The past few weeks have been very travel intensive and culminated in Berlin, where we had our annual customer and partner conference, the Exasol Xperience 2017.
Over 300 people came together for 3 days of inspiring data stories, insightful workshops, discussions, training sessions, networking and plenty of fun.
These past few days have filled me with an immense feeling of pride to be working for a company that cares so greatly and passionately about its customers and their success. Seeing my colleagues all in one place, helping our community of customers and partners, while also watching everyone having a fun time, learning new stuff, hearing from interesting speakers and making new connections was really just, well… good for my soul.
So for those, who didn’t spend Monday to Wednesday (or Thursday as the case may be for those attending training) with us, here is a day by day recap of my time in Berlin with a bunch of photos, which I hope you’ll enjoy.
If you’re an Exasol customer or partner or if you’ve heard about us and want to take your enterprise analytics to the next level, I’d strongly encourage you to join us next year for Xperience 2018.
I made my way to Berlin from Hamburg on Friday evening, as this was much easier than travelling back to Bamberg, only to then head back north to Berlin. Plus, it gave me a chance to spend some time with a girlfriend of mine, doing touristy things and eating yummy vegan food.
Let the fun begin!
On Monday it was time to kick things off and I met my colleagues at the conference hotel to setup, prepare for Makeover Monday live, work on my presentation with Naledi and attend the afternoon partner sessions.
My colleagues Christian, Partner Manager, and Jens, VP Product Management, presented to a room full of partners, around 100 people at the time, on partner news and technical updates, before Sean, our CMO, spoke about all things Marketing related. Then it was time for me to leave the room and welcome our guests for Makeover Monday, which Andy and I hosted at the conference hotel.
It was fun to meet new people and I enjoyed the chance to speak about Tableau in German for a bit.
After Makeover Monday it was time for the evening program 🙂
The Partner Dinner
All the partners joined us from Exasol for a dinner at Rio Grande restaurant across the Spree river which had nice outdoor seating, delicious food and made for a fun evening of meeting new people and familiar faces.
Somehow I found myself at a table with the usual trouble makers 🙂
Elissa Fink also joined us a little later and I remember laughing about a pig named Esther and Tracy Ullman’s Angela Merkel impersonations. Suffice to say, we had a fun evening!
On Tuesday, the Exasol Xperience 2017 officially kicked off for all customers and partners. The day started with a run, which is the usual order of things for data conferences. As my body still needs more time to fix a cracked rib, I opted to rent a bike and play photographer and I have to say, biking at running pace is quite enjoyable! My colleagues were joined by Joe Lipski and Andy for an 8km lap along the Spree river:
Keynote: Connecting cool tech, community and cult brand – 3 critical factors for the successful adoption of new technologies – Elissa Fink, CMO at Tableau
Elissa was up first, delivering the keynote and sharing data stories and lessons learned from her 10 years at Tableau, focusing on the adoption of new technologies and how community helps to achieve change.
Having been part of the Tableau community for a number of years now myself, her talk really resonated with me and it was quite funny to see my face pop up in a couple of her slides.
Be empowered, be free: Powering digital transformation across the enterprise with EXASOL – Aaron Auld, CEO Exasol
Next in the line-up was Aaron, our CEO, and the person who is the reason why I joined this company in the first place. It may be a good time now to admit that during our initial discussions while I was still living in Australia, I didn’t reall understand what Exasol did, but I knew for certain that I wanted to work for and with Aaron and that was the sole basis for my decision to join the company. By now of course I understand what we’re doing, and what an exceptional product we have. It helped to get my hands on it and to see it for myself.
Aaron spoke about our own digital transformation journey at Exasol and about the importance of community and collaboration. Having been part of Exasol for the past 11 months, I have seen the dedication and hard work that goes into developing our product, but also the commitment from Management to drive continuous improvement and change what we do and how we do it to deliver better outcomes for our customers, partners and our community of users.
Aaron’s talk gave me an opportunity to reflect on that, to see some of the milestones we have achieved, and to share that with everyone else in the room.
Analyzing and visualizing 40 billion data points: How Piedmont Healthcare implemented EXASOL to scale Tableau and deliver granular insights to front-line staff – Mark Jackson, Director of BI, Piedmont Healthcare
After a coffee break I attended Mark’s talk which was the first customer presentation of the day. Hearing about and seeing how our customers use Exasol and especially when it’s in combination with Tableau. I’m pleased to hear we’re able to help them take their BI environment to the next level. Loved the spinner slide, too!
After Mark’s talk I had a couple of meetings, worked on my presentation and had some fun with colleagues and partners at the photo booth 🙂
Keynote: It’s not just about business – how data and analytics can also be used to save lives in southern Zambia in project #VisualizeNoMalaria – Jeff Bernson, Director of Results Management, Measurement & Learning, PATH
The last session for me on Day 1 was Jeff’s keynote where he spoke about the Visualize No Malaria project and the work of PATH in Zambia. At Exasol we have been working with PATH and the project team since September 2016 and announced our partnership officially earlier this year.
