Cruel by inevitable extinction of Excel monkeys
November 3, 2008 3:01 PM Subscribe
What to do about the inevitable irrelevance of my skill set?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I do primarily VBA work in Excel and MS Access an Ops department for a large, publicly traded company. I also do MS Access DB development. This is pretty much all I do, not a side function of a larger job, but my title is 'analyst' -- it doesn't reflect what I do.
I also do process improvement projects, though I'm not a Six Sigma person. It's very ad hoc: meet with department staff, try to draw their disparate spreadsheets and methodologies together, come up with a solution they can all use that doesn't involve six people keeping track of X six different ways. Since there's often some kind of report manipulation or emailing such and such to so and so a hundred times, there's usually some automation, or the development of a database, etc.
I'm not a computer science major; I was a humanities major. I'm reasonably good at this, having done it to for more or less ten years. The past five years as an Ops person, the first five years as part of a solutions development team for end users. Then I used VB5 or VB6. My current company won't allow my area to use VB (IT is technically elsewhere -- I'm not in IT.) I learned VBA after VB.
My career is stalled somewhat (I took a few years off to go to grad school for a useless English degree. I have an MFA) and I don't have the roots or visibility at my current job to advance much there, other than the way that everyone else seems to advance at that company, which is by sticking around long enough that somebody promotes you. This is an old, tired, very non-progressive company and they will not give me .net or update my title. This is a terrible job market, where I live, and there aren't tons of big companies who need the sort of thing I'm describing above.
So I'd like your thoughts on the following:
1. I don't think I do a very good job of saying 'this is what I can do and this is how I can help you' in my resume or my cover letter. A lot of HR people don't know what VBA is, or see how it could fit into a non-IT department. Also, they think process improvement is parsley--you do it as a garnish.How can I present my current skill set in a way that resonates that companies who are not looking specifically for those skills, so they don't see VBA and toss my resume?
2. I don't really believe desktop-driven computing of the Excel variety has a future beyond the next five to ten years. I think Excel will gradually be replaced by web-based applications, and that Microsoft isn't agile enough to be part of it. I think data manipulation technologies will get more user friendly, and there will be less need for report manipulation after the reports have been generated, which is a significant amount of what I automate for people now.
3. Given the above, should I be throwing myself at .Net in my off hours? How can I create a context for that that doesn't feel like homework? (I'm reasonably comfortable with web concepts, have taken a spin in PhP/MySQL, a little HTML, used Wordpress...and CSS stuff appeals to me because I like it's 'place for everything, everything in its place' value system. I've used some scripting elements with the lightest of touches and while I'm not fluent, having devoted very little time to it, I'm not afraid of it and think I'd be good at web-specific stuff. Also: tell me about .Net--what does it do best?
I'm interested in cold, hard business advice ('you need to start managing people if you want to advance') and what skills I should be looking at developing so I don't become totally irrelevant.
To be clear: I like the work and I'm good at it (when it's really going good, I can work on the same technical or interface question or problem for hours and hours, completely happily. I find it very engaging.) but it isn't the meaning of my life--I'd prefer to make more money at it then less, because I'm going to be doing it regardless.
Throwaway email: email@example.com
I am so sorry this got so long.