Dear Analyst https://www.thekeycuts.com/category/podcast/ A show made for analysts: data, data analysis, and software. Sun, 10 Oct 2021 20:14:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.1 This is a podcast made by a lifelong analyst. I cover topics including Excel, data analysis, and tools for sharing data. In addition to data analysis topics, I may also cover topics related to software engineering and building applications. I also do a roundup of my favorite podcasts and episodes. KeyCuts clean episodic KeyCuts info@thekeycuts.com info@thekeycuts.com (KeyCuts) A show made for analysts: data, data analysis, and software. Dear Analyst https://www.thekeycuts.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/dear_analyst_logo-1.png https://www.thekeycuts.com/excel-blog/ TV-G New York, NY New York, NY 50542147 Dear Analyst #79: How to finally AutoFit column widths in Excel for the Mac (and PC) https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-79-how-to-finally-autofit-column-widths-in-excel-for-the-mac-and-pc/ https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-79-how-to-finally-autofit-column-widths-in-excel-for-the-mac-and-pc/#respond Mon, 11 Oct 2021 04:06:00 +0000 https://www.thekeycuts.com/?p=51204 When you’re creating some dashboard or report, one of the most common formatting operations you’ll find yourself doing is expanding the column width to fit the text or numbers in a cell. You might also be expanding the row height to fit the size of the text, but I think it’s less common than expanding […]

The post Dear Analyst #79: How to finally AutoFit column widths in Excel for the Mac (and PC) appeared first on .

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When you’re creating some dashboard or report, one of the most common formatting operations you’ll find yourself doing is expanding the column width to fit the text or numbers in a cell. You might also be expanding the row height to fit the size of the text, but I think it’s less common than expanding the column width. In concert with the shortcut to select the entire column (CTRL+SPACE), AutoFitting the column width is a super powerful shortcut to show the data that you need. The problem? The shortcut only applies to Windows Excel users. For whatever reason, Microsoft decided not to give a native shortcut for AutoFitting columns in Mac Excel. Until now. Well not really until now, but this is the workaround for all you Mac Excel users who want to AutoFit columns like a boss.

Video tutorial for this episode:

AutoFit columns in Excel for Windows keyboard shortcut

As a quick refresher, the keyboard shortcut for AutoFitting columns for Excel on Windows is pretty simple:

ALT, O, C, A or ALT, H, O, I

This is a “sequential” keyboard shortcut where you hit each key one at a time. ALT, O, C, A actually comes from Excel 2003 and ALT, H, O, I is the more modern shortcut. When you press these keys, you’ll see the ribbon light up in Windows Excel:

Source: O’Reilly Media

This makes learning shortcuts on Windows Excel pretty easy because you can just press letters to open up menus and buttons on the ribbon. The AutoFit columns shortcut automatically expands the column to fit whatever you’ve selected in the column. This means you don’t have to drag-and-drop the column anymore like this:

Source: Spreadsheeto

AutoFit columns in Excel on Mac keyboard shortcut

Mac Excel users have probably come to learn (and hate) that you can’t use keyboard shortcuts in the ribbon. I don’t think Microsoft just overlooked this feature for Mac Excel users. Rather, it’s a limitation of the Mac OS in general. So what can Mac Excel users do to AutoFit columns? There are a few solutions/workarounds:

Method 1: Open the ribbon with F6 and TAB keys (worst method)

There is a way to open the ribbon in Mac Excel and that’s with the F6 key. The big caveat is is you don’t have function keys turned on in your Mac OS settings, then you’ll have to press the function key and the F6 key. So the shortcut for most folks is FN+F6. Once you press the F6 key, you’ll see the green highlight show up over the “Home” option on the ribbon. You may have to press F6 a few times until the green selection goes over the “Home” tab. Once the “Home” tab is highlighted, you can press SPACE to get into the “Home” tab:

Once the Home tab is open, the goal is to get to the Format button button near the right of the ribbon because that’s where the AutoFit Column Width option is located:

How do you get there? From what I know the only way is to hit the TAB key several times. As you hit the TAB key, you’ll see the green selection go through every option in the Home tab. You would think that you could do SHIFT+TAB to cycle backwards (start from the end of the ribbon) since the Format button is near the end of the ribbon. No dice. You literally have to hit TAB up until the green highlight hits the Format button:

Heaven forbid you hit TAB too many times and you end up shooting past the Format button. This means you have to cycle through all the options on the Home tab again to get to the Format button.

This method is obviously not ideal since it requires so many key presses to get to the right menu. The good news is that if you happen to need to use the ribbon, F6 opens it up and if the button in the tab is one of the “early” buttons near the left of the ribbon, maybe hitting the TAB key a few times isn’t too onerous. It’s still pretty clunky because when you press F6 the green selection might land on the Quick Access Toolbar or in the active cell form box first. This means you have to hit F6 a few times just to get to the right tab in the ribbon. Again, not ideal.

Method 2: Access toolbar with CTRL+F2 and go through Format menu

One of the biggest confusions I have about Excel in general is the need for the ribbon plus the toolbar. There are many duplicates between the two which just means more confusion for the users. Nonetheless, you can access the toolbar by pressing CTRL+F2 (if you don’t have function keys turned on, you’ll have to press CTRL+FN+F2). When you apply this shortcut, you’ll notice a slight gray highlight over the main apple icon in the top-left of the toolbar:

This shortcut is the same thing as if you hovered your cursor over the Apple icon. From here, you can either start typing “Fo” to get to the Format menu or just start using the arrow keys to get to the Format menu. I prefer to use the arrow keys and SPACE to access the “AutoFit Selection” option in the Format menu. The full sequence of shortcuts looks like this:

  1. CTRL+F2 to highlight Apple icon
  2. RIGHT ARROW 6 times to get the Format menu highlighted
  3. SPACE or DOWN ARROW 4 times to get the Column menu highlighted within the Format menu
  4. SPACE or RIGHT ARROW once to get into the Column menu
  5. DOWN ARROW once to get to the AutoFit Selection option
  6. ENTER to apply the AutoFit Selection operation

This is what this all looks like in Excel:

Still quite a few keystrokes to get to the AutoFit operation, but much better than method 1. Now you know you can at least get to any menu in the toolbar with CTRL+F2 and access the menu with a combination of the arrow keys and SPACE.

Method 3: Use App Shortcut in Mac OS keyboard settings

This method is pretty good but the reason I don’t think it’s the best method is because it requires you to use Mac OS settings versus Excel settings. On Mac OS, click on System Preferences->Keyboard->Shortcuts tab, and you’ll get a menu that looks like this:

You can set application-specific shortcuts to any application on your mac. After you click on the App Shortcuts option on the left side (last option), click on the plus sign to add a new app shortcut:

Scroll through all the applications until you get to Microsoft Excel. The tricky thing about the “Menu Title” field is you have to type out the operation in Excel word-for-word and it’s case-sensitive. In this box, you have to type out “AutoFit Selection.” Unfortunately Mac isn’t smart enough to get all the potential menu options to autofill here, so just watch your spelling. After that, you just need to type in the shortcut you want to use for this option. I would use something with the letter “A” in it so that you remember it’s AutoFit. Something like SHIFT+COMMAND+A could work:

Back in Excel, you now have the super simple COMMAND+SHIFT+A shortcut to expand the column width!

Method 4: Using Mac Excel’s Customize Keyboard menu (recommended)

This method and method 3 are pretty much the same thing. You’ll still use the COMMAND+SHIFT+A shortcut to AutoFit columns. The main difference is that you use Mac Excel’s native settings for defining keyboard shortcuts instead of your general Mac OS settings. I don’t like messing with my Mac OS settings too much since, well, it applies to everything you do on your Mac. If you have a bunch of keyboard shortcuts in the App Shortcuts settings for your Mac OS, it may become difficult to find the one you want to delete or edit. With Mac’s native keyboard shortcut settings, this hopefully won’t be an issue.

The Customize Keyboard menu is one of the under-utilized menus in Mac Excel. It allows you to set a keyboard shortcut to any operation in Excel. Forget not being able to use the ribbon, just set your own shortcuts here. First step is to click on Tools in the toolbar (not the ribbon) an then Customize Keyboard to get this menu:

Remember how the Format button is on the Home tab? After you click on the Home tab selection, just start searching for “AutoFit” in the Commands section and you’ll see a few options pop up:

There is an inconsistency between the name of the operation “AutoFit Selection” and what is actually in the Home tab->Format menu (“AutoFit Column Width”). In any event, “AutoFit Selection” is the right option, and you just need to type in the new shortcut where it says “Press new keyboard shortcut” and then click “Add.” Again, I like SHIFT+COMMAND+A for my AutoFit column width shortcut:

Now you can use COMMAND+SHIFT+A (just like method 3) to AutoFit your columns. The nice thing here is that your custom keyboard shortcuts are stored in your Excel settings versus your Mac OS settings.

Other Podcasts & Blog Posts

In the 2nd half of the episode, I talk about some episodes and blogs from other people I found interesting:

The post Dear Analyst #79: How to finally AutoFit column widths in Excel for the Mac (and PC) appeared first on .

]]>
https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-79-how-to-finally-autofit-column-widths-in-excel-for-the-mac-and-pc/feed/ 0 When you're creating some dashboard or report, one of the most common formatting operations you'll find yourself doing is expanding the column width to fit the text or numbers in a cell. You might also be expanding the row height to fit the size of the... When you're creating some dashboard or report, one of the most common formatting operations you'll find yourself doing is expanding the column width to fit the text or numbers in a cell. You might also be expanding the row height to fit the size of the text, but I think it's less common than expanding the column width. In concert with the shortcut to select the entire column (CTRL+SPACE), AutoFitting the column width is a super powerful shortcut to show the data that you need. The problem? The shortcut only applies to Windows Excel users. For whatever reason, Microsoft decided not to give a native shortcut for AutoFitting columns in Mac Excel. Until now. Well not really until now, but this is the workaround for all you Mac Excel users who want to AutoFit columns like a boss.







Video tutorial for this episode:




https://youtu.be/xOeMYDFC3rE




AutoFit columns in Excel for Windows keyboard shortcut



As a quick refresher, the keyboard shortcut for AutoFitting columns for Excel on Windows is pretty simple:



ALT, O, C, A or ALT, H, O, I



This is a "sequential" keyboard shortcut where you hit each key one at a time. ALT, O, C, A actually comes from Excel 2003 and ALT, H, O, I is the more modern shortcut. When you press these keys, you'll see the ribbon light up in Windows Excel:



Source: O'Reilly Media



This makes learning shortcuts on Windows Excel pretty easy because you can just press letters to open up menus and buttons on the ribbon. The AutoFit columns shortcut automatically expands the column to fit whatever you've selected in the column. This means you don't have to drag-and-drop the column anymore like this:



Source: Spreadsheeto



AutoFit columns in Excel on Mac keyboard shortcut



Mac Excel users have probably come to learn (and hate) that you can't use keyboard shortcuts in the ribbon. I don't think Microsoft just overlooked this feature for Mac Excel users. Rather, it's a limitation of the Mac OS in general. So what can Mac Excel users do to AutoFit columns? There are a few solutions/workarounds:



Method 1: Open the ribbon with F6 and TAB keys (worst method)



There is a way to open the ribbon in Mac Excel and that's with the F6 key. The big caveat is is you don't have function keys turned on in your Mac OS settings, then you'll have to press the function key and the F6 key. So the shortcut for most folks is FN+F6. Once you press the F6 key, you'll see the green highlight show up over the "Home" option on the ribbon. You may have to press F6 a few times until the green selection goes over the "Home" tab. Once the "Home" tab is highlighted, you can press SPACE to get into the "Home" tab:







Once the Home tab is open, the goal is to get to the Format button button near the right of the ribbon because that's where the AutoFit Column Width option is located:







How do you get there? From what I know the only way is to hit the TAB key several times. As you hit the TAB key, you'll see the green selection go through every option in the Home tab. You would think that you could do SHIFT+TAB to cycle backwards (start from the end of the ribbon) since the Format button is near the end of the ribbon. No dice. You literally have to hit TAB up until the green highlight hits the Format button:







Heaven forbid you hit TAB too many times and you end up shooting past the Format button. This means you have to cycle through all the options on the Home tab again to get to the Format button.

]]>
Dear Analyst 79 24:56 51204
Dear Analyst #78: 3 mental models from the show Billions https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-78-3-mental-models-from-the-show-billions/ https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-78-3-mental-models-from-the-show-billions/#respond Mon, 04 Oct 2021 04:26:00 +0000 https://www.thekeycuts.com/?p=51175 Following up from episode #77 about mental models, I wanted to take things one step further and tie mental models to one of my favorite shows. If you came here hoping for the latest Excel trick or keyboard shortcut, apologies in advance. If there’s one theme you should take away from these posts, it’s being […]

The post Dear Analyst #78: 3 mental models from the show Billions appeared first on .

]]>
Following up from episode #77 about mental models, I wanted to take things one step further and tie mental models to one of my favorite shows. If you came here hoping for the latest Excel trick or keyboard shortcut, apologies in advance. If there’s one theme you should take away from these posts, it’s being a good analyst means you’re able to connect differing ideas, trends, and frameworks together.

One show that has informed my thinking over the years is Billions. For those uninitiated, Billions is a show about a hedge fund manager (Bobby Axelrod) who tries to gain wealth and power through unscrupulous means while evading the regulatory arms of Chuck Rhoades, the U.S. Attorney. The show is loosely based on real-life events where then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bhara prosecuted hedge fund manager Steve Cohen of S.A.C Capital Advisors in 2013. The show is filled with esoteric references, finance jargon, and yes, some mental models that are worth noting. Here are three mental models from three different episodes.

