This is the place where I set out to document my wanderings in Excel. In my case, this boils down to:
- exploring Excel best practices;
- making cool dashboards, 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 are 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/
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, playing basketball or riding my racing bike.
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!
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 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 thing I did was 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.
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. I also got to present my work during the second day of the Amsterdam Excel Summit 2016 and 2017.