So you want a job as a Tableau developer?

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Whether you check articles from 2013 and 2014 or from last year or even last month, you will notice that Tableau skills are highly sought after in the Tech market and across industries as more and more organisations focus on analytics to drive business improvement and growth.

There is a lot of demand for people with analytical and ‘data wrangling’ skills, but as Tableau’s customer base grows even further, there will be many more organisations looking for people who can squeeze more insights out of their data with the help of Tableau.

If you’re an experienced Analyst with Tableau skills on your LinkedIn profile, you have probably been contacted by recruiters, because the supply of these skills in the market doesn’t seem to satisfy the demand yet (please note: all these assumptions are based on my own observations, there is no study I have commissioned to back this up; these views are my own).

Personally, I’ve also had people contact me as they look for roles as ‘Tableau Developers’ in organisations like EXASOL, and in places I worked previously. This made me think that maybe it’s a good time to share my perspective on how you can increase your chances of landing a really cool ‘Tableau job’ somewhere.

The prerequisites

The ‘Tableau jobs’ I have come across, done myself and seen from the outside require you to have a bunch of skills and characteristics. Of course there are various generalizations coming up here, but remember, this is from my point of you and it’s what I think works…

Tableau

Yes, you’ll need to know how to use Tableau and use it effectively to distill insights from data, tell data stories, visualise what is going on in an organisation and communicate that effectively to your stakeholders. So make sure you have the technical skills that mean you can use the software well.
The following list has a number of suggestions. I think they’re all valuable but of course you can’t do them all right now and all at once. Pick those that resonate with you and revisit the list at your leisure…

What can you do to get better at using Tableau?

  1. Use it every day. Every person can download the Tableau Public app for free and use it to visualize data whenever and wherever they please. This is a great way to practice, practice, practice.
    If you have access to Tableau Desktop then of course, use it and use it often.
    There is a sample dataset (Superstore Sales) you can practice with and you can find datasets online to visualize.
    Or you can let others do the finding for you and join…
  2. #MakeoverMonday. This social data project was started by Andy Kriebel as his own way to practice Tableau. In 2016 he was joined by Andy Cotgreave and they turned it into a challenge for the Tableau community (other tools are welcome, too). In 2017 I took Andy Cotgreave’s spot and now run MakeoverMonday with Andy K to bring you a fresh dataset to visualise every week as well as an article and/or viz that you can ‘makeover’ and improve on. The community is very active on Twitter and you will find support, feedback and lots of inspiration every week.
  3. If you’re keen to step it up and work your way through some more advanced dataviz challenges, join #WorkoutWednesday where you are given a viz to recreate every week. You do this based on the image you see, which will not be easy, I can tell you that much, but it’s a great way to learn how you can use Tableau to visualize data in ways you hadn’t tried before.
  4. Viz together. Meet others in your organisation or through places like Meetup.com where you can find Tableau User Groups. By getting together and working through viz challenges, asking questions and meeting like-minded people (maybe over beer and pizza?), you not only learn from others and enhance your own skills, but more importantly, you can grow your ‘Tableau network’, find out what fellow Tableau enthusiasts are doing, hear about job opportunities, learn what makes people successful in their roles and above all have a great time with people who geek out over the same stuff as you.
  5. Attend formal Tableau training. Of course! The reason why I don’t list this first is because there are so many (free) ways you can improve your skills and they are easy to start, have little to no entry hurdles and are opportunities to get better right now. Attending a formal training course is an excellent way to learn how to use the tool most effectively and efficiently. You will find out about the many different approaches you can take to solve a dataviz problem and you will learn from accredited trainers who have gone through a thorough process to ensure what they teach you is top level stuff.
    Maybe your organisation sends you on a course or, if there is a big enough group internally, they have a trainer come in-house who can provide training specifically for you and your colleagues.
    No matter what, if you have the opportunity to go on a training course, DO IT.
    My personal recommendation: use Tableau as much as possible leading up to the course. That way you can focus on the many tips from the trainer on the day, rather than still figuring out which buttons to click.
  6. Get certified. Tableau offers formal certification exams that help you demonstrate your skill level. Once you’ve used Tableau for a while, set yourself a goal of completing the QA exam to test your knowledge. You can put your certification on your CV and LinkedIn profile afterwards
  7. Teach others. The best way to understand how much (already) know is to explain something to others. As you grow your own skills, make an effort to help others as well. By teaching them you can quickly see what you know and what you don’t and you can get feedback from your ‘students’ on your ability to explain analytics concepts, using the software, complex calculations and dataviz design.
  8. Present your work. Sounds like an odd point to include in this list? I don’t think so. It is immensely valuable to be able to demonstrate your analysis and findings to others. In your job you may have to explain stuff on a whiteboard or show some PowerPoint slides to your team or management. Demo-ing Tableau is a worthwhile skill to acquire, because you’re not just showing static images, but data visualizations in the software, a toolbox for asking questions and finding answers. And that requires certain presentation skills.
    Demo-ing software is different from sitting next to each other in front of a screen. When you present (in) Tableau to others, you need to be very precise and deliberate in all your mouse actions, your word choice and slow things down for the audience to ensure they can follow what you’re showing on screen.
    Practicing this will help you find the shortest path to your solution, the minimal amount of clicks. It will also, once again, ensure you’re able to explain yourself well which in turn shows you how well you’ve understood a concept yourself.

