Back in 2016, I gave a talk to the internal AARP Tableau meeting called Rookie Mistakes and Resources. I just found a paper copy! of the slides for that talk and after looking at them, I think they're still pretty relevant today.
Imagine my excitement, I got my first Tableau project and it's a big deal. I developed a workbook that measures commitments. I collaborated with folks, I got help with the data (since it wasn't readily consumable), I did the work and then it was the big day...I presented to the senior management and the reception was...less than ideal. In fact, it was awful.
"How do you read that?"
"That number doesn't look right!"
"How did you arrive at that?"
"There's too much in here."
I can recall that meeting like it was yesterday and the talk I got afterwards and how it felt like my career was over. I presented to these senior managers and got crushed. These were not warm and fuzzy people. And I felt alone. No one had my back. My reputation (in a very flat organization) took a major hit.
That was my worst Tableau experience ever.
After going through something like that, I was (and am) determined for people to have that same experience. Here are my top rookie mistakes and how people can overcome them.
too much content
One of my biggest mistakes was trying to incorporate everything that management wanted on a dashboard. I didn't push back and tried to please everyone who had a suggestion and as a result, I had too much content and my messaging wasn't clear. Because it was too much, no one could quickly get the message.
How to overcome
Get focused. Ask your audience questions like:
"What are the most important items?"
"What can be supplemental?"
I used the supplemental tactic to create a separator dashboard that just read, "Supplemental Information" and then provided the detail in other worksheets or dashboards that followed.
In the talk, I described that I had different workbooks depending on the audience. For senior managers, they just need the high-level view, whereas with the operational folks, I used another workbook that was more detailed and exploratory.
I knew the general concepts but relied on the person that transformed the data in the operational data store for the details. The interesting part is that I contributed to the data, so I understood it at the point of data entry but when it was put in a view that we connected to, I didn't understand what happened. So when I got questions about the data, I couldn't really answer them, which made me look inept.
How to overcome
Dig in and get detailed. Make the data people (if that's not you) explain what happened because it's not a good look for you or them if you can't explain it. But it's not just for management. Management information systems (which Tableau dashboards are a part of), should be timely, accurate, relevant, and complete. By doing the details of the data you can help ensure that these four points are met.
A powerful tool requires all the things right? Tableau lets me visualize the data as a circle plot, so I'm gonna do it!! I'm gonna zhuzh this dashboard up. Oh... and they need filters, so they can filter for anything they might want to filter for. I think you can see where this is going.
How to overcome
I started thinking like Coco Chanel. I was accessorizing the data so when I thought I was done, I'd take a look at my dashboard and think, is there something that is extra that needs to be removed? Since this talk in 2016, any time I've taught students, I've used this Coco Chanel approach to dashboarding.
"I don't know how to read this chart."
Complexity obscured the message. I was showing off my dataviz and Tableau skills and made it too difficult for my audience to understand what I was actually trying to convey.
How to overcome
There is beauty in simplicity. Know your audience (KYA)...my audience was that tried and true--read a chart in five seconds kind of audience, so a circle plot when a highlight table would have been so much better, created a bad experience (for them and me). I tried educating the audience on this chart...I tried multiple times. That's when you know that it's your chart, not them. Have the courage to change your chart.
I was thinking about the situation I was in all those years ago, I think to myself...how could I have done this differently. This project was in 2011 or 2012, so I didn't really have a network to speak of. There were people who knew how to do Tableau, but they were either unable or unwilling to provide the feedback that I needed to hear. And my supervisor didn't know Tableau or data visualization, so I couldn't go to them for help. The Tableau community isn't any where as big as what it is now, but I wish I had:
And then I thought about what if my chart was actually fine and it was actually them (this wasn't the case, but I imagine someone reading this thinking, but my chart is perfect for the data, what should I do then)? How can I move them to become comfortable with this different chart type. KYA is key. Can I give them a simpler/easy to understand chart now, continue to educate, and then transition them to something more complex?
Regardless of whether it's your chart or them, peer review is essential.
My biggest mistakes of all
Looking back, I think there were two major mistakes (maybe even bigger than the ones listed above).
It's not just me
I polled people on the twitters right before my talk about their rookie mistakes. In addition to the results below, I got a lot of "Can I choose all?!"
Twitter poll from Jun 15, 2016 that asked, @tableau #dataviz peeps: I'm doing a talk on learning from my rookie mistakes. I want to your rookie mistakes. This is followed by a bar chart that indicates that 44% indicated Too much content, 27% unintuitive design, 23% data quality, or 6% other. This poll received 133 votes.
