Who Develops in Excel

When I was younger, I remember wanting to be many different things: a dolphin trainer, a professional hockey player, and a pilot, to name a few. I also went through a phase when I thought it would be cool to be a programmer (except as a kid I wanted to develop games, not boring business programs). Then I grew up and my priorities changed. In fact, in my first "real" career job, I was a financial analyst. At no point in my life did I plan on becoming an Excel developer; it just happened. The factors that drove me to become one are interesting and, I believe, quite common in the corporate world.

First, most analysts, and many other "knowledge workers" for that matter, live and breathe spreadsheets. I was no different in that regard. I figured the better I understood all of the features and functions available in Excel, the better I would become at my job as it would enable me to analyze data more efficiently and with fewer mistakes.

Second, the analytical process tends to be a very tedious affair. Generally, you need to pull data from disparate systems and organize it in a way that provides meaning. Then repeat, and repeat, and repeat as reporting cycles dictate. You have daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks, and so on. You need to work quickly and accurately—two characteristics that are generally diametrically opposed. The greater the pressure to finish something, the easier it is to make mistakes. I felt that I spent more time collecting and formatting data then I did analyzing or thinking critically about the results. To me, this didn't seem right. There had to be a better way.

Third, I had a manager who recognized my interests and understood the potential productivity gains that could be had via analytical automation—that is, automating the analytical process. This manager understood that though it takes a little more time upfront to build solutions rather than just spreadsheets, the time could be easily recouped with each reporting cycle.

Finally, I had a genuine interest in technology in general. I enjoyed learning about the different ways I could employ technology to make my life easier. I found that employing technology to make my job less tedious had immediate rewards that served to reinforce my interest.

The result of all of these factors was that after a few years as a financial analyst, I came to realize that my true calling was as a developer and not just any developer. I was an Excel developer, a developer specializing in developing analytical applications.

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