Keys for a Successful Career as a Data Analyst

Congratulations, you have just started working as a data analyst in a corporate environment. You think that hard work and performance are enough to get noticed for promotions and salary increases. Well, this is not the case. In this post I am happy to share some knowledge with you that I have painstakingly gained as a career data professional that will help you succeed. It is the kind of advice I wish I had when I started my first job out of college. In actuality, this advice can be tweaked by anyone trying to navigate corporate America. The reality is that hard work and technical acumen are important, but they need to be supplemented. Here are some keys to the game.

Be aware of the P.I.E Theory as coined by Harvey Coleman. Make sure to perform exceptionally well (10%), cultivate the proper image (30%) and manage exposure so the right people will know who you are (60%).

Focus and become an expert in your area of interest. Learn the technical skills required to solve problems others cannot. Do not just be “good enough” to not lose your job. Be exceptional! As companies cut back on training programs, you must close the training gap on your own time.

Learn from “Virtual Mentors” online. The internet and more specifically YouTube can be a true Library of Alexandria when it comes to technical resources.

Show what you know. As you learn and gain new experiences, share your knowledge with an online audience and promote yourself. Not in an obnoxious way, but in a way that is sincere in helping others. If you produce high quality content, you will get noticed and opportunities will follow.

Build a reputation. In the words of industrialist Henry J. Kaiser, “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.”

Be Aware of the P.I.E Theory as Coined by Harvey Coleman

  • Perform exceptionally well (10%)
  • Cultivate the proper image (30%)
  • Manage exposure so the right people will know who you are (60%)

I first learned of Harvey Coleman’s P.I.E. Theory while working on my MBA at the Georgia Institute of Technology Scheller School of Business. As a pure technical computer science undergrad, the political and organizational rules for success were not apparent to me.

Mr. Coleman in his book “Empowering Yourself: The Organizational Game Revealed” assigns a weight to each one of the principles that indicates its impact on long term success. One would think that performance would constitute most of the weight, but curiously it does not. Performance is simply the price of admission, table stakes and the minimum expectation for employment. If you are not performing, your image and exposure will not help you (unless you are royalty or your last name matches the owner of the company). Nothing else matters if you are not good at your job.

Image at 30% has three times the weight as performance with respect to climbing the ladder. It serves as an important tiebreaker amongst a high performing candidate pool. Image can consist of the clothes you wear, your demeanor, your manner of speaking, ability to be a team player, etc.

Be aware that you are sending signals at all times of your appropriateness for success at the next level. If you are a hoodie and jeans diehard while the next level is sport coats and slacks, you may want a fashion makeover if you have higher aspirations.

Exposure will have the greatest impact on your career at 60%. You cannot ascend on your own. Someone at the next level or higher (i.e., sponsor) will have to champion you for a disruptive career enhancing move. The risk to the sponsor is having to explain to others at their level why they championed an unqualified individual, which can reflect poorly on their judgement.

You can minimize your would-be sponsor’s risk by volunteering for internal projects, assuming more responsibility within your job role, being a team player and learning new skills. Make your manager feel comfortable advocating on your behalf when she is speaking with the other power players in your organization.

Focus and Become an Expert in your Area

We look to experts to solve our problems and provide advice within certain domains. If we have vision problems, we might seek advice from an optometrist, not necessarily an auto mechanic. The same dynamic is in play when we look for people within an organization to solve a particular problem.

If you have a reputation as one of the few SQL experts or Tableau experts (or any other in-demand skill) that can relieve specific pain points, then you will increase your reputation. People will begin to seek you out for assistance in solving their problems which enhances your image and can lead to the proper exposure.

Data analyst appropriate technical skills include knowledge of database languages such as SQL, R, and Python. Let me emphasize that you MUST learn SQL if you consider yourself a data professional. Master Microsoft Excel because it is not going anywhere anytime soon. When the next 50 mile wide asteroid impacts Earth, the only things left will be crocodiles and spreadsheets.

Sometimes all a company has for “reporting” tools is the basic combination of Excel and PowerPoint. Therefore you better be ready to pivot, VLOOKUP and write customized VBA functions at a minimum. Sometimes we go to war with the tools we have, not the tools we might want or wish to have at a later time, to paraphrase a former government official.