I hope these rookie mistakes resonated with you so that you don't have to go through the pain I went through!
Let me know if this was helpful or what rookie mistake you would add!
It's International Women's Day! This year's theme is #breakthebias, so I'm highlighting a few women who have been role models in the Tableau (& a little bit of the dataviz) community in this way. I don't have enough time to highlight everyone (so if there's a woman that wasn't recognized that you think should be, add a comment, tweet this out with your picks).
Two women who influenced me (& others)
Kelly was an awesome person who made people feel welcome and was smart. The type of smart that could talk to the everyday person while also talking to CEOs and the super technical. Kelly created these personal connections so that you instantly became a fan--whether it was of her as a person, her as a woman founder of a dataviz company, or her designs and the technical chops to get it done.
Kelly is my person that I look up to and who inspired not just me and Bridget Cogley, but whose influence is still felt, years after her passing. There aren't enough words for me to fan-girl over Kelly. Her work is still relevant today. Check out her site, Viz Candy.
Anya A'Hearn (@AnyaAHearn)
Anya is like a cool disruptor to the dataviz scene. I remember meeting her at TCC in DC and thinking, "OMG! Someone has fashion sense and creates these cool data visualizations!" Since I was fun wearing dresses and heels at that conference, I recognized me in her. What I appreciate about Anya, is her ability to be more well-rounded, her ability to prioritize family, and her ability to give "bitchy" feedback that was so useful I still use it today (and for those in the Iron Viz feedback sessions, you'll recognize it as "What's the point? What do you want someone to learn/do after reading your visualization?." I remember when she went from developing these beautiful dashboards to learning even more technical aspects of visualization. And, how she built DataBlick from a one woman show to a team of six, four of whom have been Tableau Zen Masters and one Alteryx Ace.
These women worked to forge a gender equal world through the how they work/ed and how they empower women. There are actually a lot of other women that have influenced others and who are helping forge a gender equal world, and I would love to hear about them.
2021 was something else both globally and personally. As I see others put forward their look-backs and goals, I thought about mine. There was a lot of things that were 💩 about 2021 for me. I started the year full of hope and then I went on a rollercoaster ride (and I'm like deathly afraid of rollercoasters).
In February, I got my first punch to the gut when I was diagnosed with depression. I felt like a failure for not being able to manage my stress. But in typical Em fashion, I developed a three prong approach for overcoming it.
Winter rolled into spring and the ups and downs continued. I developed a guided project course for Coursera on how to create an interactive KPI Dashboard in Tableau and wow, was it a lot of work! But also really cool. I also had the opportunity to write a Data Storytelling course, which was amazing! And, I had to make the decision that I needed to be pivot away from being a full-time entrepreneur in my lead generation quiz business. Entrepreneurship was the cause of stress (it's great in so many ways but when you go from a very healthy six figure salary to a moderate five figure income, with recurring expenses holding constant, it was causing more damage to me than I realized). When that decision was made though, it was like a weight had been lifted.
And, by the grace of God, I took another look at the Red Hat opportunity that I shared out and thought, "Maybe I could do this!". All of those years of contributing to the Tableau community (along with my work experience), paid off. This is where, if this was a movie, a wise woman would come in and say ,"The reward for unpaid work now will be greater in the future." TBH, I don't watch Hallmark or Lifetime movies, so I can only imagine this is what happens. In April, I joined Red Hat as Principal Business Intelligence Engineer/Tableau Enablement Consultant. Going from government to entrepreneurship to high tech is another rollercoaster, but this is one that I'm actually enjoying. I learn something new about myself and the organization every day.
Summertime came and I was invited to be an Advisory Board Member of the Data Leadership Collaborative. This was a dream come true for so many reasons. I LOVE leadership and on mental vision board, I want to a Board member to organizations, so this is a step closer in that direction. Matt and I podcasted one or two times, but it seemed like it was hard to keep going, which was a bummer, but I held out hope.
That scary rollercoaster came back over the summer. The family and I went on a proper vacation which was interesting and fun and relaxing (just what I needed). I was appointed the title of All American Mrs. Maryland Woman and then I had another punch to the gut. After seeing a new gastroenterologist and having a scan and later a biopsy, the Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) I had progressed and there was a little scarring on my liver (the too long, didn't google version of this is that my liver can gone from presumably healthy a few years ago to fatty liver and enlarged to being extremely fatty and the very beginning stages of being cirrhotic (that's what happens when your liver tissue scars). And finally, some of the other health issues I had were finally explained when a doctor diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. And the kicker was, no matter what I tried, I couldn't lose the 45 pounds that I gained in an 18 period (BTW, that's not healthy, nor was intentional). I had all of these opinions on how to eat, what to do, and I just wanted to go inward, cry, and shut it all out. However, even though all of this was (and is) a lot to take, I am EXTREMELY thankful for having answers.
