An interview with Excel and Word Expert: Andy Lanning
What are you going to learn from reading this post?
We've been interviewing a bunch of professionals with regards to their expertise in training certain software and courses; namely, Microsoft Excel and PMP/ PMI Courses. The purpose behind these interviews is to share the expertise of professional (and highly experienced) instructors in helping students learn excel and Project Management Basics.
Recent other interviews include:
- Advice from PMP/ PMI expert Daud Nasir
- Advice from PMP/ PMI expert Mohamed Khalifa Hassan
- Advice from Agile Coach and PMP-Certified Project Manager Andrew Stellman
You have extensive experience training Office software. Learning Excel seems to be more of a challenge over Word - would you agree with that?
At its base level, Word is a glorified typewriter, fairly user-friendly. Excel, however, is a bit of a mystery. It’s not a calculator, but it does calculations. It’s not a list maker, but it makes amazing and searchable lists. It’s not a graphics program, but it produces visual charts. With Excel, a new user can’t look at the screen and intuitively grasp what they should do. With Word, the concept and use is basically self-explanatory.
I teach Excel classes on a regular basis, probably 20 classes per year. Every seat is full. I teach Word probably 4 times a year and only half of the seats are filled.
Where do students struggle the most with when trying to learn Excel?
In my opinion, they make it harder than it is. They click too much. Most people are self-taught and have picked up bad habits. When they come to my class I ask them to let me wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. I’ve had engineers and senior analysts come to my Intro classes and when they leave they tell me how much they never knew was there. Specifically what do they struggle with? Formulas, data analysis, charts. If they are self-taught they struggle with all of Excel and do just a few things really well.
In the classroom, I coach my students: I relay real life Excel experiences; we laugh about the crazy ribbons; we rejoice when a formula works correctly; we marvel at the hidden tricks that took me years to find and learn; and we shake our heads and roll our eyes at how Microsoft continues to disable good features from previous versions.
I’m becoming an Excel “theorist”. I’ve developed my opinions and teaching style over the years to focus not just on the mechanics, but the theory of Excel. I’m to the point where I could confidently coach the Microsoft Excel software designers on how to improve the program. In fact, I would love that opportunity.
Being very familiar with the Office range of software, how would you like to see the project evolve? In my opinion, it’s currently evolving to a cloud based system that I dislike intensely with the fire of a thousand suns. But to their credit, cloud-based document sharing has to happen, and they are providing a solution.
Do you think that online spreadsheet software such as Google Sheets will 'eventually' kill-off the stand-alone software solution such as the Office Suite?
In my experience, Google’s product line is serving a certain level of customer base. Google has provided a cloud solution that, in my opinion, Microsoft seeks as well. When that Google customer has reached Google Sheets’ max capability, they have no choice but to stop or abandon Sheets in favor of MS Office. I think there is a place for the Google product line, but it cannot in its current form replace the advanced functionality of the Office Suite.
To Microsoft's credit they designed their software to address many different sectors. For example, college students would almost all rather use Word. An example of the reason for that would be due to the use of bibliography 'citations' which are 'inbuilt' into Microsoft Word.
One of the key points that Andy brought to our attention was that Microsoft Office continues to be a required skill; a 'must-have' set of skills. When applying for a job you must have these skills hence the need to learn Word and Excel. There is a theory and method to using software and Microsoft Office is no different. Once you understand it then you'll crack it!
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