Part of my job involves having to make something from lots of things. To do this I am not given the best equipment in the world, instead I am given the cheapest.
Time and time again I fret over the resources I am provided with but I always have to learn to deal with the lemons I am given. I may be given an hour to produce a report from hundreds of thousands of rows of data, but I am also given Excel. It may be a grid of empty spaces but it also my canvas.
Most people will use this spreadsheet program as a fancy calculator or to write a list in. Some may even venture to using a formula that exceeds SUM, but I have to use it to make sense of the world I live in.
That world revolves around numbers, and mostly concentrates on making them larger. The bigger the number I come up with, the bigger the smile. Yet for a job that is so important the only mechanism I have for creating this pleasure is a piece of software designed for slight amusement not overbearing joy.
This isn’t a knock piece on Excel, it is the most vital part of my job and being good at it and making it do more than is expected by my seniors has given me a good life. When I have to go to an older version I miss the latest whizzbang features (oh Sparklines, you complete me).
This is more a lament of the fact that those who rely on it’s findings also are not aware of it’s failings. It is not a database, it is not really a valid replacement for a bespoke piece of software, it is not reliable or fast when you want to make lots of changes.
I have used Excel to:
- Build an MI dashboard (with no 3D pie charts or rev counters).
- Build an MI database with added forecasting and targeting models.
- Make an attribution model, and compare models.
- Create a tagging system for thousands of URLS.
- Run a reporting mechanism from multiple teams.
- Produce Call Centre forecasting.
- Manage a Call Centre team, with 15 minute timeslots calculated on estimated call volumes.
None of this may make sense to those who don’t use it, and there are Excel advocates and gurus who will tell me this is the simple stuff. What I am doing though with a free piece of software (although business’s are paying for a licence somewhere) is replace other’s that cost thousands.
At a recent employer I was told one spreadsheet could be sold for plenty of money (and as a result make sure I only share the work as values with third parties).
Every day I am provided with lemons at work, every day I leave refreshed knowing I have made some lemonade.
When life gives you lemons… make something else. Tell us about a time you used an object or resolved a tricky situation in an unorthodox way.
Source: Not Lemonade