Dogs Chasing Squirrels

A software development blog

VBA for Engineers

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I make oil and gas software and work with engineers a lot. I am one myself, by education. Engineers like to use Excel and if they remember the little programming they took in university, they like to extend what Excel can do by using Visual Basic for Applications, or VBA. VBA is terrible. It’s based on VB6 which is also terrible. Together, VB6, VBA, and VB.Net make up three of the top five most dreaded languages in the most recent Stack Overflow Developer Survey.

The saying goes that when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Engineers’ tool is VBA so you find them using it where it’s not appropriate or useful. Moreover, they’re amateur programmers so to a professional software developer like me, opening up a macro-enabled Excel file is like a carpenter walking up to a woodworking project and seeing a screw that’s been pounded double surrounded by a bunch of circular indentations.

They still ask me for help with their Visual Basic problems and rather than turn them away I’ve finally said that I’m glad to help. After all, the first step in getting help with a VBA problem is admitting you have a VBA problem. To that end, I’ve tried to establish a 12-step program based on the traditional 12-step programs like AA. VBAA, if you will.

AA VBAA
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable. We admitted we were powerless over VBA—that our Excel-based workflow had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Came to believe that a department greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of IT as we understood them.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our Excel-based workflow.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Admitted to IT, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Were entirely ready to have IT remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Humbly asked IT to remove our VBA macros and modules.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with IT, praying only for knowledge of better programming languages for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other Engineers, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I encourage all engineers suffering from a VBA problem to seek a sponsor in their IT’s software development department.

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