How did you hear about the ModelOff competition? What made you want to get involved?
Back in 2013 I saw a post about Modeloff in a LinkedIn group. I like different kinds of competitions and Excel modeling was a part of my work. I liked Modeloff’s concept and signed up.
I also involved a colleague of mine who is an exceptionally bright person and who is also very good in Excel. In Round 1 2013 he performed exceptionally well, beating me by a wide margin. The challenge was accepted and I took revenge in Round 2. This sort of a friendly competition lasts since that time even despite him moving to another country.
Two years later the World Rankings were first published. After finding myself on the Top 30 position I decided to give Modeloff a more serious effort and spend more time for preparation this year. That was the key for getting into the Finals.
Tell us a bit about your experiences in Round 1 and 2. Did you think you would make it to the World Finals?
Round 2 was scheduled to start at 11pm my local time. There were 2 main concerns – 1. How to get inside an empty office building (it isn’t wise to compete from home when you have an 8-month old son ) and 2.How not to get asleep halfway through the round.
During the round the things went smoothly for me. I came into CS4 having a solid reserve of time, but I have probably chosen not the best structure of the model. It was easy to review for errors but a bit longer to construct. Calculations of depreciation by the 4th method were finished just seconds after the bell.
So, I had mixed feelings. I knew that I was very close to the finals. However, after learning that 6 people have scored the maximum, my inner feeling went down, even despite a strong start at Round 1. What a nice surprise it was to get the invitation to the finals!
How did you get so good at Excel? Tell us a bit about your modelling training.
The long story:
I was born in a country that has re-appeared on the map and transformed from socialism to capitalism just some 10 years before I got my degree. The economy was growing much faster than the education system. There was quite a deficit of finance specialists with Western education at that time. So, I was lucky to get a financial analyst’s position in a large retail company right after the graduation. 3 months later this company merged with its key competitor.
What would happen to me in a well-established multinational company in such a case? As a junior analyst I would have been the first candidate for “personnel optimization”. What happened to me in a country that was just starting its development? I’ve got offered a CFO position! Really! At 21 years of age.
There was the other side to this. I haven’t inherited any financial models from the previous guy as there was no previous guy before me. So, basically, I had a lot of data in Excel format and needed somehow to put it together. I got some basic training in financial modelling back at SSE Riga. I also had seen some sophisticated financial models during my internship at Procter & Gamble.
Then I started to use Excel extensively myself. Shop profitability results, budget plans and performance reports, ROMI calculations became my daily routine. The tasks were very different and required different approaches. And, of course, they all came under time pressure. Excel help section became one of my favorite readings at that time, as quite often after reading it again and again I got some new ideas on financial modelling. I also got very good speed at that time.
Colleagues really liked the approach and the way the calculations were performed. Once our sales director came to my office with a business partner and after a short introduction asked me to show the guest how I make calculations in Excel. “What calculations?” – “Any calculations. I just want to show how fast one can work in Excel.”
The short story: F1
Tell us a bit about your life away from work.
I have a supporting family – my wife Lena and 2 children, Anna (5) and Alexey (8 months). There is little life during the workweek, but as for the holidays – quite often we spend them travelling around to some nice and interesting places.
Favorite Excel Shortcut(s):
Alt-e-i-s followed by Alt-t. This shortcut fills series with a trend. I learned this shortcut from Excel 2003 and still use it. Actually, I have hard times finding this command on the ribbon.
What do you hope comes out of being a ModelOff Finalist?
I prefer to keep my expectations low, but definitely I expect to meet a lot of new interesting people during the finals. You never know what might come out of such an experience.