Help this Mac user learn PC software for job hunt
August 9, 2012 4:25 PM   Subscribe

How can I improve my computer skills for job hunt when I use a Mac and the software is for PC?

I recently posted about my career conundrum, and got some great advice.

I met with a career counselor today who will help me with my resume, and formatting towards the type of jobs we think would suit -- primarily Sales Operations/Analyst positions.

He suggested I take classes to brush up on my Excel (I self-taught a lot for my MBA program, but I used Office 2008 for Mac), learn SQL querying and VBA.

What is the best way for me to learn these things? I'm having a hard time finding classes and would prefer to learn online, but without a PC I'm not sure if that is possible.

I am in Austin, TX.

Thanks in advance and I appreciate any help or resources you can suggest.
posted by hrj to Computers & Internet (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
You can run windows on a Mac using basecamp, parallels, vmware, etc, right?
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:29 PM on August 9, 2012


What kind of Mac do you have? Apple switched to Intel-based processors in 2006, so if you have a Mac from after that year, you could install Windows (not free) and run Windows applications like Office (not free) by way of Boot Camp (free; built into the operating system) or a virtual machine host like Virtual Box (free), Parallels (not free) or VMware (not free).

Anything that is labeled "not free" is something you'd have to buy a license of, but if you're in an MBA program, check with your campus bookstore for academic licensing and academic pricing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:32 PM on August 9, 2012


Hit up your local library! Most libraries offer free computer classes and office suite classes. If yours doesn't, you should still be able to use their PCs and play around with excel - there are also free online tutorials for excel that are fairly easy to find if you google.
posted by firei at 4:33 PM on August 9, 2012


RustyBrooks: My mac is from 2010 so I COULD install Windows and buy all the software, but is that the best way to learn?

I'd have to research how to do that, but that seems like a lot of money to spend plus the cost of the class. I'm not even sure what software I would need to buy.

Do most people have all of the software they use at work on their personal computers?

Blazecock: I graduated from my MBA program in May and no longer live in the same geographic area as my school, so I'm not sure about academic licensing.
posted by hrj at 4:35 PM on August 9, 2012


Firei: I didn't consider the library. That is a good idea, but I'm not thinking they would have the classes I'm looking for. I'm looking for advanced Excel like macros, VBA and SQL queries. I'm a pretty strong Excel users but have to use work-arounds to do things in Mac as you don't have the Data Analysis stuff which is the stuff I'm trying to learn.
posted by hrj at 4:37 PM on August 9, 2012


I would instead recommend that you buy a Windows computer (think $500 Lenovo laptop) and run Windows software in its native environment.

Many people in your field need to be OS-ambidextrous. Or BiOS, if you will.
posted by yclipse at 4:39 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yclipse:

I am comfortable using a PC, I have always used them at work, I just don't own one.

I hadn't needed advanced Excel for my last job (Account Manager) and picked up Excel when learning financial modeling in my MBA program and when taking Statistics and Data Analysis but they were not the same tools I would use at work because I was using my personal computer.

I'm a little unclear why it is being suggested I need to purchase new hardware/software to learn skills for a job that presumably would provide me with a computer when I was hired.

Will I need to have it at home to do homework for a class? Would an individual even purchase SQL?

I'm just looking for classes I can take since I can't just follow tutorials online. I want something I can put on my resume to show I know these things. I also don't have unlimited funds as I'm currently unemployed.
posted by hrj at 4:49 PM on August 9, 2012


He suggested I take classes to brush up on my Excel (I self-taught a lot for my MBA program, but I used Office 2008 for Mac), learn SQL querying and VBA.

Excel is available for mac.

You can get mysql hosting from a number of sources. There are places that'll do postgres too, as well as MS SQL Server and Oracle if you wanna spend.

According to the wiki page Visual Basic for Applications support has been reintroduced in the 2011 version of Office for OS X.

Basically, if those three things are what you need (Excel, SQL, and VBA), you don't need Windows to do it.

I'd hit up local community or technical colleges. But, there are lots of guides online.
posted by Netzapper at 4:52 PM on August 9, 2012


Will I need to have it at home to do homework for a class? Would an individual even purchase SQL?

You don't buy SQL. SQL is a language for querying a database. You learn to write the SQL queries by talking to a database. Classes from universities/colleges will often have servers that you can connect to and use for classes.

If you want to study on your own, see my second link to find a hosting provider. For a testing database, this should cost only a couple dollars a month. You'll just connect to the SQL server with a client on your computer. I promise there are like 11,000 different SQL clients available for Mac. You'll find one you like if you look around.

