Dan Stillerman: Excel is amazing witchcraft


Even those who rate themselves 10/10 at Excel still have new things to learn.

There weren’t enough seats for the Finance Indaba delegates who piled into Ballroom 4 to learn more about the results MS Excel can deliver. 
If, as Excel Academy trainer Maseeha Rawat noted, Excel is the universal language and finance professionals are expected to be fluent in it, no-one is truly a native speaker. She explained that the cells in Excel’s brain are like those in the human brain – complex and numerous.

Added Excel Academy MD and trainer Dan Stillerman:  

“Even if you rate yourself a 10 out of 10 regarding your Excel skills, and even if you are a trainer, like me, you’ll always learn something new.” 

Dan had a sparkling smile and a prominent badge that read “I LOVE EXCEL”.

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A rough audience analysis placed most people at a 4/10 confidence in their own Excel competency. It’s common, said Dan, that “everybody clambers to the two or three known Excel ninjas in their organisation, because they feel hopeless at many of the applications.” 

Many professionals battle with simple formulas and are not looking for help with the more complex applications like macros or VBAs.  But Excel takes practice and if motivated, users can solve the problem, much like one would eventually figure out the Rubix cube. The great thing is that there’s help.  

The trainers’ compelling selling point was their Cheat Sheet of keyboard shortcuts. “The issue is that many of us spend too much time with our mouses and not enough time using our keyboard to speed things up,” said Dan. The pair encouraged the audience to adopt an 80/20 rule, with the keyboard being used 80 percent of the time. 

Maseeha did a quick test, asking the audience to select 101 cells in less than 10 seconds. Those who used the keyboard short cut (Ctrl A), managed, but those who sought their mouse, lagged. Other shortcuts include Ctrl Space to select an entire column, Shift Space to select an entire row and Ctrl W to close a window. Cheat sheets were handed out as gifts to the audience, with helpful lists of alphabetical shortcuts, F key shortcuts, and ways to select data and format cells.  

Excel Academy runs three courses: 101, 202, and 303. 

“We get really excited about the secret language we discover on level 303,” said Dan. 

He also emphasised the magic of Excel: 

“It’s amazing witchcraft.”

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