For a brief moment, I worked at Microsoft, and while I was there I worked with Ani Babaian. I remember fondly having no clue what .NET was or how it worked, and Ani explained the whole thing to me using, wait for it....a makeup metaphor. Yes, makeup!
So, if Ani can explain a complex software thing like .NET and get a geek noob like me to see the light, just imagine how fun and clear she can make Excel sound. To help girls (and us big girls) get more comfy in the techie subjects, Ani has written a book called, "The IT Girl's Guide to Becoming an Excel Diva." Nice part about the book, Ani is donating 50% of the proceeds to the Girl's Scouts of America for a special program which she shares later in our interview.
Ani is going to share with us some very interesting tidbits about Excel like tips on what you can do with Excel for non-work related things like I used Excel to track my 25lb. weight loss journey, and for you bloggers, did you know Excel has a plug-in to help you with SEO and your keywords? Oh yeah! So, let's jump right in.
Steph: So Ani, you have done something that I think is absolutely phenomenal.
You wrote a book that makes Excel actually interesting. I didn't fall asleep
once or get that deer in headlights look. Who knew spreadsheets could be chic
and intriguing. But why do a "girl's guide" to Excel? Some people
might interpret that as saying that girls just don't "get it" so they
need their own book. Why isn't something like the Dummies book series fine
Ani: Funny you should mention that Steph, because Wiley, Inc. the publishing company also created the Dummies series. When I spoke with Katie at Wiley at TechEd many years ago about this idea, it was all about creating something that women/girls could relate to and use as a reference every day.
A book that was
not big and heavy, a color that was pleasing, Do It Herself step by steps that would
apply to their everyday life, would be fun and would teach many things at the
same time. A book that would take the boring out of tech and put chic back in.
Show me a tech book that does all that…
Steph: Why is beautifying the data important? Does the look and feel of a spreadsheet really make that big a difference?
Ani: Imagine how it feels when we go out with our girlfriends, we don’t all just get out of bed and walk out with our PJ’s do we? We spend time to beautify ourselves, put on cloths and jewelry for the occasion. Once we meet up, we notice the little things about the other person and comment about their hair, makeup, shoes, bag, cloths, etc.
In short, how the other person is dressed
tells a story about them which we love analyzing, data is very much the same
way. So more than just beauty is the meaning of the data, how easy is it on the
eye when you see a list of numbers, but when you add colors and graphs, the
numbers come alive and tell a story.
Steph: Quickly, what are three really cool things about Excel that most people don't know about but would say "awesome" if they knew.
Ani: Okay here are my favorite 3:
- You can graph numbers inside the cells where the data is by clicking 2 buttons aka Conditional Formatting (Chapter 7 page 138).
- Recording Macros, so you don’t have to repeat the same task again and again since you’re able to record the cells you click on and what you type (Chapter 13)
- For those bloggers who want to get more traffic by having just the right keywords, Excel offers plug-ins such as the adCenter add-in for Excel where you can learn about demographic and geographic data about keywords as well as similar keywords etc.
Steph: Okay, can I be honest about the ribbon. The ribbon makes me want to pull my hair out. When the new Excel first came out, many people complained about that ribbon in that it made the app more time consuming to use rather than faster. What is the best way for me and others like me to make peace with that ribbon so I can be more productive? Or maybe, I'm just the only one :)
Ani: Oh my gosh…you are totally not the only one. I absolutely have had the same conversation with many people and I’ll tell you a little secret, when Office 2007 came out for the first time I struggled with it too.
So here is the big secret I have used, it’s really the same as it was in Office 2003 and the older versions, the same short cute keys work and everything, it’s just that now you see the pictures of the most common features so you know that to pick.
Also, every ribbon tab is organized from right to left, the most to least popular features. Yes the first couple times through it’s different, but after the first couple times, you are able to get more done with less time. Did you know there were over 1500 features in Excel out of which most people only used 20-30, well now you can access more features and do more with less.
Steph: Besides work stuff or doing home budgets, what are a few other things that people can do with Excel for everyday things. For example, I used Excel to track my workouts when I was getting rid of those 25 pounds last year.
My spreadsheet was very helpful because it helped me see how many calories I burned in a week, in a month, etc. That spreadsheet also included a food diary and body measurements, and I know having that data was key in helping me achieve my weight goal. So, what else can we do that is non-work related?
Ani: Well both my boyfriend and I use Excel for many things, he plans his vacations, to do lists, tracks his life, and goals using Excel. I use Excel to compare cars I want to buy based on features, budget expenses, track my workouts and calories burned like you, recopies, addresses of friends and family, keep track of measurements of my place before I re-modeled it.
As a side note I was re-modeling my condo while I was writing the book so it was super helpful to have Excel to track, prices of Pergo, tiles, my condo size, how much molding and paint I needed. So I can easily say we both use Excel for everything. At this point, I’ll say is there anything you can’t use Excel for?
Steph: And to wrap up, you are donating half the proceeds of your book to the Girls Scouts which means that everyone who buys your book will also be helping young girls in the Girls Scouts learn more about technology subjects. Besides donating proceeds, are you doing anything else with the Girls Scouts to help promote that girls & technology cause?
Ani: So this is something I am SUPER excited about. We are still working out the details, but how it will work, is I donate 50% of the proceeds and we bring these girls together and they get to write code using .NET Robotics Studio or XNA, which will be their first introduction to programming.
Steph: Thank you again for your time Ani! And for those of you who would like to buy the book you can purchase The IT Girl's Guide to Becoming an Excel Diva at Amazon or at your local bookstore.
Ani: Yes, it is totally available at the book stores. Also, I’d ask those who purchase the book, please leave a comment on my Amazon Customer Review page or on my Facebook page so that I know how the book is working out for you. I monitor those all the time. If you’d like to see new posts about Excel check out my blog at: LiveWithAni.com