Online, you can take tennis lessons from Serena Williams and learn how to extract your own wisdom teeth. Now you can also discover how to “latch” (or, combine) Excel spreadsheet cells while listening to rap music, thanks to 28-year-old Kat Norton. Miss Excel, as people on the Internet call her, makes charming TikToks that teach her more than 840,000 followers how to use Microsoft’s spreadsheet program.
Norton first honed her spreadsheet skills while completing an M.B.A., at New York’s Binghamton University, in 2016. “All of my classes were in Excel, and that is where I really start[ed] to fall in love with the program,” says Norton of the software, which most consider a mundane tool for making calculations and graphs.
But it was at her first job, as a business consultant for Protiviti, a global consulting firm, that Norton truly realized the potential popularity of spreadsheet lessons. “I became the Excel subject-matter expert in the office,” she says. “People kept bringing me onto their teams to help them with Excel issues, and I started keeping track of what problems people had.”
Shortly after, she expanded her informal troubleshooting sessions into an Excel training course for her colleagues. Within “four years I was flying around the U.S. hosting these Excel training workshops for all the different offices,” she says.
The success of these tutorials inspired Norton to put more irreverent, breezier versions of them online. “I had this vision, the Excel screen over my head to that Drake song ‘Toosie Slide,’” she says. Even though Norton didn’t have a clue how to film or edit a video, she thought to herself, “You know what? I’m just going to figure it out.”
Initially, she kept quiet about the work. “I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it besides my mom [and partner],” says Norton. In June 2020, “my boyfriend started putting out the TikTok videos, and by the fourth video, I had one blow up.”
Over a few days, that video—in which she explains a shortcut for searching values on Excel while she dances to DMX—garnered more than three million views. “By the sixth video, the C.E.O. of an I.T. company had reached out, asking me to create training videos for him and for his company.”
Norton is still a one-woman production team: she creates all of her own graphics, writes all the content, and edits the final product. (Though she does have a part-time virtual assistant.) As a Microsoft M.V.P. honoree (a title given to the “most valuable professional”), she meets with the Microsoft engineering team every month. “I learn about the new products. I give them feedback.”
Her videos don’t just have large followings—millennials, university professors, and even military officers are fans—but are also extremely lucrative. The price of her courses now ranges from $297 to $997, and these days she is raking in between $250,000 and $300,000 a month. Her record is making $105,000 in just 24 hours.
Even so, she continues to post free lessons on TikTok. “I get messages every single day of people being like, ‘You changed my life,’” says Norton. “Things like, ‘I save hours every week,’ ‘I impress my boss,’ ‘I got a raise.’ It is so powerful to be able to virtually help people in their actual day-to-day. And that’s really why I’m in this work.”
Bridget Arsenault is the London Editor for AIR MAIL