And I have to say, I put all of this out on the Twitters, because I felt like I didn't have to hide this part of who I am and I feel that psychological safety in my workplace that these issues are just a thing (and not something that precludes me from being a valuable employee).
But one of the highlights in spite of all of those health issues, is that I had to the opportunity to an accessibility presentation at the Tableau Conference. This is something that I've been wanting to do since 2016, when my talk didn't get to move forward to the next round. And I had this realization that while I though all of the accessibility advocacy I had been doing was for others--like my daughter or my dad--it was also for me. And that was a major epiphany on how I can reframe how we think about accessibility. This is motivation for the future.
There were some other things that happened towards the end of the year (new medicines for Fibromyalgia and one to help with weight), and I got a Peloton (emily1852 is my user name). All positive things! As I reflect back from a data vis perspective, I vizzed a couple of times, didn't podcast, and for the first time since I began the Tableau Fringe Festival, didn't hold a TFF. All of those things bum me out.
But as I thought goals for the future, the first thing that I came to mind was being healthy and happy. It sounds very Hallmark, but while there were a lot of punches to the gut, feeling like a failure, having amazing moments, the most prominent guiding principal for me, was: Can I do this and be healthy (eliminate/reduce stress, prioritize myself--which was Dr's orders), and does this make me happy? EVERYTHING else takes a back seat, which is hard for me who always likes to be involved and contributing. And while my thoughts sometimes go back to the failures or the not-enoughness (pretty sure that's not a word, but I'm rolling with it because it describes the thought perfectly), I ended the year happier and healthier than I started it.
So when one of my friends in the entrepreneur space was like, what are your business goals for 2022. I was at a loss. And I thought about my data vis goals, and was at a loss. I looked inward and here's what I came up with:
Be happy and healthy. If the work doesn't contribute to that, it's a no.
For my data vis, continue my accessibility advocacy work. Create more accessible vizzes as part of the Back to Viz Basics project.
For data leadership, continue to show up and start sharing more about my leadership experiences. I felt like I wasn't enough, but if I look at my prior work experience combined with now, I am enough.
For personal development, complete the two courses in the MS Analytics Georgia Tech Micromasters program and explore marketing analytics. Lean more into who I am.
Those goals feel good. And if I achieve them, that will be amazing and if not, then I'm still good enough.
When Eric Balash announced that Back 2 Viz Basics was live, I knew immediately I wanted to participate. I'm coming at this community project primarily through an accessibility lens. One thing to note about me is that my current viz vibe is more function over form. Gone, at least for now, are the days of comics and Mother's Day cards in Tableau (if you know me now and didn't know 2014-2015 Em, that's some of what I did back then). Now, I'm all about enabling people to make data experiences accessible to as many people as possible.
The focus for this week was on building your best bar chart using the Thanksgiving data set.
why i did what i did
Starting from top to bottom...
The title. This data set was from 2016, so I wanted to highlight that. And have the bar chart answer the question what people were putting on their tables.
The text/subtitle. I added this concessionary sentence to answer the question to help aid people in reading the visualization. This is also great for the TL;DR (too long; didn't read) folks who want/need the information and they need it now.
Italicized text. I added this in because I remember from the full audit of my Disinformation Viz that Frank Elevasky performed that I didn't have instructions to tell someone how to interact with the viz. So, I added simple instructions here.
Text size/typeface. I believe all of the text size is 12pt or larger. There's a recommendation that the text size should be 12 pt or larger, but honestly, it's hard for me to always put this in practice since text can be scaled up easily without losing its resolution, which is a requirement of WCAG). I chose Verdana because it's a web-safe font with good spacing and no mirroring or imposter letters.
The bar chart. I kept this simple, partially for time, and because simplicity is a great tool for accessibility. I colored the bar chart as the same color of roasted turkey skin (I looked up the color code for roasted turkey skin and used that). That's my bit of flair 🥳. I labeled the bars to help people easily read the length. I was tempted to increase the size or make this more like a silky smooth chart where the data flows (I forget which mark type lets me do that, maybe area??), but I made sure to have enough spacing between the bars so that the data was visually distinct from one item to another. I removed the X-axis because I thought it was unnecessary because of the labels. I think I read something that axes should not be removed, but I need to fully understand the rationale for that one before I implement it (stay tuned).
