1. Articles
  2. Excel Heroes: Alan Murray

Excel Heroes – Alan Murray

Alan Murray’s career as a tech training specialist had humble origins.

Near the dawn of the 2000s, at around age 20, Murray landed a job with the UK’s National Health Service—tasked with a chore familiar to many young people of the era: teaching older people about computers. “Just helping staff with real, real basics,” he recalls. “Like, just being able to send email and attach documents.”

With a few of those early pupils, Murray demonstrated how to enter patient data into spreadsheets. And, though he didn’t realize it at the time, the seeds of a future Excel guru were planted.

In the meantime, Murray discovered a growing reputation as a basic computer trainer. “Things started coming in thick and fast,” he says. “I used to teach something called the ECDL—the European Computer Driving License. That probably doesn’t mean anything over in North America.” Job applicants, he explains, used the accreditation to prove they possessed a standard range of basic computer skills. Murray’s course covered areas like Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access—and Excel.

Gradually, over the course of years, Excel’s gravitational force pulled him in. “At first I was teaching not just Microsoft stuff, but other systems, like internal systems for business. And at some point that kind of morphed into just Microsoft stuff, and from there into only being Excel stuff.”

The big shift came with the arrival of the Office 365 era. “It started getting almost impossible to master everything. I said, right, I’m going to focus on Excel and Power BI.”

In 2009, Murray launched an Excel-themed blog, followed a year later by a YouTube channel, and his Computergaga brand was born. “I brought it out back then just to help people and support my training,” he says. “I’d get a question, and I would write a blog post on that. I thought, first of all, there must be other people in the world who want that help. Second of all, when people would ask me that again, I’d have a resource to answer it in the room. And I could also say, let me send you a link.

“The goal was not to make money, or to become an MVP or any of this malarkey. It was really just to supplement my training as a resource, so I wouldn’t have to keep saying the same thing over and over.”

In an era saturated with online Excel resources, Murray remains committed to keeping one foot firmly in the real world. “Community is a big thing for me,” he says. “Although I do all this stuff on YouTube and things, I’d rather a world where I didn’t only do that.”

Whenever he had occasion to meet or work with other Excel experts, Murray often discovered they had a lot to learn. “They might be a very good trainer, and have very good Excel skills, but they weren’t keeping up with things, especially as we move into the 365 world. I would talk about Power Query, or talk about a new function, and they wouldn’t have a clue what I was talking about.”

As a response (and as a remedy for his own pandemic-era social isolation), Murray launched a series of Excel meetups in 2020. “I thought I’d create a space where somebody—whoever, I don’t care— would give a presentation on something that they know, to learn from each other.”

The meetups are free, and the organization demands a chunk of Murray’s time and energy, but the idea has taken flight. “I try and do one in person and one online every month, which doesn’t always work. But I really try and get the in person one going. The online events are great for the international people, but it’s not a real meetup. I want people to actually meet—you know, have a beer, shake hands, take a photo, talk. I think people who can attend really appreciate the opportunity to be in a room with other people and have that real conversation.”

Despite spending so much of his working and social life embedded in Microsoft Excel, Murray still finds himself inspired when he launches the app.

“I love the fact that Excel just opens to a blank sheet and tells you, get on with it. Like, do what you want, how you want. I love that there’s always a way. And I think that’s what draws enthusiasts of Excel to it. That puzzle solving, that aspect that you can do something creative—but with data, rather than with art or with words.

“In the Excel community, some of us will say, whatever the question is, the answer is yes.”

More Articles:

Excel Heroes: Chandeep Chhabra

Meet Chandeep Chhabra! When the Mumbai investment bank where he worked suddenly couldn’t make payroll anymore, Chandeep decided to turn his “Excel expert” side hustle into a full-time career. Despite having little experience and zero Excel credentials, he cold-called his way into a job interview at a major financial services company—and the rest is history.

Excel Heroes: Ken Puls

Follow the captivating journey of Ken Puls—from a novice to a renowned expert! Discover how this Excel hero transformed from an accounting supervisor to a global Excel trainer, sharing his passion for automation and unlocking Excel's full potential.

Excel Heroes: Gašper Kamenšek

Discover Gašper Kamenšek's journey from college student to Excel MVP. His passion for Excel ignited during Microsoft Office classes, leading to a career shift and a thriving community involvement. Explore his experiences, insights, and adventures, from overcoming toxic work environments to becoming a sought-after speaker. Dive into his love affair with Excel and the ever-evolving landscape of data analysis.

