Today’s my last day as an employee of Tableau. It has been an unforgettable 6 years for me, bookended by the Tapestry Conference, and I’m really thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to work at this incredible company. I came to Tableau as a member of the broader data community, I stayed one while I was here, and I’ll continue being one going forward.
Why am I leaving? I’m leaving my dream job to start my dream company – Data Literacy, LLC, a data training and education outfit with the mission to help people learn the language of data. I couldn’t pass up the chance to start building a company to help close the gap between what people feel confident doing with data and what’s needed by the organizations and communities to which we belong.
I couldn’t be more thankful to Tableau and to all who have taught me and guided me, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about what’s next. I’ll take the rest of the year to spend with my family and get things prepared, but look for the official launch in early 2019.
As excited as I am about what’s next, I’d like to take a minute to reflect back on the journey that has brought me to this point, and share a few thoughts with you. I’m a writer, too, so this is what you get…
Looking back to October 2012, I remember sitting down for breakfast with the person who would become my first Tableau boss and mentor Ellie Fields at the Tableau Conference in San Diego. If you’ve met Ellie, you’ll know why I realized right then and there that the people at Tableau are even more special than the product they make. That’s what it took to get me to leave my hometown of Thousand Oaks, California – bless that place. Turns out Washington is okay, too.
There are a few things that really stand out for me about my time at Tableau. I spent almost the whole time – up until last June – heading up the Tableau Public platform for Elissa Fink’s marketing team. What a huge honor that was for me. It was more than a job. I hope you get the chance, if you haven’t already, to be entrusted with something you really believe in, and to have the feeling that you’re doing the exact thing you were meant to do in a particular time of your life. Just a moment of that is gold. Half a decade is something I feel very lucky to have had.
I’m really proud of how well it went. Tableau Public is the epitome of team effort, and the community gets all of the credit. But at least I can say for sure that I didn’t get in the way of this kind of growth. What a fun ride:
Being involved with Tableau Public, and then also the wonderful Academic Programs team, I got to train many people at conferences and in universities around the world – people who were literally afraid of data, and who had been for much of their lives. It was so rewarding to see the light bulb go on for them, and to see them having fun exploring data and feeling like they finally get it. You can’t put a price tag on that, and I’m hooked.
I also got to witness super data-savvy people in the Tableau Public community break free from corporate constraints and get creative with their own passion projects – projects involving data about our world that really matters to them – serious topics and sometimes frivolous ones, too. I feel like when I started back in 2013, the BI world wasn’t yet ready to fully embrace artistic and fun approaches to working with data, but that is changing. We’re coming to realize that clarity and aesthetics aren’t mutually exclusive elements at all. Instead of thinking of this endeavor as a pendulum swinging back and forth between them, we can instead imagine charting a course into a region on a map that accomplishes both at the same time. So many are doing that now, and I love it.
One of the greatest thrills for me was being able to shine the spotlight on some of these projects. My job would’ve been pretty boring without the efforts of thousands of Tableau Public authors around world – so thank you all for that. You made coming into work each day an absolute joy for me.
One side note – working in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle made me really appreciate that surroundings matter a lot when it comes to creativity. It has been a huge blessing to work in such a visually striking place. There are boats, bridges, a 1950s cold-war rocket fuselage, a statue of Lenin with hands continually painted red, a park with the remnants of the sole remaining coal gasification plant in the U.S., a statue of an Emmy-award winning clown, a statue of people standing by a bus-stop that passers-by dress in beanies, scarves and gloves when it gets cold, and even a massive troll sculpture under a bridge holding a VW beetle. And that’s all within a 3 block radius of the Tableau headquarters. I know correlation doesn’t imply causation, but do you think it’s a pure coincidence that a company that has contributed such creative flair to the world of data is to be found in surroundings like this? I don’t. There were many times I walked down to the water to clear my head, and came back refreshed and inspired.
If I have any regrets, it’s that I didn’t manage to launch as many Tableau Public features as I wanted to. I’ve always seen myself as just another author who happens to work at the company, so I lobbied hard (sometimes too hard) for features and enhancements that I thought would improve the platform. Things like a browser-based app to create vizzes, a mobile app for your feed & favorites, author stats to tell you how you’re doing, animated views to let your readers see the data in motion, comments on viz home pages (yes, I think we should open that pandora’s box – but also we should let authors turn it on or off for each particular viz), a most viewed of the day/week/month gallery to see what’s hot around the world, a trending authors list to find new talent, forking, or at least a breadcrumb feature for downloaded workbooks to tell you if what you’re seeing is original work or not. These are just a handful. The reality is that the Dev team was so hard at work over the past few years overhauling the platform to keep up with all that traffic, that I didn’t get to give you the other awesome features that I wanted to. But I know for sure that the current team under Ellie, Katie Maertens, Taha Ebrahimi and Mark Jewett will get to these and many more. And I’ll cheer them on when they do.
I can’t really list all the people that I’ve been blessed to work with, but I’d be sorely remiss not to mention and thank my friend and fellow technical evangelist Andy Cotgreave. I learned so much from Andy over the years – about data, about presenting, about music and games and beer. He has seen me go through a wild journey in my career and in my personal life, and I always felt like he was there for me. Thanks, Andy. You’re one of a kind, and I’m glad to know you.
I also have to call out Jewel Loree. Jewel and I joined within a few months of each other. She puts both the “data” and the “rockstar” into data rockstar (I’m serious, look at the photo). She’s a badass chick with a mind for data, an eye for design, an ear for tunes, and a heart of gold. These people exist. They’re rare, but they’re out there. Every now and then you meet one, like Jewel. And you stop and say, Wow, how is one person so amazing at all that? Thanks for everything, Jewel. Rock on, girl!
Last thing – a quick thanks and hat tip to Daniel Hom, Mike Klaczynski, Dash Davidson, Scott Teal, Florian Ramseger, Thierry Driver, Sophie Sparkes, Jenny Richards, Steve Schwartz, Jade Le Van, Jonni Walker, KJ Kim, Cynthia Andrews, Andrew Cheung, Emma Trifari, Meagan Corbett, Dean David, Midori Ng, Maxime Marboeuf and Courtney Totten.
You all are the best! If any of you ever need anything, just let me know. I’ll be around.