A Very Special Time in the Life of a Data Analyst

A colleague and I were emailing today and I realized we had a shared experience in our past, a very specific, pivotal occurrence in our professional lives. This is something that nobody tells you is going to happen to you or prepares you for, but that becomes a defining moment in your career, a landmark that forever changes the way you get stuff done.

I’m referring to the wondrous, sun-breaking-through-fog instant when you learn how to work a vlookup formula in Excel.


At the time that I went through this experience, it felt singular and obscure, unique to my own meek little mind. But the more I open up and talk to people about their personal relationship with Excel, the more I understand the universality of this transforming moment.

The isolation I felt was mere illusion. We are all on difficult journeys, carrying burdens that could be lightened if only we learned how to let go and let our software do for us all the things that the universe and the programmers intended. I mean, who in our data-driven world couldn’t use a nice, elegant vlookup formula to allow them to string together information from various sources like so many beads on a rosary?

mantis chapel

You know what I’m talking about. Vlookups are every bit as special as Paste Special, handy as pivot tables, dearer than keyboard shortcuts, easier than SAS code—in short: they are better than ice cream Brussels sprouts.

And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, allow me to proselytize for a sec. If you’re stuck like I was for so many years in the B.V. stage of life and you’re ready to see what life After Vlookup is like, do yourself a favor and Google it. Learn it. Practice it. Accept it into your heart.

Then go forth and let your vlookups do what they were meant to do, what they yearn to do, and that is to save you time and help you accomplish Big Things. You will stride through the spreadsheets of your life with confidence and you will never look back.

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