Tooltips. I am a fan of narrative style tool tips (which is my default when I create them), because I'm communicating with a human. I wouldn't shout: Turkey! 89%! so I write a sentence and add the data in there. I was also careful to ensure that the tooltip didn't completely cover the chart.
Link to the data. Back in 2015 (I think), Jock Mackinley talked about data sushi. The data looks great on the outside, but we can see what's in the sushi. The link to the data is the rice, cucumber, and all the yummy stuff. Turns out, it's not just great advice for being able to instill trust or credibility, it's also helpful for those who need to read the underlying data in their own way (even with a screen reader).
The background and border. This is my flair. I didn't want a white background, so I looked to a very light shade. I made sure that there was sufficient contrast between the data color and the background and there was. I added a border because to me, it finishes it off. The border is in the same color as the bars. It doesn't add anything and in my opinion, it's not distracting.
And that's the viz!
I didn't want to spend a lot of time on auditing my viz. That's not because I didn't care, but because I had a ton of stuff to do and I figured, that's most people's day. I took Chartability and used the Chartability workbook (found lower on the page). Instead of using the POUR-CAF approach, I kept this quick audit to POUR. I didn't have a ton of time and I knew that the POUR-Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust-are common to accessibility standards that currently exist. The CAF-Comprising, Assistive, and Flexible were added as an extension of the Robust concept and are based on inclusive design principles. I plan to go back and do all of the seven principles. My other motivation for only self-auditing based on POUR is that it helps get you started (if you're not already doing self-assessments).
The overall result of my abbreviated self-assessment? My viz is mostly accessible. ⭐️
Note: the self-assessment and accompanying images to demonstrate accessibility will be added shortly (read: they're on my work computer and I need to get the document and images when I get back to the office).
All in all, I'm happy I went through process starting with the teaser data, so that I can set the stage for future weeks' work.
When I became an entrepreneur, I realized the importance of email marketing to nurture community and then convert them to clients. There is a huge opportunity here marketing tech help COEs nurtures upskill their community to help them create engaging and informative dashboards. This article will address the what, why, and how of using elements of a martech stack in your COE practice.
But first, what am I talking about when I refer to martech? It's marketing technology like email marketing, quizzes, client relationship management software. So why do you need this martech stack?
Have you ever thought of how your wish you had more data on your users to better meet their needs?
Are you supporting soooo many users with a lean team and it's tough to manage all the touchpoints?
You have allllll the ideas of what you want to do and there's just not enough time between
taking care of your community and your other initiatives?
Or perhaps your new users don't know how to get started and what some good resources are.
Marketing technology allows you to better understand your community to serve them while allowing you to work on other priorities. Before moving on to the thee the how of martech, I want to address a very real concern; data privacy, which some people will say is a reason why they cannot use martech.
Specifically, this post will briefly cover GDPR, the (European) General Data Protection Regulation. The spirit and intent of GDPR is to ensure protection and privacy of people's data. As a result, companies took several measures to ensure compliance. In May 2018 when GDPR went into effect, marketing tech companies included GDPR as a consideration when people provide their email address to opt-in to email lists. Additionally, if your company needs to comply with GDPR, they likely have robust data and privacy policies that provide direction and coverage for your COE's activities. GDPR also affords individuals the ability to have their personal records deleted, which you can do. In reviewing the regulations, personal data is defined as any information related to an identified information, for example, an account number or email. Basically, personal data is like personally identifiable information (PII), meaning that used alone or combination with other relevant data, information used to identify a person. What's the bottom line when it comes to PII and GDPR? Your company must comply, but don't think of it as a barrier.
Now's a great time for a legal disclaimer. Don't consider this information legal advice, it's just the interpretation and understanding of a former bank examiner who had to supervise banks at the beginning of GDPR implementation.
The second reason people may say why they can't implement marketing technologies; their community doesn't want their data collected.
This reason is just begging for data collection and analysis. Is that ACTUALLY a reason, or is that just a few people who don't want their data collected? Survey your people to see where they stand and if it is an issue, just share that they'll receive general, not personalized content that would be relevant to them.
Now that we've covered why you might use marketing technologies, what they are, and covered data privacy concerns, let's discuss who can use marketing technologies.
Do you need to have a multi-million dollar company to use martech?
No. I use it with my own company that has revenue of less than $100k. I'll cover costs in this post to also provide you some idea of how a company of any size can use these technologies to their benefit. With as little as $100, you can make a big impact.
