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Why & How to Connect with the Tableau Community

 



Pretty much every time I do a presentation or chat with a new Tableau user, I get asked some variant of the following question: “what advice do you have for new or intermediate Tableau users that want to take their skills to the next level?”.  I typically answer using the tips Ken laid out in his 4 Tips for Mastering Tableau blog post: Train, Practice, Engage, and Teach.  I’ll spend a bit of time on each, but the one that I spend the most discussion is always the “Engage” piece.  Engaging in the Tableau Community was (and still is), without a doubt, the more important part of my development as a Tableau user.


 

Why should I Engage with the Tableau Community?

 

Let’s assume that you are a young, budding musician.  You’ve always dreamed of being on stage performing in an arena packed with fans.  You have lots of raw talent, but you’re just getting started on your journey.  I’d bet you sit in your room or office and just create music, right?  I bet you also NEVER listen to music.  I bet your radio is never on because you need to concentrate.  I bet you never watch YouTube to keep up with the latest trends.  Wait!!!  What sense does that make?  It makes no sense whatsoever.  If you want to be a musician, you are probably listening to a TON of music because 1) you love it and 2) you want to see and learn what others are doing.  The same thing applies to working in data visualization. 

 

In my opinion, there is a disproportionate number of people that utilize Tableau within the confines of their own office or own department.  They do their “own thing” and they see the work of their colleagues, but that’s where it ends.  They don’t branch out and engage with other users.  They don’t regularly learn about new features and creative techniques.  They don’t witness the evolution of design aimed at both rapid understanding, beauty, and increased engagement.  And in my opinion, they stunt their own growth. 

 

When I first started using Tableau, I picked it up really quickly.  I was lucky enough to have an unofficial mentor in my brother, Ken.  I loved playing with the software and learned a lot through his help and through training and practicing, but getting involved with the Tableau Community (on Ken’s advice) took it to an entirely new level.  People I followed would release blog posts on how to do a sheet swap or how to use filter actions as navigation buttons (before actual buttons existed) and even if I didn’t read the blog post at that very minute, I now knew it could be done and had a resource to go to when I needed it.  I also saw the incredible works of my brother, of Adam McCann, of Ludovic Tavernier, and many others.  I saw beautiful designs and techniques that I was able to use in my own work.  And most of all, I was inspired.  I learned very quickly because I surrounded myself with other, likeminded people with the same interests.

 

Now let’s jump back to the music example.  Again, you are a budding artist, with talent, but are just getting started.  What if you had the opportunity to connect directly with Taylor Swift?  (For the sake of this example, you are a huge Taylor Swift fan…okay, I admit it, I love her music.)  If you could send a message to her and she would respond, give advice, and even mentor you, would you do it?  Of course you would!  And that’s exactly what the Tableau community is.  If you messaged 5-time Tableau Zen Master, Jeffrey Shaffer, he’d likely respond.  If you sent an email to Zen Master, Lindsay Betzendahl, expect a response.  Okay, maybe I shouldn’t make a comparison of Taylor Swift to Lindsay Betzendahl (Lindsay is way cooler than Taylor Swift), but the truth is, by engaging with the Tableau Community, you have direct access to Tableau Zen Masters, Tableau Ambassadors, User Group leaders, and experts in all areas of the software.  And unlike the music business, if you reach out to one of these people for help, most people will respond to you!  How powerful is that?

 

 

So How do I Engage with the Tableau Community?

 

Now let’s assume you see the value in engaging with the Tableau community, how would someone go about getting engaged?  Luckily, there are a ton of ways to get connected.  Below is a variety of options.  I personally believe that three of these will provide the most benefit and allow you to connect easily with others; these are listed first and notated with a star.  Please note that this is certainly my opinion and people prefer to connect in different ways, so don’t stop reading after the first three.  (I should state that this is in no way an exhaustive list and the ways to connect to the Tableau Community are many and continue to grow). 

 


Twitter


One week after starting to use Tableau, I created my first full visualization and wanted to share it with others.  I asked Ken where I would share it and he said “Twitter”.  Ugh.  I was 40 something years old, far too old for Twitter, and didn’t really want any more social media in my life.  Regardless, I created an account, followed a few people and shared my viz.  Boy was I glad I did. 

 

The Tableau Community on Twitter is, in my opinion, the most active and vibrant around.  Over time, I’ve made friends with people across the globe.  I often joke with my wife that we could travel to any country in the world and have a friend to show us around (and it’s pretty much true).  I’ve learned from amazing technical geniuses and design experts.  I’ve received feedback from some of the greatest around.  And I ended up getting a job working with Tableau because I posted my visualizations to Tableau Public (teaser for option #2) and shared them on Twitter. 