 

Other technical skills

So you’re proficient with Tableau, but what other skills are useful to have to land that Tableau job you’re looking for?

Technical skills that will come in handy certainly include but aren’t limited to

  • being able to work with databases,
  • having a good understanding of statistics and how to treat data,
  • and knowing how to ‘wrangle data’. And by that I mean getting data from various sources, transforming, enhancing, enriching it and bringing it together into a form that you can then work with in Tableau.

Various tools exist for these components of the job and what you use will largely depend on what’s available in your workplace.

What I think is more important still are your…

Soft skills and attitude

These are difficult/impossible to quantify but they are hugely important for the success of your Tableau career.
If you want to focus on landing that first analyst gig, then certainly focus on developing your technical skills, but for the long-term you need more than being able to build slick dashhboards.

The standard skills around teamwork and communication still apply, but I think in a Tableau context they can look a little different and here are my thoughts on how you can be more effective as a Tableau analyst or developer:

  • Communicate clearly and concisely. This is not about short emails or water cooler discussions. It’s about using your data visualizations and dashboards as an effective means to share information and insights.
    Continuously look at your work and re-evaluate whether you have used the canvas to your full advantage. Are your chart titles clear? Have you guided the viewer through your analysis? Are colours, shapes and other objects used well and easy to understand? Does the colour scheme carry through your work?
    Have you removed everything that isn’t necessary? Do you really need the logo for an internal report or could you put something more important in its place?
    Is your dashboard clean and neat? Is the font easy to read? Does every chart need a box around it? And have you considered moving on from the old fashion standard BI report layout of 2×2 charts on each dashboard?
  • Divide and conquer – work together. Most organisations require you to be a team player, at least some of the time. Yes, you’ll need to be able to work on your own and develop data visualizations that come together in reports to be shared. But along the way you will most likely work with a number of people inside and outside your team to get access to the relevant data, systems and resources. You will also have to gain a good understanding for different areas of your organisation as you work with subject matter experts to improve the analysis of the performance of your business.
    Some examples I think of when it comes to teamwork in a Tableau context are:

    • working with the team responsible for the data: tell them precisely what you need and make their lives easier by mocking up views with the relevant fields; tell them what you’re trying to achieve; be specific about timeframes; ensure you understand prioritisation processes in your organisation and be aware of other competing projects.
      Is there a way you can do the work yourself? Is there a self-service model you can utilise?
    • working with the business users who will eventually use and consume your Tableau dashboards: what are they trying to do with the information? What have they been using so far? What is their biggest pain?
      As you work on creating dashboards for them, involve them in the process, iterate and show them where you’re heading. Be clear about technical limitations and best practice; you’re the Tableau expert so guide them on what can be done and what should be done. Do they really need 20 drop-down filters on each page? Probably not – find a better solution for them.
      They are your customers, address their needs and their current pain points, but guide them along the way to ensure that the solution will be sustainable and will serve their purpose
    • working with your own team: share your knowledge and help others succeed. No one likes a selfish person and by helping others you will always become a better team member yourself. Acknowledge others for the work they have put in and recognise their skills and talents. Every person can contribute to the team’s skills and expertise, so ensure there is a way for sharing on a regular basis. You’ll grow as individuals and as a team
    • working with the Tableau community: give back, share your knowledge, publish your work and help others. You found a cool way to visualize data and no one else has done it before? Great if you can patent it and make money from it. But better still: tell others about it, blog about it, make a video, share screenshots, upload your work and help others do what you do.
      You might be surprised and with the collective intelligence of the community you can improve your work even further.
      Let us see what you’ve done, we all love seeing a great viz, learning new tricks and trying new ways of communicating with data.
  • Be organised and plan your work. Most of us are required to adhere to a time schedule for work and come up with some sort of plan for the tasks we do.
    The same applies for data visualization and communicating with data.
    Whether you start by looking at the raw data when a dataset is completely new to you or you first talk to people about the subject, I recommend you test different approaches and find one that works for you.

