Alan Zhao


I'm an accidental programmer who picked up technical skills to escape tedious repetitive work. My first programming experience was in high school, but I didn't see much point in it beyond passing the AP test. In college I had some exposure to R and Matlab, but the motivation to truly pick up programming didn't come until my first job at an education nonprofit.

Profession headshot

Tasked with manually formatting hundreds of Excel reports, I started by learning Excel VBA to automate report formatting. Since then, I've moved on to some more modern tools like Python, Tableau, and SQL, but with the same purpose: automating the manual stuff. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of data and the social sector.

This blog is aimed to help fill that gap both by showing examples of my own work and sharing insights and tips for others hoping to pick up some technical skills. That and any other random thoughts and interests.

I studied Economics at Swarthmore College and am currently pursuing an MBA at the Yale School of Management. My email is

About to make the tackle, Yale Alumni Game 2017

In my free time, I enjoy playing rugby. It's the only thing that gets me as worked up as errors I can't debug. I also enjoy a good blitz game of chess, though my skill level is humbling.