Excelmate – The Reluctant Geek & My Journey to the Dark Side

The 1980s….for those of us who were there, despite recession, miners’ strikes, shoulder pads and strange haircuts it was a great decade for a number of things – music (I bet you just started doing the actions to YMCA or Oops upside your head!), the arrival of the first mobile phones, CDs  and one event that left me totally non-plussed: the PC.

Remember those unsightly boxes that basically did very little and relied on huge floppy discs or tapes to transfer data. People would try to get me to be excited over the new technology, but adding numbers or playing space invaders on a tiny greyscale screen was in my eyes hardly worth getting excited over.

And so my avoidance of PCs continued, right through university, two years working in the Far East and even four years into my first job.  It was not until 1996 (yes…you did read that right) that I was forcibly led to a PC to enter data into a spreadsheet to print off lists of shipments heading back to Japan every night. I could have done the work quicker manually but change was coming.

Realising that I couldn’t escape, the best strategy was to learn how to use it properly. I invested in an Excel for Dummies book and read it from cover to cover trying everything out.  And so here began my route to the dark side to become an Excel geek!

With my next job I was introduced to Office 95 and ever increasing amounts of data analysis. Once again, I invested in a book. This time it was the Microsoft Excel manual – over 900 pages if I remember correctly, and as before I started at page 1 and worked my way through the entire book trying out as much as possible. As the data amounts increased and the type of analysis became more complex I wasn’t prepared to spend hours manipulating data before I could actually make a start on analysing it which pushed me to learn more functions and work out what each and every bit of the menu could do. The final part of the jigsaw was automation and it was not until several jobs later that I managed to get some formal training on VBA. My journey to the dark side was complete! I was now officially the office Excel geek.

Fifteen years after that first reluctant use of Excel, here I am teaching people how to use it. I wish I had had the opportunity to go on training in my early years but the school of hard knocks does sometimes have its advantages. I struggled for hours and even days on what turned out to be simple jobs but I believe that this gives me a better understanding of what the average Excel user experiences on a day to day basis,  and who knows….perhaps one day you too might be turned to the dark side and experience the full power of Excel.

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