I think Amazon has a SQL-accessible service now. But, you might find that a little intimidating.

I'm just looking for classes I can take since I can't just follow tutorials online. I want something I can put on my resume to show I know these things. I also don't have unlimited funds as I'm currently unemployed.

Community college, then.

They usually, but not always, have infrastructure available to run awkward software like SQL servers and whatnot.

But, yes, you'll need it at home to do homework. Unless you want to spend substantial time in the school labs late at night.
posted by Netzapper at 4:57 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


RustyBrooks: My mac is from 2010 so I COULD install Windows and buy all the software, but is that the best way to learn?
If your target job expects you to use Excel proficiently, including VBA, then you absolutely need to learn Excel on Windows. The Mac version is a nice crutch, but it isn't the same, and Microsoft has no intention of ever making it the same.

Running Excel for Windows on emulated Windows is fine. Substituting Numbers of Excel for Mac isn't.
I'd have to research how to do that, but that seems like a lot of money to spend plus the cost of the class. I'm not even sure what software I would need to buy.
If you are taking a class, you might qualify for the much cheaper academic version of Excel.
Do most people have all of the software they use at work on their personal computers?
Depends on the job. As a software developer: I have quite a bit more professionally-relevant software on my home machine than I would have on my work machine in a corporate environment. General business folks don't usually do this. But you have a skills gap that you need to fill. The fast way is to take some classes and dive deep at home. The slow way would be to get a job that doesn't require much in the way of Excel skills, but allows you to develop them. This can be a very slow way.
I hadn't needed advanced Excel for my last job (Account Manager) and picked up Excel when learning financial modeling in my MBA program and when taking Statistics and Data Analysis but they were not the same tools I would use at work because I was using my personal computer.
However... If you are comfortable doing financial modeling from your MBA program, you probably have advanced Excel skills already. Often "advanced" excel skills means that you know how to use the Pivot Table wizard and are able to build complex charts by yourself.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:59 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm just looking for classes I can take since I can't just follow tutorials online. I want something I can put on my resume to show I know these things. I also don't have unlimited funds as I'm currently unemployed.

Do check with your local library, but there's no need to buy a second computer when your current computer will run Windows just fine.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:07 PM on August 9, 2012


I currently have Excel for Mac 2008.

It was my understanding that Excel for Mac 2011 does not have Data Analysis Toolkit, and I think I do need to become more familiar with using Windows Excel as the formatting is different.

My Excel skills are fine through Pivot charts but I don't know anything about Macros or VBA, and I have never done anything with SQL and shown by my ignorant response above.

Perhaps emulating windows and getting Excel is my best bet.

I'm still not sure where to find the classes I need. I have tried looking at University of Texas, St. Edwards, and Austin Community College and I wasn't finding them, or I'm looking for the wrong things.

I also looked at New Horizons but that seemed very expensive and I was unclear as to what software I needed. Also the yelp reviews for my local New Horizons were terrible.
posted by hrj at 5:09 PM on August 9, 2012


Looking at ACC's continuing education offerings I found courses in Excel and other Office Products and a basic course in SQL (more advanced courses here).
posted by itsamermaid at 5:17 PM on August 9, 2012


Lynda.com is very inexpensive and offers the kinds of classes you are looking for, including macros and VBA for Excel, and a number of SQL classes. I have several colleagues who use lynda.com regularly and always have really positive things to say about it.
posted by jessypie at 5:23 PM on August 9, 2012


Maybe I misunderstood, but your question says your problem is that you need to learn PC stuff but you have a mac. If the barrier is your mac, then using parallels or bootcamp or whatever (or buying a cheap PC) is probably the answer.

If instead you're looking for a class or a way to learn that won't require you having a PC, I dunno, I don't really know anything about that.

In my experience to get good at this stuff you need to be using it a lot, way more than what you'd get in a class. Find a project that demands some skills and work your way up to it.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:45 PM on August 9, 2012


There's absolutely no reason to get new hardware to run Excel. It's worth pointing out that no one's suggested emulating Windows yet, but that is a possibility, using CodeWeavers Crossover Office for Mac, which allows you to install a purchased version of Microsoft Office. I'd do that (and I do, with Linux), but I'm a hardcore tinkerer.

But buy Windows and then you can run it flawlessly with bootcamp if you're happy restarting every time you want to practice Office. There's no compromise at all.

There is a reason you may want to buy a PC, though. You could well get a used ex-computer laptop or desktop with Windows and Office installed for less than the cost of buying the software. You will need Excel unless you're going to be working with web data analysts.

In terms of what to learn, and how, it's a bit tricky. Coursera has courses on data analysis but none open at the minute, and that's strictly the science of it. They're free, and high quality.

The data I work with is health related, and I do things like aggregate figures across periods, allocate activity to costs, and things like that. It's hard to describe. But there's a lot of squidging data into appropriate formats, subtracting date ranges and similar. I think of it as swimming in the data. We have about half a million rows we analyse for our annual reporting. Sorry I can't describe it better.
posted by ambrosen at 5:48 PM on August 9, 2012


Austin Community College offers a suite of MS Office courses, including advanced Excel and Access (Access is a database program, the course might cover some SQL or VBA). Enrolling in that should also get you acess to their PC labs in your spare time. There are tons of online courses from community colleges at about this level, like this SQL course (and if you look at the course catalog there, they offer a full set of Excel courses too).
posted by jacalata at 6:13 PM on August 9, 2012


Sounds like you really don't want to spend any money on this, I can't blame you.

Excel on the Mac is unfortunately not nearly the same as Excel on the PC, but it sounds like you have fair to middling Excel skills already, so maybe the fancy stuff can wait until you have a job.

Meanwhile, if you want to learn SQL, you can easily install MySQL on your MAC, and some sort of database client like DBVisualizer, all for free.

Then again, you might really want Access and VBA. In that case, I 2nd the recommendation that you buy an old Windows machine that already has Office installed, it will be cheaper than buying the software you need for the Mac.
posted by mr vino at 8:06 PM on August 9, 2012


Thanks for the advice.

I'm willing to spend money, but I'm already going to be spending money on the classes, and I don't have a lot of money. I spent the last 2 years as a grad student and recently moved crossed country, and just got hit with thousands of dollars of vet bills which is neither here nor there.

I'm trying to get my resume set up so I can get a non-sales job, but trying to demonstrate certain skills, and because I used a Mac in school, I don't have familiarity with some of the software.

Some of the suggestions made here, seem to cost thousands of dollars unless I'm misunderstanding. Where would I look for an older Windows laptop that has the software I need?

Would I need a Windows machine to take these classes?
posted by hrj at 6:50 AM on August 10, 2012


1) Do you still have an email address from your school, that ends in .edu? Then you may still eligible for cheap versions of Office from Microsoft.

2) A basic Office overview class at a community college will NOT teach you SQL. It WILL teach you how to use Access' drag-and-drop GUI to create queries. It's a good start, and may be all you really need, but it's not SQL (unless you are ok with finding those options on your own). The second class in Access at the community college where I teach is geared toward administrative professionals creating attractive reports. To get a class that teaches SQL, you will have to find a database course in the computer science department, and it probably (hopefully) will not use Access, but Oracle or MySQL or SQL Server or something like that.

3) You can use MS's SkyDrive to access free online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint via a browser. These provide a subset of the functionality available in the installed versions, but may be enough to let you do homework at home with your current setup.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:35 AM on August 10, 2012


I have Office on my computer for Mac. I'm open to buying a cheap and/or used PC and then getting Office for it in order to take classes.

I'm not looking at taking a general Office overview class, but specifically a class in SQL (not programming, just queries) and VBA or a class that would cover that. Would I need to take a computer science class for that? I'm looking for a class that a finance major might take as an undergraduate.
posted by hrj at 8:02 AM on August 10, 2012


Advanced Access from UT - covers VBA & SQL. Looks like it's online?

This course that jacalata linked to is exactly what you need for SQL, but it's an online class.

Search the schools around you for continuing ed courses. No college credit, but it appears UT at least offers continuing ed credits, which look better on a resume than taking a class at your library. (Not to say the library class wouldn't be useful, just that CEUs are measurable, and may count toward a salary advancement track when you get a job.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:40 AM on August 10, 2012


SuperSquirrel --

That UT link looks great. I'm totally open with online as I think you guys have convinced me that getting at cheap PC is the way to go. Now to find one as I haven't had a PC in over a decade (other than Lenovas at work). Here in Austin, UT is sacred.

Would you think I should take both of those courses? These are also cheaper than the New Horizons classes which helps me justify the computer, and I believe they can qualify me for the educational discount for Office, but I also have a .edu email and a non-expired student ID.
posted by hrj at 10:15 AM on August 10, 2012


If you get UT student status, they have Microsoft Office for $33. They also have a low spec (but should be adequate) laptop listed. (Probably worth getting the laptop instead of just buying windows for your mac and bootcamp, because windows itself will cost a significant percentage of the laptop price).
posted by jacalata at 2:11 PM on August 10, 2012


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