Bulgaria Excel Days 2024

Sheetcast proudly announces their lead sponsorship for Bulgaria Excel Days 2024, demonstrating their dedication to the Excel Community. Join experts Ken Puls, Gašper Kamenšek, Alan Murray, and others for three days of Excel insights, presentations, and masterclasses. Don't miss Alex Martin of Sheetcast, premiering advanced new functions and workflows. Bulgaria Excel Days 2024 runs April 23-25 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Excel Heroes: Crispo Mwangi

As the only Excel MVP in East, Central, and Southern Africa, Crispo Mwangi stands out as an Excel Influencer, business owner, and host of an MS Excel Forum, making his skills highly sought after. Despite his many commitments, this Kenyan luminary published his latest book, "Excel with PowerQuery and ChatGPT.

Excel plus Sheetcast as Your Ultimate Spreadsheet.com Alternative

Amid Spreadsheet.com's closure, Sheetcast provides a reliable solution, an Excel add-in. Created by a company of 15+ years, Sheetcast offers more than a quick fix. It pioneers innovative data management and application development, providing a secure path for those impacted by Spreadsheet.com's shutdown.

Customers Scramble for Alternatives as Spreadsheet.com Shuts Down

With Spreadsheet.com closing its doors on May 31, users are actively seeking alternatives. Sheetcast, an Excel add-in, stands out as the top solution, providing advanced capabilities and a seamless transition to reconstruct workflows into customized web apps. Sheetcast provides a smooth solution to Spreadsheet.com's shutdown

Advanced Data Visualization Techniques in Web Apps From Excel

If you’ve ever viewed a report or infographic powered by Excel-generated graphics, you recognize that the time-tested spreadsheet application has some powerful tricks up its sleeve in terms of data visualization. Bar charts, pie charts, scatter plots, pivot tables, and more

Excel Heroes: MrExcel Turns 25

Exactly 25 years ago, in 1998, Jelen published his first in a series of weekly Excel help articles at his brand-new website MrExcel.com (hardcore fans can still read that debut article thanks to the Wayback Machine). Soon afterward, he launched the MrExcel Message Board, an online community for Excel enthusiasts like himself.

The Evolution of Efficiency from Excel to Web App

For decades, Microsoft Excel has been a foundational component in the way global businesses collect, analyze, track, and report data. As powerful and flexible as Excel is on its own, however, it can now also serve as a stepping-off point to something even more dynamic and efficient.

Excel Heroes: N-nyiimock Bitanyanmi

N-nyiimock Bitanyanmi is a welcome and familiar face in the online Excel community, where he often goes by the name Justice. Behind his enthusiasm, knowledge, and eagerness to learn, however, lies a surprising fact: until he was almost an adult, he had rarely laid hands on a computer.

Tips to Prevent Data Entry Errors in Excel

With Excel, your formulas, charts, and reports are only as good as the data you enter. So, if you’re responsible for entering a vast data set, it’s important to minimize the risk for error.

Ten Memorable Excel Disasters

Pretty much anyone who has ever used Excel has a horror story or two to share—a misplaced decimal, a missing minus sign, a botched cut-and-paste, or some other minor blunder with potentially major consequences.

Seven Essential Ways to Protect Your Spreadsheet

Too many of us are cautious in our daily lives, but cavalier with the safety and security of our spreadsheets.

How to use forms in Excel … plus something better

Excel forms have improved my life. Now, I know there’s something even better (stick around to the end of this tutorial).

Co-authoring in Excel: Tips and Pitfalls

For years, Excel users have been able to collaborate on shared workbooks. By making it possible for multiple users to work together on a single file, Microsoft unlocked countless ways to boost efficiency and productivity.

Why Do People Still Use Spreadsheets?

Microsoft Excel debuted on the Macintosh in 1985 and came to Windows in 1987. Three and a half decades later, its name remains virtually synonymous with the very concept of “spreadsheets.”

Time for Excel to Evolve: From Spreadsheets To Web Apps

The Necessary Evolution from Excel Spreadsheets to Web Apps. Like many of the greatest technologies of our time, spreadsheets can be our salvation or our downfall – and with great power comes great responsibility.

Want to Convert Excel Spreadsheets to Web Apps?

Sheetcast enables you to convert Excel spreadsheet to web apps directly in Microsoft Office, a tool you already use every day. Sheetcast is affordable, easy to learn, and has hundreds of potential uses (limited only by your imagination).

Do You Use Any of These Five Excel Features? If So, Try Sheetcast

Maybe you’re a bit of an Excel guru. Your workmates frequently marvel at your ability to get the most out of the app, employing functionality they never even knew existed.