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29 Oct 2020

Humans of Kent: James Evans, Financial Analyst, Dubai

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How good are you with numbers? I excel at it. A day in the life of an Excel dork

When I tell people I spend nine hours a day looking at either excel or a data visualisation software I see their eyes glaze over and they say “wow you must hate your job”. That statement could not be further from the truth. I love Excel, I love financial modelling and most of all I love making graphs.

With the Humans of Kent series I get the opportunity to walk people through a day in my job and maybe help them understand why I love the world of analysis so much.

One week out of every month I do month-end group reporting which is a large-scale process that ends with a PowerBI file and a PowerPoint that presents how the group performed for the month. Although this is a large part of my role, I decided to walk you through a day that is not month-end.

On a non-reporting day (the other 3 weeks of the month) my job is potentially one of the most ad-hoc jobs in Kent as the majority of my work is dictated by MS Teams messages and emails from people throughout the company. In any one day I could make a file for Ben Jones, CFO, have a call with John Kent, CSO and help the Kazakhstan team with a payroll solution.

Within my job I get to experience everything in the company from payroll to pipeline analysis and it all starts with data manipulation in Microsoft Excel. Where other people may just see a sheet with a bunch of numbers, I see possibility and decisions. Every decision we make as a company has a finance and numbers element and I get to be a part of a lot of them due to Excel.

Take this week for example, whilst working on our year-end forecast for 2020 and our look into 2021, I worked with John Kent to design and build a more interactive and self-service tool for people to get a view of our pipeline. We decided upon a PowerBI file that linked directly to our Salesforce database meaning our Business Development and client facing teams could instantly see a live pipeline of where our opportunities lay and the current status of them.

Files and tools like this make our business more dynamic in its decision making and it brings me a huge amount of joy to walk around the office and see one of my files on someone’s screen, knowing that I potentially made a decision 5% easier for them.

My eventual aim is to automate myself out of a job. If we reach a point where we have enough well set-up files and systems that everyone can access the data they need, in the format they need, without sending an email or messaging someone on teams is a day I will happily hand in my resignation.

For now I will continue to reply to teams messages with a smile on my face whenever someone starts the conversation with; “So James, I had an idea…”

To further my reputation as a massive Excel dork within Kent I can also say that my Excel use, and love, goes beyond the walls of Kent's office. I have a Google Sheets document for my personal budget, filled with macros and formulas. I track my gym progress on an Excel sheet that links to MyFitnessPal to show how my calories have affected my training. I am even competing in the financial modelling world championships in November, competing against similar Excel dorks.

As an overall, the next time you look at Excel, don’t see a huge sheet of white. See opportunity. See better decision making. And see time saved.

Bonus, my favourite Excel joke:

Why is Excel the most hated of all Microsoft applications?

All it does is spreadsheet 😊

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