Chapter 12   The Cell Master.  Bob Umlas  from New Jersey, USA

interview date:29.Mar.2003
Please introduce your self. You may be as thorough as you wish. Feel free to include or omit any detail about yourself.
My name is Bob Umlas. I work for a large Tax & Accounting firm and have done so for 5 years. Prior to that I did consulting work for Philip Morris for 7 years using Excel on a Mac.

I'm 60, married (35 years) to my wonderful wife Judy, 2 kids (19 & 11--Stefanie & Jared), I love table tennis, backgammon, play guitar, chess, scrabble, bridge.

I have a huge repertoire of jokes, and am often silly. I've been using Excel since version 1.0 on the Mac (or was it 0.99?). I started contributing way back with Heizer Software. I remember being in a meeting in 1985 when Multiplan was the rage and they announced the upcoming Excel. I really remember saying to myself, wow - I ought to buy 100 shares of that company! I didn't! I calculate that'd be worth about $6M today!

When do you remember using Excel for the very first time? Can you remember any specific details from that first time?
I used Excel around 1986 or 7. I was quite impressed. I remember reading the manual over & over to learn all there was.

When do you remember writing your first formula or VBA code for Excel?
My first VBA code was back when VBA was being introduced in version 5.0 Among my early recollections was hearing someone describe how to move the active cell in a selection to the top left corner & leave the whole selection intact (as if B3 were the active cell in the A1:F4 selection), and the "instructor" showed all this code to do that and asked if there were any questions. I asked "wouldn't just Selection.Select do the job?" He was surprised when he tested it out (and annoyed!)

On average, how many hours per day do you spend working with Excel formulas and/or VBA code?
It's my job AND my hobby, AND my material for training, so I'd say about 10-11 per weekday, and 0-3 on weekends.

Which do you find most rewarding to work with: Formulas or VBA in Excel? Please tell us why?
My "specialty" is array-formulas, so I tend to prefer those, but I also love to find quick solutions to things using VBA - it's really a toss-up.

If you were going to give a novice, just starting out with Excel, some advice, what would it be?
Know how you'd do it manually (without Excel) first, then try to implement it in Excel.

Learn basic syntax of formulas, Learn about relative and absolute references and what they mean. Learn to use named ranges.

Play with all the menus to see what they do. Get on a newsgroup and read people's questions & answers.

Please provide a sample of your first work (either as a formula or vba code) in Excel and tell us about it.
My first work was too long ago - any code was XLM - my first XLM macro was to insert 2 rows (I think it was only possible to insert one row at a time then).

After using it for awhile, I used it on the macro sheet containing the code and it went into a loop because I was inserting 2 rows above the code itself, which pushed the code down 2 rows which made it execute again, which pushed it down,...! When I realized I had created a loop with no loop code I laughed, wrote it up for the Cobb Group publication "Excellence" and was off & running writing articles when they printed it!

What is your mental attitude when you are preparing to write formulae or VBA code? And what is your working environment?
"this is going to be cool".

I have my own office - machine speed is 2gHz, I have dual monitors, each 17" (& therefore very little desk space left!).

If there special preparations that must be in place before you can begin, what are they?
The preparations which must be in place is that any specs that I'm working with MUST be complete enough to get the job done right - I have working with temporary or changeable specs!

Finally, please give us something to think about - a reminder of your words here; a phrase that has helped you; a link to your own website. Anything that you think is important for the readers to remember.
My personal motto is "life is too important to be taken seriously".

A phrase that has helped me in life is "slow & steady wins the race".

Here's a link to my array formula white paper: ( and here's a link to Microsoft's "spotlight on MVP's" of which I was first to be spotlighted: (

Lastly, here's a link to an incredible resource for nearly ANYTHING! (

Thank you very much for answering the questions.

This Black belt is yours...

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