Now THAT'S a successful training session!

It's a couple decades back, and this pilot fish is the lucky winner of a half-day training class at a local computer education center.

"I decided to take a class on Excel pivot tables," says fish. "I didn't know what they were, so it wouldn't be a wasted morning away from the office.

"After being enlightened by this training, I decided to teach a lunch-and-learn class on them for our users, complete with live demonstrations."

Among the attendees for fish's class is the VP in charge of Mexican production, who takes a seat in the front row off.

Fish knows that VP keeps her production schedule in a spreadsheet consisting of two sheets. One contains line items for each item and due date. The other shows scheduled production week by week -- which, fish now knows, is just what a pivot table would display.

The class starts, and fish demonstrates how to set up a pivot table up by creating a sales performance analysis using widgets, doohickeys and thingamabobs being sold by an imaginary company.

Then he tells the class, "As I was driving back to the office, I thought to myself, 'Where could this be used in the company?' I then remembered the Mexico schedule."

He brings up a copy of one of the VP's old production schedule spreadsheet for the Mexican plant. He selects the line item sheet and walks through how to create a pivot table with a few drags and clicks. Then, with a click of a button, he announces, "Boom! Instant schedule!"

Reports fish, "You could have heard this VP's jaw hit the floor. She said, 'Oh, my god! I spend hours on that thing!'

"She had been creating that schedule manually. I explained how customers could be dragged to get them in the correct order and how to change the data range and then refresh the pivot table.

"It was pretty safe to say I had won a convert to pivot tables that day."

Quick! Before the tax year ends, contribute to Sharky! OK, you can't actually write off your true tales of IT life on your tax return in April. But send 'em to me anyway at, and you'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt every time I use one. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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