Source: Showtime

1) Survivorship bias and Axe’s bad trade on BioLance

This is an example of not necessarily a mental model, but one of the many cognitive biases that can cloud our judgement. In addition to survivorship bias, there’s a bit of confirmation bias and the hot hand effect at play here.

Setting up the scene: Axelrod is sitting in his office and waiting to hear the news about a company called BioLance he’s invested in called BioLance. Before the CEO of the company goes on the conference call to discuss the status of their inhibitors for fighting type 2 diabetes, the trader (Mafee) who is executing the trade on behalf of Axelrod tries to talk Axelrod out of the trade. Mafee believes BioLance won’t have approval from the FDA to move forward with manufacturing the inhibitor, and that Axelrod should short BioLance instead given the current competitive market. Axelrod claims he’s done the research and believes BioLance’s inhibitors will get approved, leading to a stock jump. The BioLance CEO gets on the conference call and announces the FDA has not approved their inhibitors. Axelrod is dumbstruck and is trying to figure out how his decision-making led to this $1B mistake.

The reason for Axelrod’s flummoxed decision-making was he felt guilty about a previous misdeed he did and was punishing himself. Notwithstanding the real reason for the bad trade and the need for the plot to make sense, there is some interesting biases to take note of as Axelrod reflected on his trade.

A perfect example of survivorship bias is news about companies and startups who are raising millions in funding or doing an IPO. As an aspiring startup founder, you see this news and believe that it must be easy to create a company and have it be successful. The problem is you are overlooking the status of the majority of other companies who are failing our going bankrupt since there isn’t as much news about these floundering companies.

Source: Google

Most of Axelrod’s employees (including Axelrod himself) believe that Axelrod is never wrong. His hedge fund has billions under management and he wouldn’t get to this position if he didn’t make the right bets. There is survivorship bias here in terms of people focusing on the trades that made the fund millions of dollars, so this trade on BioLance shouldn’t be any different.

Then there is the potential for confirmation bias, or interpreting and seeking information that confirms your current beliefs. Axelrod walks through his decision-making process with his fund’s full-time performance coach, Wendy:

Somehow the idea that all the guys…I asked Mafee. And the moment he said that everyone else agreed that it was the wrong move, I had to stick it out. Had to prove that I was the difference maker. – Axelrod

Knowing that others thought he was making the wrong trade probably led Axelrod further down the path of confirmation bias. Not only did his belief in the trade go higher, but his pride got wrapped up in the trade too.

From a trading perspective, this could also be an example of the hot hand fallacy where a person’s previous positive outcomes leads to them believing the next outcome will be positive as well.

Shooter’s gotta shoot. Unwavering belief in our own capabilities. It’s essential to a point. Keeps us functioning at a high level. – Wendy

Key takeaways

Spend more time trying to find information you don’t see, or isn’t readily available. I think survivorship bias and confirmation bias go hand-in-hand. When I’m researching some new crypto or defi platform to invest in, I’ve started conditioning myself to do Google searches like “is X legit” or “negative reviews about X” to get the full story. A normal Google search for “X” will generally yield the positive news you’re looking for. To bring this back to being a good analyst, what questions are people not asking? What other internal or external input are we overlooking?

Source: Product Placement Blog

2) First principles and the Chicken Man

Would you rather be a chef or a cook? A cook is able to follow a recipe word for word and deliver a consistent meal as long as they have the right ingredients. What if one of the ingredients is missing? This is where the chef shines. To a chef, the raw ingredients are the most important part of the process rather than the recipe. The ingredients are the first principles for the chef and they can create their own recipes and meals no matter what ingredients they have in front of them.

Billions shows some of the darker sides of the hedge fund industry which leads to the drama on the show. Axelrod and his traders frequently get involved with insider trading in order to make profit on their trades. Let’s be clear, insider trading is illegal and wrong. But in the due diligence process for snuffing out a good trade, Billions teaches us about first principles thinking and going beyond conventional wisdom.

“Dollar Bill” Stern is a trader who frequently presents insider trading opportunities to Axelrod. One such opportunity happened to be going long on the Arkansas Chicken Index (no such index actually exists). This is “pitch,” as it were, from Dollar Bill to Axelrod and Wags, Axelrod’s right-hand man:

Dollar Bill: There’s plenty of chickens. And the early chicken action is counting on that. But Chicken Man will say that there’s very few chickens. The price will skyrocket.

Wags: Why will he say that?

Dollar Bill: Because he’s supposed to drag his ass out to multiple farms and productions house to get an accurate count. But the guy’s Otis of Mayberry. So he’ll go to one or two to make an appearance, but that’s it. He’s not counting shit. The guy sits there and calls a few of the major poultry producers and just asks them for their numbers. It’s like a teacher letting a kid grade his own tests.

Axe: And they say the numbers are low because it keeps the prices high.

Wags: If the Chicken Man is wrong, why does he get to stay the Chicken Man?

Axe: Because he’s wrong in the way the producers want him to be. They installed him. And they keep him in place.

In the process of doing research or due diligence on a company for the purposes of investing, first principles thinking comes out. In the case of the Arkansas Chicken Index, an analyst could treat the price of chickens as sacrosanct news and assume it reflects an accurate count of chickens. Why? Because we know (or we think) that other indices reflect the true price of something (e.g. S&P, CPI). Via analogy, the chicken index should behave the same way, until you break down the index into its component parts and build your own conclusions on–forgive me–counting chickens.

Source: UPROXX

The Georgia Dock and the real chicken man

Turns out there is a real chicken man who used to publish a newsletter called Georgia’s Poultry Marketing News. Arty Schronce would also just call some major chicken producers for their numbers. Arty’s numbers would then go into the Georgia Dock, the main wholesale chicken price index created by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Source: Gainesville Times

Wall Street analysts did some first principles thinking and decided to investigate Arty’s chicken numbers. A Washington Post article led to the elimination of the Georgia chicken index as well as some chicken producers getting sued for price manipulation.

Did chicken prices go back to normal after the index was abolished? Surprisingly no. One theory is that the buyers of the chickens–big supermarkets–disregarded the chicken index when they found out the index wasn’t reliable. Turns out there was actual price-fixing and the chicken buyers’ lawsuit against the chicken producers held water.

Arty, like the chicken man in Billions, was just a guy caught in the middle of supply and demand.

Key takeaways

Not going with your intuition may be a good thing. Our intuition is influenced by our experiences, history, and other people’s opinions. First principles thinking brings you back to the truths and reality in front of you. When other opinions guide your way of thinking about a problem, you are less likely to come up with a creative solution.

3) Activation energy and catalysts to short the Nigerian Naira

Getting started on a big project is the hardest part. Writing the first word in this post was difficult right up until I removed distractions and had a cup of coffee to wake me up. Activation energy is the initial push to get a chemical reaction started. You can equate this with the “tipping point,” as fans of Malcolm Gladwell may be familiar with.

Setting the scene: Axelrod meets with a talented trader named Everett who works at a different hedge fund. Axelrod is trying to poach Everett to his hedge fund, and Everett tells Axelrod about some news he heard about the Nigerian currency:

The have to devalue. Could be a month for now. And with the right pressure, could be tomorrow, if somebody takes a massive short position against it. – Everett

Everett’s research (and inside information) indicates that the Nigerian currency will be devalued, but it’s a question of when. With a little activation energy in the form of a short position on the currency, Axelrod can control the series of events that leads to the official proclamation by the Nigerian government that the currency is getting devalued.

The entire show is a great example of the activation energy mental model at play. Small actions and nudges here and there lead to the big “reaction” the originator of the action is looking for. An anonymous tip, a rumor, or an unexpected appearance can lead to larger events down the road.

For this play on the Naira to work, Axelrod needs additional capital to take a large enough short position to cause the currency to spiral. He decides to disclose this information to some of his competitor hedge fund enemies in the hopes that they will join him in shorting the currency:

Axelrod: Nigeria is going to devalue its currency.

Malverne: How could you know that?

Axelrod: Because we are going to make it happen. If each of us take a monster position against the Naira, we dictate the timing. This deal only works if we’re all in it together. The threshold is five billion. I’m in it for two. That leaves one each for you three. So, which is the more powerful driver? Boning me, or your own self-interest?

Source: Billions

Frenemies and incentives

Without the help of the other hedge funds, Axelrod doesn’t have the capital and activation energy to catalyze the devaluation of the Naira. Further on in this episode, Axelrod finds out that Birch, one of the hedge funds who originally agreed to participate in the short sale backed out and is backstabbing Axelrod. To make up for this roadblock and officially cause the markets to change, Axelrod get his esteemed friend Lawrence Boyd to appear on public TV saying that he believes the currency should be devalued. It’s like having Janet Yellen come out on CNBC and say Bitcoin is the future.

Another interesting mental model at play here is incentives. People are ultimately driven by incentives and rewards and Axelrod poses the ultimate question to his compadres: do you care about profits above all else? The true nature of the hedge fund managers comes out as they put aside their competition with Axelrod for this opportunity. Axelrod knew the incentives were right to get his competitors on his side for this play.

Outside of finance and politics, I’d love to know other real-life examples of how to “keep your enemies closer.” My hunch is that most people don’t have frenemies, or maybe I just don’t have enough at stake where enemies will line themselves up against me. In this case where millions are at stake, Axelrod’s enemies stand to lose more if they don’t collaborate with Axelrod.

Key takeaways

Figure out what catalyst is needed to move something past its breaking or tipping point. If it’s something you’re trying to change in your life like going to the gym more often in the morning, having your gym bag packed and gym shoes out might be the “activation energy” you need to get out the door. In the case of price-fixing a currency, the first step is don’t do that. The second step is finding others to give you leverage so that the scale tips in your favor.

Conclusion

Some of these mental models are a bit of a stretch in terms of the scenes from the show. The plots and story lines in the show are obviously written to create drama and would not happen in real life. A hedge fund would not agree to short the Naira just to make a profit. I’d hope there’s much more calculus that goes into a decision like this in reality.

Nonetheless, the decisions people make on the show reflect our existing cognitive biases and ways of thinking. The one thing Billions has taught me is to constantly learn about new ideas, markets, and people. Just from this post alone, I learned about a real life chicken price index and forex trading.

Other Podcasts & Blog Posts

In the 2nd half of the episode, I talk about some episodes and blogs from other people I found interesting:

The post Dear Analyst #78: 3 mental models from the show Billions appeared first on .

]]>
https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-78-3-mental-models-from-the-show-billions/feed/ 0 Following up from episode #77 about mental models, I wanted to take things one step further and tie mental models to one of my favorite shows. If you came here hoping for the latest Excel trick or keyboard shortcut, apologies in advance. Following up from episode #77 about mental models, I wanted to take things one step further and tie mental models to one of my favorite shows. If you came here hoping for the latest Excel trick or keyboard shortcut, apologies in advance. If there's one theme you should take away from these posts, it's being a good analyst means you're able to connect differing ideas, trends, and frameworks together.



One show that has informed my thinking over the years is Billions. For those uninitiated, Billions is a show about a hedge fund manager (Bobby Axelrod) who tries to gain wealth and power through unscrupulous means while evading the regulatory arms of Chuck Rhoades, the U.S. Attorney. The show is loosely based on real-life events where then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bhara prosecuted hedge fund manager Steve Cohen of S.A.C Capital Advisors in 2013. The show is filled with esoteric references, finance jargon, and yes, some mental models that are worth noting. Here are three mental models from three different episodes.



Source: Showtime



1) Survivorship bias and Axe's bad trade on BioLance



This is an example of not necessarily a mental model, but one of the many cognitive biases that can cloud our judgement. In addition to survivorship bias, there's a bit of confirmation bias and the hot hand effect at play here.



Setting up the scene: Axelrod is sitting in his office and waiting to hear the news about a company called BioLance he's invested in called BioLance. Before the CEO of the company goes on the conference call to discuss the status of their inhibitors for fighting type 2 diabetes, the trader (Mafee) who is executing the trade on behalf of Axelrod tries to talk Axelrod out of the trade. Mafee believes BioLance won't have approval from the FDA to move forward with manufacturing the inhibitor, and that Axelrod should short BioLance instead given the current competitive market. Axelrod claims he's done the research and believes BioLance's inhibitors will get approved, leading to a stock jump. The BioLance CEO gets on the conference call and announces the FDA has not approved their inhibitors. Axelrod is dumbstruck and is trying to figure out how his decision-making led to this $1B mistake.



The reason for Axelrod's flummoxed decision-making was he felt guilty about a previous misdeed he did and was punishing himself. Notwithstanding the real reason for the bad trade and the need for the plot to make sense, there is some interesting biases to take note of as Axelrod reflected on his trade.



A perfect example of survivorship bias is news about companies and startups who are raising millions in funding or doing an IPO. As an aspiring startup founder, you see this news and believe that it must be easy to create a company and have it be successful. The problem is you are overlooking the status of the majority of other companies who are failing our going bankrupt since there isn't as much news about these floundering companies.



Source: Google



Most of Axelrod's employees (including Axelrod himself) believe that Axelrod is never wrong. His hedge fund has billions under management and he wouldn't get to this position if he didn't make the right bets. There is survivorship bias here in terms of people focusing on the trades that made the fund millions of dollars, so this trade on BioLance shouldn't be any different.



