Chapter 21   The Cell Master.  Nathan P Oliver aka NateO  from Minneapolis, USA

interview date:11.Nov.2004
Please introduce your self. You may be as thorough as you wish. Feel free to include or omit any detail about yourself.
I’m 28 years old and currently reside in Minneapolis, MN, USA.

My formal collegiate education concentrated in Finance and Economics, but as the need and ability to automate processes became more apparent to me, I took it upon myself to study Excel and VBA fairly extensively.

My typical day at the office varies quite a bit ranging from Merger & Acquisition financial structure and analysis to information technology development and support. Excel and VBA are my weapons of choice but I find myself working with Database technology more as of late.

Outside of the office I enjoy reading, billiards, skiing (a variety of sports actually), movies and [perhaps most of all] my relationships with various family and friends amongst other things.

I along with my mother, father and twin sister emigrated from Canada to the United States in 1992, and I am currently pursuing the American dream.

When do you remember using Excel for the very first time? Can you remember any specific details from that first time?
The first spreadsheet application I came into contact with was Quattro Pro while taking a Computer Science course in 1990 at St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ontario, Canada. At the same time I was also introduced to Basic and developed some crude (as I recall) programs.

My first experience with Excel was with Excel ’97 in 1996 in my ‘Intro to Business Computing’ course at Indiana University in 1996 (I believe). It was a very basic introduction to Excel, perhaps ranging from launching Excel to using the Macro Recorder. I was far more enamored with Excel than Quattro Pro or Lotus 1,2,3. I did not initially realize how useful Excel would be for the variety of tasks I would perform.

(This seems like an appropriate time to recognize my parents for their support over the years.Thanks Mom and Dad!)

When do you remember writing your first formula or VBA code for Excel?
My first worksheet function was composed during the aforementioned course at Indiana University; I suspect it was along the lines of:


The first VBA procedure I wrote was in 1998 while consulting for a Manufacturing firm in Bloomington, Minnesota (not including coursework with the Macro Recorder).

On average, how many hours per day do you spend working with Excel formulas and/or VBA code?
On average I would say 6 hours per day. Four years ago it would have been more along the lines of 12 hours of reading and writing. I have a better understanding of the software these days.

Which do you find most rewarding to work with: Formulas or VBA in Excel? Please tell us why?
It really depends what I’m working on, I have an appreciation for both. E.g., if I’m cranking out 100 Net Present Value calculations, I’m going to use a worksheet functions. If I want to interface Excel with Lotus Notes, I’m going to use VBA (with a little Lotus Script).

I tend to feel most rewarded when my application is not only functional, but is also smooth and efficient.

If you were going to give a novice, just starting out with Excel, some advice, what would it be?

Read and then read some more. There is an enormous amount of quality information regarding Excel and VBA available on the World Wide Web, and quite a few books on the subject as well.

I find myself continuously learning new things with Excel, it’s a very robust piece of software.

Please provide a sample of your first work (either as a formula or vba code) in Excel and tell us about it.
I don’t believe I recall nor have my first work, rest assured it was very basic coursework. But I’ll include two examples that may be of use to someone reading this.

Example 1: Parse Names (Worksheet function)

Microsoft Excel - Parse Names.xls___Running: xl2000 : OS = Windows Windows 2000
File Edit View Insert Options Tools Data Window Help
James Francis Gray Gray, James Francis
Rose Sarah-Jane Olson Olson, Rose Sarah-Jane
Mike B. Clark Griswald Griswald, Mike B. Clark
Joe Clark Clark, Joe
Test This Please Thanks Thanks, Test This Please
Robert W Downey Jr. Downey Jr., Robert W
Joe Paul Dirt IV Dirt IV, Joe Paul
Alan Michael Stephan Jordan III Jordan III, Alan Michael Stephan
John Doe V Doe V, John

To see the formula in the cells just click on the cells hyperlink or click the Name box

Example 2: Extract Numeric Characters from a String (Visual Basic function)

Function retNumeric(ByVal myStr As String) As Double
Dim b() As Byte, i As Long, myNum As String
b = StrConv(myStr, vbFromUnicode)
For i = LBound(b) To UBound(b)
    Select Case b(i)
        Case 46, 48 To 57
            myNum = myNum & ChrW$(b(i))
    End Select
retNumeric = myNum
End Function

Sub tester()
MsgBox retNumeric("test22.this03")
End Sub

What is your mental attitude when you are preparing to write formulae or VBA code? And what is your working environment?
I’m typically focused, confident and somewhat belligerent (it’s not uncommon for me to swear out loud while I’m developing).

My preferred environment for application development includes being alone, listening to music and having a decent cup of coffee in reaching distance. Because my employer appreciates my presence at the office and I appreciate my employer, I compromise.

If there special preparations that must be in place before you can begin, what are they?
The completion of the caffeination process prior to beginning my work is critical. Aside from that, give me a functioning PC with Excel and I’m ready to go.

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.
“If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.”

    -Henry Ford

Perhaps not in all cases, but this strikes me as having a fair amount of truth to it.

Thank you very much for answering the questions.

This Black belt is yours...

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