Role of Tableau #Datafam in my life — 2021
Now that we are in the year 2022, I had a chance to reminisce and assess what the year gone by brought to me. No, this is not my life story of the year gone by, but my story on how #Datafam helped me both professionally and personally, and how the community can help you succeed in inopportune times.
My year started with learning Python. As many of you are aware, Python is considered one of the essential requirements for data analysis. But I quickly realized that Tableau — which I had formally studied in 2020 for two months — interests me more. So, I gradually started to delve more in it. Tableau fascinates me — and the more I try to figure it out, the more I realize that there is much that I’m not aware of.
Then, towards the end of May, I discovered this wonderful, welcoming, creative, appreciative, encouraging, and non-judgmental community on Twitter. Yes, the string of adjectives is long, but it is still insufficient to describe the goodliness of this community.
So, before we delve into how this community has helped me grow, please do know that your understanding or experiences can be similar or quite different but the end will be the same i.e. growth.
1. Plethora of Challenges
There are many professionals who excel in Tableau, and few are able to lend their time and expertise in coming up with challenges and their solutions so that newbies or intermediate developers can learn and grow. They are doing it out of their love for the craft, and earn only in kind. These challenges are there so that;
a. People like you and me can practice and learn from each other’s works. This is epitomized by #MakeoverMonday (now on indefinite hiatus). This weekly challenge and Andy Kriebel’s YouTube weekly videos have taught me many ways of identifying the types of visuals (graphs/charts) the data warrants and how-to best layout the dashboards.
b. Religiously participating in challenges like #MakeoverMonday gradually builds up the correct mindset to perceive and visualize data, and what ‘more’ can one do with data. I consider Tableau a confluence of art and science, and coming from a family where science is appreciated over art, I found myself wanting on the latter. But studying the works of other participants broadened my perception on the different ways people view and express data, and is helping me bridge my artistic shortcomings.
c. As one becomes familiar with Tableau through the challenges, you start creating your own projects. You start thinking of how to collect data, clean it, and come up with visuals or projects to showcase your craft. I personally managed to do 18 self-created projects last year. And with every project I learnt more and more on both technical and visual aspects of Tableau, and the type of graphs/charts better suited for the data. Bit by bit my Tableau Public portfolio started taking shape, which led my current employer to offer me a job. A big win, considering that I had been out of the corporate world for 14-years due to personal reasons and was expecting a more difficult comeback.
d. Participating in challenges like #WorkoutWednesday helps build on technical Tableau skills, which I believe are very helpful in corporate positions. It exercises the reasoning side of your brain like never before. I have also noticed that my speed has increased. These challenges are primarily focused on strengthening you LODs, table calculations, formatting skills and more.
There are plenty of similar weekly, monthly and annual challenges one can participate in to polish your skills. Be sure to check out Tableau’s weekly Datafam Roundup to keep yourself up-to-date with these challenges.
Participating in multiple #MakeoverMonday challenges made me realize that feedback is not only helpful, but essential for higher skill development. #Datafam citizens definitely appreciate when they find a submission worthy of recognition, and sometimes comment suggesting how they would have done it w.r.t some part of the Viz. I do not consider this feedback as a rebuke, but as a process of learning. Neither, do I expect a positive feedback all the time because I feel that feedbacks are taken for improvement and not for ego massage.
My mistake was that it took me a very long time to request feedback as I didn’t want to trouble anybody. One of my feedback requests was asking for help with a particular viz. I was not satisfied with the way it was turning out and wanted to discard the whole idea. So, I requested for suggestions on how to proceed and Adam Mico, out of the goodness of his heart, provided me with some wonderful advice. The final outcome was decently appreciated on Linkedin with a comment from a CEO of an analytical organization praising it. I’m indebted to Adam Mico for encouraging me to continue with the viz.
There are plenty in the community to approach, to name a few — Kevin Flerlage, Adam Mico, Michelle Frayman, Zak Geis, and Sarah Bartlett who are genuinely interested in your growth, provided you are equally invested. In fact, Michelle and Zak conduct weekly sessions to provide feedback, be it any stage of the viz. My suggestion is if possible, find a person who you think you resonate with and connect with him or her.
BUT be sure to respect their time, space and the feedback they provide else it’s a colossal waste of time for all involved. And do keep it in mind that due to cultural differences the feedback may sound too direct, but it isn’t. Quite possible it may be the way other cultures communicate. I have come to realize that even the structure of sentences is different in different countries. There are some words that are considered negative in one culture that may be neutral for others. So, it is essential that we keep our minds open to what the reviewer is trying to communicate and not just on words and the structure.
Personally, I would always prefer my feedback not to be sugar-coated.
3. No deadline
These challenges and their solutions are well-documented, be it #MakeoverMonday or #WorkoutWednesday. This gives freedom to the learners to access, learn, practice and grow at their pace. On today’s date, I’m solving #WorkoutWednesday challenges of 2018 and learning a lot from them. No matter how old the data is, it’s there to hone your skills — technically and/or visually.
4. Community Interaction
The constant participation, involvement, and mingling with other #datafam community members helps put you at ease. This leads to less hesitation to share your work. I grappled with this hesitation for a long time. Then I observed that the more you mingle, more the community appreciates your hard work and effort, and encourages you to grow. This in turn makes you put in your best. And that is all what one needs to do. Eventually, quality follows.
5. Content by Experts
Did you know many Tableau user groups conduct sessions on various Tableau related topics? People well-versed with the subject speak and educate others participating in the session. And fortunately, these recordings are then uploaded on YouTube for us to view at our convenience. Also, many Tableau experts maintain a blog or YouTube channel where they publish about the know-how of various graphs and charts and tips and tricks w.r.t Tableau that makes our learning and way around Tableau easier. I had and still am benefitting from these recorded sessions and blogs.
6. Personal Effect
Post-covid and facing harrowing incidents of nearly losing my dear ones have left me with issues like anxiety. But I was able to put a lid to this side of my life because of the activities revolving around this community. Engaging with this community gave me a direction to focus on bettering my craft, and let my doctors handle the rest.
If you closely observe the whole #Datafam community is a symbiotic ecosystem of Tableau, experienced gurus and new users, where there are only winners and no losers. I’m aware that this piece requires patience but I hope new learners can benefit from this and grow both professionally as well as personally. With this, I’m signing off.