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Chris Newman of TheSpreadsheetGuru.com joins Excel TV host Rick Grantham and cohosts Excel Author Szilvia Juhasz and Microsoft Excel MVP Jordan Goldmeier on Excel TV.
Rick: Chris Newman AKA Chris Macro AKA Mr. TheSpreadsheetGuru, I have to ask you, where did the Chris Macro name come from?
Chris: Chris Macro was a name one of my managers gave me because I was always doing crazy macro stuff. When I was building my website I thought it would be a fun name to differentiate myself.
Rick: The first time I mentioned you on our show, I mentioned to Jordan that Chris Macro sounds like a made-up name. It’s probably Joey Macro. And, I recall, Jordan’s claim to fame is living close to you. Is that true?
Chris: That is true. We had dinner one night together. It was magical.
Jordan: It was very romantic.
Szilvia: Romance! The show is about ready to get interesting.
Jordan: I’d like to point out that Rick thought your name was made up just like he thinks Secaucus, New Jersey is made up!
Szilvia: I’d like to hear more about your transition?
Jordan: Yes. Tell us more about how you became known for this in the office. I think a lot of people get their start that way. How did you start dabbling in that and how did you get that nickname?
Chris: When I first started my career, I was in a rotation program where I was talking with a director who had lost an analyst. I made a good impression and he asked me to fill the position while he searched for an engineer with a finance background to fill the position. I trained with an analyst who did crazy VBA stuff and I had to catch up as the Excel support person in my group. I had to figure out how all the methods worked. The first thing I did was go to Google where I found this forum called MrExcel.com. I typed a question and had an answer in two minutes.
Rick: Yeah, that was Zack Barresse helping you out.
Chris: So, I taught myself VBA. When I left that role I was doing cool VBA stuff through each rotation and I became the Excel guy at the company.
Szilvia: It’s a very familiar story for our field. Perhaps it doesn’t translate to other disciplines. Like, WebMD.com isn’t going to help non doctors become experts in two weeks!
Szilvia: Not everybody gets hooked on VBA like you. What was it for you and why do you love VBA?
Chris: At first, it wasn’t very interesting, it was a necessity. If you know anything about VBA, you know looping can save time and effort. And the person I was training with did not know about looping. So I was left with thousands of lines of code to update. Once I could see how much time I could save by using the forums, I got hooked.
Szilvia: How do you separate when it is time to use VBA and when it is time to use a formula?
Chris: I go through stages where I do everything in VBA and forget about formulas because I think it’s cool. But when you’re working with people who don’t know VBA, you get back to formulas. It is a talent to know how much VBA to use versus a spreadsheet formula and how much time you could save. I am still struggling with mastering that decision.
Jordan: At what point did you think, “Hey, I should start writing a blog!” and why?
Chris: It’s a progression. When I was going through the rotations, the managers were freaking out when I was leaving because nobody had worked to learn it and have this work passed onto them. If a change came up, they wouldn’t know how to fix it. So the solution was that I would start teaching Advanced Excel classes once a month to the finance department. My coworkers would come up and say, “How do I do this?” and I’d say you Google it, but they said they didn’t like forums because it confused them so I started writing specific stuff that was hard to find on Google. Through that, I started making articles and lessons and sharing those. One day, I decided to post it on the web and point my coworkers to the website. It started taking off and I started promoting it and meeting cool people in Excel like you guys and it’s grown from there.
Szilvia: Is he talking about us?
Rick: Speaking of those cool guys…out there on the Internet, those Excel bloggers watch the show and they have some questions for you, Mr. Macro. Here we go!
From John Michaloudis of Myexcelonline.com and the popular Excel podcast http://www.myexcelonline.com/podcast/), “With the intro of Power BI tools, do you think there will be less or more reliance on custom Excel add-ins?”
Chris: Custom Excel add-ins are particular to your business needs because they are custom. All these tools Excel is putting out are going to help people get to that more visual aspect of analysis. But behind the scenes, if you need something specific to your niche, you are going to need VBA or Excel formulas to do that. I think Excel is heading on the right track, but there will always be a place for VBA and formulas in the workplace.
Rick: Correct answer!!! You win 15 points and the crowd goes wild.
From Kaiser Ahmed of Exceldemy.com, “What is the easiest way to teach Excel VBA to someone who has no prior knowledge of programming?”
Chris: This was my situation. I did not have a computer programming background. I think taking a class will help the most, and reading a book. I wish I would’ve started that way because it would have made more sense. Get on the forums because there is so much knowledge and so many smart people willing to share what they know. They will walk you through it in baby steps. There are great resources out there to learn.
Szilvia: Follow up question as it is similar to my VBA journey. Would it have been more sense to start with a book, like John Walkenbach’s? Because how could you have been interested in Excel VBA and learn it through a book? I talk about this in my book (MrExcel XL: The 40 Greatest Excel Tips of All Time written by Bill Jelen and Szilvia Juhasz) and blog. I played with macro recorder for a long time and at one time I reached the point where I had to read a book but if I would’ve started with a book, I wouldn’t have been able to stay with the book. [wwcAmzAffProducts asin=”1615470409″][/wwcAmzAffProducts]
Chris: That’s a valid point. I liked having a book where I could look up things in the index to get a quick answer. In the class I took, I was more educated than most, but I still didn’t get half of it. When I started digging into the library, I remember in the back of my head saying, “Oh that’s what he meant! That’s what he was talking about in the lessons.” There is give-and-take on the book angle, but you are right if you want to learn VBA, you are just not going to sit down and read a programming book and love it and understand it. It’s going to take time.
Szilvia: Unless you are Jordan!
Rick: Jordan sits under a tree like Johnny Appleseed with the VBA book.
Jordan: Yeah, it’s true.
Rick: You get four points on that initial answer, but your follow-up answer gives you more. Congratulations!
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