Why Microsoft Sent Me All This Stuff

Why Microsoft Sent Me All This Stuff

I often say that I love Microsoft Excel. Yes, I get funny looks and the occasional chuckle because who could be THAT LAME, but the truth is, Excel has been good to me. In fact, when things were at their scariest I’ve always been able to leverage my Excel skills to make a living. Viva el Excel.

Most people think you can only be good at Excel if you can memorize tricks. Many can be really quick to undervalue someone with solid data skills as merely a “worker bee”. But mastering Excel can only take place when you’ve developed a clear and logical thinking strategy to lay out problems, map business processes, and build solutions. This is a valuable skillset for any employer to have in house and it’s not something to overlook in people.

In the last 15 years or so I’ve used Excel to build and manage data models to support forecasting and budgeting for manufacturers and hospitals, I’ve used it to automate monthly close cycles by summarizing transactional data into journal entries, I’ve managed multiple entity financial statements for publicly traded companies, just to name a few of the many responsibilities I’ve had. All of these applications are inherently different from each other, require different approaches to solve, and Excel is how I accomplished it. Yes, I’ve expanded deeply into SQL because of the size of data sets I’m using now, and I am also slowly building a Python toolbox, but at the core I’m a spreadsheet nerd.

What put me on Microsoft’s radar was a little stunt I pulled just to see if I could layer a multi-tiered formula into one cell. I then tweeted the formula and the folks at Excel saw it, loved it, and reached out to me. Here’s an image of the formula:

You can see I got some VLOOKUPs going on, some left/right/mid, and lots of nested IF statements. I was trying to automate a routine task I work on in my job that transforms data depending on what letters are in it, but because the data is messy, I had to perform some data conditioning as well.

It was fun bantering back and forth with the Excel folks. They were impressed with the formula and my enthusiasm for their product, so they sent me some stuff. The funniest was the pair of sunglasses that have “VLOOKUP” on the side of them. I gave these to my son and he wears them around the house. The stickers and stuff I think I’ll give out to coworkers if they can impress me with some Excel magic. The patch I’m actually going to have sewn onto a work shirt because how cool is that?

At the end of the day, I encourage people to leverage technology to get their jobs done better. You would be surprised the incremental changes you can make in your processes to get down to 40 hours a week. It’s also impossible to be in management today and not know Excel because like it or not, we live in a data driven era now. Yes, there are still managers who kick out these tasks to subordinates, but the days when its acceptable to rely on a non-decision maker to crank through a spreadsheet are dwindling. I always say if a problem is laid out right in a clean, well thought out way, the solution is almost always self-evident.

In all honesty, Excel isn’t hard to learn. Today’s version is a million times simpler than the clunky one I started on back in the day. For example, back then we had to write CODE to sort by colors, now it’s a feature pre-installed. You also had to know where stuff was located in the menu drop down boxes while now it’s all laid out in the open. Not to mention the thousands of YouTube videos out there to teach you and every solution available on Stack Exchange. There’s probably not a better time to learn Excel so have at it.