Learn data visualization software such as Tableau (solid visuals and strong community), Power BI (Microsoft stack) or Qlik (data load scripting). It does not matter if your organization uses the tools or not. Learn them now and use them later to solve problems in a novel way that your peers may not consider. All three tools have free versions that are available for experimentation.

Other useful data analyst skills include Alteryx, SAS and statistical skills. As a data analyst your role is to help gather, organize, analyze and report data. Deep expertise will help you stand out from others and build your internal reputation.

Learn tools and skills even if you do not currently use them in your role. When I first started learning Tableau I was turned down for opportunities because I did not have any Tableau project experience on my resume. I made it a point to skill myself up on nights and weekends and combined that effort with visible displays of credibility (my blog and YouTube channel).

I learned basic Tableau skills using Tableau Public because I did not have a current Tableau license at the time! Now that I have acquired recognition as a Tableau authority, opportunities come to me from within and outside my organization without me explicitly seeking them out.

Do not just be “good enough” to not lose your job. Be exceptional! If that means learning skills on nights and weekends, commit yourself to that goal. Learn as much as you can as fast as you can to make an impact.

In Michael Porter style parlance, you want differentiation to be your competitive advantage. You do not want “low cost” to be your differentiator, at least not for a substantial period of time.

Find “Virtual” Mentorship

There is always someone or a group of people that we admire for their proficiency at a given skill. When I started work on my first job, I had a wonderful manager who took me under his wing and taught me the technical skills I needed to succeed at the job. Shoutout to John Jarosinski!

Sometimes we are not lucky enough to establish personal connections and mentorship at the same time. However, thanks to the internet we can follow experts online. When I decided to start learning Tableau, I learned much from Andy Kriebel. I have never met the man, but I count him as a virtual mentor in learning the Tableau game. As my proficiency increased, I followed others in the Tableau community like Luke Stanke, the Flerlage Twins, Ryan Sleeper and Lindsay Betzendahl.

On the Power BI side of the house consider Guys in A Cube, Sam McKay, Ruth Pozuelo Martinez, Parker Stevens and Spencer Baucke (who is also excellent in Tableau). For Qlikview I seek out Udemy classes by Shilpan Patel. Excel standouts include Leila Gharani and Oz du Soleil.

The internet and more specifically YouTube can be a true Library of Alexandria when it comes to technical resources. Learn what you can and support creators through their paid online classes and merch when available!

The reality is that you will need to learn more and more on your own as companies have pared back on generous training programs for this generation of workers. A number of organizations believe that training dollars are wasted on employees who will simply jump to the next company after they have received training. If you work for one of these companies, you will need to skill yourself up on your own time to standout.

Show What You Know (Promote Yourself)

In past roles, I performed well but outside of my specialized cohort, no one knew. As typical with data roles, if reports were generated on time, there was no issue. If there were interruptions, then everyone suddenly took notice. Don’t remain underappreciated!

One of my talented ex-co-workers who I still consider a friend started publishing and sharing what he knew online for others to consume. He developed training courses and started posting articles regularly on LinkedIn. He is a humble person but highly skilled. His self-promotion activities were not vanity endeavors, he genuinely wanted to help people learn.

I noticed that people both inside and outside of the organization took notice and his star began to rise (he was a high performer as well). He was able to leverage his performance and the subsequent image and exposure boost to obtain a significant raise. He eventually moved on from the organization into another organization with a greater increase in salary. The reputation he built from performing at a high level AND establishing visible displays of credibility online smoothed the path for his transition to greener organizational pastures.

Meanwhile I was underpaid and underappreciated, yet diligently performing my tasks. As the saying goes, “If you don’t have your own plan, you will fall into someone else’s plan.” I’ll add, “You may not like the alternate plan.”

From that point on, I decided to follow my friend’s blueprint and started publishing what I knew on social media. We all have something to say in our unique voice. There are gems that you know that you take for granted, but others would benefit from that knowledge. So share them!

Start a WordPress blog, post to Medium, LinkedIn or Twitter. Create visualizations on Tableau Public or collaborate on GitHub projects. If you have the discipline and afterwork/weekend time commitment start a YouTube channel!

As you learn and gain new experiences, share your knowledge with an online audience and promote yourself. Not in an obnoxious way, but in a way that is sincere in helping others. If you produce high quality content, you will get noticed and opportunities will follow.

Combine your social media efforts with certifications in your desired area to establish your bona fides.