A Simple Stack
There are two components to a simple stack; email capture and email marketing. Email capture can be done in a variety of ways:
1. A license request.
2. A sign up form. Got a google form? You can use this to capture emails.
3. A quiz. This is my favorite by far.
For a license request and a sign up form, make sure the opt-in is part of the form so that your users consent to receiving updates and tips from your COE on a [insert timeframe here] basis. They should be actively checking a box or entering their name and email, the two most important pieces of information.
IKYK that quizzes are an amazing tool for businesses. The reason why is that they help the quiz taker learn more about themselves and they help the business learn more about the quiz taker. Quizzes can also capture emails. Make no mistake, it doesn't have to be a boring quiz. Think of the Buzzfeed style quiz that people love. You can adapt that for your use. Don't worry, this isn't about finding out which Disney princess you are (one of the most popular quizzes of all time). You can create a quiz that will help you assess skill level, for example. Tableau has done this with their learnings paths and the personalized results (recommended paths) are a great example of how the quiz can be used.
The second part of the stack is arguably the most powerful. Email marketing. Only it's not email marketing like businesses use to sell us their goods, we're using it to provide value and "sell" people into the appropriate courses and programs we have developed. Email marketing is performed via an email service provider (ESP), like Mail Chimp, Mailerlite, Salesforce, ConvertKit, etc.
If you use email groups like 'User Group Members' or 'Viz Creators' you might be wondering, "Why can't I just use my groups?" An ESP gives you more flexibility and more power than an email group ever could. With an ESP, you can set up an onboarding sequence when someone gets their license so that you can set your community up for success. And if you have more information about them (say, from a quiz), you can create tags that can be applied to each person.
So, if you just need to send your creators who have advanced skills an email? No problem!
Want to send beginners a series to email to help them up level? No problem!
Want to send user group members who are interested in speaking an email? You guessed it, no problem!
As you can see from these examples, you wouldn't create or request all of these groups in outlook/gmail or through your IT. With an ESP, you can deliver more relevant and engaging content that supports your users with what they need and are interested in.
At this point, you might be thinking, "this sounds great, but how much does it costs? Can I ACTUALLY get it approved for use? And, will this actually make me more effective or efficient?" The answers are: it doesn't have to cost a lot, you might have to build a case (but hopefully this post will help with that), and yes.
Email service providers range in costs from bare-bones free versions like Mail Chimp if your list is small. I actually prefer and recommend Mailerlite because it's cost effective at approximately $120 for a list of up to 1,000 subscribers. There are more expensive ESPs out there and your company may already be using one that you can create a sub-account for. For a quiz, I recommend using a quiz platform, my favorite (and in full transparency, one that I'm a strategic partner with), Interact is a great tool and costs approximately $225/year. The total monetary costs per year for this simple stack starts at $345 per year. Totally reasonable!
Will these tools make you more efficient and effective? When used correctly, yes. Imagine all the data you can collect without having to a lot of unnecessary interviews (save those interviews for when they're really needed). The cost of confusion and multi-tasking can be high. You don't want your users to be confused on their Dataviz journey, so providing them the resources they needed in a scheduled, automated means, is helpful for them and you...so that you can help users with real-time problems or work on priorities without having to answer emails around how people can get started.
Depending on your organization, you may need to build a business case for these tools. That's a great opportunity to flesh out your strategy to ensure it's right for you, but hopefully all of the information in this introductory article can help you build a business case.
I'll plan to delve into each of these tools in future posts, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
PS: This post contains affiliated link. It's no additional cost to you and if you want a comparison of different tools, I'm happy to help.
I was teaching an intermediate type of Tableau class recently and one participant seemed to be struggling. To be fair, she should have been in. an intro class, but she enrolled in this one, so there we were. Since I recently shared some of these tips with the student, I thought I would share them here, partially as a reminder for me and if you (or your students need it, then here you go).
Even though I think Tableau is a great tool, it can be overwhelming, especially when you're new. Here are a few tips I use and share with new users.
2. Look to see what data elements are in the question or the statement for what you're trying to analyze/visualize. As an example: What's the trend in sales over time? In an intro class, I normally break it down this way: What's the trend in sales over time? Bolding means it's a data item. The italicized words are those that I need to look at or do something with. I'm going to need a trend line and I'm going to need to find a date based data element (and I use over time as a cue to first think of continuous vs. compare for discrete). So, if I were looking at Superstore Sales data set for Tableau, I know that I'll need sales and order date.
