Just doing my job

In which I thank myself with some flowers.

I have a thankless job and I’m happy with that, I feel awkward when I’m congratulated and just want to reply with “just doing my job, maam”. Ignoring the problem with referring to my manager as “maam” it also causes me problems in getting ahead in business.

The main issue is I belive my job (kind of like a
executive specializing in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration or a transponster) is a service job. It my my role to help others do their roles better. I’m a caddy or a buttress, I should only be noticed if I’m not doing my job properly.

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More than a spreadsheet

In which there are countless ways I’m not just a ‘numbers’ guy.

One of the most frustrating descriptions of my job is that I’m “The Numbers Guy”. We’ve just done a personality profile exercise when I wasn’t in the “You like spreadsheets” group there was a few incredulous looks. He uses Excel so he must love writing formulas and doing tables?

What if I told you the answer to that was “kinda”, of course I take some pleasure from a well presented set of stats but I do it because I’m good at it (and helps pay the bills) but very few people ever dream of being an analyst when they are little. Even now at the age of 34 (just) I don’t wake up excited about the prospect of firing up a new .xls file.

Instead of being a numbers person what keeps me sane is the fact that I can use this skill to be a more creative person.

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How to be a data analyst

In which I try to lift he fog of war on numbers and reveal it all to be a feint.

As a data analyst I have often believed that it is more important to look right rather than be right. Accuracy will always lose to style; it seems to be the way of the world. I have been told by previous managers that “these numbers don’t feel right” and “could I go and check them”. Later after changing nothing but the colour scheme and some borders the figures all of a sudden feel better.

Double Decker buses are also a standard unit
Double Decker buses are also a standard unit

It’s like evidence depends purely on the appearance of the information, this is why we live in a world where infographics seem to be the fad du jour. Losing a percentage of the rainforest each day can only be measured in Wales (a standard unit of measurement, much like Double Decker buses for length or Eiffel towers for height) rather than hectares.

I once ‘wowed’ a manager by placing a button on a spreadsheet that allowed him to print it off. The fact I had placed it directly below the print button in the toolbar (and it simply was a macro that replayed a press of that button) was beside the point. It was a button that printed.

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The great data swindle

In which plenty of mistakes are made with bad data.

I made a comment today that with the computing power in my scientific calculator we were able to send men to the moon and back, yet the computers at work often fall over because too many people are using them. In response someone mentioned that for a misplaced full stop a space shuttle crashed and that it is just human error. Perhaps this is the problem; the world has got too complicated. There is just too much data.

The BBC ran a good article yesterday about data overload and I think that it’s pretty insightful, we have more and more information at our fingertips than ever before in human history but is it just too much noise?

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The kind of people who use Excel

In which Index Match is like sugar.

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.

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Excel is not that exciting

In which I am excited by no longer being bored at work

I’m just a couple of days into my new job and I’m still loving it. It would be a little awkward if I wasn’t as jobs are not a dime a dozen. I’m still in the honeymoon phase where everything is new and different and, as a result, exciting.

I’m now in the world of contracting which means I may now only spend a few months at a company before moving on. As well as the financial recompense this may be perfect for me because what can bore me is becoming stuck in the same role, I want to develop and learn new skills and not just do the same thing every day.

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Putting on an Excel face

In which bravado is more important than accuracy.

A lot of living is pure bravado, there are enough challenges and setbacks each and every day that if you let it affect you then you would be a shuddering mess in the corner.

I manage to get through the day by pretending, if I didn’t it would make the day that much harder. Sometimes I have to pretend to be a calm and serene individual and this allows me to get through the morning commute, and then sometimes I have to pretend I know what I am talking about.

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I hate you Excel

In which Excel makes me angry.

What life is like when you have a deadline rushing towards you and your Excel spreadsheet crashes and you have autosave on:

Oh that is a slight inconvenience, but other than a few minor formatting changes and some reentry of data life can go on.

What life is like when you have a deadline rushing towards you and your Excel spreadsheet crashes and you have autosave off:

Today was going to be a good day. I was going to be less grumpy at work and get on with the long list of tasks I had to do. My random music playlist was doing well, it was throwing up some good tunes. I was even making some great improvements to one of the spreadsheets that was giving me no end of bother. I’d renamed all the tables and created dynamic name ranges. The data validation was spot-on and was busy working on the VBA to be able to make a database in Excel.

And the day went from “Okay” to “I need a face to punch”.
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Being good at Excel is a skill

In which I show off my INDEX/MATCH rather than a VLOOKUP.

I made Mrs G very happy last night by demonstrating some of my talented finger skills, I was able to do something within a few minutes it would have taken her a while to do if she had been left to her own devices.

She has many skills, and being an English teacher is one of them, but when it comes to spreadsheets I rule the roost in Casa Ergo Sum. I live in a world of Excel and various analytics packages so when it comes to messing around with a simple table of data I can do it with my eyes closed (of course they are open as otherwise I couldn’t build the pivot table).

I generally kick and scream about being labelled as the number’s guy (or more recently the data monkey) because that is not what my job and skills are about. Just as an economist is not someone who just looks at the economy a data analyst isn’t just about the data.

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Scales and IF formulas

In which I wish I had better skills than Excel formulas.

I’m sure most of us have sat down and discussed which superpowers they would like, but have you ever sat and thought what real-life talent you would most like. None of use are ever going to fly or shoot lasers from our eyes, but there is always the chance you could be good at something. Perhaps its being able to cook like a Michelin chef or be exceedingly good at woodwork.

Talents are different from abilities, you have to work at them to achieve anything. Someone (Usain Bolt) may be born with the ability to run really fast, but no one ever just sat in front of a keyboard and wrote a critically acclaimed book. To be talented in something you have to work at your craft until it appears as though it is an ability.

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