Eight months in – Tableau has changed my life

Time flies so fast when you are having fun! It’s hard to believe it has been eight months since I started my Tableau adventure and in that time, I have published 52 visualisations on my Tableau Public profile, which is a great achievement. But there’s more to that, how has a piece of software made a difference to my life? My answer to that would be “hugely”.

I was introduced to Tableau by Anna Noble, who works at The Information Lab as a Tableau and Alteryx Consultant but was previously at Birmingham City University doing an MA in Online Journalism. That’s when the magic started and I was convinced by Anna to use Tableau for my final year project. At that point, I started to realise how useful Tableau would be for producing data visualisations and dashboards.

However, I did not use Tableau simply for creating dashboards and powerful visualisations as I first started out in January 2017. Tableau has a global, like-minded community on social media who are so talented at producing data visualisations and dashboards through projects such as IronViz and Makeover Monday. 

This is where I managed to meet together with members in the community who were helping others to become better at data visualisation. That was the beautiful thing about Tableau in the sense that everyone from various industries are willing to help each other to learn from their feedback for their vizzes and apply it to their recent work. Here’s a few vizzes I have done in Tableau below.

As a Journalist with a passion for data and visualising data, I was quite nervous at first because I am not from a traditional “business intelligence” or “MI” background. Once I got over that hurdle, it was a natural transition. Whilst I still have a lot to learn with Tableau eight months on, I am open to trying new things and seeing good and bad data visualisation practices.

The real highlights of my year so far have been attending the Birmingham Tableau User Group and London Tableau User Group in March and July 2017 respectively. It was where I met my Tableau inspirations Pablo Gomez, David Pires, Sarah Bartlett, Nick Bignell, Chris Love, Rebecca Roland, Greame Wiggins, Andy Cotgreave, Mark Edwards and many more! Having that natural transition meeting members of the Tableau community through social media made seeing them face-to-face a lot easier.

You are possibly wondering what are my goals for the rest of the year in Tableau and data visualisation are? Here are my five goals below!

  • Keep experimenting with different datasets and find my own data visualisation style (e.g. video games, sport and music).
  • Work more on Level of Detail Calculations and use LODs when appropriate in visualisations.
  • Sense check my visualisations four to five times to ensure they make sense to the user.
  • Keep it simple – don’t always try to go for a complex visualisation when visualising a dataset.
  • Make sure I keep practising my Tableau skills whilst finding ways to implement it into my journalism work.

Never has something so influential as Tableau changed my life in terms of my professional and personal use of the software. The work done by the community has been so instrumental towards my development in data visualisation and if it was not for the constant feedback and drive I get from members such as Eva Murray, one half of Makeover Monday, I would not be in this position today.

As I still find ways of using Tableau in my journalism work, it is fair to say I will be vizzing in Tableau for years to come. If you have not discovered Tableau yet, set up a Tableau Public profile and get vizzing!

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