Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Interview with an Excel Engineer

Reddit recently featured an interview with an Excel engineer who worked on Excel 2010 and Excel 2013. He answered numerous questions about everything ranging from tips and tricks to how to get a job working for Microsoft on Excel. The post is quite lengthy and there are many unanswered questions to sort through so for your convenience I’ve transcribed some of the most interesting and and informative Excel questions and answers here:

What would you say is the most under-utilized aspect of Excel?

The most underutilized feature IMHO is the Pivottable - the power it gives you is limitless and when people figure out how to use them it blows their mind. Traditional pivottables could only be created on a single table - with the new data model feature in Excel 2013 this limitation is gone and you can now join data from multiple tables/sources.

How does one become a data visualization MVP anyway?

Usually its awarded after years of experience, blogs, books written on the subject, etc.. These guys help us a lot when it comes to planning.

What is your background? How did you get the job?

Software engineer specializes in business intelligence and financial engineering. Got recruited out of school. There is all sorts of backgrounds though from ex flash game designers to mathematics phds to a guy who graduated from vet school. There are four disciplines that work directly on the Excel teams: developers, testers, program managers, and designers. There is also a ton of supporting staff like technical writers, support engineers, etc.. Each discipline had its own requirements. We're always hiring and you can specifically look inside the Microsoft Office Division.
excel engineer

How much do you study actual users and who are they?

A lot. We visit customers small and large shadowing them for days understanding their workflows. We conduct usability studies where we test out new features, designs, etc.. We comb through those crash reports (those popup dialogs that ask you to send info to MSFT) all the time to figure out what problems people are hitting. That said with 250+ million active users we always have to generalize. My first boss once told me, "When developing Excel any decision you make will probably piss off at least a million people, just make sure the rest are happy".

What are some lesser known tips shortcuts or tricks of Excel? What advice would you give to someone wanting to learn more?

To read through the entire Q&A session visit this link.

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