How Excel Changed my Life
A special thanks to Sameera T. for this guest post on Microsoft Excel and how it changed her whole perspective about the best way to do things at work and at home.
I am just an ordinary person and up until just a few months ago, my life was that of a typical modern mom, juggling work and a family, trying to find that perfect balance but never really finding it. The most frustrating thing was that I seemed to be stagnant at work. I had been working for the same company as an accountant for the last five years and I could not see any scope for a promotion or a significant pay rise. This was making me insecure and unhappy, and as a result my mood at home reflected the same emotions.
One day, I woke up and was determined to take charge of my life. I took a day off and after sending the kids to school and my husband to work, I sat down and did some research about the skills I could gain that would help me move forward in my career. The answer surprised me. Most of the articles I read talked about how expertise in Microsoft excel could really give your career a boost and give you a better salary. One particular article – The Key to a Good-Paying Job Is…Microsoft Excel? really caught my eye.
I had some basic knowledge of Excel but I was no expert and had hardly used it to make my work more efficient. So I enrolled in an online intensive Excel course and in a few months I was an Excel pro. I gradually started using it at work and was amazed at how I was able to speed up certain processes and calculations. The best part was that I also started using it at home, to keep track of monthly expenses and found that it saved me so much time as compared to balancing my cheque book manually. I ended up with some much needed free time! I used my extra time take my kids to the park, or for an evening out with my husband. I began to apply to jobs at bigger companies that had ‘proficiency in excel’ as one of their requirements. Before I knew it, I had a great job offer to join the finance team of a multinational company.
If you were to ask me the five most important ways I now use Excel in my new job, I would list out these important features:
- Absolute References
In spreadsheet applications, a reference to a particular cell or group of cells that does not change, even if you change the shape or size of the spreadsheet, or copy the reference to another cell. Is called Absolute references. I am now able to use Absolute References ‘$ sign’ in my formulas to copy formulas to many rows or columns. I can make the formula always reference a specific cell or rows of data.
- Copying Visible Cells Only
This shortcut saves me a lot of time when I need to filter a spreadsheet to show only certain data. I just highlight the data I want to copy, Hit F5, click the “Special” button in the lower left hand corner, click on the “Visible Cells Only” Circle box and hit OK. I then press Ctrl “C” or Edit Copy, paste data into the appropriate sheet. Now only the visible data is copied over.
- Average lines to help identify trends
I often use Excel to present data in the form of charts or graphs. I use average lines (a simple horizontal line across the chart that represents the average line of the plotted data, so that you can see the average value of the data clearly and easily), to detail the key trends emerging from the data. I can even extend the trend lines beyond the graph, to offer predictions of future activity – and such forecasts can help my management develop their future strategy.
- Build great charts
I also am able to sort and filter the data I am working on, and display that data in a visual form using a variety of charts like pie charts, graphs and clustered columns. These charts are a better way to get the data to talk, and my manager is able to use it in reports when discussing bigger business decisions.
- Pasting Formats – Paste Special Shortcut
I use this shortcut when we have to create well-presented and meticulous reports. I use it to format cells, rows and columns with specific font styles, colors and bordering. I also use it to apply the same formatting to numerous cells. For e.g.: when I want to copy over an entire column or row’s formatting to another column or row.
I know I was supposed to give you only 5 uses that I liked and used, but I am getting carried away (yes Excel is really cool), so if you don’t mind will add on a few more.
- Bring together diverse data
One of the most important functionalities of Excel is being able to bring varied information from various sources and documents together in one place. This even includes text and images.
- Data analysis
I know I talked a bit about using Excel to identify trends already, but just want to add a little bit more about how I use it to do some what-if analysis to run different scenarios and forecast the outcome of a worksheet model. I can compare the resulting data of several scenarios in a summary report.
So you see, Excel did make my work life a whole lot more interesting and my home life a whole lot more relaxing. If you were able to relate to my story, perhaps it’s time for you to become an Excel pro too.
Sameera T is a full time mom and works with a multinational company in Chennai as an Account Manager.