3. When it's something more than a basic chart, try to see if there's a base visualization that you can create or that it looks like. I recently shared with someone how to create a quadrant chart. At the base, it's a scatterplot and then you add on reference lines. That doesn't sound so daunting when you think of it that way.
4. Are you trying to reverse engineer something? Be super observant. Where are the pills? What color are they? Notice those little details to help you re-create the visualization for yourself.
5. Google it. The Tableau community is so super knowledgable. Your question may have already been thought of and addressed, so see what the community says.
6. Find your person/people. I remember when I first started (and even now, sometimes), I was so frustrated and I would message Matt Francis... why can't I get this?!? Why can't it be easier? I'm a pretty smart person but I feel so dumb. Help!! And Matt would help, without judgement. <--that's huge.
7. Remind yourself: You are smart, you've got this! We all have different zones of competence. So while someone may be amazing at calculations, they could also be afraid of the blank canvas. Give yourself grace to learn. Sometimes you come across a Tableau unicorn and that's amazing. But, it's more likely that we each have a specific thing that we love and can jam out on. And even if you're still like: But Em, I am struggling with the whole thing, I bet you have a zone of competence outside of Tableau that's super amazing (and you can't forget about that).
And finally, different aspects of the tool click at different times. I think it's easy to hear stories about what's possible like the people who become a rockstar in a weekend. That's amazing and I will celebrate them. But I also know that person is an outlier. A lot of times, it takes more than two days to master the tool. So if you're not grasping a concept immediately, that's ok. Calculations for me, are one of those things that I still have trouble with. But have I told you about how much I love swapping parameters (I might have even scared the class a little bit with my super excitement over them. Though seriously, aren they so cool? Your user can pick their dimension and measure!) 😍 It's another reason why building a network is so important, whether that's at work or in the broader Tableau community. When someone needs help with calculations, they can go to someone else. When they need help with thinking like a CEO, teaching (or based on my excitement level, swapping parameters), they can come to me.
I hope these tips have been helpful! Let me know your favorite tip to prevent Tableau overwhelm below!
I've typed, deleted, and started a few times now, so now I'm just typing and see what comes out. I wanted to share my thoughts on the Tableau Conference-ish. First, the events team did an amazing job with creating this virtual event. It set the standard to create as much of a TC experience as possible--and in pretty short order.
The watch parties hosted by Kevin Flerlage were a great way to facilitate connection, which is hard to replace when going from in person to virtual. It wasn't the same by any means, but it was enough to still feel that connection.
There were two things that really bummed me out with this conference being virtual;
1. Not podcasting with my podcasting partner, Matt Francis.
2. Not seeing my friends and going to lunch and catching up, or creating new opportunities.
For me, it was tough to have the content broadcast in different regions (although I totally get it), because it's a lot to ask my UK friends to stay up to watch or stay connected (though some did it! It also meant that I couldn't podcast with Matt after conference each day.
The biggest thing that stood out for me is a feeling. I always share the story about how in 2013, I felt this spark and started becoming an active member of the Tableau community (I was a featured author, blogged monthly, asked Andy Kriebel why he didn't use Gas Buddy's brand colors for his viz, and so much more).
That contribution has changed over the years. Instead of blogging it switched to podcasting, founding and hosting Tableau Fringe Festivals, and this year, #datafamcommunityjams.
But this year, I felt different. In addition to being able to relax at home, I also felt different because of a couple of things...
I had the opportunity to have a fireside chat with Francois Ajenstat and the podcast's community awards, The Vizzies, were part of the main schedule in the US. It was so amazing to see the reactions of people who won!
I was invited to participate in an accessibility working group for data visualization. This was a huge deal for me, because I felt more like a connector and a platform provider, than a resource, and as a result, I approached conference differently.
I'm not sure whether it was me being able to relax and watch some sessions, a great Braindate on accessibility, or seeing that what I'm really good at is now a role that I could actually rock at, or being able to host a little Data Night In party with world renowned DJ Skemaddox, but I felt this spark to show up a little more (and not worry about the amazing work and all the projects that people put out what seems like 24 hours a day when I can't and won't do that). That feeling is amazing.
And that is a great way to celebrate my 10th US Tableau Conference. 🥳
"I'm not good enough."
Those old feelings started to creep back into my head after not being selected for the Tableau Equity Taskforce, even though I have made significant progress on my feelings of inadequacy. My mind went to what I do to promote diversity and that I came up with a similar concept called the Community Council a couple of years ago. I should be there!
And then I breathed and got curious. Here's what the internal monologue was like.
What if not being selected is actually a blessing?
