a family or job. Both cases are fine and neither one is considered better than the other. Each individual will have a different process to change careers and it is important to do what is best for you and your situation. It's essential to be realistic and not expect full time results on a part time basis. Learning takes time and something this crucial cannot and truthfully should not, be rushed. 

The typical length of time our learners spend in each program is shown below:

How Our Curriculum Prepares You For the Transition From Accounting into Tech

Our programs start out with a preseason bootcamp with basic software engineering principles, variables, functions, loop statements, if statements, basic algorithms and data structures. The main concepts covered in Preseason are Javascript, IDE, and Terminal. We ensure competency of these core components are developed before progressing further into the next season of instruction. Our active, skills-based style of instruction works well for all learners because it differs from the traditional form of lecture-based learning. The focus is not one what you can memorize, but what you are capable of doing and if you have truly learned a concept. Before moving on to higher level projects, competency is developed and proven by each learner. 


For more on our specific programs: