Excel Learning Tips: My Story

Chris’s Spreadsheet Story and 3 Excel Learning Tips

By Chris Mortimer

There can be no doubt about it, Excel is difficult!

You’re on an Excel learning website, so you’ve probably felt that difficulty yourself. In the below video, I talk about my spreadsheet story – how I got into spreadsheets, the difficulties I encountered and how I got over them. I share three Excel learning tips that I hope will push your spreadsheet skills forward.

Spreadsheet Story Still

In the below video, I talk about (1) finding an access point, (2) the importance of a mentor, and (3) the impact of good learning resources. What is your spreadsheet story? Tell me – leave a comment below the video on the YouTube channel.

Excel Learning Tips 1/3 – FIND AN ACCESS POINT

When people think about Excel, they tend to think about numbers. This leads to the misconception that spreadsheets are the preserve of statisticians and computer programmers. In the video, I argue that a spreadsheet is actually a social and visual problem as much as a technical, numbers-based one. This is because, to my knowledge, a spreadsheet has never created itself! A spreadsheet is created by a human being to help them do something. Further, a spreadsheet that cannot be understood is not useful, regardless of how powerful it may be; it must be well-presented. Therefore, spreadsheet development actually calls on visual and social skills as well as numbers-based ones.

I find this point of view intriguing (well, it is my own ;-)) and incredibly empowering. It opens up a topic that is considered ‘difficult’ to most people – because most people are confident with some aspects of social, visual or technical problems. With this in mind, you have to find your access point. Are you ‘artistic’? If so, you can arrange the elements of the spreadsheet in a way that helps the user assimilate the information. Do you like interacting with customers? If so, you can get started by understanding user needs and creating a detailed specification. After you have identified your access point, you can build other skills from this enclave of competence and confidence.

Excel Learning Tips 2/3 – FIND A MENTOR

Excel is a piece of technical software that, without specialist skill, is difficult to use. Too many people are asked, wrongly in my view, to ‘get Excel to work’ without the proper training. A critical factor for many successful Excel users is finding somebody to help. I was lucky to have helpful colleagues on my Masters programme, and some excellent lecturers. These people humanised a complicated topic and helped me through the early stages. So, try to find your mentor. If you’re looking for somebody to help you, bear in mind that skilled Excel users often like talking about spreadsheets! They may be happy to share their knowledge. So, approach somebody you work with or somebody you know, and ask them to help you. You may find they are flattered by the invitation.


‘Excel’ as a learning topic consists of multiple sub-topics: modelling, data analysis, VBA programming etc. You need a plan to navigate these sub-topics and organise your learning. I have often seen people get lost in ‘rabbit holes’ – obscure topics that don’t deliver much value. Now, this article is not a sales pitch for my YouTube channel, but it might be a starting point. I organise the video series so that these sub-topics can be easily understood, and so that the learner can work along with me and develop the skills. There is a multitude of Excel learning websites out there – find one that suits your learning style, and use the resources to navigate Excel as a learning topic.

I hope these three Excel learning tips help you with your learning journey. Good luck, and let me know how you are getting on.

What is your spreadsheet story? What stage are you at with your Excel learning? Leave a comment below the video on the YouTube channel.

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