Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Zach Dinch, former student, United States
Zach Dinch is a young man of 23 who, after four years at Princeton University, recently joined a Pennsylvania-based firm that offers advisory to companies in equity capital markets. Among other roles, he currently is working as one of two lead developers on a SQL-based platform that aims to greatly enhance his company’s already industry-leading analytical capabilities.
We first met Dinch in 2018 when he was as a senior at Trinity High School in Washington County, Pennsylvania. While there, he excelled in Oracle Academy curriculum, earning an Oracle professional certification in Oracle Database 11g: SQL Fundamentals I.
Four years later, with an engineering degree from Princeton under his belt and full-time employment in a role he enjoys, Dinch took the time to share more about his journey through college and into his new career.
Oracle Academy: When we last spoke in 2018, you were gearing up for a major in Computer Science at Princeton University. How did it go?
Zach Dinch: Not so smoothly! After a year of studying Computer Science, I decided the program wasn’t for me. It had an intense focus on the theoretical and dug deeply into the minutia of how computer systems work. Truth be told, I don’t really care how the computer operates; I wanted to use a code compiler to design cool things, not build the code compiler itself. Princeton Computer Science is an excellent program, but it’s dedicated to the nittiest and grittiest, very ones and zeroes based. It’s exceptionally important, but at the end of the day, that’s just not me. Using computers to solve problems, answer questions, and conduct analyses has always been more my thing.
During the fall semester of my sophomore year, I made the decision to switch into the major I would ultimately graduate with: Operations Research and Financial Engineering. This major does incorporate some computer science, but it’s a hodgepodge of many other fields as well, including finance, engineering, statistics, and of course, data science.
This turned out to be the perfect fit for me, building off the work I did with Oracle Academy and combining it with other various interests that I’d always held.
Oracle Academy: Was it the financial engineering that landed you the capital markets advisory job?
Zach Dinch: It certainly played a role, as did the SQL curriculum training offered by Oracle Academy. I would say that my major provided me with the financial literacy necessary to understand the business. Even for someone working on fewer deals than the analysts, an economic background is key to creating effective tools. It’s also where I picked up much of the knowledge necessary to use our Excel systems. However, Princeton did not provide education in the actual development of databases; all of the work I did as a student in Big Data was theoretical in nature. Oracle Academy curriculum provided me with the hands-on experience necessary to develop the analytics platform I currently have in production. Without that instruction, I’d have no idea how to actually design a database for practical use or write the SQL code necessary to bring it to life. In short, I’d say both were vital in helping me to stand out as a candidate for employment.
Oracle Academy: What do you do in your new role?
Zach Dinch: I like to say that my role is that of a full-time problem solver. Employees come to me with ideas that would enhance our business’s analytical capabilities, whether by improving existing processes or inventing entirely new material. My job is to figure out how to actually make those ideas a reality. The exposure I’ve had to different software, different programming languages, and different schools of thought has made me a versatile individual capable of tackling many different problems in many different ways. If that sounds a bit vague, it is; I’m the first Business Analytics Specialist at my company, and so it falls to me to precisely define what exactly this role is. I’ve always been a bit of a trailblazer, and so I find it an incredibly exciting opportunity.
But you probably really want to know more about the analytics platform. In the equity capital markets, my company has the best data available; my boss has referred to us as “ECM’s Library of Congress”. That amazing data deserves elegantly designed structures to house, sort, and filter it efficiently. That’s where my SQL background comes into play. We’re looking into taking the flat Excel files that have powered our analytics for the last fifteen years and morphing them into a relational database. The goal is more in-depth analytics at faster rates than before while using fewer company resources. It’s ambitious, but ultimately will lead to better, more accurate service for our clients, and it’s possible through the power of SQL programming.
Oracle Academy: So your Oracle Academy courses have helped you with this task?
Zach Dinch: All of the know how necessary for this project comes from the Oracle Academy coursework I studied. I’m incredibly excited about this platform, because it finally allows me the opportunity to utilize in a real-world application this skillset I built up five years ago. I’m really just incredibly grateful for the exposure I had to SQL in high school through Oracle Academy; I wouldn’t be up to this task without it. And since we’re talking gratitude, it’s important to at least mention how thankful I am to this day for your curriculum designers, one of whom is my former Oracle Academy teacher Alyssa Cotton, who continues to have a monumental influence on the trajectory of my life. My job, my college, my life here in New Jersey has only been possible because she believed in me so many years ago.
Oracle Academy: After four years at Princeton not using SQL, did you take refresher courses?
Zach Dinch: I very briefly took a look at some online SQL courses, but didn’t find them all that helpful. Instead, I opted to dig out the study guides I had made as a senior in preparation for the certification examinations, and found those to be much more comprehensive reminders. Once I’d started reading through those, details came back very quickly. I hadn’t forgotten anything too major, but five years of total inactivity had led to some dulling of the finer points, such as complex functions, precise syntax, things of that nature. It was a nostalgic experience to return to those guides.
Oracle Academy: To what extent would you say that the certifications you earned help students in attaining jobs?
Zach Dinch: It’s certainly a net positive. It’ll always look good on a resume. It’s definitive proof of a skillset, something that’s difficult to offer if most of your body of work is unavailable to potential employers. At the same time, the certification is secondary to the acquisition of the skills. All of the companies that offered me roles on their teams made me complete a technical challenge to evaluate my skillset, regardless of my having certifications. However, they’re definitely worth obtaining, as they help you stand out in competitive applicant pools, both for employment and collegiate applications.
Oracle Academy: That’s great. And what do you do outside of the capital markets workspace if you have time?
Zach Dinch: Things have been busy! If I’m not at the office, I’m probably spending my time with my lovely girlfriend. One of her favorite pastimes is cooking. I was rather incompetent in the kitchen before meeting her, but over the last three years, I’m now able to hold my own! Working as her sous chef, I’ve learned to make dishes from all over the world.
As far as other activities go, I love a trip to the movies, cheering on my Pittsburgh Steelers, or sitting down to play the occasional video game. I especially love traveling to new places, embracing new cultures, trying new foods, and seeing famous landmarks. But even when I’m home in New Jersey, I’ve found plenty to keep me busy; I love attending local festivals and community events. I’ve also found hiking to be a particularly enjoyable activity. There are many wonderful trails here, and I find the tranquility of a nice walk to be the perfect escape from life’s daily stressors.
Read the spotlight on Dinch when he was a senior at Trinity High School.
In this podcast, listen to Dinch and his former teacher discuss how Oracle Academy curriculum benefits faculty and their students.
Thank you, Zach Dinch, for your passion for Oracle Academy.