    What I like to do for Makeover Monday is:

    • look at the fields in the dataset to get an idea of what type of data I’m dealing with
    • read background materials if available
    • do a quick analysis in Tableau to get a better understanding of the data: how many records are in the dataset? How do the measures trend over time? Are there a lot of missing values? What members do my dimensions have? Are there any peculiarities? Where are the outliers?
    • go back to pen and paper and sketch out some ideas of how I can visualize the data
    • work in Tableau to create the vizzes I sketched initially
  • Manage your own progress. YOU are responsible for your success and your career. YOU are the person showing up at work in the morning and if YOU don’t do a certain task then it doesn’t get done.
    It may be easiest to ask your manager what to do and expect them to move you forward on the career path, but that’s not going to happen. YOU have to make it happen. Be hungry for progress, be eager to learn, be happy to help and see feedback as an opportunity to continuously improve and get better

 

Aside from developing and growing your hard and soft skills, there is one more tip I want to share with you. It is equally important. At least. This tip can be understood as ‘growing your personal brand’, ‘gaining visibility’ or ‘being known for something’, but I just want to call it

 

Put yourself out there

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

how about:

If you build stunning Tableau visualizations and no one sees them, do they have an impact on the dataviz community?

 

Just like people group around other topics, like cars, model trains, marathon running and comic book action heroes, the Tableau community loves seeing what people create in the tool and what they do with it. Sharing your work on a blog, Twitter, Reddit, etc. will not only help you get better (because you’ll polish it before you publish and you’ll get feedback from others that can help you improve), but it will help you grow your own profile in the Tableau community.

Over time you will get noticed for your vizzes, your creativity, your technical expertise, your excellent writing, your story telling skills or your constructive feedback for others, or a combination of the above.

Remember, you’re still reading this far because you’re interested in a Tableau career, or at least making Tableau the focus of your next job. The community is an integral part of this and can help you get there.

The Tableau community is also what clearly differentiates Tableau from its competitors, so make use of it as much as you can.
Found a cool project or initiative and want to get involved? Ask the organisers whether they could do with an extra pair of hands.
Want to share your knowledge of LOD calculations? Get busy on the forums and answer people’s questions.

 

Tableau Public

Tableau Public is one of the key tools you want to use to support all of the above. Why? Because Tableau Public is THE platform for sharing your work and growing your own portfolio. You can publish all your vizzes (they will be public, so don’t publish work stuff – just recreate the design of your work dashboards with superstore data or other public datasets before publishing) and showcase your skills.

Over time your vizzes will reflect how your skills are growing. Embarrassed by your first two dashboards? Don’t worry. Don’t delete them. DON’T DELETE THEM. You’ve shown progress, that’s what matters, and by keeping your first vizzes up there people can see how far you’ve come.

 

So after all of this, how do you land that Tableau job?

You’ll have to meet people. It will be hard to hear about Tableau job opportunities unless you talk to the right people.

Where can you find them? Most certainly at the annual Tableau Conference, but of course also at Tableau Conferences on Tour, your local user groups and other tech/data events.

My recommendation is to first work on building your skills and dataviz portfolio as well as growing your profile. It’s not about self-promotion, it’s about ensuring your work is visible. You’re not planning to move up a level on the factory floor in a manufacturing business.
We’re talking about an industry that is global, where most communication and interaction happens virtually and where people are geographically dispersed, so the only way for someone to notice you is if you have an online presence (Tableau Public Profile, Blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).

These things can happen in parallel, you just have to start.

Then it’s about meeting people, connecting with them and starting conversations. Ask questions. And don’t just ask for a job.
Find out what organisations need, what they’re doing with their data and what their challenges are. What can you offer them? What value can you add?
Once you have figure that out, you can move the discussion to opportunities, but unless you have something of value to offer, chances will be rather slim.

Continue.

Grow your network, grow your skills, listen more than you talk, help others and share your work.

Be so good they can’t ignore you

When you focus on giving and on turning yourself into the best Tableau analyst/vizkid/developer/design guru you can be, then the opportunities will come your way. You won’t have to hunt for them, you won’t have to cold-call or write generic messages and job applications online.

So go out there, get exceptionally good at what you do and see where it takes you.

And once you get there, let me know, I’d love to hear your story!

 

tableau-eva

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