Skip to main content

Accounting and Spreadsheets and Stats, oh my!

In my opinion, there are numbers people and there are words people. Numbers people do Sudoku puzzles in their spare time; they play with the different functions on their calculators; they've memorized the calculation of Pi up to 10 decimal places and they compute 18% of their dinner check divided by the number of heads at the table without missing a step. These are the people that can add, divide and multiply numbers in the 5 second window after a cold call before the silence gets awkward. And the ones who seem like they were born to build a beautiful spreadsheet.Then, there are words people. They look forward to the crossword puzzle in the Sunday Times and get a "word of the day", even when there's no formal need to build vocabulary. They wish they had more time to read and have always had a favorite author. A well-turned sentence excites them far more than the Central Limit Theorem or the balance sheet equation, and they've been known to have admitted at least once, "I wish I could have said that as well as she did". I am a words person. And while my love of language came quite in handy when I studied English and taught literature, it's proved a limited asset in my Fall 1 courses (which have been largely quantitative in nature). You see, the Hall of Mirrors doesn't discriminate between words people and numbers people. There, we're all first-years, and whether we came from Finance, Consulting, Marketing or like me--from left field, we're all expected to analyze the same balance sheets, build the same linear regressions and find the same sample means. As a words person, meeting the academic expectations of the first few weeks has been challenging. While others may complete an Accounting assignment in an hour and get all the right answers, I find myself poring over my textbook with a highlighter for much longer than that (often with mixed results). Still though, I know that here, I am not alone. While there have already been a few nights where I've stayed at school longer than I'd like to admit, many of my peers have done the same thing, helping each other along. I can't say that it's been easy...but I can say that it's been a steep learning curve and a productive few weeks. Many of my professors have likened their disciplines to "new languages," an analogy that I naturally find quite interesting. I studied several languages in my life, and while those experiences only roughly compare to this one, I am beginning to see what they mean. Every day, I am stretched outside my comfort zone and asked to do something that I haven't done before. While I'm not learning the plu-perfect or memorizing lists of new vocabulary words, I am beginning to develop new competencies and acquire new frames for looking at the world around me. With each income statement I create and each spreadsheet I model, things get a little easier, a little more correct and a little less foreign. I came to business school to stretch myself intellectually--and every day, SOM makes me do just that. With every class that goes by and every assignment that I complete, I feel myself transforming--not into a numbers person, per se, but into a stronger person--into the kind of business leader that I hope to become. I'll always prefer the beautiful sentence to the beautiful spreadsheet--it's in my nature. In the meantime though, I'll embrace my new relationship with Excel. After all, I'm not one to turn down learning a new language.