Dear Spreadsheet Whisperer,
What’s your favorite (hopefully free) excel course for people who want to dabble in Excel’s functionality? For example, for work I use Excel to track projects and work for hundreds of volunteers I manage. I want to formulate these tables to help me but all I can really do right now is freeze the first column. Where should I head next??
You mentioned that you are using spreadsheets to keep track of volunteers at a large, health advocacy organization. First thing’s first – thank you. I know you know it already, but the work you do is so so crucial. We need more if it, and we need the people who do it to be uplifted, applauded, recognized and fulfilled in their work (paid or volunteer). I hope that I can make a small contribution to helping you get your data organized, and give you back some minutes in your day that you can use for well-deserved R&R.
Funny you should ask!
Meeting changemakers who want to level up their use of spreadsheets is exactly my goal and purpose in starting The Data Are Alright. Every week, I share one or two blog posts chock-full of data strategy tips, spreadsheet gotchas, google sheets techniques, and occasionally “think pieces” about why changemakers should care about data integrity. You are in the right place. I hope you’ll consider subscribing to the blog to get updates right in your inbox. It’s easy to subscribe on the homepage. I have one TDAA fan who describes TDAA as “the only blog I actually read!” I never give emails out to other folks or companies.
Here are some posts that specifically relate to formatting spreadsheets in Excel:
- Let’s table it
- (our data are) wild but not wonderful
- clean up in column 5!
- “I want a sign-in sheet that *does the work for me!*”
Many fish in the sea
I know I’m not the only person on the interwebs writing about excel and spreadsheets. Some of the websites that I really like are ExcelJet and the (self-proclaimed) Definitive Guide to Google Sheets. While some blogs do have tips that are now out-of-date (and one day, that will be true for TDAA too!), usually they won’t lead you astray. The problem is that to make the most out of those resources, it helps to already know what you’re looking for. A lot of these resources focus more on the how-to aspect of the tool, and less on storytelling or WHEN to use a particular technique.
Of Course… (#PunIntended)
Dominant culture tells us that if you want to get good at something, take a course. And I’m all for classes (daughter of two professors over here) but there’s also a strong case to be made for “learning while doing.” Through problem solving your data discrepancies, you’ll learn more than an instructor could possibly teach you! But it really helps to get a strong overview and foundation so that you don’t waste time chasing down the wrong solution.
I’ve taken a few Excel classes – one of them at NYIM (training organization in NYC) and one of them with Hector Garcia in Miami (I actually took Quickbooks training with him, but I’m sure his Excel trainings are also EXCEL-ent (har har). It looks like Hector is offering some free webinars this fall and I would recommend trying one out!
The single best Excel resource that I ever did was taking an online class on the Coursera platform called “Problem Solving with Excel.” It took a few weeks to complete, and not every topic was immediately of use, but I think it was an awesome intro to what Excel can do. I did it on Sunday nights as an investment in my professional growth while I was at my last job, and it immediately paid off. If I had to make one recommendation, this would be it! Just be aware – the course is designed for “business people” including their OWN employees at PriceWaterHouse Coopers, so there aren’t a lot of examples that feature changemaking. But you can extrapolate and learn how to apply those tools for our own purposes. That’s what I did!
Google can be a wealth of information – or it can be a sloppy, confusing mess and YOU can control what kind of responses you get by asking good questions. There’s a reason why that was one of the first posts I made when I started TDAA! The better we get at specifying what’s going wrong, the faster we can get answers, either by finding “help documentation” or getting 1-1 support from an expert.
Excel-erator, I have complete faith in you! Keep up the good work, and write back about your Excel journey or if you reach any bumps along the way. I’m here for you!