Then there is the potential for confirmation bias, or interpreting and seeking information that confirms your current beliefs. Axelrod walks through his decision-making process with...]]>
Dear Analyst 78 40:06 51175
Dear Analyst #77: The top 3 mental models I never think about and live by (I think) https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-77-top-3-mental-models/ https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-77-top-3-mental-models/#comments Mon, 20 Sep 2021 05:59:00 +0000 https://www.thekeycuts.com/?p=51141 The promise of mental models is that it helps you bridge the gap between what’s in your mind and what happens in real life. They are interesting thought exercises in how you think. But that’s where it ends for me. How often do you approach a big decision in life and decide to pull from […]

The post Dear Analyst #77: The top 3 mental models I never think about and live by (I think) appeared first on .

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The promise of mental models is that it helps you bridge the gap between what’s in your mind and what happens in real life. They are interesting thought exercises in how you think. But that’s where it ends for me. How often do you approach a big decision in life and decide to pull from your little bag of mental models to make the best decision? Life (and the decisions you face) are messy. Yet, we see countless bloggers and authors provide their own takes on mental models (I’ve referenced Shane Parrish’s mental models multiple times, to be fair). An entire industry of leadership and career coaches use mental models to describe a person:

Source: Amateur Coach

I’m sure this coach, does some great work with his clients, but something about having my entire being defined with a few lines and phrases doesn’t sit right. Perhaps mental models are best left for VCs and thinkbois on Twitter. The issue I have with mental models is that they are easy to write and talk about, but the examples people cite seem too farfetched and “clean” to work in real life. With that said, here are a few mental models I like to read and think about, but rarely use in real life (because life is messy).

1) Power laws and the 80/20 principle

The classic Pareto or “80/20” principle. No doubt this mental model has come across your Twitter timeline in the last week. Via Wikipedia:

The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. 

Thinkboi thoughts on Twitter:

One example a really like from history is from WWI and a German fighter pilot named Manfred von Richthofen (aka the “Red Baron”). Unlike other fighter pilots at the time, Richthofen approached aerial combat with conservatism. This meant less aerial acrobatics and what you might otherwise see in Top Gun.

Source: History.com

His fleet was constantly outnumbered by Allied forces and he knew if his men entered into combat head-to-head, he would always lose. Instead, he created a special formation for his fleet called “The Flying Circus.” This formation would just hammer the hell out of a specific point in the Allied’s defenses. This led to him taking down more Allied planes than he would have otherwise using traditional aerial combat techniques. In the context of combat, Manfred was able to 80/20 his results by taking advantage of the multiplier effect whereby one side can create outsized impact just from having a more numbers than the other side in a battle. I could be conflating two different mental models here, but the effect of dominating a small part the enemy’s defenses day after day must have a huge impact on their strategy and morale.

80/20 principle and data

Back in the real world where you have numbers to crunch and spreadsheets to format, how might one use this mental model at work? Again, I don’t actively think about using the 80/20 principle before I go and pull some data, but the simplest way for this model to manifest itself in a spreadsheet is sorting. What does this mean?

You’re doing some analysis and trying to find the key driver for why sales are spiking or why customers are churning. Pull the data you need and instantly sort on the column that contains your key metric. 80% of the time (see what I did there?), that simple operation of sorting the data set will help you find the answer you’re looking for because the product or customer that is driving the issue will show up at the top of your spreadsheet.

2) Recency bias

Perhaps not a mental model from a traditional definition, but something to have thinkboi thoughts on nonetheless. Via wikipedia:

Recency bias is a cognitive bias that favors recent events over historic ones.

I’m singling out this cognitive bias because of its impact you see in business, politics, and hey, your personal thoughts. For all the basketball heads out there, who do you think are the top 5 NBA players of all time? That list probably includes the likes of Jordan, Kobe, and Lebron.

Source: The Ringer

Asking this question to a 20-something will probably yield different results than a 50-something. Why? Because you’re not seeing some of the greats from the 70s and 80s play regularly and in social media (unless you’re watching ESPN Classic). This means your benchmark for a “great player” is coming from the most recent 5 NBA seasons, maybe 10?

If you had to pick the top center of all time, would it be Shaq or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? You think about Shaq’s run with the Lakers, his thunderous dunks, and 300lb+ body and may feel inclined to pick him just with those data points. What do you remember about Kareem’s career? Skyhook probably comes to mind. But dominating like Shaq? Maybe not. But if you compare the two big men’s stats from all their career games:

Source: Land of Basketball

Kareem led in every major stat category.

Recency bias and investing

Outside of sports, you hear (and probably experience) recency bias in the investing world. Investors tend to give more credence to short-term results and pick funds and stocks based on recent information they have about the asset.

I think Bitcoin is a great example of this to a certain degree. If Bitcoin goes below $40K these days, hodlers may think Bitcoin is cheap and it’s time to load up the bags. One year ago (September 2020) Bitcoin was $11,000. Is <$40K still considered cheap or undervalued? Bitcoin’s presence and portrayal in the media only adds fuel to the fire:

Crypto may be a bad example, but apply recency bias to stocks and you’ll hear the rallying cry from Fidelity, Vanguard, and robo-advisors like Wealthfront. Diversify your portfolio, index funds, asset allocation, and their ilk. If you pick stocks individually, you’ll always underperform the S&P in the long-term, they tell us. I’m not saying the long-term strategy we’re being fed by brokerages and 401k plans is wrong, but it’s not 100% right either for every investor. Will save my rant on this for another time.

Recency bias and data

This may creep into recency bias’ sister: confirmation bias (finding facts to support your opinion). If you’re doing an analysis and remember that one of the key takeaways from last quarter’s BvA report was that supplier X drove the higher than expected expense, you may look to supplier X again to find the explanation for this quarter’s overspend.

It’s easy to turn to the most recent explanation to account for why something happened, but the correct method is to go farther back and take history into account in your analysis. Maybe supplier Y had an unexpected expense that is 300% greater than their previous expense 6 quarters ago. You wouldn’t know that if you didn’t look at the trends from more than a year ago.

Speaking broadly, the amount of data we have available today versus 5 or 10 years ago can lead to recency bias as well. If you have more granular and frequent data points getting streamed into your database, tempting to use these robust datasets to run your analysis. Just because your data from 10 years ago doesn’t have as many dimensions or granularity doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be included in your analysis for an important decision. Data from many quarters or years ago can still be accurate without being stale.

3) Hanlon’s Razor

I’ve written about this aphorism before (see episodes #47 and #38) in relation to Excel errors. Via Wikipedia:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. It is a philosophical razor that suggests a way of eliminating unlikely explanations for human behavior.

It’s giving someone the benefit of the doubt that they were not intentionally trying to hurt you. They just didn’t know any better.

Christian Pham was a 40-year old professional poker player ready to enter the World Series of Poker in 2015. He had been playing no-limit Texas Hold ’em in St. Paul, Minnesota, and this tournament was a chance for him to make a name for himself. He signs up for the tournament, and eagerly awaits his seat at the table.

It’s game day, and he sits down at the table. He’s told the buy-in is $1,500. This is very strange, he thinks, since the buy-in for the Main Event (no-limit Texas Hold ’em) is supposed to be $10,000. Worry not, this must just be some snafu with how they collect the buy-in.

The dealer starts doling out cards and this is where things get really weird. He gets dealt 5 cards. His nerves really get strained now because you’re only supposed to be dealt 2 cards in Texas Hold ’em.

Christian signed up for the wrong event.

He accidentally signed up for a game at the World Series of Poker called no-limit deuce-to-seven draw lowball. He’s never played this type of poker in St. Paul, and he’s staring in awe at his 5 cards on the table.

Source: PokerNews

Christian’s opponents at his table think Christian is bluffing. They think he’s pulling a fast one on them and pretending to not know how to play Kansas City lowball. If I saw a player at the table start to win hands at a game he claims to not know, I’d be a bit skeptical as well.

Christian wasn’t bluffing, and he really had no idea what he was doing. He didn’t know what strategy to use and was trying to piece together the game by talking to the dealer and some of the other players. Inexperienced poker players can sometimes be the most difficult to play against because they are effectively gambling while the pro players are employing every technique they have been taught to win hands.

The players at Christian’s table soon realized Christian really had never played the game. Being the rational (and human) players as they are, the other players gave Christian some tips on how to play the game to maybe remove some of the unpredictability from Christian’s style of play. Regardless, Christian ended up beating out 219 players and walked away with $80,000 from playing a game he didn’t sign up for.

Hanlon’s Razor working at work

I think that this mental model is a great way for improving your overall attitude at work and in your personal life, but isn’t that just having a positive attitude? Saying you ascribe to Hanlon’s Razor is a nice party trick and might make you feel like you have control over the negative thoughts that dance their way into your psyche. At the end of the day, you choose who and where to direct your effort and thoughts, as wasteful as it may be.

Let’s say you’re working on a group project and your group mate or colleague agrees to do the final formatting on the presentation you’ve been working for weeks on. Just a simple verbal agreement and trust between two teammates is all you need to know that the formatting will be done and you’ll look good in front of your boss come presentation day.

Your teammate sends you the presentation back and it’s not formatted at all and you don’t have time to fix it before the presentation. Is your teammate trying to sabotage you? Did they juts lie straight to your face? Your teammate is human, after all, and no amount of stewing or vitriol thrown at your teammate will make the situation better or complete the formatting task.

Why waste time thinking people are actively plotting against your downfall? Most people are too enthralled with their own lives to have the capacity to plan for these supposed roadblocks in your life. This is starting to get meta, but the question to ask yourself is whether the feelings and emotions are truly justified, or is there another rational explanation for what transpired?

Other Podcasts & Blog Posts

In the 2nd half of the episode, I talk about some episodes and blogs from other people I found interesting:

The post Dear Analyst #77: The top 3 mental models I never think about and live by (I think) appeared first on .

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https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-77-top-3-mental-models/feed/ 1 The promise of mental models is that it helps you bridge the gap between what's in your mind and what happens in real life. They are interesting thought exercises in how you think. But that's where it ends for me. The promise of mental models is that it helps you bridge the gap between what's in your mind and what happens in real life. They are interesting thought exercises in how you think. But that's where it ends for me. How often do you approach a big decision in life and decide to pull from your little bag of mental models to make the best decision? Life (and the decisions you face) are messy. Yet, we see countless bloggers and authors provide their own takes on mental models (I've referenced Shane Parrish's mental models multiple times, to be fair). An entire industry of leadership and career coaches use mental models to describe a person:



Source: Amateur Coach



I'm sure this coach, does some great work with his clients, but something about having my entire being defined with a few lines and phrases doesn't sit right. Perhaps mental models are best left for VCs and thinkbois on Twitter. The issue I have with mental models is that they are easy to write and talk about, but the examples people cite seem too farfetched and "clean" to work in real life. With that said, here are a few mental models I like to read and think about, but rarely use in real life (because life is messy).



1) Power laws and the 80/20 principle



The classic Pareto or "80/20" principle. No doubt this mental model has come across your Twitter timeline in the last week. Via Wikipedia:



The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes. 



Thinkboi thoughts on Twitter:




https://twitter.com/shaneaparrish/status/1312735218776772608




One example a really like from history is from WWI and a German fighter pilot named Manfred von Richthofen (aka the "Red Baron"). Unlike other fighter pilots at the time, Richthofen approached aerial combat with conservatism. This meant less aerial acrobatics and what you might otherwise see in Top Gun.



Source: History.com



His fleet was constantly outnumbered by Allied forces and he knew if his men entered into combat head-to-head, he would always lose. Instead, he created a special formation for his fleet called "The Flying Circus." This formation would just hammer the hell out of a specific point in the Allied's defenses. This led to him taking down more Allied planes than he would have otherwise using traditional aerial combat techniques. In the context of combat, Manfred was able to 80/20 his results by taking advantage of the multiplier effect whereby one side can create outsized impact just from having a more numbers than the other side in a battle. I could be conflating two different mental models here, but the effect of dominating a small part the enemy's defenses day after day must have a huge impact on their strategy and morale.



80/20 principle and data



Back in the real world where you have numbers to crunch and spreadsheets to format, how might one use this mental model at work? Again, I don't actively think about using the 80/20 principle before I go and pull some data, but the simplest way for this model to manifest itself in a spreadsheet is sorting. What does this mean?



You're doing some analysis and trying to find the key driver for why sales are spiking or why customers are churning. Pull the data you need and instantly sort on the column that contains your key metric. 80% of the time (see what I did there?), that simple operation of sorting the data set will help you find the answer you're looking for because the product or customer that is driving the issue will s...]]>
Dear Analyst 77 34:29 51141
Dear Analyst #76: Productivity hack for creating a Google Calendar event by sending yourself an email https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-76-productivity-hack-for-creating-a-google-calendar-event-by-sending-yourself-an-email/ https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-76-productivity-hack-for-creating-a-google-calendar-event-by-sending-yourself-an-email/#respond Tue, 07 Sep 2021 05:05:00 +0000 https://www.thekeycuts.com/?p=51111 Taking a slight detour off of the data analysis/spreadsheet path and getting into the world of productivity hacks with this episode. A productivity hack can mean different things, and in this case it’s a hack to improve your workflow at, you guessed it, work. This hack gives you the ability to create a Google Calendar […]

The post Dear Analyst #76: Productivity hack for creating a Google Calendar event by sending yourself an email appeared first on .

