Excel power users at different stages of their professional lives tend to sound much the same about their goals and approaches.
It may be a little early to say for sure, but Michael Kelly sounds a lot like the next generation of finance professionals who could one day get the CFO’s job. He’s just proven he’s got one of the role’s most essential skills.
18-year-old Kelly is a high-school student in Nebraska who recently became the 2016 National Champion of Microsoft Excel in Orlando at the 15th annual Microsoft Office Specialist U.S. National Championship. Far beyond the spelling bees and debating competitions that are often a part of early academic life, Kelly and his rivals were given a number of challenging spreadsheet problems to solve, and he aced them.
It’s actually worth reading ‘This Teen Knows More About Excel Than You Do About Anything,’ on the online publication The Ringer in its entirety, but the following exchange really stood out:
Q: A wise colleague recently told me: “Don’t let anyone know you’re good at PowerPoint or you’ll be forced to make them for everyone for the rest of your life.” Are you at all worried about that for Excel?
A: I don’t know. I’m not too worried. Excel isn’t the only thing I’m good at. I really don’t want to be tied into a job where all I do is enter stuff into Excel, but if I’m trying to figure something out or see what’s happening, I wouldn’t be opposed to whipping up a quick spreadsheet. That’s no problem.
This is an interesting variation on a common theme you see in finance department circles, where Excel is sometimes presented as antiquated or something that CFOs and their teams should leave behind. Kelly’s response is a perfect example of not only why Excel is so compelling, but what the best and the brightest do with it: solve complex problems.
For a sense of what an obsession with Excel looks like slightly later in life, check out this profile of Monica Williams on Geekwire. Williams is the CFO of Avvo, an online legal service directory firm, and she has no problem with wearing her love for a certain spreadsheet program with pride. (ie., when asked about her favourite app: “Excel, of course. Excel makes me happy.”).
It was when she was asked about where she gets her best ideas, however, that the secrets of her success emerged:
From talking with people. I love working in a collaborative setting and getting different perspectives. There’s always something I didn’t think of and that we can build on.
Michael Kelly and Monica Williams may be at very different stages of their careers, but they share some really important traits: an open mind, a desire to be helpful and a bias towards using tools they trust to help people. Just more proof that those who love Excel . . . well, tend to excel.