This is exactly what I did. Today I am in a new organization, I make more financially (greener pastures, pun intended) and have been promoted multiple times. Combined with excellent performance (i.e., table stakes), I picked up recognized business intelligence and Tableau certifications. I also learned visualization skills that helped my manager look successful. I made everyone I could be aware of my new Tableau and visualization skills by leveraging social media to exhibit my passion for data. Thus, I mitigated the risks associated with my manager’s sponsorship.

Currently, my YouTube channel has just under 11 thousand subscribers and 1.4 million views. That’s not a bad subscriber count for a niche data channel. Leverage social proof to your advantage!

If you are searching for your first or next position in data, recruiters (or hiring managers in your current organization) will search for your online body of work. If they cannot find any evidence of your credibility, you are at a disadvantage. When your portfolio of work can be found online, it affords you an advantage against others in the candidate pool. Your reputation speaks for you before your initial conversations.

In Conclusion

Data analysis is a fun and interesting career for those who have the technical chops and dedication to continually better themselves. Technology does not stand still, and minimal training and work effort do not move the needle. Learn as much as you can as fast as you can, earn certifications, promote yourself (this is key) and give your would-be sponsor a reason to advocate for your disruptive career progression.

If you agree or disagree, let me hear it in the comment section.

Do Great Things with Your Data

Anthony B. Smoak

If you are looking for a “Virtual Mentor”, please like and subscribe on the Anthony B. Smoak YouTube channel!
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All views and opinions are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Featured Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Photo 1 by Anna Nekrashevich from Pexels

Photo 2 by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Tableau Dashboard Project #VIZNESSFIRST

In this video I kickstart the #VizznessFirst​ initiative where I describe a Tableau Dashboard I constructed using multiple resources from the Tableau #datafam​ community. Invest your valuable time in watching the videos as it will be worth the investment if you’re looking to pick up some new skills.

I describe the dashboard, show you the resources and then you attempt to build it. This is a perfect intermediate/advanced dashboard idea starter for students looking to improve their Tableau skills.

Background

Let’s start with a little background on how this initiative came together. I am a big fan of the Real World Fake Data (i.e., RWFD) project run by Mark Bradbourne at Tableau. I wanted to finally get involved and put together a dashboard and hopefully learn something new.

Because the particular data set used (Week 5: Help Desk) had very few measures to sum or aggregate; this left counting rows as the most informative means to squeeze some meaning from the data.

I stumbled upon an excellent blog post from Tableau Zen Master Lindsay Betzendahl where she explained a technique to highlight when a “filter” has been activated with a small indicator. I reversed engineered her dashboard to try and tease out how to pull this off with the RWFD data set.

In addition to this technique, I mashed up some other techniques from various members of the Tableau community. One of the great things that I enjoy about the Tableau community is that there are many creators who put out great content for others to learn from; whether it be videos, blog posts, PowerPoint slides, etc.

Once I had a dashboard I was proud of sharing. I figured I would release it as a series to try and teach others some of these techniques. The 3 videos in this series is the culmination of that effort.

VIDEO 1: Overview of the Project and Resources Required

Here are the references I used to put together the dashboard.

VIDEO 2: STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS

Make sure to watch Video 2 above because this is where I explain the main technique required to complete the dashboard.

VIDEO 3: STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS (TABLE TRICKS)

Video three rounds out the series by demonstrating a cool trick that enables you to build a filter button that opens a detailed table dashboard populated with only the records of interest from the first page. Yes, it uses a filter action but there is twist. Make sure to check it out.

SHARE WHAT YOU CREATE

  • POST YOUR FINISHED DASHBOARD TO TABLEAU PUBLIC:
    • DASHBOARD BUILT USING TABLEAU DESKTOP 2020.4.1
  • SHARE YOUR LINK IN THE COMMENTS ON THE YOUTUBE CHANNEL:
    • 10K+ SUBSCRIBERS CAN VIEW YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENT
  • YOU CAN ALSO POST TO:
    • TWITTER
    • LINKEDIN
  • MAKE SURE TO INCLUDE:


If you enjoyed this tip, please like and subscribe on the Anthony B. Smoak YouTube channel.

Definitely pick up some merch if you’ve enjoyed this blog and YouTube channel over the years:

https://shop.spreadshirt.com/AnthonySmoak/

All views and opinions are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer

Do Great Things with Your Data!