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Taking a slight detour off of the data analysis/spreadsheet path and getting into the world of productivity hacks with this episode. A productivity hack can mean different things, and in this case it’s a hack to improve your workflow at, you guessed it, work. This hack gives you the ability to create a Google Calendar event by sending yourself an e-mail in Gmail on your phone. The goal of this productivity hack is this: avoid switching contexts (apps) to schedule a calendar event. I get into the problem and solution below, but if you want to just start using the Google Apps Script go to this repo. Watch a quick tutorial on how this script works below:

Your calendar is what you actually do

Like many of you out there, I live by my Google Calendar (for better or worse). The app just gets one thing done really well and integrates with all your other apps. I have my personal Google Calendar overlaid on my work calendar so I can see personal appointments and such. Over the years, I’ve started using my calendar for more than just events and appointments. It’s almost become a to-do list, reminder tool, and calendar all bundled in one.

For instance, I’ll typically have all-day events scheduled to act as a reminder for when I need to pay a bill. I may have an event called “follow up with so-and-so” just to remind me to send an email to that person. This starts to getting into my Gmail workflow of snoozing emails to remind myself to follow up with someone. But “seeing” that event on my calendar gives me more visibility into what I actually need to do a given day or week whereas the snoozed email just pops up when it’s scheduled to.

If you’re interested in this gentle dance between your calendar, email, and to-do list, check out this Coda template from Des Traynor I worked on a few years ago. This is the money Tweet which shows why our calendars dominate our lives:

Boiling the frog

This productivity hack solves a problem I didn’t really know existed until I reflected on how much time I spend using the Google Calendar app on my phone (I have an Android). When I’m going through emails on the Gmail app, I’ll inevitably need to schedule an event or reminder to do something in the future. This is how some emails may potentially turn into a Google Calendar event:

  • Get an email from a friend to get lunch -> Create a calendar event with something like “Hold for lunch with X”
  • Promotional email from Doordash to get 15% only if you use by X date -> Calendar event on X date that says “use Doordash promo”
  • Email comes on the weekend showing random fees on my Internet bill -> Schedule event on Monday that says “call Spectrum to get rid of fee”

It’s not a perfect system, but it works for me. The issue is that I’m constantly closing the Gmail app and opening the Google Calendar app to add these events to my calendar.

The Google Calendar app is easy to use and I’ve been content with doing this Gmail <-> Google Calendar dance over the years. A few weeks ago I realized how much I’ve been switching back and forth between these apps and how much time I waste context switching. Why do I need to leave Gmail to create these quick Google Calendar events? Once I made this realization, I cringe a little bit every time I have to open the Google Calendar app just to schedule a reminder event to call customer service. Eventually, the proverbial frog couldn’t stand the heat anymore, so I jumped out as things boiled over.

Very proud of my photo editing skills on this one 🙂

Save the clicks (or taps)

The real problem (as with many consumer apps) is the number of clicks and taps you’re required to make on your phone when scheduling an event on Google Calendar. Let’s assume you are in the Gmail app on Android and need to create a Google Calendar event after you’ve just seen an email requiring you to schedule something. Some other requirements:

  • You need to invite someone to the event
  • The event needs to be at a specific time
  • The event needs a description

Let’s compare the clicks/taps required to make this event using the Google Calendar app. Typing characters for the event are not counted.

Using the Google Calendar app

Just to get to this screen requires 2 clicks (one to get out of Gmail and another to get to the Google Calendar app):

Once you’re in the app, you need to click on the big plus sign in the bottom-right to get to the create event screen (1 click):

By default, the cursor shows up in the “Add title” field so you don’t actually need to click into the field to start typing the event title. Saving a tap here. But if I want to change the date of the event, I need to tap on the start date (1 click):

Now depending on how far away in the future your event is, you may need to click a few more times to access future months. Let’s just say the event is later in September so you tap on that date to set it and then tap “OK” (2 clicks). Next is the time. You tap on the event time to bring up this time picker (1 click):

I’ve gotten use to setting times on Android but it’s not the most intuitive experience. To set the time to 9:30AM, it would require hitting the “9,” then hitting “30,” and then the “AM” modifier at the top, then “OK” (4 clicks). To invite others and add an event description:

  • Add attendee (3 clicks): Click on the “Add people” field, type in the person’s email address and click on the autofilled name, then click “Done”
  • Add event description (1 click): Click on the event description field

Of course, to save the event after you’ve filled out all the fields, you click on the big “Save” button in the top-right (1 click).

In total, it requires a minimum of 15 clicks to create a Google Calendar event on the Android app (not to mention the context switching).

Using Gmail to create a Google Calendar event

Just to be clear, this solution applies only to sending emails from Gmail on a mobile device. On desktop, there’s already a solution for creating events from Gmail. I’ve never used this feature on desktop since Google automatically puts the subject of the email as the event title. Sometimes the subject line is super long and it wouldn’t make sense for it to be the event title anyway (I like to keep event titles short and succinct).

Using this script, you create an email that looks like this to create a Google Calendar event:

The number of clicks to get a Google Calendar event scheduled using this method (again, ignoring typing characters):

  • Create Gmail draft: 1 click
  • Set the recipient of the email: 1 click
  • Write the event title, date, and time in the subject line: 1 click
  • Write attendees and event description: 1 click
  • Save the event (send email): 1 click

This method requires 5 clicks.

One could argue that typing out the date and time is more cumbersome than tapping the date/time using the Android time/date picker interface. You also have to know the full email address of your attendees since the body of the email is freeform text (thus no autofilling of email addresses).

Nevertheless, I feel more comfortable typing out the date/time than using the awkward date/time picker. The best part of this solution is that I stay within the context of the Gmail app. Switching from Gmail to Google Calendar isn’t context switching from what you’ve seen in the media and on blogs.

This is just saving the time and mental overhead needed to load a completely different app with a different interface from what you were using before.

Creating the solution in Google Apps Script

Creating a solution to save time by not having to open the Google Calendar app on your phone is pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. We’re talking about 5 taps versus 15 taps to create a Google Calendar event. Doesn’t feel like that much time saved, but it’s so nice to stay within Gmail where the triggers for creating calendar events exist in the first place.

Since I use Gmail and Google Calendar for both work and personal life, I figured Google Apps Script would be the glue to hold everything together. I have posted about Google Apps Script I created in the past to help automate various workflows. The main reason I continue to use it is because it’s free. Unless you are running a script many times a day on a large amount of data, you’ll never hit the quotas before you need to pay a penny to Google (the cost of having all your data with Google is a story for another time).

At a high-level, these are the features I wanted in this Google Apps Script:

  • Send myself emails with the details of a Google Calendar event
  • Event title, date, and time would be in the subject line
  • Other event data (attendees, event description, location, etc.) would be handled in the body of the email

The script requires you to do some setup in Gmail. Namely, creating a filter where emails to yourself automatically get labeled with something like “EventsFromEmail.” The filter looks for a specific email to yourself that includes the “+” character. For instance, if your email is “john@gmail.com”, the recipient email address might be “john+calendar@gmail.com.”

Once this filter is setup, the script does the following:

  • Go through all the emails in the “EventsFromEmail” label
  • Find the ones that are unread
  • Create a Google Calendar event from the details in the unread emails
  • Mark these unread emails as read after the event is created

Automating the script with triggers

Going through all the emails in a specific label and creating events from the unread emails feels inefficient. The real solution I was hoping for was having the script run right after you send yourself an email. After doing a little research, turns out there are no Google Apps Script triggers that would kick kick off a script when an email lands in your inbox. There is a solution involving webhooks and Google Cloud’s Pub/Sub feature, but this would require you to dip your toes into setting up a Google Cloud account, billing, etc. which is annoying. Google Apps Script runs on Google Cloud anyway, but the nice thing about Apps Script is you don’t have to deal with all the overhead of setting up Google Cloud.

Since we can’t “watch” for emails in Gmail, we turn to the time-driven triggers. This means the script runs every 5 minutes or whatever interval you think is appropriate for your use case. Again, I don’t think this is the most elegant solution because:

  • Requires the script to constantly check for new emails in your “EventsFromEmail” label
  • Wastes compute power

I believe a time-driven trigger is how most standalone Google Apps Scripts are run. The no-code interface for setting up the cron job is really easy to understand:

Other Podcasts & Blog Posts

No other podcasts this episode!

The post Dear Analyst #76: Productivity hack for creating a Google Calendar event by sending yourself an email appeared first on .

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https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-76-productivity-hack-for-creating-a-google-calendar-event-by-sending-yourself-an-email/feed/ 0 Taking a slight detour off of the data analysis/spreadsheet path and getting into the world of productivity hacks with this episode. A productivity hack can mean different things, and in this case it's a hack to improve your workflow at, Taking a slight detour off of the data analysis/spreadsheet path and getting into the world of productivity hacks with this episode. A productivity hack can mean different things, and in this case it's a hack to improve your workflow at, you guessed it, work. This hack gives you the ability to create a Google Calendar event by sending yourself an e-mail in Gmail on your phone. The goal of this productivity hack is this: avoid switching contexts (apps) to schedule a calendar event. I get into the problem and solution below, but if you want to just start using the Google Apps Script go to this repo. Watch a quick tutorial on how this script works below:




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbbT0zPGzVY




Your calendar is what you actually do



Like many of you out there, I live by my Google Calendar (for better or worse). The app just gets one thing done really well and integrates with all your other apps. I have my personal Google Calendar overlaid on my work calendar so I can see personal appointments and such. Over the years, I've started using my calendar for more than just events and appointments. It's almost become a to-do list, reminder tool, and calendar all bundled in one.



For instance, I'll typically have all-day events scheduled to act as a reminder for when I need to pay a bill. I may have an event called "follow up with so-and-so" just to remind me to send an email to that person. This starts to getting into my Gmail workflow of snoozing emails to remind myself to follow up with someone. But "seeing" that event on my calendar gives me more visibility into what I actually need to do a given day or week whereas the snoozed email just pops up when it's scheduled to.



If you're interested in this gentle dance between your calendar, email, and to-do list, check out this Coda template from Des Traynor I worked on a few years ago. This is the money Tweet which shows why our calendars dominate our lives:




https://twitter.com/destraynor/status/1143853719135621121




Boiling the frog



This productivity hack solves a problem I didn't really know existed until I reflected on how much time I spend using the Google Calendar app on my phone (I have an Android). When I'm going through emails on the Gmail app, I'll inevitably need to schedule an event or reminder to do something in the future. This is how some emails may potentially turn into a Google Calendar event:



* Get an email from a friend to get lunch -> Create a calendar event with something like "Hold for lunch with X"* Promotional email from Doordash to get 15% only if you use by X date -> Calendar event on X date that says "use Doordash promo"* Email comes on the weekend showing random fees on my Internet bill -> Schedule event on Monday that says "call Spectrum to get rid of fee"



It's not a perfect system, but it works for me. The issue is that I'm constantly closing the Gmail app and opening the Google Calendar app to add these events to my calendar.



The Google Calendar app is easy to use and I've been content with doing this Gmail <-> Google Calendar dance over the years. A few weeks ago I realized how much I've been switching back and forth between these apps and how much time I waste context switching. Why do I need to leave Gmail to create these quick Google Calendar events? Once I made this realization, I cringe a little bit every time I have to open the Google Calendar app just to schedu...]]>
Dear Analyst 76 24:07 51111
Dear Analyst #75: How to extract first, last, and multiple middle names into 3 separate columns https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-75-how-to-extract-first-last-and-middle-names-with-multiple-spaces-in-a-cell/ https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-75-how-to-extract-first-last-and-middle-names-with-multiple-spaces-in-a-cell/#respond Mon, 16 Aug 2021 05:00:00 +0000 https://www.thekeycuts.com/?p=51052 In episode 52, I talked about how to extract text from a cell. You might use this formula to extract a certain value from a cell when your database or CSV export contains a bunch of miscellaneous prefix data. This formula relies on finding a certain character in the cell and then using the MID […]

The post Dear Analyst #75: How to extract first, last, and multiple middle names into 3 separate columns appeared first on .

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In episode 52, I talked about how to extract text from a cell. You might use this formula to extract a certain value from a cell when your database or CSV export contains a bunch of miscellaneous prefix data. This formula relies on finding a certain character in the cell and then using the MID formula to get the data you need. Turns out this formula doesn’t solve all use cases. In particular, when it comes to getting first names, middle name(s), and last names (surnames) from a cell. Evert Scholtz left the following comment on episode 52’s YouTube tutorial:

You’re in luck Evert! While the formula discussed in this post won’t account for salutations, the solution should get you on your way to getting salutations to work too. This formula trick allows you to extract the first name, middle name(s), and last name from a cell where there are multiple spaces in between names. The reason I like the formula (in particular for the middle names) is because it builds on the formula from episode 52, the previous episode on counting the number of words in a cell, and the idea that formulas are composable (also discussed in the previous episode). Link to the Google Sheet for this episode is here.

Watch a tutorial of this episode:

Formulas for first name, middle name(s) and last name

If you just want to see the formulas, take a look below. The formulas assume your data starts in cell A2 with the output looking like this (make a copy of the Google Sheet to use formulas directly):

Formula to extract the first name

=LEFT(A2,FIND(" ",A2)-1)

Formula to extract middle name(s)

=IF(LEN(A2)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2," ",""))=1,"",MID(A2,FIND(" ",A2)+1,FIND("#",SUBSTITUTE(A2," ","#",LEN(A2)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2," ",""))))-FIND(" ",A2)-1))

Formula to extract last name

=RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2)-FIND("#",SUBSTITUTE(A2," ","#",LEN(A2)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2," ","")))))

As with all my posts, I like to dig into why and how these formulas work, so read on if you want to to see the step-by-step tutorial. The second sheet on the Google Sheet also contains the intermediate steps to get to these formulas so you can see formula composability at its finest.

