Because of several circumstances I have seen myself a little unfortunate when it comes to keeping a job for the last three or four years but I take comfort in the fact that I have never been fired because of incompetence – not to my knowledge anyway.

I began my career in the financial sector eight years ago and had a good five year employment at a company called Morningstar. After this I began my search for a new place that suited me and this span from a huge worldwide Bank to minor company hosting mobile phone services. The first one was Saxo Bank who let off ca. 400 people just about a year ago; unfortunately this included me and let me in to my first long stretch of unemployment last winter. My search included employment in four different places within a period of three years including e-conomic; personally I realized this didn’t look on my résumé but that’s an entirely different story.

I saw myself asking the same thing at every new place: How do I get to the point where you understand the basics of a system as fast as possible? One way is to read every document the company has ever written about the system, but as I realized in the bank, this could take forever. Especially when I have no real concept of what I’m reading and I haven’t seen any system code; consequently I found it hard to convert this knowledge into real understanding. I’m sure most of you would agree that the best way to learn about a subject is to read several books about it. But quite a few people, like me for instance, are just not that good at understanding the concepts of what I’m reading without getting my hands dirty.

The popular metaphor for a complex personality is to use the term that he or she is like an onion, you peel of one layer only to find another – but if you are consistent you’ll get to the heart and find the true nature of that person. This is of course very poetic but to some extend I found the same way to be very successful when I want to know how a system works.  Metaphorically speaking I usually start drilling somewhere, more or less random, from the top and work my way down. Without a doubt I’ll hit some dry spots with complete confusion and rough patches but instead of giving up and start all over somewhere else, I put in some extra effort until I hit the lowest level of code. That’s when I usually turn around and work my way up, with the knowledge gained from fooling around in the heart of the system for some tme.

It’s obvious that if you only stay in one place for a short period of time, you’ll never get this deep down as most systems tend to be very complex, especially when it comes to handling other people’s money one way or another. But what has come to my attention is the Eureka moment and I believe we can all experience these moments when introduced to new complicated systems.

My Eureka moment at Economic

Except for the fact that I had no real experience with accounting I did have some understanding from several attempts to start some sort of consulting from home and this helped me in the beginning. But as I quickly realized this wouldn’t get me far. I tried clicking around in the e-conomic software here and there but again without any real understanding of what was going on underneath the hood I was wasting my time. So I took on assignments that didn’t need too much understanding of real accounting, like changing things in the user interface or adding new functionality to some of the input forms.

After about two months I got an assignment to create a new report adding up VAT in a different way than usual. I realized that this is it! I have to know what I’m doing or I could spend an eternity debugging any errors down the line because I don’t really know what’s going on. Of course by now I knew some of the basics but I hadn’t really been able to connect the dots. I pulled out my big drilling machine and put in a few invoice entries in the cash book and booked like half of them. At the same time I was watching every small change in the Database and thirty minutes later: Eureka! When you create an entry in the cash book three lines are added to the database table containing all the information. It’s so simple and reflects entirely what happens what you would normally do in any other accounting system; please allow me to elaborate.

  • The first entry goes on the expense account including the Creditor id and the net total of the invoice in question.
  • Second entry is the VAT which of course is assigned with an ID of the VAT account that belongs to the particular product and a flag telling the system that this is a VAT entry.
  • Third entry is what goes to the client account entry without VAT.

Why was this a Eureka moment to me?

Because I saw with my own eyes the result of what I had done in the accounting software – it wasn’t what I had read earlier, what I was told or knew about accounting from the beginning; it did help me understand what was happening but seeing the true impact on the database made everything clear as sunshine to me. Suddenly I saw the connection between the account table, the creditor table, how VAT was written, the invoices, the difference between entries booked and not booked and most importantly how to read and write any VAT or booking information in the database.

I now had a point of reference in the database from which the entire system expands from. I later realized that this was also one of the first things that were constructed and one could state that I had found the path from where the system was build.

Today I use this information without giving it much thought but it did confirm that the only way to learn about something new is to start in one area, stay there, learn everything about it and then work your way out. Usually the best way is to identify the cornerstones from where everything else gets their relations and start there. In this case it’s the entries from the cashbook – almost everything in the database has a relation to the entries in the books so that’s where you should start.