Anthony B. Smoak, CBIP

Show and Hide Containers in Tableau

In this video I’ll show you how to show and hide containers in Tableau at the push of a button. This makes for a convenient way to increase space for your dashboard while hiding your filters or switching to an additional hidden chart until needed.

If you’re not using at least Tableau 2019.2.0, then you need to run over to your I.T. department and have them set you up. In previous versions of Tableau you could achieve this effect, but you would have to implement a hacky methodology in order to pull it off. Although I love a good hack, we should all strive to work smarter not harder.

The key to pulling off the show/hide container is to add a floating horizontal or floating vertical container to your dashboard. Only once you’ve taken this step can you see the option to “Add Show/Hide Button”.

Once you’ve selected this option, any new sheets, filters or other objects you wish to place in your container are enabled to appear or disappear at the press of a button.

An “X” marks the spot as this default customizable icon will appear. You can replace this image with text or use your own customizable image in its place.

As a reminder, (from the Tableau Knowledge Base) these options “will not be available if the sheet is not on a horizontal or vertical container and that container is not floating.”

In lieu of the default show/hide icons, in the video we will use buttons from a template provided by Kevin Flerlage. Do yourself a favor and head on over to the Flerlage Twins blog and download this handy resource.

Make sure to give your filters and charts the “Personal Space” they need! Rick and Morty aficionados know exactly what I’m talking about.

For the Power BI curious, here is how a similar process is conducted, where the filters (ahem) slicers are hidden at the touch of a button.


If you enjoyed this tip, please like and subscribe on the Anthony B. Smoak YouTube channel.

All views and opinions are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer

Do Great Things with Your Data!

Anthony B. Smoak, CBIP

In all seriousness, the world lost an icon of baseball and civil rights as of the recording of this video; Mr. Hank Aaron. I live in Atlanta so I have to pay my respects with a shout out to Hammering Hank. Rest in Peace #44.

Add Total Values for Stacked Column and Stacked Bar Charts in Excel

This is the only video you need to learn how to add add totals to stacked bar charts and stacked column charts in Excel. Make sure to watch the video because I have you covered both ways.

I’m more of a video explanation person, so make sure to watch the video so the steps are clearer. Then refer to the bulleted steps as reference once you have the initial basic understanding.

The Keys to Adding Totals to the Stacked Column Chart Above:

  • Add a “Grand Total” column to your data
  • Highlight your data not including the “Grand Total” column
  • On the “Insert” menu select a “2-D Stacked Column” chart
  • Select “Switch Row/Column” as necessary so your first data column is listed on the X axis
  • Select the chart and then expand the data range to include the “Grand Total” column
    • Add “Data Labels” to the Grand Total series on the chart
  • Right click on the Grand Total and “Change Series Chart Type”, the viz becomes a “Combo” chart
  • Change the “Grand Total” series chart type to a “Line”, while leaving all others as a “Stacked Column”
  • Format the line’s data label, changing the Label Position to “Above”
  • Select the line, format the data series and change the “Line” option to “No Line” in order to leave only the totals and hide the line.

The Keys to Adding Totals to the Stacked Bar Chart Above:

  • Add both “Grand Total” and “Spacing” columns to your data
    • Highlight your data including the “Spacing” column but not including the “Grand Total” column
      • The “Spacing” column should have a value of 0 at this point
    • On the “Insert” menu select a “2-D Stacked Bar Chart”
    • Select “Switch Row/Column” as necessary so the “Spacing” values are not listed as an option on the Y axis
    • Change the “Spacing” column values to a number (e.g., 1000) big enough to make a new category visible on the stacked bar chart
    • Right click to “Format Data Labels” and change the “Label Options” to “Value from Cells”
      • In the “Select Data Label Range” pop up box, highlight the values from the “Grand Total” column
      • Change the “Label Position” to “Inside Base”
    • On the chart select the Grand Total Series and right click so the “Fill” option appears
      • Change the “Fill” to “No Fill”
    • Change the values in the “Spacing” column to 0
    • Delete the “Grand Total” entry from the Legend

You can thank me by liking and subscribing to my YouTube Channel

All views and opinions are solely my own and do NOT necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Do Great Things with Your Data

– Anthony B. Smoak

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INCREASE YOUR FOCUS TRY BRAIN.FM

When I am focusing hard during the day at work or developing visualizations on the weekend. I use Brain.fm to help me focus when it matters. It’s Science-driven and research-backed functional music designed from the ground up to help you you focus, relax, meditate and sleep. If you’d like to try a free trial check out https://brain.fm/anthonyb

Please use coupon code anthonyb for a 20% discount upon checkout. It helps support this blog and my YouTube channel as I receive a small commission for purchases made through links in this post.