Creating intermediate columns to test your formulas

I didn’t experiment in one cell to get any of the above formulas (especially the formula for extracting middle names). A common practice is to create what I call “intermediate” columns to test out the final formula you want to use.

Columns in Google Sheets and Excel are “cheap.” They cost nothing to create, and give your colleague or end user the ability to see how you came to your solution. Typically you would hide these intermediate columns from the final output so that it doesn’t clutter your report, analysis or dashboard. In your final output, you might delete these intermediate columns and incorporate the formulas into the “final formula” (like what’s on this sheet). This makes things look really clean and tidy.

If I were building something for my team or colleague, I would ultimately hide these columns from my final output so that they can be unhidden in case someone needs to check my work:

1) Get number of spaces in name

The first intermediate column is “Number of spaces.” As I mentioned earlier, this is pretty much the same formula discussed in episode 74. Instead of counting the number of words in the cell, we actually just want to count the number of spaces in between the words. Listen to episode 74 to see the full explanation. The formula takes the length of the name and subtracts the length of the name without the spaces to get the actual count of spaces in between the words:

The reason we need to know the number of spaces in the name will become more apparent later.

2) Find position of the first space

The second intermediate column is column C. We need a formula to get the position of the first space in the name. If there are no middle names, this number should just be the position of the one and only space. The reason we need to get this number is two-fold:

  1. Helps us isolate the first name
  2. Helps us determine the beginning of all the middle name(s) in the name

It’s a simple FIND formula which returns the location of the first space the formula comes across. For the name “Phil Banks,” the position of the first space is 5:

Now that we have the position of the first space all we need is the position of the last space to find the “end” of all the middle name(s). This is where the formula gets a little more challenging because there’s no way to isolate the position of that last space like we can with the first space. You would think that with the number of spaces from step 1, we could just “skip” to the last space and find the position. Unfortunately I don’t think a solution exists to “skip” to that last space.

3) Replace the last space with a random character

A workaround is to use the SUBSTITUTE formula in an unconventional way. You generally use the SUBSTITUTE formula when you want to substitute everything in the text with something else. In Step 1, for instance, we place all the spaces with an empty string (“”) to get the number of spaces in the text.

The SUBSTITUTE formula has a 4th optional argument that lets you replace a specific occurrence of a character. For instance, if I have the name “Tova Ionas Beirne” and I use the SUBSTITUTE formula to substitute the 2nd space for the string “SheetsRock!!!” the result would be “Tova IonasSheetsRock!!!Beirne.” So the strategy here is to replace the last space with some random character (I use the “#” symbol) and we’ll FIND that character later. Since I have the number of spaces from Step 1, that number acts as the 4th argument (last space) to put into the SUBSTITUTE formula:

The result is all of the names in our list with the last space in the name being substituted with a pound/hashtag character “#.” We now have almost all of our intermediate columns to build the actual formulas to pull the first name, middle name(s), and last name from our list of names.

4) Find position of last space

The hard work of putting a random character to show up in the last space of each name is done. Now we can do another simple FIND to get the position of that special character (“#”) and we’ll have the position of the last space in the name:

We now have all the intermediate columns to get the first name, middle name(s), and last name into their own separate columns. If we wanted to make this a little neater, we could combine the formulas in columns D and E so that we only see numbers in our intermediate columns (or just simply hide column D).

Get first name from cell

The first name is probably the easiest formula to understand since it uses the familiar LEFT formula. We only need two inputs: the cell with the name and the number of characters to return starting from the “left” of the cell. Since we want to take everything up to the first space in the name, we can use the number in the “First space position” column to get that number of characters to pull out from the full name:

Notice how there is a “-1” after we reference the position of the first space. We need this “-1” since the position of the first space is 1 character more than what we need to pull out of the full name. Now onto the middle name.

Get multiple middle names from full name in a cell

This is the trickiest formula to write if you don’t have the intermediate columns from steps 1-4 above. We use all 3 of the intermediate columns that calculate spaces (column D is hidden which replaced the last space in the name with a special character). The formula takes all the character in between the first and last space in the full name:

Let’s focus on the MID formula for now. The MID formula takes three inputs:

  • The cell you want to pull characters from
  • The “start” position in the cell where you want to pull characters
  • The number of characters to pull from that start position

Looking at our formula, the three inputs work as follows:

  • A5: The cell with our full name “Daniyal Senn McReynolds” in the screenshot ab ove
  • C5 + 1: The “start” is the position of the first space. We want everything after “Daniyal” so that’s why we reference C5. Notice the “+1” at the end to make sure we pull after the first space (in the example above, this would be position 9).
  • E5 – C5 – 1: The number of characters we want to pull is position of the last space minus the position of the first space. We need to subtract 1 to account for start of the first space. This might be best shown in this screenshot below:

The only reason we need that IF statement surrounding the MID formula is to account for names that don’t have any middle names. If there’s only one space in the name, that means there’s only a first name and last name. Hence the “” if the number of spaces is 1.

Get last name from full name in a cell

The last name is easy now that we know the position of the last space in the name. Similar to the first name, we take the opposite of LEFT and use RIGHT to get a certain number of characters starting from the right of the text. We subtract the position of the last space from the length of the entire name to get the number of characters:

Technically the LEN function could be its own intermediate column. Since the formula is so short I just wrote the LEN formula into the main formula for the last name. In the screenshot above, the length of the name “Daniyal Senn McReynolds” is 23. If we subtract the position of the last space in the name (13), we get 10 characters we need to pull from the right of the name to get “McReynolds.”

Epilogue: accounting for salutations and suffixes in a name

The formulas in this episode don’t account for names where you might have “Mr.” before the name or “Jr.” after the name. A few additional “intermediate” columns you may need to add to account for a bulletproof system for extracting the correct first name, middle name(s), and last name:

  • A list of all salutations and suffixes in a separate sheet to act as a lookup
  • Utilize the SUBSTITUTE function with the third optional parameter to replace the “correct” first space and last space in the name (e.g. if the name is “Mr. John Quincy Adams,” the position of the first space in the name would be 9).
  • For both first name and last names, you’ll have to use the MID function instead of LEFT or RIGHT to account for the salutations and suffixes

Hopefully the formulas in this episode will sufficient for your data cleaning needs if you have full names that don’t have salutations and suffixes!

Other Podcasts & Blog Posts

In the 2nd half of the episode, I talk about some episodes and blogs from other people I found interesting:

The post Dear Analyst #75: How to extract first, last, and multiple middle names into 3 separate columns appeared first on .

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https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-75-how-to-extract-first-last-and-middle-names-with-multiple-spaces-in-a-cell/feed/ 0 In episode 52, I talked about how to extract text from a cell. You might use this formula to extract a certain value from a cell when your database or CSV export contains a bunch of miscellaneous prefix data. In episode 52, I talked about how to extract text from a cell. You might use this formula to extract a certain value from a cell when your database or CSV export contains a bunch of miscellaneous prefix data. This formula relies on finding a certain character in the cell and then using the MID formula to get the data you need. Turns out this formula doesn't solve all use cases. In particular, when it comes to getting first names, middle name(s), and last names (surnames) from a cell. Evert Scholtz left the following comment on episode 52's YouTube tutorial:







You're in luck Evert! While the formula discussed in this post won't account for salutations, the solution should get you on your way to getting salutations to work too. This formula trick allows you to extract the first name, middle name(s), and last name from a cell where there are multiple spaces in between names. The reason I like the formula (in particular for the middle names) is because it builds on the formula from episode 52, the previous episode on counting the number of words in a cell, and the idea that formulas are composable (also discussed in the previous episode). Link to the Google Sheet for this episode is here.



Watch a tutorial of this episode:




https://youtu.be/d2CPXF1CtdE




Formulas for first name, middle name(s) and last name



If you just want to see the formulas, take a look below. The formulas assume your data starts in cell A2 with the output looking like this (make a copy of the Google Sheet to use formulas directly):







Formula to extract the first name



=LEFT(A2,FIND(" ",A2)-1)



Formula to extract middle name(s)



=IF(LEN(A2)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2," ",""))=1,"",MID(A2,FIND(" ",A2)+1,FIND("#",SUBSTITUTE(A2," ","#",LEN(A2)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2," ",""))))-FIND(" ",A2)-1))



Formula to extract last name



=RIGHT(A2,LEN(A2)-FIND("#",SUBSTITUTE(A2," ","#",LEN(A2)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2," ","")))))



As with all my posts, I like to dig into why and how these formulas work, so read on if you want to to see the step-by-step tutorial. The second sheet on the Google Sheet also contains the intermediate steps to get to these formulas so you can see formula composability at its finest.



Creating intermediate columns to test your formulas



I didn't experiment in one cell to get any of the above formulas (especially the formula for extracting middle names). A common practice is to create what I call "intermediate" columns to test out the final formula you want to use.



Columns in Google Sheets and Excel are "cheap." They cost nothing to create, and give your colleague or end user the ability to see how you came to your solution. Typically you would hide these intermediate columns from the final output so that it doesn't clutter your report,]]>
Dear Analyst 75 20:05 51052
Dear Analyst #74: Quick hack to count the number of words in a cell with LEN and SUBSTITUTE https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-74-quick-hack-to-count-the-number-of-words-in-a-cell-with-len-and-substitute/ https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-74-quick-hack-to-count-the-number-of-words-in-a-cell-with-len-and-substitute/#respond Mon, 19 Jul 2021 04:06:00 +0000 https://www.thekeycuts.com/?p=51005 While this little Excel/Google Sheets trick is a pretty straightforward hack, it led me to think about how we use our tools, how we stretch the capabilities of our tools, and think outside the box to come to arrive at a solution. Seems like a lot for a formula trick on counting the number of […]

The post Dear Analyst #74: Quick hack to count the number of words in a cell with LEN and SUBSTITUTE appeared first on .

]]>
While this little Excel/Google Sheets trick is a pretty straightforward hack, it led me to think about how we use our tools, how we stretch the capabilities of our tools, and think outside the box to come to arrive at a solution. Seems like a lot for a formula trick on counting the number of words in a cell to bring to the table. Perhaps I’m looking into it too much. Perhaps it’s just me rambling and opining on something meaningless. Or perhaps, it might cause you to stop, think, and reflect for even a minute about something as trivial as counting words in a cell. Come on this journey with me and learn how a stupid formula trick triggered my synapses to fire in a million directions. Link to the Google Sheet with the formula is here.

Video tutorial of the formula to count the number of words in a cell:

Why would you want to count words in a cell?

It’s a great question. Maybe you need to see how many words are in a paragraph before you submit some online form that only allows you to submit an answer with 150 characters or 50 words or less. I’ve probably had to count the number of words in a cell a handful of times and it was probably for cleaning data purposes (more on this later). What may be more common is counting the number of characters in a cell to detect anomalies. In any event, the formula you use for counting the number of words in a cell is similar to how you might count the number of characters in a cell. If you want to skip straight to the answer (or doing a search on Google and maybe this will be highlighted in yellow):

=len(A2)-len(substitute(A2," ",""))+1

This formula should work in Excel and Google Sheets and A2 contains the cell with the words you are trying to count. Let’s break this down a bit more, because when you break things down that’s where the real learning takes place and it may spur other ideas you can incorporate into your spreadsheets.

Counting and substituting stuff

Composability gives formulas some pretty amazing capabilities. Greater than the sum of its parts kind of thing. One their own, the LEN() and SUBSTITUTE() functions do pretty standard things. The LEN function simply counts the number of characters (including spaces) in a cell:

SUBSTITUTE acts as you might expect. Turn all the “A”s in a cell into “X”s. Turn all the 5s into 9s. The first argument is the cell that contains the data, the second argument is what you are searching for in the value to replace, and the third argument is what everything in the second argument should be replaced with. In the example below, We are looking for all the spaces in cell A5 and replacing them with an empty string. Note the syntax here. A space (what we are looking for) is denoted by two double quotes with a space in between: ” “. An empty string is two double quotes next to each other with no space in between them: “”. The result, in this case, are sentences with no spaces in between them:

Composability is where the magic happens

What happens when you combine the two formulas together? You may be an Excel or Google Sheets guru and have built advanced nested formulas before. When I step back and see how these formulas–when combined–create interesting results that you wouldn’t have expected. People say we’re just number crunchers and just know when and how to use formulas correctly.

I’d say the composability of formulas is what inspires creativity and makes building a model a creative endeavor. When you deconstruct someone else’s deeply nested formula, you learn something new about the formulas and a use case for the formulas you wouldn’t have otherwise figured out on your own (unless you’re Googling stuff, of course). Interestingly, the top result on Google right now for “composability” is an article on DeFi (decentralized finance). This is ahead of links to the dictionary definition, Wikipedia, and HP Enterprise. I only bring this up because I’m a believer and user of various DeFi platforms and I dig into this stuff in the 2nd half of episode 72.

Ok back to the magic. We have this random text with no spaces in it. Let’s put this formula inside the LEN function and see what happens. We get the length of the sentence or paragraph with no spaces in it:

Why is this important? Well, if we have the length of the sentence with spaces, and the length of the sentence without spaces, we can subtract the latter from the former and get pretty close to the actual count of words in the sentence:

If you look at the text in cell A2, there are 11 words in “It’s easy to forget that as recently as six days ago.” There are 10 spaces in between those words. That’s the result of the formula in column D. It’s one less than what we need, so we just add a 1 to the end of the formula and we’re done:

Are we counting spaces or counting words?

