TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Reluctant Office Hero: Excel Virtuosos

ExcelWall Street Journal, The First Rule of Microsoft Excel—Don’t Tell Anyone You’re Good at It:

Excel buffs are looking to lower their profiles. Since its introduction in 1985 by Microsoft Corp., the spreadsheet program has grown to hundreds of millions of users world-wide. It has simplified countless office tasks once done by hand or by rudimentary computer programs, streamlining the work of anyone needing to balance a budget, draw a graph or crunch company earnings. Advanced users can perform such feats as tracking the expenditures of thousands of employees.

At the same time, it has complicated the lives of the office Excel Guy or Gal, the virtuosos whose superior skills at writing formula leave them fighting an endless battle against the circular references, merged cells and mangled macros left behind by their less savvy peers.

“If someone tells you that they ‘just have a few Excel sheets’ that they want help with, run the other way,” tweeted 32-year-old statistician Andrew Althouse. “Also, you may want to give them a fake phone number, possibly a fake name. It may be worth faking your own death, in extreme circumstances.” ...

[Y]ears of dealing with colleagues’ Excel emergencies have taught John Mechalas to keep his mastery of spreadsheets a secret. The trouble often starts with a group email asking if there is anyone who knows Excel really well, said Mr. Mechalas, a 48-year-old software engineer at Intel Corp. in Hillsboro, Ore.

“People say, ’Oh, this is just a really quick thing,’ ” he said. “Then I look at it, and it’s not a quick thing.”

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