Drill from Region to State Using Parameter Actions in Tableau

When the data goes high, you can go low; to misquote a common saying. In this video I’ll show you how to start at a region level on your Tableau map and then drill into the State.

If you’re using the Tableau Superstore data set, make sure the Region and State fields are assigned to a geographic role. Most likely you will need to change the Region to a geographic role, which is created from the State field.

At a high level we’ll have a dual axis based upon the latitude, with the top latitude displaying the regions and the bottom latitude displaying the state. When we layer them on top of each other, we begin to create the illusion of the drill.

We’ll use a parameter creatively named [Region Parameter] which contains all of the regions. From there we’ll create a calculated field named [_States to show] as follows:

If [Region]=[Region Parameter]
Then [State]
END

In order to institute the drill, we’ll create a worksheet parameter action that will change the value of the region parameter on user selection. This causes the clause (If [Region]=[Region Parameter]) to evaluate to TRUE which then causes the display to show the states for the selected region.

It sounds more complicated than it is, so just make sure to watch the video for understanding and clarity.

As a bonus, I’ll show you how to achieve this effect where the selected region does not cause the other regions to gray out. Notice on the second map how all the non selected regions do not lose emphasis; this is not the default effect. It’s the little “show-off” details like this that can up your Tableau game. You’re welcome!

You can thank me by watching, liking and subscribing:

All views and opinions are solely my own and do NOT necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Do Great Things with Your Data

Anthony B. Smoak

How to Filter your Tableau Viz in Tooltip (Top 10 Values)

Visualizations in tooltips, affectionately know as “Viz in tooltip” is a handy feature available in Tableau that enables “details on demand” functionality. As the user hovers over a specific mark or data point, additional details are revealed that are filtered specifically for that mark from another worksheet.

In the example above, as the user hovers over a bar, they obtain additional details about the three most profitable products associated with the respective bar.

As I learned in a very informative Tableau presentation for tooltip wonks (myself included), the underlying architecture is built upon action commands and shares many commonalities with action filters. For viz in tooltip performance considerations, use smaller and fewer visualizations. Also try to avoid maps and other complex visualizations that have significant mark density.

If your tooltip responsiveness is greater than 2 seconds or the height and or width is greater than 600 pixels, then consider rethinking your approach. According to Tableau best practice, users are not willing to wait more than 2 seconds hovering over a mark for a reveal.

Since the viz in tool tip passes filters between worksheets, this means we can make use of context filters (click this link for a fantastic overview) to limit the number of marks returned and help improve performance.

This is the Section You are Here for

Context filters also help solve the problem of returning the Top N records associated with a mark. When you assign a viz in tooltip on your source sheet, a set filter is applied on the target (i.e., viz in tooltip) worksheet. If you’re a frequent watcher of my videos you know that the Tableau order of operations prevents the default set filter from returning a proper Top N.

By adding the set filter to the context on the Order of Operations skyscraper, the data is pre-filtered by your dimension first (e.g., State) and then the Top N filter is applied. When the set filter turns gray, you know it’s working.

Notice that the Context Filter box is above the Sets entry; which means that the Context filter is evaluated BEFORE the set. Make sure to watch the video to learn how to limit to the Top 10 cities based upon a hovered state.

Check out the video for details and may all your viz in tooltips be context appropriate!

All views and opinions are solely my own and do NOT necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Do Great Things With Your Data

-Anthony B. Smoak

Create Tableau KPIs Quick and Easy (Profit vs Budget)

In this video you will learn a quick and easy approach to putting together KPIs that illustrate how profits perform in relation to a budget (i.e., targets vs actuals). Of course the KPIs will be interactive thanks to help from parameters.

Now the dashboard that I built around the KPIs will definitely form the basis of additional videos. There are several techniques here (filtering viz in tooltips, show/hide container, bar in bar chart, reset all filters button, etc.) that form the basis of a good intermediate level dashboard.

