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Advent of Code: How Excel made my day – and saved my son’s day, too

03 Dec, 2019

Ok, I have to admit, I am NOT a developer. My coding skills are extremely limited to some features on Scratch and the fact that I can change an H1 in HTML on a website.
So, when my colleagues asked me to support our yearly Advent of Code activities at Xebia, I definitely limited my commitment to the “let’s get you guys out there and make some noise” part. In other words: promote on Social Media that there is a group of around 30 development enthusiasts, setting their alarm clocks at six AM every morning to solve the latest challenge on www.adventofcode.com

The first day of Advent of Code was a Sunday. Of course, I skipped that…I mean, d’uh, Sunday morning, 06.00 am? Ich don’t think so – and again, I talked about my clearly stated limitation of commitment in this, didn’t I?

But to promote our private leaderboard, I had to get access to that board as well, meaning, I had to create a Github account and pretend that I would contribute something..ever…
And then, Monday, December 2nd arrived…still no contribution from my side but more tweets and happy reactions on Slack by my colleagues infected with the Advent of Code virus. FOMO slowly kicking in…I had a home office day and clearly felt left out of the fun happening in this Advent of Code thing.
And then one teammate sent an email to me:” You can still do day 1, do you know? I think you can solve that in Excel…” Ok, that triggered me.
And then, my son came home from school. He was frustrated because an assignment didn’t go well at school, he was not content with the teamwork he delivered, and he basically just wanted to get behind a screen and numb the frustration by gaming.
Too bad for the boy, mommy had another idea: “Hey, do you want to solve a problem together? Maybe that will brighten up your mood?”
So, we got together behind my Advent of Code screen: a scary number of green letters on a dark screen, but I guess, that is part of the experience. My colleague stated that it could be solved in Excel, didn’t he?

And Excel does not contain green letters on dark screens, so we should be fine.
This actually turned out to be fun. We puzzled in Excel, maybe not elegantly but result-oriented, for sure. My son tweaked my ideas, while I was still formatting our solution. And then we entered our first solution. Enter. Correct.
“You have earned one star.” Ok, that was not too hard, let’s give challenge 2 a try.
Even more Excel copying, tweaking and formatting, and then, a second solution. Hit Enter.
“You have earned two stars.” High-five!
As my contribution to Advent of Code should include – but now not be limited to – promotion on Social Media, of course, I immediately took a screenshot of our private leaderboard and a picture and posted it on Twitter
Ok, that felt satisfying, and the reactions on Slack did as well:

But the most beautiful thing as my son then turning to me and saying:” That was fun real teamwork! I did not know I could solve this kind of challenges and I did not know you could, but we did it together and that made me forget about the bad school day.”

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