Student perspective: How college student Kara Page prepares for the working world with Office

Blog originally posted on the Office 365 blog, December 2013,

We often hear from businesses that rely on Microsoft Office to get work done, but today we’re posting a conversation we recently had with Kara Page, a college senior majoring in biochemistry. Kara has been using Office since she was 13 years old and can’t imagine life without tools like Word, OneNote, PowerPoint and Excel helping her through college.

Q: You’ve been using Office for a long time. Can you share how you’re using Office to finish your biochemistry degree?

Kara: I spend a crazy amount of time in the lab and creating reports on research projects. Right now, I’m working on my thesis. One of my favourite professors shared a bunch of historical research with me, but it was all printed on paper in this massive notebook. I don’t want to lug around this huge research notebook–it weighs a ton–so I’m working on compiling everything into OneNote. That way I can access the research I need for my thesis much easier on my computer, and once I graduate, I can hand off my research digitally so someone else can pick up where I left off.

I also make a ton of PowerPoint presentations and data tables in Excel. Just recently I had to write two papers and do two 30-minute presentations for one of my biochemistry classes. It was a lot of work, but after one of my presentations on a neuroscience topic I’m researching, the other people in my class told me they thought my presentation looked so good and so professional. I took all the credit for it, but really it was the templates I used in PowerPoint–I just clicked the buttons.

Q: I’ve also heard you’re a real whiz with Excel. Can you share a little about how you use some advanced functioning for your reports?

Kara: I was attending a prep school in Miami when I started using Excel. I had a great teacher who started teaching us 13-year-olds how to use all these functions in Excel. That completely changed my life. I rely on Excel for a lot to this day, and I can see myself using it once I start my career.

Just the other weekend, I spent six hours on a lab report while everyone else spent all weekend on theirs. I created some graphs that would shift and change as I added my research, and my classmates were blown away at how easy it was. In Excel, you can make your data look really clean and change the styles. People are amazed at how fast it is and how little time it takes me to finish my reports.

I also don’t keep Excel a secret–when people ask me how I did that, I show them exactly how to create tables and graphs. Those advanced functions in Excel can take a while to learn, but if you learn how to use Excel in college, you’ll be set for life.


Q: Are there other ways you’ve found Office useful in completing your degree?

Kara: Office saves me regularly. I know I can work on a file and the formatting won’t get screwy, or I can have a teacher’s aide review my reports and track their changes so I can see where they made suggestions or updates. And I think that the new Student Advantage benefit will help save the day for a lot more students, too. Using Office is life changing for students–we can create better reports and better presentations if we’re given the right tools. It’s like a NASCAR driver using a race car instead of a minivan – you can do your best work when you have the right tools.

Q: That’s a great analogy. What about using Microsoft Office to collaborate?

Kara: I love Lync. It might sound goofy, but I love the little emoticons of the cats and dogs and sheep. I’m a teacher’s aide for a class that I teach to students in Ireland and Egypt, so I have a regular schedule of when I’m on Lync and available to talk to them and answer their questions. It feels really professional, and that way I don’t have them texting me on my personal phone or trying to talk to me outside of my office hours.

I also use Skype a lot. My dad lives in Singapore and travels a lot, so it can be hard to get in touch with him. But we get to see each other a lot using Skype. My little brother, who is turning 4 years old, even knows how to use Skype. It’s so cute, and he’s already better with technology than I am!

Q: What do you want to do after you graduate? Do you feel like you’re learning the skills you need for your career?

Kara: I definitely think knowing how to use Office and studying hard has prepared me for the “real world.” Last summer I had an internship at a research lab for the U.S. Army and it seemed so mysterious going into it, but then I realized all they work they do there is just Excel, and I know how to use that. Everyone I worked with during that internship used Office all the time, so it was great to know my skills will transfer to the working world easily.

After I graduate, I want to work for a health research organization like Genzyme where people are learning about rare diseases, or continue a family legacy in public health started by my grandfather. I want to get other people as excited about this field as I am, and I want to share my love for technology. Scientists aren’t necessarily known for producing aesthetically pleasing work, but it’s so easy to do using Office.

Check out the original blog post here, and watch Kara’s Video.

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