Take the time to learn new Excel skills and functions. Not only will it cut your workload, it might earn you a promotion, says a management accountant-turned Excel expert.
By Lachlan Colquhoun
Mynda Treacy’s morning email inbox is like opening a world atlas.
When Treacy fires up her computer in her home office on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, there are emails from as far afield as Ghana, Barbados and the Middle East.
Although they come from very disparate geographies, the correspondents have one thing in common: they want Treacy’s assistance with the varied functions of the Excel program.
From accountant to Excel expert
Treacy has operated her training business, myOnlineTraininghub, since 2008 but her journey to global Excel expert, recognised with Most Valuable Professional (MVP) certification by Microsoft, began in 1995 when she moved to London and took a job in an investment bank as a management accountant.
There, she first used the old Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program before encountering Excel.
Back then, Excel was the exciting new thing in spreadsheets and many leading corporates were using it for reporting and analysis.
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Like many Excel users, Treacy’s expertise developed slowly but when she first used the VLOOKUP function, to find and retrieve data, she says she was “hooked”.
Her Excel career took a new turn when she and her husband, an IT consultant, moved back to Australia and set up their business on the Sunshine Coast.
How Excel can help small businesses
Most of their clients were other small business owners who, although they had Excel programs, were unaware of its potential and lacked training and skills.
It was at this point that Treacy conceived the idea of online training for small business owners who were unable to spare staff or afford the cost of conventional training.
“It was really through helping other people that I became more proficient myself,” she says.
Excel’s capabilities, says Treacy, are limited only by the knowledge of the user.
Taking time to learn new skills and functions can make a massive difference to work processes, and can save hours of work on many tasks people have been doing routinely for years – and lead to promotions.
The three top Excel skills to boost productivity
Asked to nominate three Excel skills she believes have the biggest impact on productivity, Treacy cites:
- Power Query. Every Excel user needs to get data and clean it before they can make use of it, she says. Power Query can do this with point and click. Best of all, it remembers the steps so next time you need to update the data the user just clicks the refresh button and it repeats the steps.
- Excel Tables. Less than 1 per cent of Excel users even know this “amazing” tool exists, says Treacy. Excel Tables and their built-in structured references make writing formulas quick and easy, plus they automatically grow to incorporate new data so it gets included in formulas and reports without any extra work.
- PivotTables. PivotTables can quickly summarise data and, unlike formulas, they aren't easily broken.
The diversity of Excel
Treacy praises the diversity of Excel, which can deliver everything from menu plans to sophisticated financial models. She even receives emails from retired people who enjoy using the program as a way of keeping their brains active.
“Excel really is so far reaching, and for a tool which just about everyone has on their computer, the value in it is far greater than I think many people realise,” she says.
“It has become a standard, and with the updates now coming automatically it really is getting better all the time.”
Go beyond basic Excel and learn from the MVPs.