I'm at a place today where I can have that dialogue pretty quickly. It doesn't mean that I'm not disappointed, it just means that I can bounce back quicker than what I used to.
If I compare my reaction now to that of when I wasn't selected for Zen Master, it's night and day.
A long time ago (maybe 5 or 6 years ago), Andy Cotgreave was in charge of the Zen Master program for Tableau and he called me to tell me that I was on the cusp; that if I kept doing what I was doing (I was blogging monthly, vizzing, and we had started the podcast that year), that I would have a good chance at being selected as a Zen Master.
I wanted to be a Zen Master! I wanted the recognition for all of the ways that I supported the community. The Ambassador program hadn't been developed yet, so it was Zen or nothing. So when the announcement came and I wasn't selected...I felt sick. I kept doing what I was doing like Andy said. In 2015, I created the Tableau Fringe Festival, even when Tableau was not initially supportive of it. I freaking created a conference and that wasn't enough?!?!?!?!?!? (Never mind the fact that I didn't found TFF to be a Zen, I founded it because Paul Banoub and people like Paul weren't selected to speak at TCC). And it seemed like all my friends were Zens and I was like Zen Jr...a reminder that wasn't good enough. I was bitter. I did the things. Why was this happening to me????
It took me awhile to get over it.
And then I adopted a different mindset, so when I wasn't selected the following year, I was less bothered.
And now, it's not even on my radar.
Being an Ambassador, that's on my radar. When it came time for this year's nominations and selection, I was really nervous. I don't viz that much. Am I doing enough?
I was selected and am SUPER thankful for it. I also know there's a day when Tableau will be like, "You've had a good run." I was mentally preparing for that this year. Part of that mental preparation was me taking inventory of my priorities.
I had competing priorities in 2019 and so far this year...between getting my quiz business off the ground, and being present as a mom and trying to deal with the IEP/504 process since Katie was medically diagnosed with Dyslexia and Inattentive ADHD, karate, and trying to be a better wife, and trying to contribute to the community, I had to keep a lot of plates spinning. And if one plate stopped (not doing "enough" for the community), then I acknowledged that it's because of my prioritization (or their selection criteria shifted) and I'm okay with that.
Here's what I know: My worth and my adequacy is defined by me, not anyone who is external. Do I love the recognition? Yes. It's one of my love languages.
Why am I sharing this? Because it's okay to be bummed that you (or I) didn't get selected. You (and I) are amazing and the Universe has something planned for us.
And because I need this reminder sometimes too,
Do what you love and value.
And also, because I'm old and love Stuart Smalley skit from SNL, I'll leave you with Stuart Smalley, who also pops into my head from time to time.
PS: Use my internal monologue if it helps you.
PPS: I know it's more than diversity, but I just used that terminology in this post.
I've been teaching Tableau a lot and recently I started using Tableau Explorer to do the training since that's what the client is using. First off, what a great way to give some power to the people. I love this solution! In Explorer, you get most of what most people need. This post is part one of two parts; information you should have readily available for Explorers when training (based on my experience). The next post is functionality that feels like it's missing to me.
Tableau has put together a nice bit of information on explaining the license types and what may be best for your organization. You can find it here. Once you've made that decision, then it's time to train your users and 99% of the time, you'll need a vendor to do that. Being a contractor that provides training, I want to share a few questions I've received so that it helps your organization when it comes time to rollout the product and training.
"We're going this because..."
Share background information. Yes, you may have already said it before, but people are busy, so please say it again. In my experience as a Reporting and Analytics Team Lead where we were championing Tableau, some people won't be happy about the transition or maybe they just have questions about their role/license. Communicating out the why and what each person's value is, is really important.
"After this training, here's how we will support you."
Soooo many questions arise as people start to use Tableau, from technical tips to data management/governance. My advice is to spend a little time on the front-end to prepare people to be successful with the tool after training.
Where can people go to with questions after the training? We've all been there, right? You learn something in a tool and it's like "I've got this!!" only to use it in real time, and wonder "How did we do that in class?" Making sure that people know where a communication portal/hub/whatever-you-call-it is and what resources are available there is SUPER helpful. Even FAQs like, "If you used to connect directly to data sources and now have an Explorer license, here's the process to get access to your data."
Who can people go to after training? There will be a Tableau champion/evangelist emerge. One way to help identify them is through having internal user group meetings/meet ups. Sometimes people think of Tableau as just another piece of software, like Excel and you probably don't have meetups about Excel. But Tableau isn't Excel and there is a learning curve associated with it. To help identify these champions or leaders, having a space for people to talk Tableau is super helpful! Here's a link to Tableau's 'Internal User Group Best Practices' information that can help you set up an internal user group. Support people when they want to talk Tableau. It will help your analysts product better analytics.