The answer is: does it really matter? Just because the goal is to count words, does that mean mean you can’t count spaces to get to the solution?

During WWII, the Germans had a bomber plane called the Dornier 17. Most of these bomber planes have been destroyed during the war, but divers found one at the bottom of the North Sea off the UK coast in 2008. A team from Imperial College London was tasked to salvage the plane from further corrosion so that the plane could be showcased at a museum. The team tried all sorts of solutions and methods, but found out that spraying the plane with lemon water would not only prevent the corrosion, but would also clean the plane as well. This was a long-winded example to show that there are many ways to get to a solution :).

Within the first 5 seconds of being told you need to count the number of words in a cell, did you think about what Excel or Google Sheets function would actually count the words in a sentence? Maybe you thought of a creative use of the COUNTA() function or maybe there’s some sort of loop you can push all the words from the cell into and set some sort of counter every time the loop found a word.

Like many other hacks in Google Sheets and Excel, the solution involves detecting a pattern in the data and then figuring out which functions allow you to manipulate that pattern for your use case. The first step is just thinking that counting spaces may be a more reliable solution than counting the actual words. The next step is knowing that you can count spaces and characters with functions we have at our disposal in Google Sheets.

The best tool for the JTBD (job to be done)

Going back to the original question: why would you need to count the number of words in a cell? Let’s assume you have a business reason for counting the words in the cell because you need to take that number and use it somewhere else in your spreadsheet. From a tool perspective, I’d argue that Google Sheets is not the right tool for counting the number of words in your sentence or paragraph.

The formula itself seems a bit inefficient too right? You have to find the length of a paragraph by its characters, do this whole substitution thing, and then count that long string of characters again. Isn’t this what tools like Word and various online word counters are built to do? Even as I’m typing this post in WordPress, I can see the number of words as new words are typed.

Even if Google Sheets and Excel are not the right tools for counting the words in your paragraph(s), I think it shows how much we are willing to stretch our tools to find a solution to our problem. For diehard spreadsheet users, coming up with a formula for unconventional use cases is what makes using spreadsheets “fun” and creative like I stated earlier. There’s joy in knowing you’re exploring the frontiers of your tools and have discovered new treasures and lands that others may not have found.

Other word count algorithms

If Microsoft Word or online word counters are indeed the “right” tools for counting the words in your paragraph, how do they count their words? Maybe they also count spaces? They must use some advanced algorithm that is 10X better than this LEN and SUBSTITUTE solution.

The answer is I don’t really know. After some quick research, it looks like the algorithm in Microsoft Word also counts spaces, so perhaps its algorithm is not too far from our formula! Word counting is actually a pretty challenging problem because handling special characters and other edge cases can throw off the count. Microsoft even shows inconsistent word counts depending on what parts of the UI in Windows and Word you are using.

Some people have built their own algorithms (like this one in C#) that mimic the word count algorithm in Word. This page actually walks through the algorithm for counting words step-by-step. I liked this pseudo code the author wrote in Java to describe the algorithm:

public class Word count {
  static char[] separators = {' ', '.', ','};
  static boolean state = true;
  static int countWords(String str) {
  boolean state = true;
  int word count = 0;

  for (int i = 0; i < str.length(); i++) {
    if (SeparatorArrayContains(str.charAt(i)) || str.charAt(i) == '\n' || str.charAt(i) == '\t') {
      state = true;
    }
    else if (state == true) {
      state = false;
      word count ++;
    }
  }
  return word count ;
}

static boolean SeparatorArrayContains(char c) {
  boolean found = false;
  for (int k = 0; k < separators.length; k++) {
    if (separators[k] == c) {
      found = true;
    }
  }
  return found;
}

At a high-level, the algorithm is also looking at the separators and delimiters in your text to count the number of words. This means this solution to count the number of spaces to get the number of words is most likely similar to how other applications count words too! A simple one line nested formula with LEN and SUBSTITUTE can have the same power as this pseudo Java code is pretty darn cool.

Other Podcasts & Blog Posts

In the 2nd half of the episode, I talk about some episodes and blogs from other people I found interesting:

The post Dear Analyst #74: Quick hack to count the number of words in a cell with LEN and SUBSTITUTE appeared first on .

]]>
https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-74-quick-hack-to-count-the-number-of-words-in-a-cell-with-len-and-substitute/feed/ 0 While this little Excel/Google Sheets trick is a pretty straightforward hack, it led me to think about how we use our tools, how we stretch the capabilities of our tools, and think outside the box to come to arrive at a solution. While this little Excel/Google Sheets trick is a pretty straightforward hack, it led me to think about how we use our tools, how we stretch the capabilities of our tools, and think outside the box to come to arrive at a solution. Seems like a lot for a formula trick on counting the number of words in a cell to bring to the table. Perhaps I'm looking into it too much. Perhaps it's just me rambling and opining on something meaningless. Or perhaps, it might cause you to stop, think, and reflect for even a minute about something as trivial as counting words in a cell. Come on this journey with me and learn how a stupid formula trick triggered my synapses to fire in a million directions. Link to the Google Sheet with the formula is here.







Video tutorial of the formula to count the number of words in a cell:




https://youtu.be/JRp5BSr5kuI




Why would you want to count words in a cell?



It's a great question. Maybe you need to see how many words are in a paragraph before you submit some online form that only allows you to submit an answer with 150 characters or 50 words or less. I've probably had to count the number of words in a cell a handful of times and it was probably for cleaning data purposes (more on this later). What may be more common is counting the number of characters in a cell to detect anomalies. In any event, the formula you use for counting the number of words in a cell is similar to how you might count the number of characters in a cell. If you want to skip straight to the answer (or doing a search on Google and maybe this will be highlighted in yellow):



=len(A2)-len(substitute(A2," ",""))+1



This formula should work in Excel and Google Sheets and A2 contains the cell with the words you are trying to count. Let's break this down a bit more, because when you break things down that's where the real learning takes place and it may spur other ideas you can incorporate into your spreadsheets.



Counting and substituting stuff



Composability gives formulas some pretty amazing capabilities. Greater than the sum of its parts kind of thing. One their own, the LEN() and SUBSTITUTE() functions do pretty standard things. The LEN function simply counts the number of characters (including spaces) in a cell:







SUBSTITUTE acts as you might expect. Turn all the "A"s in a cell into "X"s. Turn all the 5s into 9s. The first argument is the cell that contains the data, the second argument is what you are searching for in the value to replace, and the third argument is what everything in the second argument should be replaced with. In the example below, We are looking for all the spaces in cell A5 and replacing them with an empty string. Note the syntax here. A space (what we are looking for) is denoted by two double quotes with a space in between: " ". An empty string is two double quotes next to each other with no space in between them: "". The result, in this case, are sentences with no spaces in between them:







Composability is where the magic happens



What happens when you combine the two formulas together? You may be an Excel or Google Sheets guru and have built advanced nested formulas before. When I step back and see how these formulas--when combined--create interesting results that you wouldn't have expected. People say we're just number crunchers and just know when and how to use formulas correctly.







I'd say the composability of formulas is what inspires creativity and makes bui...]]>
Dear Analyst 74 33:17 51005
Dear Analyst #73: From a career in the U.S. Navy to data analytics YouTuber with Luke Barousse https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-73-from-a-career-in-the-u-s-navy-to-data-analytics-youtuber-with-luke-barousse/ https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-73-from-a-career-in-the-u-s-navy-to-data-analytics-youtuber-with-luke-barousse/#respond Tue, 22 Jun 2021 04:42:00 +0000 https://www.thekeycuts.com/?p=50985 The path to a career in data analytics can be full of twists and turns. Along the way, you pick up tools like Excel, Python, Tableau, and R. What about learning how to use YouTube and growing an audience of 50,000+ from publishing videos about data analytics? I’m always fascinated by people who are able […]

The post Dear Analyst #73: From a career in the U.S. Navy to data analytics YouTuber with Luke Barousse appeared first on .

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The path to a career in data analytics can be full of twists and turns. Along the way, you pick up tools like Excel, Python, Tableau, and R. What about learning how to use YouTube and growing an audience of 50,000+ from publishing videos about data analytics? I’m always fascinated by people who are able to combine the technical aspects of being a data analyst with other careers like science, art, and even wastewater treatment. Luke Barousse is a data analyst and YouTuber and we chatted about how he learned Excel, built a portfolio of his data work, and becoming a YouTuber.

From the U.S. Navy to Excel

Prior to joining the U.S. Navy, Luke took a C++ course as an undergrad and got a taste of coding. After joining the Navy and working in various roles, he didn’t get a chance to utilize some of the coding skills he learned at university. Eventually he went to get his MBA and took an Excel course taught by Professor Elliot Bendoly (who also wrote the book Excel Basics to Blackbelt). Luke started seeing the potential of Excel as he dug into VBA and some of the coding capabilities in Excel.

In terms of content creation, Luke’s day-to-day experience as a data analyst influences the videos he creates. The main reason he started getting into creating videos was because his colleagues wanted him to show them how to do things in Excel and other tools. Instead of teaching each of his colleagues one by one, he created videos to avoid the repetitive nature of teaching in person.

I realized that content creation is a way to automate teaching.

Using social media to share a Google Sheets template

For the class’ capstone project, Luke built a meal prep Excel file. Even after the class was over, he took the meal prep Excel file tried to turn it into an application. He transferred it from Excel to Google Sheets and it started to gain some traction. He used Instagram and created content around meal prep and drew more attention to the Google Sheet template. Eventually he started using Python and Django to try and create an application since people were always messing up the formulas on the Google Sheet.

I find it interesting that Google Sheets template become the lowest common denominator when you need to create and share a simple tool, and are ok with it being rough around the edges. It may be too costly (and frankly overkill) to create a custom application with code with a Google Sheets template will suffice.

Realizing Excel is not the solution

Luke realized the Excel file Luke he created for his meal prep use case was going to be an issue because Excel is not the best medium to distribute his template (hence the move to Google Sheets). As Luke started using Excel more at work, he found his Excel files were constantly hitting row limits. His team worked with different suppliers and new data would get ingested every week into the Excel file. He also was building formula on top of formula and the result was an Excel file that took 2-3 minutes to load and was buggy with the cobbled together formulas. Luke details all this in this video below:

Even after he left that group, his old teammates still asked him to update the Excel file since they didn’t know how. In situations like this, you and your team need to make a decision on whether to go with Excel that is “good enough” for the job or start from scratch with better tools for the job. Luke wanted to explore putting the data into SQL but moved to a different team before he could tackle that project.

Differentiating yourself when applying to data analyst jobs

Luke discusses some of his strategies for landing a job as a data analyst (he has some YouTube videos about this too). He talked about the job hunting process being a very humbling experience because you are being rejected left and right. From his business school days, however, he knew that you have to come up with ways to stand out from your competition.

To differentiate himself, Luke created an online portfolio of his data projects to showcase his creativity and skills. He published a project where he did some analysis on the script from The Office using Python. As a huge fan of The Office, I think there are so many ways you could analyze the script and come up with a creative analysis. How many times does Michael say “That’s what she said!”? Were they said in a sentence with positive or negative sentiment? Which characters on the show was Michael saying this to the most? The key takeaway is that some recruiter out there may also be a fan of The Office and they come across your project. Having this public portfolio gives the recruiter a chance to see that you have the actual experience of analyzing a data set and creating data visualizations.

Google data analytics certificate

Luke’s most popular video is about the new Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate in partnership with Coursera. Some believe this certificate could disrupt the college education system since the class gives students and professionals the actual skills they need to do data analytics in the real world. Since publishing the video, Luke’s views about the certificate have changed a little bit.

Luke said he was interviewing a civil engineer, and the candidate wanted to get into engineering analytics. This certificate gives the candidate an opportunity to learn about data analytics and combine it with his education in engineering. This is another way for college students and professionals who are a looking for a career change to differentiate themselves. The certificate by itself won’t guarantee you a job as a data analyst but it will broaden your mind to new skills you may not have picked up from previous roles or in school.

More importantly, the certificate will help you figure out if you even like working in data analytics. It fees like everyone wants to be a software engineer today because the salaries and benefits are great, but do you really enjoy the actual day-to-day responsibilities of a software engineer? Same could be said about data analytics, in my opinion. If you are able to combine your interests from a different field with data analytics, you will have a really unique skillset to showcase to potential employers and recruiters.

Being productive while working at home

Luke tries to get on his mountain bike and do Crossfit once a day. Luke realized he isn’t really that productive in the office and at home, he has “sprints” of 2-3 hours of deep work. If he starts checking his phone or social media, that’s when he knows it’s time for a change of scenery and he’ll go out on the mountain bike or go to his local box.

Instead focusing on the absolute number of hours you spend in the office or are at your desk, Luke believes these 2-3 hour sprints allow him to be more productive because it’s much more focused work. He may be putting in less hours but those hours are much more productive compared to the 8 hours you’re sitting at the office and wasting time. Taking a break and going outside or going to the gym gives your brain time to solve other problems besides the ones you’re given at work. As I’m finishing writing this post, I feel like it’s time to take a break myself and come back later for another block of focused work :).

Best ways to get in touch with Luke are through his YouTube channel (he responds to every comment) and LinkedIn.

