Dear Analyst

10 Episodes

By: KeyCuts

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.

Dear Analyst #130: What happens when we rely too much on Excel spreadsheets and shadow IT takes over?
Today at 5:31 AM

This is a replay of an episode from the Make Sense podcast with Lindsay Tabas.

In the 1990s, large enterprises typically bought software in a tops-down approach. IT teams would get get Oracle software or Microsoft Office and get their entire organization to use the software. Since these tools are the default IT “blessed” tools, people start putting everything in these tools. This is why I think most people decide to push everything into Excel even though Excel is primarily meant for financial analysis. When it’s already installed on your computer and everyone knows how to use it...

Dear Analyst #129: How to scale self-serve analytics tools to thousands of users at Datadog with Jean-Mathieu Saponaro
Last Tuesday at 4:28 AM

When you’re organization is small, a centralized data team can take care of all the internal data tooling, reporting, and requests for all departments. As the team grows from 100 to thousands of people, a centralized data team simply cannot handle the number of requests and doesn’t have the domain knowledge of all the departments. Jean-Mathieu Saponaro (JM) has experienced this transformation at Datadog. He first joined Datadog in 2015 as a research engineer. He was part of the inaugural data analytics team which now supports 6,000+ employees. In this episode, he discusses scaling a self-serve analytics tool, moving from ETL...

Dear Analyst #128: What is citizen development and how to build solutions with spreadsheets?

This is a replay of an episode from the Citizen Development Live podcast with Neil Miller.

Citizen development is a relatively new term I learned about a year ago or so. To me, it’s using no-code tools at scale within a large enterprise. It’s a term that covers the population of people who are not developers, programmers, and software engineers by trade but know how to build apps and workflows to accomplish business-critical tasks. This is the definition of a citizen developer from PMI (Project Management Institute):

Low-code or no-code development is the crea...

Dear Analyst #127: Spreadsheets vs. Jira: Which one is better for your team?

I wasn’t sure if this topic should be it’s own episode but it’s been on my mind ever since I came back from Atlassian Team ’24 (Atlassian’s annual conference). At the conference, I had the opportunity to meet with a few people who are just as interested in spreadsheets as I am. We talked specifically how Jira can best work with spreadsheets (Excel or Google Sheets) and different workflows that result from the combination of these two tools. It was fascinating to hear how company culture and old ingrained way of doing things leads to the usage of s...

Dear Analyst #126: How to data storytelling and create amazing data visualizations with Amanda Makulec

With an undergraduate degree in zoology and a master’s in public health, you wouldn’t expect Amanda Makulec to lead a successful career in data analytics and data visualization. As we’ve seen with multiple guests on the podcast, the path to a career in data analytics is windy and unexpected. It was the intersection of public health and data visualization that got Amanda interested in data visualization as a career. In one of her roles, Amanda was supporting USAID by analyzing open data sets and creating charts and graphs for publishing content. Her team consisted of graphic design...

Dear Analyst #125: How to identify Taylor Swift’s most underrated songs using data with Andrew Firriolo

Sometimes pop culture and data analysis meet and the result is something interesting, thought-provoking, and of course controversial. How can one use data to prove definitely which Taylor Swift songs are the most underrated? Isn’t this a question for your heart to answer? Andrew Firriolo sought to answer this question over the last few months and the results are interesting (if you’re a Taylor Swift fan). As a Swiftie since 2006 (moniker for Taylor Swift fans), Andrew wanted to find a way to bridge his passions for Taylor Swift and data analysis. He’s currently a senior data analys...

Dear Analyst #124: Navigating people, politics and analytics solutions at large companies with Alex Kolokolov

We sometimes forget that a large organization is composed of groups and divisions. Within these groups, there are teams and individuals looking to advance their careers. Sometimes at the expense of others. When your advancement depends on the success of your project, the benefits of that project to your company may be suspect and the tools you use to complete that project may not be the best tools for the job. Alex Kolokolov started his journey in data like many of us: in Excel. He moved on to Power BI, PowerPivot, PowerQuery, and building data visualizations for the last 15...

Dear Analyst #123: Telling data stories about rugby and the NBA with Ben Wylie

When you think of data journalism, you might think of The New York Times’ nifty data visualizations and the Times’ embrace of data literacy for all their journalists. Outside of The New York Times, I haven’t met anyone who does data journalism and data storytelling full-time until I spoke with Ben Wylie. Ben is the lead financial journalist at a financial publication in London. Like many data analysts, he cut his teeth in Excel, got his equivalent of a CPA in the UK, and received his master’s degree in journalism. In this episode, we discuss how his side pas...

Dear Analyst #122: Designing an online version of Excel to help Uber China compete with DiDi on driver incentives with Matt Basta

There are only so many ways to make Excel “fun.” If you’ve been following this blog/podcast, stories about the financial modeling competition and spreadsheet errors that lead to catastrophic financial loss are stories that make a 1980s tool somewhat interesting to read and listen to. There are numerous tutorials and TikTok influencers who teach Excel for those who are actually in the tool day in and day out. Meet Matt Basta, a software engineer by trade. He published a story on his own blog called No sacred masterpieces which is worth reading in its entirety as its all ab...

Dear Analyst #121: Fabricating and skewing Excel survey data about honesty with behavioral economists Dan Ariely and Francesca Gino

One of the more popular courses you could take at my college to fulfill the finance major requirements was Behavioral Finance. The main “textbook” was Inefficient Markets and we learned about how there are qualitative ways to value a security beyond what the efficient market hypothesis purports. During the financial crisis of 2008, psychology professor and behavioral economist Dan Ariely published Predictably Irrational to much fanfare. The gist of the book is that humans are less rational than what economic theory tells us. With the knowledge that humans are irrational (what a surprise) when it comes to investing and other aspe...