Inspiration comes in many forms. I have to give a shoutout to Keith Dykstra for offering his original dashboard for reverse engineering. The idea for the KPIs and bar in bar chart are inspired by Keith. I added additional elements such as the reset all filters button, filtering by states via treemap, parameters in lieu of hover over images.

Shoutout to the Kevin Flerlage for his great PowerPoint button workbook. I modified the on/off toggle button based upon a template from Kevin’s workbook.

Finally, I was watching an Oregon vs UCLA football game one Saturday and was impressed by Oregon’s latest uniform combination. I had to throw that grey and green combination together for use on the dashboard. Inspiration can come from many places! Here’s a little Oregon football and my “Saturday Night Lab” tweet.

Make sure you watch this video to learn and hopefully get inspired yourself!

If you’re interested in KPIs you can check out these other videos:

All views and opinions are solely my own and do NOT necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Passing the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate Exam: My Journey

I’m Tableau certified and with some study time and focus, you can become Tableau certified as well.

As of this year, I can say that I, Anthony B. Smoak passed the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate exam. I already hold the Certified Business Professional (CBIP) designation which is product agnostic and a great certification for a data consultant and data blogger to showcase (apologies for the humblebrag). Read up on my experiences with that certification here.

Although my Tableau certification aim started as a mere whim, it morphed into a full time goal by the time 2020 rolled around. We all know 2020 has been a challenging year for most of us, I’ve tried to do my best to make it redeemable by continuing to learn and up-skill. And because you’re reading this post, my assumption is you are too! Great minds think alike.

Why did I want to pursue the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate certification?

  • I run a YouTube Channel and blog focused on data tools; Tableau content is the most salient feature of these passion projects. Becoming Tableau Certified helps convince you that I know what I’m talking about.
  • Clients respect credibility. I recently delivered a data visualization workshop at a well known Fortune 20 company and being certified as well being a Tableau Public Ambassador helped establish my bona fides.
  • The more you study, the more you learn. It was refreshing to brush up on some basic functionality and even learn some new intermediate tricks while prepping for the exam.
  • Just like you, I found myself with a bit more time in 2020 to start acting on neglected data goals. When the world shakes off 2020 (please make it stop) and starts getting back to normal, people will ask ‘How did you better yourself during the downtime’. My answer will be Tableau (and fostering a boxer puppy, but that is for another blog post).

As my exam time came about, I logged in to the testing website and my proctor had me share my license to prove that it was indeed me taking the test. I also had to show that my physical table (not in the Tableau context) was clear of any papers or other materials. Once that was clear it was off to the races. Although you will have 2 hours to complete the exam, make sure to account for at least 30 minutes of setup time before you actually start the test.

Of course I don’t remember exact questions and wouldn’t share any even if I did but I do recall thinking that I had a good handle on most of the material. There were only two questions where I was completely stumped and had to take a guess. The test is timed and by the time I finished answering every question, there was only about 10 minutes left to review my 36 answers.

For some of the more esoteric questions on product minutiae, Google is your friend. The test is mostly open internet which can be helpful on these small detail-like questions. But remember, you are balancing Google searching against test answering time.

I did not need to use Google during the hands-on assessment questions. You either need to confidently know how Tableau works or you’ll find yourself playing defense and guessing.

Fun Fact: the Firefox browser on the virtual machine only displayed search results in Japanese (ども ありがと) and it took me awhile to figure out how to set English as the default language.

In short, the test was by no means easy, but with time and adequate preparation you’ll be successful. I’d say a good 7-8 months of Tableau use and 3 to 4 weeks of study time should get you where you need to be.

To prepare for the test, take a look at the official Exam Guide.

However, here is the section you came for, my abridged list of test focus areas.

How to Get Started with Tableau

Using Tableau Public is the best way to get started learning Tableau if you don’t have a Desktop license. Download Tableau Public and practice at home because it’s free to use! The functionality is practically the same as Tableau Desktop, you just have to save your content to the cloud instead of locally.

Practice on this dataset. It is the default dataset (Tableau Superstore) that comes with the licensed version of Tableau, but you can download it from data.world thanks to Tableau Zen Master Ann Jackson.

