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Crispo Mwangi
Kenya’s Crispo Mwangi is a big Excel fish in a very big pond.

On June 1, 2023, Mwangi made history as the first-ever Excel MVP in East, Central, and Southern Africa—a region of over 10 million square kilometres inhabited by hundreds of millions of people. While he’s justly proud of the distinction, he has already been doing everything he can to eliminate it, by freely sharing his expertise online and by championing other rising experts. “The region is too big for any one community leader,” he says.

Mwangi made history as the first-ever Excel MVP in East, Central, and Southern Africa

This shortage of tech talent is a predicable challenge in a part of the world where, even today, many children grow up without everyday access to computers. Mwangi himself barely touched a keyboard until the year 2000, after he graduated from high school. “It was a norm then to join a local college and learn computer packages as you waited to join the university,” he recalls. From his first day in class, he recognized new possibilities. “As someone with bad handwriting, I was fascinated by how easily and quickly you can select fonts and type elegant letters. My obsession with computers started then and there and has not stopped since.”

Mwangi’s obsession with Excel, on the other hand, took a while to emerge. In 2011, he was put in charge of monitoring individual productivity for a staff of over 1,200. He quickly found himself knocked head over heels by a fire hose of raw data. “Because I was processing it all manually, I ended up working all night and through the weekends.”

Mwangi’s obsession with Excel

Thankfully, a colleague soon introduced him to Excel’s INDEX/MATCH function, showing him how it could consolidate data from multiple worksheets and workbooks. “With just this one function, I was able to cut my workload drastically. This led me to wonder what I could accomplish if I started learning other functions. Twelve years later and I am still adding more functions to my repertoire.

 

“By the way, I no longer work on the weekend or overnight unless I want to!”

A couple of years later Mwangi joined a start-up, where he was involved in developing, implementing, and optimizing business applications. “This involved a lot of data migration, data collection, and data analysis,” he says. He found himself scouring blogs and forums every day, desperate for tips and tools that would help him tackle the job. One problem: “I was learning a lot, but I was not able to retain much.”

Then he had his “aha” moment. “There is a saying—I don’t remember where I read it: ‘When you teach, you learn twice.’” So, to consolidate his knowledge, he decided to launch an Excel blog. “It also provided a central place where I could keep all of my learning materials—a reference for everything I was teaching and learning.

Before tackling his blog, he emailed Excel guru Mynda Treacy for advice. She encouraged him to go ahead, but forewarned him to approach it as a labor of love rather than a path to overnight success. This helped him approach the task with realistic expectations. “She told me that content creation involved a lot of work, and that I shouldn’t be discouraged by slow growth, especially at the start.”

And so, Mwangi published his first blog post in 2016 and began patiently building his online following. Before long, he noticed his articles were generating engagement on LinkedIn. “Comments on the blog proved that I was adding value to people,” he says. He kept writing, opened a Twitter account, and the numbers steadily climbed. “Over the last 365 days, I have had over one million impressions on LinkedIn and over three million on Twitter.”

He draws inspiration from many other Excel influencers. “For years I have followed Mynda, Mike ‘excelisfun’ Girvin, and ‘Mr. Excel’ Bill Jelen. I love how they tirelessly labor to simplify Excel concepts. I also enjoy Oz du Soleil’s animated teaching method; he has a flair for making Excel fun. In Africa, I love Michael Olafusi and Victor Momoh’s commitment to increasing data literacy in the continent.”

Of all those, Olafusi has likely had the biggest personal impact on Mwangi. “He is the one person I look up to.”

After years of witnessing Olafusi’s online generosity firsthand, Mwangi is launching a new initiative based on his model. “My inspiration to start East, Central and South Africa Excel Mastery Forum comes fully from his example.”

With his new forum, Mwangi envisions an online community where members can gather to support and champion each other. “I hope the forum will ignite discussions, collaborations and innovations that will improve data literacy in the region.”

Excel Heroes: Crispo Mwangi

Of course, by encouraging other talent, Mwangi risks losing his claim to fame as the one and only Excel MVP in his vast region. But he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I am seeing a future where we shall have more than 20 MVPs in the region, just like they have in Nigeria.”

In the meantime, Mwangi hasn’t lost his eagerness to learn despite his shiny new Microsoft credentials. “Excel's new calculation engine and the new Excel dynamic array formulas have opened a future that we never thought we would see,” he enthuses. “Combine that with the new copilot AI and the ability to create new functions using LAMBDA. All this, and automating stuff using the power platform, are mind-blowing to me.

“There is so much to learn and teach. I am extremely optimistic and excited about the future.”

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