This is the place where I set out to document my wanderings in Excel. In my case, this boils down to:
- making cool data visualization;
- exploring Excel development, and;
- building an add-in(s) to support the two above;
My objective is to bring Excel content that’s hard to come by, hence my mission statement:
“Elusive Excel, exclusively”
The first part in this statement, the elusive part, applies to my journey learning Excel – I feel I had to work long and hard and look in remote places to gain the insights I have now. The last part in the statement, the exclusively part, is a gamble, I know. There’s so many Excel sites out there. Chances are the stuff I’ll post is out there already. Luckily, this is a mission statement, and it’s good practice to have a BHAG. So why not? Drop me a line when I deliver on this promise, OK? And also drop me a line when I don’t, deal?
And before I forget, let’s get it right from the start: ‘Excelusive’ is pronounced as /ɪkˈskluːsɪv/
Got it? 😉
My name is David. I am just a regular guy with an irregular appetite for everything Excel. I live in the Amsterdam area, The Netherlands, together with the love of my life – my wife Olga and our two boys, Daniel (’11
) and Vadim (’13). Whenever I am not around Excelin’, you can find me having fun with my family.
I really dig playing flamenco guitar (whenever I think I can master the impossible). And I greatly enjoy listening to podcasts – Radiolab, Freakonomics and Snap Judgement are among my favorites. If you know of any must-have podcasts, please tell!
Oh yeah, I am really ‘into’ Excel’s Chart Object:
My Excel journey
Back in 2007 I was finishing my Masters degree in cognitive psychology. My thesis was on real-time visual feedback learning, applied to the study of simple rhythmical patterns. You can still read about here. Little did I know that the ‘visual’ would consume me in the years to come.
After my study I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do in life, so I ended up working for a financial services provider, like many of you I’m sure. Although the work wasn’t at all in line with my study, I did find ways to use some of its concepts in my work, such as signal detection theory.
It wasn’t until I was asked to redesign a management report that I was working with Excel a lot. For this one job I got one week to come up with a better solution. I don’t know why on earth did they ask me, as my training in Excel was about zero. But I figure they thought I was a smart enough guy, with some expertise on the subject matter – consumer loans.
This week turned out to be fascinating. I learned about IF(). And about nested IF()’s. Man, did I build a beautiful and complex clockwork. I was so proud I actually did it all by myself. And after I managed to get all formulas working, I went on to plot these in all variations possible. No matter the manual labor, I was convinced that seeing the data would actually add value to the management report.
By the end of the week, working tirelessly on end, I proudly showed my work to my senior colleague, with whom I shared the room. And his reaction was: ‘Why didn’t you use a pivot table?”. The next hour I rebuild my report with a pivot table. So you see, I learned the hard way 😉
In retrospect, what I really learned during this week wasn’t so much about IF(), a chart or a pivot table. No, it was about myself – I seemed to totally dig working with Excel and making something worthwhile. But only now this is crystal clear to me. Back then I was still in the Excel ‘tips ‘n tricks’ bliss…
Dataviz and Excel
Fast forward a few years to 2012. My boss asks my team, Risk Management at the time, who’s willing to craft a financial risk dashboard? I volunteered, thinking it to be a great opportunity to learn more about the financial side of risk management – I was into internal audits and operational risk back then.
The first two things I did in pursuing this new task were googling “Excel dashboard” and “Dashboard best practice”. Next thing you know, I was learning all about data visualization at perceptualedge.com. And I enrolled in Chandoo’s Excel School training program, with the additional Dashboarding module. Heaven on earth!
Things finally started to make sense to me. Studying cognitive psychology wasn’t in vain after all – it proved a very useful background for learning about data visualization theory. And what was already latent, now became totally obvious – Excel’s the tool I am determined to master.
Since then, I have taken numerous online classes and read a great deal about Excel, and VBA. To test my skill, I entered into Chandoo’s data visualization contest back in 2014. I ended up in second place, closely behind Roberto Mensa from the Frankens Team.
I also was a speaker at the Dutch Information Visualization Event 2014 (DIVE14) and will again at DIVE16, showing a non-expecting crowd how to stretch Excel’s capabilities. As cherry on top I got to present my work during the second day of the Amsterdam Excel Summit 2016, bringing the goods with nobody else but charting guru Jon Peltier himself!
The following references are amongst the sources of inspiration to me. They’re listed in no particular order: