Learning to love the spreadsheet
February 12, 2018 12:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm a Creative Director, which means my career is becoming less "make things, be cool with clients, and manage a person or two" and more "build a vision for a practice, execute sound strategic decisions, become an expert in how clients should intelligently spend their money, interface with Global muckity-mucks, etc." Cool. But I don't yet know how. Looking for recommendations.

Bear with me—I probably don't even have enough knowledge to ask the right question(s)!

The most recent example of my problem:

While going over an RFP with our Head of Account Services, I was asked if I had any questions or thoughts. I'd read and reread it, tried my damnedest to make sense of it, and had… nothing. It was full of legal jargon that meant absolutely nothing to me.

She then moved on to the next person, who replied, "On page 56 they mentioned blah blah, which makes me think that it's actually on a project basis, which could bring our fee up to blah blah, assuming blah blah." I could immediately see how she'd come to that conclusion, based on the text, but couldn't have come up with the insight on my own. ("Blahs" are for anonymity.)

Now, I know that these people are professional operations/account folks. There is no expectation for me to have as deep of a knowledge as they do. But I'd love to have even a basic ability!

Another example:

I asked a colleague, who was happy to help me, about how to create a business case to sell a vision of my team to the big bosses. She launched into, "Well, you need to figure out how much your team made last year/do some projections/find data that supports XYZ/do market analysis/etc etc etc."

While I understand her actual words, I do not know how to do any one of those things. She might as well have said, "Well, your first step is to land on the moon." I thanked her for her time, and promptly stuck my head in the sand. Again.

No longer! I'm looking for courses and resources to get me past this block.

The knee-jerk answer is likely, "get an MBA," but that feels overboard for what I need. Additionally, I didn't graduate from college. My assumption is that, in order to get into an MBA program, I'd have to start pretty much over from Freshman-ish year. I don't want to do that.

The course and/or resource I'm looking for…

+ Starts from the beginning, but doesn't get so granular/theoretical as to be useless to me

+ Is not completely self-guided, like a book or solo online course (I do much better with people, solid goals, and face-time for questions)

+ Might be understanding of—or even geared toward—my non-traditional background (little college, career creative, no business background whatsoever)

+ Will give me practical tools and knowledge that I can apply to the real world

+ Isn't a some start-up cult-like thing like Seth Godin's altMBA (It smells very "One Weird Trick to Make You Top CEO King of Tech Future Utopia")

Any other perspectives and advice are welcome, but please go easy on me. For some reason, I've got some imposter syndrome and nerves wrapped up in this, on top of everything else.

posted by functionequalsform to Education (7 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I am in NYC, if that matters. Thanks!
posted by functionequalsform at 1:15 PM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you're interested in skills more than credentialing, maybe look at NYU's SPS offerings?
posted by praemunire at 6:21 PM on February 12, 2018

Hey there, similar boat; I take on things like developing RFP responses and business cases for things, and I’m also in the creative field.

My thought is: is there anyone who can guide you through some of this at your job? Is there the culture and ability to say, “I need a hand with this; can you and I work through it?” to that colleague who was all “First create the universe”? The reason I mention this beyond a skills course (which is a great idea) is that every company does things a little differently.
posted by hijinx at 7:23 PM on February 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am a bookkeeper (I am not your bookkeeper), and I don't think you need an MBA. I think you need a class something like this one or this one. Another term you'd look for is "managerial accounting" (for managers).

Really, it would be nice if one of the more business-finance literate in your organization would sit down with you and answer your questions in an explain it like I'm 5 way, but I can understand that there might be awkwardness and/or time constraints there. And accounting and finance are another language and those of us who speak it sometimes forget that other people don't.

I know you don't want a self-paced or online course, but you might find it helpful to check out a Managerial Accounting class on Coursera or one of the other online college course platforms just to verify whether it's the kind of thing you need.
posted by camyram at 7:32 PM on February 12, 2018

I read the essay Spreadsheet Realism just yesterday. Interesting take on a creative mind learning to love Excel.
posted by Jellybean_Slybun at 10:18 AM on February 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't have specific recommendations for courses, in fact I have similar issues in my role and have similar questions. BUT I do think that you will pick up many of these skills with experience. It's also great that you asked someone for feedback on how to approach something, I'd suggest continuing to do so.

One other random bit of advice...watch shows like Shark Tank and The Profit, which get into high level financial and operational strategy in an understandable way.
posted by watrlily at 7:28 PM on February 13, 2018

For anyone still playing along at home, a friend gave me a heads up on this AIGA + Yale Business School intensive course, and I've sent that and the NYU SPS options to my HR team. Fingers crossed!
posted by functionequalsform at 12:00 PM on February 14, 2018

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