Sunday, 12 June 2016

Why invest in yourself at the Conference?

Self-reflection is a great thing. Looking at yourself in the mirror and understanding what gaps you have in your skillset despite being considered good at what you do is really healthy. For all those Tableau Jedis and Ninjas, now is the time to do that… it’s conference season! Work out what those knowledge gaps are and hit the conference sessions that will fill those gaps (or canyons in some cases). 

Whenever I mention that I’m off to the Tableau conference, I normally get one response – “enjoy the party” and they are right, the partying is great. But attending the conference has some career benefits too.

1. Knowing what is coming soon
No Tableau Ninja worth their salt won’t have an eye to the future. Keeping your eye on what is getting voted up on the Ideas forum but seeing what is coming soon during the ‘Devs on Stage’ session at the conference is something else. Often, the features won’t be in the live version for some time but being able to explain what is coming can help your Clients or Colleagues plan for the future – do you need to invest in a different mobile reporting tool or will the app upgrade hit the spot. Is it time to polish up those Table Calculation skills or has Tableau just made life easier by redesigning their implementation.

2. Learning
Before I joined The Information Lab, the main learning opportunities I had was to attend the conferences to seek out new techniques, hints and tips. And those learning opportunities are everywhere. The Zen Masters’ sessions will show skills that are often a stretch for all but the other Zens but knowing what is possible will help you when you get that project that you’re not sure whether can be done in Tableau or not. The Product Consultants are also a great source of knowledge. They are likely to have spent the most time with some of the newer features so the Product Consultant sessions are great ones to attend. I think everyone still lives by Bethany Lyons Level of Detail sessions last year. The best thing is, what is learnt is often shared in snippets on Social Media.

3. What other companies are doing with Tableau
If you are a consultant, you get to see a lot of different organisations introduce and grow Tableau. This knowledge is valuable in understanding what to and what not to do. If you’re not a consultant or haven’t got the budget to stretch to getting some of our time, then hearing from customers’ experience is the next best thing. In my first Tableau conference (London 2013), I was lucky enough to get to present Barclays’ Tableau journey with Peter Gilks. Whilst it was fun reflecting on the work we had done, it was great to get feedback from the audience on what else we could look to do that they had found to be successful. I still get people come up to me and thank me and Peter for inspiring them to get behind their Tableau deployment (or give it a go) and love how much the hints and tips helped them to develop faster.

4. New Cities – new experiences – new friends
Getting to travel to the conferences gets you to see more of the world. Here’s Peter and I in New York before we headed Washington DC for the Global conference in 2014.

Little did either of us know that the global conference was going to be the chance to cement all the friendships we had started to form on social media. Data Geeks are often insular by nature but there is something about going and spending time with those who share the data visualisation passion that makes chatting to others easy. As you can see, we are a shy and retiring bunch.


So, what more could you want? Learning opportunities everywhere you turn, knowing what is coming next in your favourite data tool and the chance to meet some fabulous people. See you in London, Munich and Austin folks – come and say hello.

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