But, is it enough?
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE supporting people in the Tableau community. I love doing the podcast, I love learning from people, I love networking, but I'm not sure it's enough for me. While being a data viz cheerleader is fun, what technical skill can I point at to say, "Yep, that's my thing!" I think people can appreciate good design and a good story, but I'm not Kelly Martin, Anya A'Hearn, Matt Francis, or Ramon Martinez. And I'm not trying to be them per se. But I think it raises the question...I'm okay at design and storytelling, but not stellar, and I'm definitely weak on the data side, so, what' my thing? And while I think it's a romantic notion to think that being a data viz cheerleader is my thing, let's face it, in this community, technical skills rule. I feel like I talk around Tableau and not about technical aspects of Tableau. And if you're honest, wouldn't you be more interested/likely to read about how to do reference lines behind bars, how to format story points correctly, how to select a color palette, how to [insert topic] versus observations or commentary that might be interesting, but isn't going to help you do a visualization (better)? I want to be a resource for others, beginners in particular, and I'm just not sure that putting out commentary is enough.
I look back over the past year and feel like I've been treading water. I still struggle with the basics of data blending/joins and have made some improvements in the world of table calculations. I'm not trying to be a Joe Mako, Jonathan Drummey or any other zen. And while I might be able to craft the bones of a story, there actually isn't a story to design if there's no data in it. Using the DV Data Dive as an example, I was able to explore some of the data and focused on one potential story that I thought was there. The problem...several data sets that required blending/joining/unicorn magic. Given the time constraints, I gave up on trying to figure how to make the data work and basically made a story points template of what my data story might entail. Note: The viz below is how I left it from the data dive (meaning, it needs to be cleaned up in addition to having data behind it).
10,000 hours...Is the juice worth the squeeze?
On a recent podcast, Jonathan talked about how if he wanted to get good at Tableau, he needed to put in the time and practice, practice, practice, using Malcom Gladwell's 10,000 hours as the basis. He also stated that Tableau was his hobby. That's a comment I've heard from a couple other zen masters too; when they're not using Tableau, they're dreaming about Tableau. So I think about how I might apply the practice, practice, practice rule for me. Basically what it comes down to is that I tried to have data viz study hours from 4:30-5am on non-running mornings to study Tableau/data viz topics. But then, I slept in...until 5am (slacker, I know). But even at 30 minutes at time, it would take me forever to get good at Tableau. Tableau/data viz is not my only hobby. I have two young kids, I work full time with a round trip commute of about 2.5 hours, and I love fitness and want (and need) to dedicate my time to that as well...Tableau can't be my everything. And, I'm left wondering, do I need to get good at Tableau?
I'm tired of having this conversation with myself...of feeling like I'm essentially in the same place as I was a year ago. I'd have to give up something else I love to get better at Tableau (specifically the data wrangling in Tableau). So, is the juice worth the squeeze? Tableau is touted as being quick and easy. And it is, once you understand all of your data and understand the nuances of the tool (including major functionality like table calcs). Is it quick and easy to create a visualization? Absolutely. You can select two data items, click show me (or throw them up on the row/column shelf) and create something. That something might be totally inaccurate, but you were able to quickly create a visualization.
So, I'm frustrated and wondering if I need to take a hiatus from being actively involved in the Tableau community. What will this hiatus get me? Quite frankly, I don't know. Maybe I'll find a little peace with not thinking about how I can get out of the remedial data class. Maybe it will reinforce that even though I have issues with using the tool, that being a cheerleader is at least being in the stadium, if I can't be in the game. It's heart-wrenching to think about taking a break from Tableau since I have fallen in love with visual analytics as a result of using Tableau. Heck, I did two podcast recordings while I was on vacation! I want people to have information to make well-informed decisions. I love participating in hackathons for good causes. But I do wonder if I'm really the person to use the tool as it is currently. Are there other roles for me in the data viz community? All questions to ponder.
So what's next?
For someone who loves to plan, I don't really know what's next. My current thought is to continue to try to improve my data skills through year-end and then assess how I feel about it to see whether I should take a hiatus or keep on keepin' on. I'm in the middle of doing a strengths assessment, so maybe that will help me figure out the next steps in my data viz/Tableau journey.
So for the few people who read this, my questions to you are:
What are your thoughts? Have you been in a similar situation and what did you do?