I am very excited that we got involved and are able to help the team get to their insights faster with the help of our technology.
Jeff’s keynote was inspiring and made it very clear that data and analytics has a role to play far beyond the business world and profit margins. It really can help save lives.
One of the highlights of every conference is surely the big party. That is true for various Tableau conferences and it also turned out to be the case for our own networking party which featured a boat large enough to hold all 300 people.
After a rain-soaked weekend in Berlin, I was excited to see the sun and spend the evening enjoying the sunset over the Spree river, eating yummy food and chatting with lots of people before hitting the dance floor.
After the river cruise, we continued the fun back at the hotel and I fondly remember the group of people that formed around the piano where a few talented people played music while the rest brought our best Karaoke game. I lasted until about 2.30am before doing the responsible thing and calling it a night.
Climbing out of bed at 6.30am admittedly wasn’t quite as easy as I hoped it would be, but we had work to do… At 7.45am Andy and I introduced the New Zealand Tableau User Group that was meeting in an Auckland pub to Makeover Monday via video chat. We gave everyone an overview of the project and this week’s challenge and thought it was great that they met in a pub to viz together.
Nick, who organised the meetup, is someone I met during my time in Sydney while working for a client. It’s nice how these things keep coming around.
After speaking with New Zealand, it was time for Naledi and me to do a quick tech check of our presentation and checking out the room
We’ve got this!
We were fortunate to join our colleagues on a speaker training a few weeks ago which was run by Montana von Fliss who did an incredible job boosting our confidence, giving us feedback, helping us find the right words and who genuinely cared about giving us the best preparation for our technical workshop.
Neither of us have presented to an audience of this size and calibre before. But before I tell you about how it went, there were another couple of sessions we attended.
How Match2Lists powers the fastest data matching engine with the fastest analytic database – Amr Hassan, CEO, Match2Lists.com
Amr told a fascinating story of how Match2Lists came about and how Exasol has really enabled them to successfully drive their business forward and service their customers better and faster.
I really enjoyed his presentation, especially because the slides were well designed and engaging. I guess I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to the visual display of information, so I always appreciate when someone gets it so right :-).
From good to great: Tips for taking your organization to the next level of analytics – Andy Kriebel, Head Coach, The Information Lab/The Data School
Of course I wasn’t going to miss the presentation by my favorite Tableau friend and Makeover Monday partner in crime, Andy Kriebel. I had seen parts of this talk before, but as with many presentations, you still learn something new that you missed the previous time.
What I really appreciate about Andy’s talk and him in general, is that he is very honest and never afraid to give you feedback. What do I mean by that? Well, here is a quote:
People with Data skills are hard to find. Why? Well, our universities just don’t teach those skills.
Andy spoke about the skills of good data analysts and how him and his team at the Data School ensure their trainees are equiped with the right knowledge and skills when they embark on client projects further down the track.
He also talked about the importance of motivation and passion and that “if you’re not excited to go to work every morning, you need to find a new job. Or a new company.”
How can you find passionate, driven people for your organisation? Andy suggests to take a hard look at your recruitment process:
Screw the CV. Stop hiring by CV. I think you’re doing it wrong. I know you’re doing it wrong actually.
Instead, why not give them a real task to solve, look how they did it, ask them about their process and take apart their solution. Not only will it tell you about their skills and problem-solving approaches, but it will show their motivation in the first place, because setting aside a number of hours to complete the task is much more work than sending a CV and acts as an early filter for your recruitment process.
After a bit of tough love it was time for a break before Naledi and I delivered our presentation.
Self-service BI: how to pair EXASOL with Tableau and Alteryx – Eva Murray & Naledi Hollbruegge, EXASOL
It’s one thing to talk about fitness dashboards at a Tableau User Group or to run a webinar about Makeover Monday. But it’s a completely different level of pressure when you’re presenting at your company’s annual conference to a room full of customers, prospects and partners.
Naledi and I talked about how Exasol can be combined with Tableau and Alteryx to take self-service BI to the next level. I have to say, I really enjoyed it and that’s certainly not something I would have expected only a few months ago. It was fun working with Naledi ahead of time to prepare, divide up the work and come up with the story of our presentation as well as the specific content.
I’m pleased that I was able to feel excited rather than nervous and thanks to a couple of rehearsals everything did run smoothly when it counted.
It was great having friends smiling at us from the front row and seeing colleagues dotted throughout the audience as we went through our presentation.
We got three solid questions from the audience to answer at the end before making way for the next presenters.
Montana’s training definitely helped both of us stay on top of our nerves, the content and I like to think that we managed to ‘fill the room with our voices’.
So long my friends
After a last lunch with conference attendees and colleagues, the time came to say bye and it felt very much like the end of a Tableau conference where there are hugs and excited arrangements for the next get-together.
I had an absolute blast in Berlin and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.
I hope that some of my readers here will join us for Xperience2018 and become part of this exciting community of people who are passionate about data and analytics and about staying ahead of the game…
I’ll leave you with a photo of our awesome team which I’m proud to be a part of…