Fast Track:

If you just want to jump right in to dash-boarding you can start with two video series I have in this playlist:

  • Build a Tableau Dashboard Parts 1-4
  • Tableau How to Build A Dashboard 
  • Tableau How to Format A Dashboard 

Slower Track to learn functionality:

Watch everything in the Creator section except Tableau Prep which is a separate tool.

https://www.tableau.com/learn/training/20202

https://www.tableau.com/learn/starter-kits

Linkedin also has 4.5 hours of free Tableau training in a course here:

https://www.linkedin.com/learning/paths/become-a-data-analyst

Visualization Techniques:

I took this course when I was first starting out. It’s a bit more academic with respect to visualization techniques but useful nonetheless.

https://www.coursera.org/specializations/data-visualization

Then after about 3 months take the Tableau Specialist Certification.

https://www.tableau.com/learn/certification/desktop-specialist

Once you’ve built up confidence after passing the Tableau Desktop Specialist Exam, keep practicing and then sit for the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate Exam.

Heed my advice and you will become Tableau Certified! Keep at it and one day you’ll be opening up Ambassador Swag from Tableau.

I’m rooting for you!

All views and opinions are solely my own and do NOT necessarily reflect those of my employer.

“Do Great Things with Your Data!”

Anthony B. Smoak

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Understanding Tableau Context Filters

Context filters in Tableau are a big mystery right? In this video I will demonstrate two examples that will help shed some light on how context filters in Tableau work.

When I was starting to learn Tableau, I had no idea why I would ever need to add a filter to the context. It just didn’t make sense for me, because most of the time, the filter still operated in a manner I expected. Little did I know, I was moving a filter on up, to a deluxe apartment in the sky!

That is because I did not understand Tableau’s order of operations. This understanding is key. The higher the filter is on the official order of operations skyscraper, the more influence it has on all the other filters below it.

When two dimension filters are applied to a visual, they are working independently with access to all rows in the data source without regard to other filters. Eventually the filters decide what values they have in common (i.e., the intersection), and those values are shown on a visual.

But if you change your dimension filter to a context filter, you’ve ensured that any other filters that you set are defined as dependent filters because they process only the data that passes through the context filter.

This concept will be very handy when trying to compute the Top N values. Notice on the order of operations that Top N is located below context filters. That means that the Top N filter will only receive values that have been “pre-filtered” from the context filter.

What’s in it for You?

Per Tableau, use context filters to:

  • Improve performance – If you set a lot of filters or have a large data source, the queries can be slow. You can set one or more context filters to improve performance.
  • Create a dependent numerical or Top N filter – You can set a context filter to include only the data of interest, and then set a numerical or a top N filter.

To improve performance of context filters, especially on large data sources, follow these general rules.

  • Using a single context filter that significantly reduces the size of the data set is much better than applying many context filters.
  • In fact, if a filter does not reduce the size of the data set by one-tenth or more, it is actually worse to add it to the context because of the performance cost of computing the context.

Still scratching your head? It will all make sense after the video examples. Give it a watch!

Of course, check out the official documentation from Tableau where I sourced these tips.

All views and opinions are solely my own and do NOT necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Do Great Things With Your Data

-Anthony B. Smoak

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Tableau Dynamic Maps with Parameters: A COVID Dashboard Breakdown

Operation “Reverse Engineer” a Tableau Zen Master dashboard is back in full effect. You know the drill by now, I spent weekend hours analyzing an impressive dashboard put together by Tableau Zen Masters Anya A’Hearn, Tamas Foldi, Allan Walker, and Jonathan Drummey.

In this video I will demonstrate to you how they use parameters to dynamically change the measure that is displayed on both a map and bar chart. Accurate data is made possible through the use of a context filter to equalize the data that is displayed between the United States and all other countries (U.S. data lags by one day).

I should mention that we are using the carefully curated data offered at the Tableau’s COVID-19 Data Hub.

What’s in it for You?

You will learn a neat little trick that encapsulates multiple measures into one calculated field. By using two parameters we can update our visuals to display the correct measure based upon user selected options. This even applies to the size of our marks on a map. You have to love the dynamic nature of Tableau!

In order to understand how we work with the current Tableau COVID-19 data file, you should watch the first video as a prerequisite.

Also Make Sure to Watch this Additional Video Series

Make sure to also check out this extremely useful tutorial on building a COVID-19 Dashboard from scratch. It’s perfect for your first Tableau project with step by step instruction.

All views and opinions are solely my own and do NOT necessarily reflect those of my employer.

Do Great Things With Your Data

-Anthony B. Smoak