THE CELL MASTERS
Chapter 31   The Cell Master.  Matt Vidas  from New York, USA

interview date:25.Aug.2006
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 Matt Vidas, born and raised in upstate New York (USA). I've spent most of my life in or around the city of Rochester ( http://www.city-data.com/city/Rochester-New-York.html ), known for its snowy winters and short summers. For those unfamiliar with the geography of New York, I am about 6 hours northwest of New York City and about an hour to the east of Niagara Falls, Canada. I love to travel, and it seems I am always planning my next trip. Nothing concrete as of right now, though, but I'm always open to new ideas.

Not yet married, I spend a good portion of my free time with those I care about and helping other people. I work as an accountant/analyst for the local telephone company. I started as a customer service representative a little over 6 years ago, and worked my way up through the company to where I am now. I enjoy what I do as I never stop learning, both with my job directly and through helping others. I enjoy learning as much as I can about just about everything, and I enjoy being able to do a lot through the power of Excel and VBA. I learned to program on the Apple IIe I grew up with, but mostly lost that knowledge when I got my first PC with a modem in it as the world of BBS' drew me in. Luckily, programming came back to me when I discovered VBA.

When do you remember using Excel for the very first time? Can you remember any specific details from that first time?
In a previous job as a furniture salesman, I used Excel to help an outside-sales coworker draw up invoices. I remember having to consult the help files to determine how to even add and multiply numbers together; I had no idea that VBA even existed. I don't even know that it would have helped me at all for the simple worksheets I used, nothing could have been more complicated than =C1+B2*A2

When do you remember writing your first formula or VBA code for Excel?
See the previous question for my first formula. I first learned about macros when trying to figure out a faster way to send out bulk emails to different departments within my company without having to set up distribution lists on each of my senders' computers. I came across some code via google that looped through a column of cells, adding the cell contents as an address to an email, and attaching a separate workbook. After I got that running smoothly I started experimenting more, trying to see what I could and could not do with it, working with the macro recorder's code for a while before I realized the more efficient ways to code.

On average, how many hours per day do you spend working with Excel formulas and/or VBA code?
I spend very little time working with Excel formulae unless it is for someone online, as my workbooks are mostly already setup for plugging in numbers as it is. I do always have Excel and VBA open, so I would say about 8 hours on average. If you count having notepad open for my VBScripts (which often interface with Excel) then it is probably closer to 9.

Which do you find most rewarding to work with: Formulas or VBA in Excel? Please tell us why?
Definitely VBA, I have more control over what I'm doing. I spend a lot of my free time at work playing around in VBA trying to create new procedures and methods to make my work or my group's work faster as it almost always pays out in the long run. Formulas are great for specific purposes, and I have written a few doozies that I am proud of, but VBA to me is just much more robust.

If you were going to give a novice, just starting out with Excel, some advice, what would it be?
Practice, practice, practice! You have a very powerful tool at your fingertips that is relatively easy to use. Play around with it; the worst that will probably happen is you have to start over with a workbook and you'll likely learn a lot. Also browse the web looking at the code on the forums. I learned the most while first reading peoples' questions, thinking of a way to do it, then comparing my work to what others did. That really helped to get ideas of what can be done in Excel, as I only needed to do a few different things for my job and you can only practice doing the same things so many times.

Please provide a sample of your first work (either as a formula or vba code) in Excel and tell us about it.
See question 2 for what was likely my first formula. The first code I wrote from scratch was probably used to put a formula in the used cells of a column based on another column. At first I was a big fan of the .specialcells method, specifically xlLastCell, though I almost never use it for my own routines except in rare instances. If I had to take a guess at what I first wrote, it would be something along the lines of:

Range("H1").Select
Range(Selection, Cells(Range("A1").SpecialCells(xlLastCell).Row,
Selection.Column)).Select
Selection.FormulaR1C1 = "=rc1*rc[-1]"



What is your mental attitude when you are preparing to write formulae or VBA code? And what is your working environment?
My mental attitude usually doesn't factor in when I'm sitting down to write something. I can be in a terrible mood and quickly put my troubles on the backburner if I have a good coding quandary. My work environment can change as well; the only things that seem to be static are caffeine and nicotine. I drink at least a pot of coffee a day, and when I don't feel like making any I just have some water or get a Mt. Dew or a coke. Aside from the stimuli I have no real preparations though.

If there special preparations that must be in place before you can begin, what are they?
VBA can do a lot, just about everything on a computer you may need or want to do. Don't be afraid to play around and get your hands dirty. The help files and macro recorder are there for a reason, as are the numerous resources available on the web. You'll probably be surprised at how good you feel when you get something working correctly without anyone's help.

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.
VBA can do a lot, just about everything on a computer you may need or want to do. Don't be afraid to play around and get your hands dirty. The help files and macro recorder are there for a reason, as are the numerous resources available on the web. You'll probably be surprised at how good you feel when you get something working correctly without anyone's help.

Thank you very much for answering the questions.

This Black belt is yours...

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