 

Now, if you really want to get connected, I think there are a few keys to creating and using your Twitter account.  On Twitter, someone can follow you without you following them back (it’s not like LinkedIn or Facebook).  When deciding if I am going to follow another person on Twitter, I typically go to their profile and look for a few things.  The main thing I want to know is Tableau and dataviz the reason this person is on Twitter?  It is for me and I want that from others.  If politics is the person’s number one priority, followed by car racing, with dataviz coming into 9th or 10th, I probably won’t follow that person. I also want to connect with that individual on a personal level.  I rarely follow what appears to be company accounts or accounts ran by numerous people.  I don’t like to follow people that don’t add a photo of themselves because, it feels so impersonal. 

 

Okay, with all of that said, here are my tips for joining and utilizing your Twitter account:

 

·       Join Twitter


·       At a minimum, list your first name (although I prefer that people use both their first and last name).  This allows people to connect and address you by your actual name rather than your Twitter handle of @superdupervizmeister. 


·       Add an actual photo of you.  Use a close-up photo.  We know you love your family, but don’t use a photo of you and your family because I won’t know which one is you.  And don’t post a photo of your cat or your car.  Be personal so other can feel welcomed.  If possible, use a photo from one of the Tableau Conference photo booths as shown below (these are very recognizable to lots of Tableau users).






·       State early in your description that you are interested in Tableau and/or data visualization.  Make it clear that you are for the Tableau talk.


·       Next, find some Tableau-related tweets and retweet them.  You could just go to Tableau's Twitter account (@tableau) and retweet some of their tweets.  The reason for this is that it helps drive home the fact that you are interested in Tableau.


·       Once you’ve set up your profile, then you should start following others and since you’ve shown your interest in Tableau, you will likely get people to follow you back (it will still be a small percentage, so please don’t be frustrated by this).  Start by following Tableau (@Tableau) and Tableau Public (@TableauPublic).  Follow people like the Tableau Zen Masters and Tableau Ambassadors.  Go to https://www.tableau.com/zen-masters to read about the Zens then click on their photo to access their Twitter handle.  You can also go to Twitter, and search for “Tableau Zen Master” (in quotes) then click over to the People tab.  You can do the same thing with “Tableau Ambassador”.  Now follow these people.





·        

·       From there, get involved in conversations.  Retweet and comment on other people’s work.  Direct message people if you like what they’re doing.  Introduce yourself to others and tell them you’re new to Twitter and the #datafam (the Twitter hashtag for the Tableau Community).  In general, try not to be shy, even though that certainly applies to a large percentage of us data analysts. 


·       Share your work.  Ask for feedback.  Use the hashtag #datafamfeedback which tells people you are looking for feedback.


·       Please understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  You will not get thousands of followers and hundreds of comments on your work overnight.  It will take time, so don’t get frustrated.  In addition, don’t get discouraged if you reach out to someone and they don’t reply to you quickly or at all.  It is my experience that most Zens or Ambassadors do their very best to respond to people, but like all of us, people are on social media at varying times and frequencies and have a variety of things going on in their lives.  Overall, just be patient.

 

 

Tableau Public

 

Tableau Public is a free, public website in which you can upload your Tableau workbooks.  And to make it even better, you can download the Desktop version of Tableau Public and utilize it for free.  It is almost exactly like the full blown Desktop software except that you must save it to their public server. 

 

In 2018, I started looking for new jobs in the field of analytics.  My skills lied mainly in Excel.  But every job I looked for included Tableau in the job description.  So I downloaded the desktop version of Tableau Public, created a Tableau Public account, and then enlisted my brother to give me a crash course on the product.  From there, I was hooked and created dozens of visualizations in just a couple months, publishing them all to Tableau Public.  In doing so, (as mentioned above) I got noticed by Jeffrey Shaffer (one of the all-time greats) and landed a Tableau Developer job within just six months of using it.  I absolutely love Tableau Public.  It has literally change the course of my career and my life

 

So, my advice for you is to download the Desktop version of Tableau Public (if you don’t already have it), create an account on the Tableau Public website, and get started!  (When setting up your account, I’d recommend setting it to auto-hide vizzes, you can read more here). 

 

I should note that I’ve actually heard from many others that they will not even hire a person for a Tableau Developer role without a Tableau Public profile.  It is the best way to show off your Tableau chops! 

 

Okay, here are my tips for using Tableau Public.


Create an account.

 

·      Next, find an author whose work you love.  If you don’t know of someone, I’ll suggest Andy Kriebel, Adam McCann, Lindsay BetzendahlKen Flerlage, Pradeep Kumar, Ivette Kovacs, and Jeffrey Shaffer.  You can also check out mine if you like.  Follow that person by clicking the Follow button.  Next, click on the “Following” section to see who they are following.  Now, click the Follow button to start following those people.  


At the top/right, you’ll see ACTIVITY.  If you click on this, you’ll see visualizations that were published or favorited by the people you are following.  I recommend keeping up with this regularly.  I check mine every day.


·       If you like a visualization, favorite it by clicking the star.  This will drop into your Favorites section so that you can easily reference it.


·       And when you are checking out visualizations, continue to follow others as well.


·       At the top, click on GALLERY to see past “Viz of the Day” winners.  Viz of the Day is simply a cool viz from that day, which are chosen nearly every business day.  Scroll through these vizzes in the gallery and click on Subscribe at the top to get them delivered to your email every day.  (You can also nominate a viz of the day if you like). 