Other Podcasts & Blog Posts

In the 2nd half of the episode, I talk about some episodes and blogs from other people I found interesting:

No other podcasts/blog posts mentioned in this episode!

The post Dear Analyst #73: From a career in the U.S. Navy to data analytics YouTuber with Luke Barousse appeared first on .

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https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-73-from-a-career-in-the-u-s-navy-to-data-analytics-youtuber-with-luke-barousse/feed/ 0 The path to a career in data analytics can be full of twists and turns. Along the way, you pick up tools like Excel, Python, Tableau, and R. What about learning how to use YouTube and growing an audience of 50, The path to a career in data analytics can be full of twists and turns. Along the way, you pick up tools like Excel, Python, Tableau, and R. What about learning how to use YouTube and growing an audience of 50,000+ from publishing videos about data analytics? I'm always fascinated by people who are able to combine the technical aspects of being a data analyst with other careers like science, art, and even wastewater treatment. Luke Barousse is a data analyst and YouTuber and we chatted about how he learned Excel, built a portfolio of his data work, and becoming a YouTuber.







From the U.S. Navy to Excel



Prior to joining the U.S. Navy, Luke took a C++ course as an undergrad and got a taste of coding. After joining the Navy and working in various roles, he didn't get a chance to utilize some of the coding skills he learned at university. Eventually he went to get his MBA and took an Excel course taught by Professor Elliot Bendoly (who also wrote the book Excel Basics to Blackbelt). Luke started seeing the potential of Excel as he dug into VBA and some of the coding capabilities in Excel.







In terms of content creation, Luke's day-to-day experience as a data analyst influences the videos he creates. The main reason he started getting into creating videos was because his colleagues wanted him to show them how to do things in Excel and other tools. Instead of teaching each of his colleagues one by one, he created videos to avoid the repetitive nature of teaching in person.



I realized that content creation is a way to automate teaching.



Using social media to share a Google Sheets template



For the class' capstone project, Luke built a meal prep Excel file. Even after the class was over, he took the meal prep Excel file tried to turn it into an application. He transferred it from Excel to Google Sheets and it started to gain some traction. He used Instagram and created content around meal prep and drew more attention to the Google Sheet template. Eventually he started using Python and Django to try and create an application since people were always messing up the formulas on the Google Sheet.



I find it interesting that Google Sheets template become the lowest common denominator when you need to create and share a simple tool, and are ok with it being rough around the edges. It may be too costly (and frankly overkill) to create a custom application with code with a Google Sheets template will suffice.



Realizing Excel is not the solution



Luke realized the Excel file Luke he created for his meal prep use case was going to be an issue because Excel is not the best medium to distribute his template (hence the move to Google Sheets). As Luke started using Excel more at work, he found his Excel files were constantly hitting row limits. His team worked with different suppliers and new data would get ingested every week into the Excel file. He also was building formula on top of formula and the result was an Excel file that took 2-3 minutes to load and was buggy with the cobbled together formulas. Luke details all this in this video below:




https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TBwY4VjLX8




Even after he left that group, his old teammates still asked him to update the Excel file since they didn't know how. In situations like this,]]>
Dear Analyst 73 45:46 50985
Dear Analyst #72: A simple trick to be faster in Excel on the Mac (like you are on the PC) https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-72-a-simple-trick-to-be-faster-in-excel-on-the-mac-like-you-are-on-the-pc/ https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-72-a-simple-trick-to-be-faster-in-excel-on-the-mac-like-you-are-on-the-pc/#comments Mon, 14 Jun 2021 04:37:00 +0000 https://www.thekeycuts.com/?p=50961 The impetus for this episode is a new Google Sheet (and Excel) tip I just shared on Instagram and TikTok (I never thought I’d join these platforms to start posting tips but alas, this is how people learn these days). After I learned how to be productive the PC version of Excel, I opened my […]

The post Dear Analyst #72: A simple trick to be faster in Excel on the Mac (like you are on the PC) appeared first on .

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The impetus for this episode is a new Google Sheet (and Excel) tip I just shared on Instagram and TikTok (I never thought I’d join these platforms to start posting tips but alas, this is how people learn these days). After I learned how to be productive the PC version of Excel, I opened my Macbook and realized all my favorite shortcuts didn’t carry over. Back in the day (whatever that means), you had a ThinkPad at work where you did your “serious work” and your personal Mac was for doing the “personal stuff.” I found the PC equivalent shortcuts for the Mac and was able to be dangerous again in Excel and Google Sheets on the Mac. But there was one group of shortcuts I couldn’t quite duplicate until I changed one little setting on my Mac.

Function keys on the Macbook

By default, the function keys on your Macbook do things on your Mac OS like increase brightness (F2), see/search Mac apps (F4), or decrease volume (F11).

If you’re coming from using Excel on the PC, you know that these function keys are coveted tools in being faster in Excel (and Google Sheets). The most useless key is probably F1 because it brings up the help menu, and you might hit it by accident when you’re debugging a formula and alternating between pressing F2 and ESC. Excel users will go as far as popping out the F1 key from their keyboard so they don’t accidentally hit it and having to wait a few seconds for the help menu to open only to close it right away:

Change the default behavior of the functions keys for Mac Excel

To “unlock” the power of the function keys on your Mac so that they do what you expect them to do (like on a PC), follow these steps (this is for MacOS Big Sure v11.4):

1. Click the Apple icon in top-left and open system preferences

2. Click on “Keyboard”

3. Click on the “Use F1, F2, etc.” checkbox

With this simple setting checked off, you can now use the function keys like you’re used to using them on the PC. The downside is (of course everything has a tradeoff) is if you want to increase the brightness on your Mac, you need to press the FN key PLUS the F2 key. With these function keys enabled, some of these common operations become available to you (using Google Sheets as an example):

Enter “edit” mode in a cell formula (F2)

By tapping F2 you can go into the cell and start editing the formula. Once you’re in the formula you can use the arrow keys to move around and when you’re done editing the formula, just hit ESC. In the gif below, I’m just alternating between hitting F2 and ESC to get into the formulas in B2 and C4:

Alternate between locking and unlocking cell references (F4)

One of my favorite shortcuts when working on a big hairy formula is locking and unlocking the cell reference without having to manually type in the dollar sign in front of the column or row. The manual way of doing this is using your left and right arrows to move to the different cell references and typing in the dollar sign (or deleting them one by one):

With the F4 key, you can move your cursor to the cell reference and cycle between locking the row, the column, both the row & column, or nothing at all and keeping the reference as relative:

I tried to show the power of the F4 key in a pithy way in my first Instagram post. Let me know if this is interesting…or not:

Go to special cells (F5)

This shortcut only applies to Excel, but it allows you to bring up the “Go to” menu. This is helpful if you want to quickly go to a named reference or an Excel table. I like to use it for formatting purposes by going to blank cells and formatting them a certain way. This beats having to manually select each empty cell and pressing CTRL (PC) or COMMAND (Mac) as you click the empty cells:

Hopefully this one little trick for “unlocking” the function keys on your Mac can save you some time from clicking around in Excel. More importantly, I hope it shows that Excel or Google Sheets on the Mac are just as powerful as the PC and you should feel confident you can get your real work done on your Mac.

2021 Excel Tables class on Skillshare

This week I launched my 2nd advanced Excel course on Excel tables called Mastering Excel Tables: How to Make and Use Them Like a Pro. As I mention in the intro video, Excel tables are a relatively under-utilized feature in Excel but can really speed up your dashboard creation, make your formulas less error prone, and make it easier for your colleagues to understand how you built your model. In less then 40 minutes, you can learn all the essentials of Excel tables as well as some advanced features for building a robust data-capturing system.

Other Podcasts & Blog Posts

In the 2nd half of the episode, I talk about some episodes and blogs from other people I found interesting:

The post Dear Analyst #72: A simple trick to be faster in Excel on the Mac (like you are on the PC) appeared first on .

]]>
https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-72-a-simple-trick-to-be-faster-in-excel-on-the-mac-like-you-are-on-the-pc/feed/ 1 The impetus for this episode is a new Google Sheet (and Excel) tip I just shared on Instagram and TikTok (I never thought I'd join these platforms to start posting tips but alas, this is how people learn these days). The impetus for this episode is a new Google Sheet (and Excel) tip I just shared on Instagram and TikTok (I never thought I'd join these platforms to start posting tips but alas, this is how people learn these days). After I learned how to be productive the PC version of Excel, I opened my Macbook and realized all my favorite shortcuts didn't carry over. Back in the day (whatever that means), you had a ThinkPad at work where you did your "serious work" and your personal Mac was for doing the "personal stuff." I found the PC equivalent shortcuts for the Mac and was able to be dangerous again in Excel and Google Sheets on the Mac. But there was one group of shortcuts I couldn't quite duplicate until I changed one little setting on my Mac.







Function keys on the Macbook



By default, the function keys on your Macbook do things on your Mac OS like increase brightness (F2), see/search Mac apps (F4), or decrease volume (F11).







If you're coming from using Excel on the PC, you know that these function keys are coveted tools in being faster in Excel (and Google Sheets). The most useless key is probably F1 because it brings up the help menu, and you might hit it by accident when you're debugging a formula and alternating between pressing F2 and ESC. Excel users will go as far as popping out the F1 key from their keyboard so they don't accidentally hit it and having to wait a few seconds for the help menu to open only to close it right away:







Change the default behavior of the functions keys for Mac Excel



To "unlock" the power of the function keys on your Mac so that they do what you expect them to do (like on a PC), follow these steps (this is for MacOS Big Sure v11.4):



1. Click the Apple icon in top-left and open system preferences







2. Click on "Keyboard"







3. Click on the "Use F1, F2, etc." checkbox







With this simple setting checked off, you can now use the function keys like you're used to using them on the PC. The downside is (of course everything has a tradeoff) is if you want to increase the brightness on your Mac, you need to press the FN key PLUS the F2 key. With these function keys enabled, some of these common operations become available to you (using Google Sheets as an example):



Enter "edit" mode in a cell formula (F2)



By tapping F2 you can go into the cell and start editing the formula. Once you're in the formula you can use the arrow keys to move around and when you're done editing the formula, just hit ESC. In the gif below, I'm just alternating between hitting F2 and ESC to get into the formulas in B2 and C4:







Alternate between locking and unlocking cell references (F4)



One of my favorite shortcuts when working on a big hairy formula is locking and unlocking the cell reference without having to manually type in the dollar sign in front of the column or row. The manual way of doing this is using your left and right arrows to move to the different cell references and typing in the dollar sign (or deleting them one by one):







With the F4 key, you can move your cursor to the cell reference and cycle between locking the row, the column, both the row & column, or nothing at all and keeping the reference as relative:







I tried to show the power of the F4 key in a pithy way in my first...]]>
Dear Analyst 72 25:31 50961
Dear Analyst #71: Benn Stancil, Co-Founder and Chief Analytics Officer at Mode Analytics on all things analytics https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-71-benn-stancil-co-founder-and-chief-analytics-officer-at-mode-analytics-on-all-things-analytics/ https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-71-benn-stancil-co-founder-and-chief-analytics-officer-at-mode-analytics-on-all-things-analytics/#respond Mon, 24 May 2021 10:33:45 +0000 https://www.thekeycuts.com/?p=50927 Learning the tips and tricks for doing data analysis in Excel is great and all, but stepping back to see the bigger picture leads to better questions (and answers) you can ask as an analyst. Benn Stancil is one of the founders at Mode Analytics, a data visualization platform you may have used before. Benn […]

The post Dear Analyst #71: Benn Stancil, Co-Founder and Chief Analytics Officer at Mode Analytics on all things analytics appeared first on .

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Learning the tips and tricks for doing data analysis in Excel is great and all, but stepping back to see the bigger picture leads to better questions (and answers) you can ask as an analyst. Benn Stancil is one of the founders at Mode Analytics, a data visualization platform you may have used before. Benn has done a ton of typical “analyst” work (check out his newsletter and previous Medium blog) but in this episode we talk about building Mode in the early days, asking good questions, and of course a little bit about Excel and the tools he uses.

Life before and founding story of Mode Analytics

Benn was a math and economics major in college. He worked in DC for a few years for a think tank doing economic policy research. It was an interesting time to do this type of analysis because this was right around the start of the financial crisis in 2008. Frustrated with his research not being able to make an impact given the glacial pace government adopts change, Benn ended up finding a job at Yammer (a social network for professionals, sound familiar?). Yammer was acquired in 2012 by Microsoft and Benn and some folks from the analytics team at Yammer left Microsoft to start Mode.

I would take a look at this blog post from Benn to get his reflections on the early days at Mode, but here is a quick summary. The founding team at Mode includes Derek Steer (CEO), Josh Ferguson (CTO), and Benn (the analytics guy). Before there was really a product, Derek was off talking to investors and Josh is talking to the engineers. Benn’s expertise is in doing data-related stuff, but the problem is there wasn’t a lot of data to analyze or explore and not many customers to get data from.

In the early days, Benn wrote blog posts that were generally about data but not about data products. He was basically doing content marketing for a small nice of data professionals. Today this is called data journalism and Benn was writing data stories related to sports (before 538 became ta thing). Once Mode had more customers, Benn’s role changed often as he did tours of duties through marketing, customer support, sales, and a variety of other roles.

You have a “job title” and a “role” and those end up being two are very different things.