What do people do after training? Practice and get involved with the local/online Tableau and data visualization community. Practice will help you/your people get better. Whether it's a social project like Workout Wednesday or just a data set you find online. It's also really helpful to have people get involved with the Tableau community. It's more than just tweets. Being involved looks differently for everyone (it might be the Community Forums, twitter, Tableau User Groups, or something else. What I do know is that building out your Tableau network is helpful when you need additional support and is a great way to give back to others on their Tableau journey.
I love training and I really hope that everyone falls in love with how impactful data visualization and Tableau can be. But above all else, I want people to feel comfortably uncomfortable and conversant in their dataviz/Tableau journey.
If you haven't read or heard, Tableau and Salesforce have cancelled their in-person events. You can read about it on their FAQ page here.
I know that the Tableau fanatics, the active members of the community are super disappointed. I think the general sentiment I've heard is, "It sucks, but I guess it's the best decision." And while we may put on a cheery face in public, I know that behind the scenes, some people are having a difficult time dealing with this.
You may have thought (or, if we're being honest, heard from a partner or friend),
"It's just a work event, what's the issue?
For those who want it to be more than an education, it is. Tableau Conference is a place where you can learn an amazing amount of information, you really can't get anywhere else, it's a place to connect and create community. I have met my best friend through the conference as well as people who are just so super supportive and whom I'm proud to call friends. And I won't be seeing them. In the case of my best friend, this is the first time in eight years, we won't be at conference to meet up, give each other a big hug, and hang out. Or seeing my friends from Australia. And I'm just one upon thousands who feel the same. And beyond the positive, BFF vibes, there are some people who look forward to this conference because they can come and be accepted for who they are and that's something that they don't get at work or at home. They feel seen. From what I've learned through my research for work, is that people have the need to be and to belong. Tableau Conference definitely helps us meet that need to belong.
So when something like that it taken away from us, what do we do?
I am seriously going to miss seeing the Tableau community members that I've seen for nine years (my first conference experience was at the Las Vegas Wynn hotel in 2011 when I thought it was big at ~1600 people in attendance).
I know that Tableau will host an amazing virtual event. We will get the conference buzz (but with better coffee). I for one, am looking forward to seeing my friends from all over the world in 2021.
I'm not a mental health professional, so I don't feel comfortable doling out advice, especially if people feel a loss so deep. That's why I asked Dr. Jen Bauer to share some ways that we can cope with this change.
In this current state of uncertainty, with so many losses occurring, we are likely to feel a sense of grief. Many people are finding that they are experiencing ambiguous loss without closure, such as major events being postponed until further notice or even a loved one without the chance to attend a funeral. Losses are occurring on all levels both big and small.
You may even find yourself falling into the various stages of grief including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Contrary to popular belief, grief is not linear and not everyone experiences the different stages of grief.
We have the choice in this situation to continue to be emotional about the loss or to allow some grieving and then find hope for the future. Having hope for the future and practicing mindfulness can be helpful for our mindset and are necessary to pull us out of a dark place. Our thoughts actually have the ability to put us into the fight-flight-freeze mode if we let them. Don’t let them.
Begin by practicing mindful moments throughout the day. Mindfulness is being in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Notice thoughts and let them go as if they are on a conveyor belt. Don’t hold onto them.
We live in an age where technology is at our fingertips which includes the ability to connect and socialize with others. It’s time to get creative. Connect on a videocall with groups of people you would have enjoyed being around and that fill you up. Start to think about the next opportunity you’ll have, perhaps how next year might be so much better! You can build on a positive mindset and have hope.
Some amazing resources include the apps Headspace, Calm, and Mindshift. Deepak Chopra has an excellent 21-day guided meditation with Oprah titled Hope In Uncertain Times. He also provides a variety of articles that discuss ways to cope during this time. Reach out to others to connect, you may be safe at home but you’re not alone!
If you want to chat about it, please reach out to me or another trusted person in your circle. And should the need arise, where friendly conversations aren't cutting it, please reach out to a mental health professional.
My sincere thanks to Jennifer Bauer, Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist, whom contributed to this post. Should you have questions or need to reach out to her, you can do so by emailing her here.
Be well, friends.
Helping people and organizations begin their data visualization and Tableau journey. I'm a fan of training, Tableau, data viz, my kids, cupcakes, and karate.