·       Finally, build visualizations that you can share publicly, publish them to Tableau Public, and share them on social media. 

 

David Velleca recently posted a great video on how to improve your Tableau Public profile.  I'd recommend checking it out here.



Community Projects

 

There are tons of “community projects” to help people improve on their data visualization skills as well as to help others.  Some community projects are weekly, others monthly, others less often.  Some community projects provide a data set and others ask you to source your own data.  Some focus on Tableau Desktop and others on Tableau Prep.  Regardless of the project, they are set up to help you learn.

 

Probably the most well-known community project is Makeover Monday.  Each week, the leaders of the project (currently EvaMurray and Andy Kriebel) provide the community with a data set and a visualization.  The goal is for you to use that data and improve upon the original chart.  Makeover Monday has become huge approaching 10,000 visualizations submitted by the community.  This has changed hundreds of lives and careers by helping people improve upon their skills but also to help them get connected to the community.  If you don’t believe me, check out this blog post from Meera Umasankar as she tells about her Makeover Monday experience.

  

As incredible as Makeover Monday is, it is one of dozens of community projects.  Other projects include IronQuest, Project Health Viz, Sports Viz Sunday, Workout Wednesday, Preppin Data and many more.  I’d recommend that you check out this list of projects provided by Sean Miller.  You might find one that really sparks your interest or maybe you’ll dabble in a bunch of them (I know I have). 

 

 

LinkedIn

 

LinkedIn has a great community of Tableau users as well.  I personally find that LinkedIn probably has a lot more registered users, but the community is not nearly as tight knit.  However, I have made a number of great friends on LinkedIn much like I have on Twitter.  Any time I publish a viz to Tableau Public, I share it on both Twitter and LinkedIn.  

 

 

Get a Mentor

 

If you are new to Tableau or even a bit rusty, a great way to connect and learn from others is to get a mentor.  I was “unofficially” mentored by my brother Ken and I have mentored several people myself.  Getting a mentor (or even being one) is an incredible way to learn as well as to build a long-lasting and close relationship with one individual.  If you want to get a mentor, be a mentor, or simply learn more about mentoring, check out Mentoring Meetup, a website set up specifically for the “datafam” to connect as mentors and mentees.

 

 

Tableau User Groups, Conference, & Meetups

 

In a pre-COVID world, we all used to get together in person…we really did!  This happened in a variety of ways.  Tableau User Groups were one of the major ways in which local communities of users got to know one another and learn about Tableau. I help lead the Cincinnati Tableau User Group (TUG).  We typically met every other month, in the evening, for two hours, and would get together for a drink afterwards.  Other TUGs met at varying times of day and frequencies throughout the year, but all had one thing in common…they provided a place to get together and talk with like-minded individuals.  COVID has changed much of this, but many TUGs continue to put on virtual events and many still have opportunities to connect with others during these events.  If you want to find a user group in your area or that meets your interest or industry, check out the full list of Tableau User Groups.

  

In addition to regular Tableau User Group meetings, there are a variety of other events such as Data Plus Women and the biggest of them all, Tableau Conference.

 

 

Tableau Forums

 

The Tableau Community Forums is a place for users to ask questions about their Tableau challenges and get answers from experts.  But this isn’t like Tech Support.  The people answering questions are other Tableau users, from the community, that are there simply to help others. 

 

The Tableau Forums is not only a great way to get answers to your questions, but a way to connect with others in a more introverted kind of way.  I’ve heard numerous stories about how someone answered their question, they chatted, and became good friends.  The Tableau Forums might not be a way to connect with hundreds of people quickly, but it is a way to connect with individuals directly. 

 

 

Wrap-Up

 

This blog post broke down just some of the ways that I recommend getting connected with other Tableau users, but there are many other ways.  Before you go, I recommend that you check out the Community Resources section of the Tableau Public website.  And you absolutely must check out the Tableau Survival Guide from Autumn Batani.  This Tableau Public viz will provide you with guidance on how to Create, Connect, and Learn.  It's an incredible resource!


I'd be remiss if I didn't mentioned the fact that Tableau, as a company, has put a ton of resources toward building into our community. They not only have a dedicated community team (thank all of you for everything), but they also just released (Feb 4, 2021) a new Community Page that contains tons of incredible resources to help you learn, get inspired, and get plugged into this invaluable resource. It's fantastic and I'd recommend checking it out!

  

As I mentioned above, using Tableau and connecting to the Tableau Community has literally been life altering for me and for thousands of others.  The success stories are simply innumerable.  I cannot say it enough, but getting connected is one of the smartest things you can do with your data career.  


If you ever struggle to get connected, please DM me on Twitter and I’d be happy to help in any way that I can.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 



Kevin Flerlage, January 4, 2021

Twitter | LinkedIn | Tableau Public

 


 




2 comments:

  1. Love this one Kevin. I shared an excerpt of it with out internal TUG.

    ReplyDelete

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