We talked a bit about a blog post Benn wrote in 2015 that had some traction in the data community on Facebook’s “magic metric” of getting 7 friends in 10 days. The key takeaway is that Benn was doing the analysis in Excel, R, and a little python for web scraping. Benn had taught himself how to use some of these tools before. Now that he had a goal to work towards (creating these blog posts), this was the extra push for him to get over the hump to learn these tools more in-depth.

Source: Mode blog

Key skills for doing exploratory data analysis

I liked Benn’s answer to this open-ended question because it doesn’t involve mastering X tool or taking advanced statistics classes:

First and foremost you have to be curious. Be relentless in knowing there’s a better answer out there.

Most analysts get a dataset and just look at the data to start generating questions as they do the analysis. Benn suggests going the other way. Generate questions you have about the dataset before you get into the analysis. This leads to answers that are expected or unexpected. Regardless, this strategy will leda you to keep asking questions.

The most interesting questions are the ones that you don’t start with.

I’d recommend checking out some of Benn’s older posts where he documents some of his exploratory analyses like this one about the price of weed.

Learning tools other than Excel like SQL and Python

During Benn’s stint in economic policy research, he was primarily using Excel to do analysis. While it’s the first tool analysts reach for, Benn said that you can still be a good analyst even if you don’t use Excel. Some of the best analysts he knows aren’t using Excel every day but are asking good questions about the data.

Having said that, learning other tools outside of Excel also opens the possibilities for you to do your analysis faster and opens the door to more interesting questions. Using Excel for all your data analysis needs just means you might have to do more manual work than what’s necessary.

One caution Benn brought up is that there may be a danger in learning the advanced features of different data tools. It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole and get addicted to these advanced features. What ends up happening is that you try to do everything in that tool when another tool would’ve been better for that use case.

Benn references a time when I was learning D3 for data visualization. Before he knew it, he was trying to use D3 for all his data visualization needs since he knew the platform so well, but a simple chart in Google Sheets might have sufficed.

How tools might be influencing how you think about data

I’ve noticed that the proliferation of online SaaS tools can influence how you think about work. Tools you use for communication, design, marketing, and data analysis have built-in “opinions” about how the companies behind those tools view the world. By buying into the tool, you are implicitly buying into their ways of working and being productive.

I asked Benn on his thoughts about this topic as it relates to data tools. He brought up an interesting example with a tool that’s been around for some time: Tableau.

Tableau is kind of like a giant PivotTable. By using Tableau, you get nudged into thinking about your data a certain way. If you want to do a time series analysis, you could bend Tableau to make it do the analysis you want. But it wasn’t made to do time series analysis easily, and there might be a better tool for the job (e.g. Excel or Google Sheets). Same can be said about using SQL for statistical analysis. SQL makes you think about structuring your data tables a certain way for easy querying, but it’s nothing compared to R for statistical analysis.

Let the questions shape the tool.

The future of Mode

I would take a listen near the end of the episode to hear Benn’s take on what the future of Mode looks like, but the quick takeaways are:

  • Finding ways to let analysts answer questions quickly
  • Extending Mode into other departments beyond the data group so that the sales team can start asking questions about their data (side note: we’re seeing this with a lot of other online tools that are moving from “single-player” to “multi-player” like Figma for design teams)
  • Mode may be competitive with other BI tools like Looker and Tableau, but can be overlapping with these tools a well in terms of consuming data

Other Podcasts & Blog Posts

No other podcasts or blog posts!

The post Dear Analyst #71: Benn Stancil, Co-Founder and Chief Analytics Officer at Mode Analytics on all things analytics appeared first on .

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https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-71-benn-stancil-co-founder-and-chief-analytics-officer-at-mode-analytics-on-all-things-analytics/feed/ 0 Learning the tips and tricks for doing data analysis in Excel is great and all, but stepping back to see the bigger picture leads to better questions (and answers) you can ask as an analyst. Benn Stancil is one of the founders at Mode Analytics, Learning the tips and tricks for doing data analysis in Excel is great and all, but stepping back to see the bigger picture leads to better questions (and answers) you can ask as an analyst. Benn Stancil is one of the founders at Mode Analytics, a data visualization platform you may have used before. Benn has done a ton of typical "analyst" work (check out his newsletter and previous Medium blog) but in this episode we talk about building Mode in the early days, asking good questions, and of course a little bit about Excel and the tools he uses.







Life before and founding story of Mode Analytics



Benn was a math and economics major in college. He worked in DC for a few years for a think tank doing economic policy research. It was an interesting time to do this type of analysis because this was right around the start of the financial crisis in 2008. Frustrated with his research not being able to make an impact given the glacial pace government adopts change, Benn ended up finding a job at Yammer (a social network for professionals, sound familiar?). Yammer was acquired in 2012 by Microsoft and Benn and some folks from the analytics team at Yammer left Microsoft to start Mode.







I would take a look at this blog post from Benn to get his reflections on the early days at Mode, but here is a quick summary. The founding team at Mode includes Derek Steer (CEO), Josh Ferguson (CTO), and Benn (the analytics guy). Before there was really a product, Derek was off talking to investors and Josh is talking to the engineers. Benn's expertise is in doing data-related stuff, but the problem is there wasn't a lot of data to analyze or explore and not many customers to get data from.



In the early days, Benn wrote blog posts that were generally about data but not about data products. He was basically doing content marketing for a small nice of data professionals. Today this is called data journalism and Benn was writing data stories related to sports (before 538 became ta thing). Once Mode had more customers, Benn's role changed often as he did tours of duties through marketing, customer support, sales, and a variety of other roles.



You have a "job title" and a "role" and those end up being two are very different things.



We talked a bit about a blog post Benn wrote in 2015 that had some traction in the data community on Facebook's "magic metric" of getting 7 friends in 10 days. The key takeaway is that Benn was doing the analysis in Excel, R, and a little python for web scraping. Benn had taught himself how to use some of these tools before. Now that he had a goal to work towards (creating these blog posts), this was the extra push for him to get over the hump to learn these tools more in-depth.



Source: Mode blog



Key skills for doing exploratory data analysis



I liked Benn's answer to this open-ended question because it doesn't involve mastering X tool or taking advanced statistics classes:



First and foremost you have to be curious. Be relentless in knowing there's a better answer out there.



Most analysts get a dataset and just look at the data to start generating questions as they do the analysis.]]>
Dear Analyst 71 43:46 50927
Dear Analyst #70: New advanced PivotTable class and a PivotTable calculated field trick for percentages https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-70-new-advanced-pivottable-class-and-a-pivottable-calculated-field-trick-for-percentages/ https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-70-new-advanced-pivottable-class-and-a-pivottable-calculated-field-trick-for-percentages/#respond Tue, 18 May 2021 04:39:00 +0000 https://www.thekeycuts.com/?p=50905 I’ve been planning a few advanced Excel classes with Skillshare and excited to launch my first one today called Advanced PivotTable Techniques for Analyzing and Presenting Data Faster. I use PivotTables on and off depending on the task at hand. In preparation for this class, I had the opportunity to research and learn some advanced […]

The post Dear Analyst #70: New advanced PivotTable class and a PivotTable calculated field trick for percentages appeared first on .

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I’ve been planning a few advanced Excel classes with Skillshare and excited to launch my first one today called Advanced PivotTable Techniques for Analyzing and Presenting Data Faster. I use PivotTables on and off depending on the task at hand. In preparation for this class, I had the opportunity to research and learn some advanced techniques that I personally didn’t even know. I then pulled out the skills I think analysts would need the most (80/20 baby!) to be productive in their jobs and put them into this fast-paced 1-hour advanced PivotTable class. As a small teaser, I go through a calculated field technique for calculating percentages in your PivotTables below. To see some of my beginner Excel classes, take a look here. I’ll be creating more bite-sized content on Instagram as well.

Click below to learn more and sign up for my advanced PivotTable class:

Credit card customer attrition data

This example is actually from the workbook used in the class project of my Advanced PivotTable class. This is the Google Sheet that shows the problem we’re trying to solve. Let’s take a quick look at the data:

It’s a list of credit card customers and some demographic information about them. The most important column to note is the Attrition column because it indicates whether that specific customer churned or attrited (had to look up the past tense of attrition). This type of customer data would be great to summarize and analyze in a PivotTable like so:

You can get some summary stats about your customers, but what about the Attrition? If you throw that column into the PivotTable, you’ll get something like this:

Not very helpful because our Attrition column consists of “Yes” and “No” as values. What I really care about is finding the Attrition % no matter how I set up my PivotTable. You could do something like this where you drag the Attrition column into the columns of the PivotTable. This would get you the Attrition % but it’s a manual calculation and you can’t see the Attrition % by different columns and properties in your PivotTable:

The minute you change up the PivotTable, column E will potentially get overwritten and you’ll have to re-write the Attrition % for the cut of the data you care about. In order to get the Attrition % you may be thinking the calculated field is the way to go. That’s partially right, so let’s explore that option.

Adding a calculated field in Google Sheets for Attrition %

Adding a calculated field to your PivotTable in Google Sheets is similar to Excel. You have to go through the right sidebar instead of the ribbon:

A little known fact about PivotTables in Google Sheets or Excel (something I go over in my Advanced PivotTables class) is that you can add IF() statements to calculated fields. If we try to create a calculated field for Attrition %, however, we don’t have the right data type to create this percentage. Additionally, the columns you put into the calculated field are summed. I tried experimenting with a few variations, but ultimately I couldn’t find a formula to create a calculated field given the data we have:

The issue is that we want to divide the customers who have attrited by the total number of customers based on the current PivotTable fields. Even with the IF() formula, we can’t take the Attrition column by itself to calculate the percentage. This is where we have to do a little augmentation to our dataset. I don’t particularly like this solution because it’s not a sustainable solution (e.g. you have new data coming in every day). But it works for one-off analyses.

Solution: Create a calculated field off columns with numbers in them

Watch the video tutorial of this solution below:

There are two new columns to add to the dataset: COUNT and Attrition Flag. The COUNT column is literally an entire column of 1s and the Attrition Flag is an IF() function that outputs 1 or 0 depending on the “Yes” or “No” in the Attrition column:

The key insight here is to create columns that output a number so that you can use those columns in the calculated field. Back in our PivotTable, you should change your source data to include columns F and G in the raw data worksheet and the calculated field formula looks like this:

I believe that by default, Google Sheets and Excel automatically sums the columns you add in the calculated field formula. Our Attrition Flag is a bunch of 1s and 0s and the COUNT is always 1, so this formula is kind of like:

=SUM('Attrition Flag')/SUM(COUNT)

This means you’ll get the right Attrition % no matter how you create your PivotTable:

One final plug

–> Learn more advanced PivotTable techniques like this in my Advanced PivotTables class on Skillshare <–

Other Podcasts & Blog Posts

No other podcasts/blog posts mentioned in this episode!

The post Dear Analyst #70: New advanced PivotTable class and a PivotTable calculated field trick for percentages appeared first on .

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https://www.thekeycuts.com/dear-analyst-70-new-advanced-pivottable-class-and-a-pivottable-calculated-field-trick-for-percentages/feed/ 0 I've been planning a few advanced Excel classes with Skillshare and excited to launch my first one today called Advanced PivotTable Techniques for Analyzing and Presenting Data Faster. I use PivotTables on and off depending on the task at hand. I've been planning a few advanced Excel classes with Skillshare and excited to launch my first one today called Advanced PivotTable Techniques for Analyzing and Presenting Data Faster. I use PivotTables on and off depending on the task at hand. In preparation for this class, I had the opportunity to research and learn some advanced techniques that I personally didn't even know. I then pulled out the skills I think analysts would need the most (80/20 baby!) to be productive in their jobs and put them into this fast-paced 1-hour advanced PivotTable class. As a small teaser, I go through a calculated field technique for calculating percentages in your PivotTables below. To see some of my beginner Excel classes, take a look here. I'll be creating more bite-sized content on Instagram as well.



Click below to learn more and sign up for my advanced PivotTable class:







Credit card customer attrition data



This example is actually from the workbook used in the class project of my Advanced PivotTable class. This is the Google Sheet that shows the problem we're trying to solve. Let's take a quick look at the data:







It's a list of credit card customers and some demographic information about them. The most important column to note is the Attrition column because it indicates whether that specific customer churned or attrited (had to look up the past tense of attrition). This type of customer data would be great to summarize and analyze in a PivotTable like so:







You can get some summary stats about your customers, but what about the Attrition? If you throw that column into the PivotTable, you'll get something like this:







Not very helpful because our Attrition column consists of "Yes" and "No" as values. What I really care about is finding the Attrition % no matter how I set up my PivotTable. You could do something like this where you drag the Attrition column into the columns of the PivotTable. This would get you the Attrition % but it's a manual calculation and you can't see the Attrition % by different columns and properties in your PivotTable:







The minute you change up the PivotTable, column E will potentially get overwritten and you'll have to re-write the Attrition % for the cut of the data you care about. In order to get the Attrition % you may be thinking the calculated field is the way to go. That's partially right, so let's explore that option.



Adding a calculated field in Google Sheets for Attrition %



Adding a calculated field to your PivotTable in Google Sheets is similar to Excel. You have to go through the right sidebar instead of the ribbon:







A little known fact about PivotTables in Google Sheets or Excel (something I go over in my Advanced PivotTables class) is that you can add IF() statements to calculated fields. If we try to create a calculated field for Attrition %, however, we don't have the right data type to create this percentage. Additionally, the columns you put into the calculated field are summed. I tried experimenting with a few variations, but ultimately I couldn't find a formula to create a calculated field given the data we have:







]]>
Dear Analyst 70 16:02 50905