A few mornings ago I was going through my Twitter feed and saw a reference to an article that looked good. I'm not a huge believer in certifications and definitely have no secrets about that if you search the forums. It's mostly because I've seen so many people get certified who don't have any -- or not enough -- real-life experience. I've been in the business intelligence realm for over 20 years so I do have the experience and wisdom that comes with living it, not simply reading about it. The author is someone I respect and could give me a look at the other side of the story so I read their opinion in their blog post. They did a good job but I tweeted my viewpoint. Here's part of our conversation (which Twitter absolutely SUCKS at):
For both of us a real conversation would have been nice to clarify (argue? ) our viewpoints. I let my subconscious sit on this and decided that I really disagree with the two rebuttals (which were thought-provoking), so here's my thoughts and you're free to disagree
Experience vs. Study
Okay, why do I emphasize on-the-job experience and claim it's better than "individual practice and mastery"? While the whole subject is good it's item #2 that makes a perfect point in this article by Chris Love, Quality Assurance: A dirty word for Data? 7 tips for getting QA right. There is only so much one can plan for or practice in a closed environment.
Here's a real-life example
I took Tae Kwon Do years ago and in class we learned our kicks, our blocks, our punches, as well as close-in combat techniques. We would practice and practice and become very good with them. But practice is different from the real world so we would also have the occasional sparing match and that is where things fell apart for some students! Actually being in a situation where you don't know exactly what your opponent is going to do is quite different. You can anticipate but you may anticipate wrong. You could even perform the move correctly but do it too slowly, or at the wrong location, or not with enough strength, and fail.
Fail!? How could you fail if you can demonstrate a perfectly executed example? Because reality is different from study, that's why. As such, in the workplace things come up that you didn't or can't expect. Which brings us to...
A lack of vision
Okay, so the slash in "chaos/random factor" wasn't interpreted as I expected as it's meant to basically mean two words that pretty much have the same meaning -- trunk/boot when talking about the rear luggage space in a car, wrench/spanner when talking about a mechanics tool for working with bolts, etc. The word "chaos" seems to be defined differently between us, too. Either way, the randomness of humans is chaos; the aspects one can't plan for, can't see coming. When working with Tableau Desktop and Tableau Server I've had users come to me with questions that I couldn't immediately answer. Does that mean I have a lack of vision? No, it means I can't plan for every single eventuality. NOBODY CAN.
As a parent -- and I've found pretty much anyone with children like parents/guardians and our under-appreciated workers, teachers!, can relate to this -- is that children are a perfect example of chaos and no amount of planning, book reading, internet searching, etc. will give one "vision" to 100% counter what issues they may create. That is not some shallow statement, it's one that has more depth than most think. Having been childless for decades and suddenly becoming a parent has given me this experienced knowledge. If you have a parent then they can confirm this, usually with a reminiscing smile. Oh, and every child is different, even among siblings, so what works for one child may not work on another.
Think of getting your first driver's license and being on the road by yourself for the first time versus how you are as a driver now -- we all have stories of some of the silly and terrible things we've seen (or done) while driving that we could never dream up or simulate.
Experiencing subject-related chaos leads to deeper knowledge
Something happens, a piece of chaos wedged in the teeth of your machine, something your "vision" was unable to foresee despite all your planning and studying of books and now you have to ask an expert and/or delve deeper into a subject than you thought was unnecessary, boring, forgot due to lack of use (which happens more than you think), or whatever. It's the solution you get after those "I don't know but let me get back to you" moments where I believe sticky knowledge is gained. By "sticky knowledge" I mean information that isn't quickly forgotten. It's that, "oh, that happened to me once and I had to do this..." knowledge. This knowledge stays with you as it's gained by the on-the-job experience and gives you extrapolated knowledge, that leap from A to C without needing step B.
For example, you can see a file on a network drive but you can't open it so you contact the folder administrator and explain your issue. They tell you that you don't have permission to read files. Why weren't you already given access? Well, you are the bit of chaos that the administrator didn't know would be needing the access (very common in an enterprise environment). You ask for the permission to be set on the network folder to allow you to read files and they grant your username the permission. Now you can read files from the network folder. Weeks later, a Tableau Desktop publisher tells you the Tableau Server is broken because when they refresh their new report extract on the Tableau Server the data does not come through even though they used the proper UNC (Universal Naming Convention) file path to their Excel workbook in one of the many corporate file directories. Because of your prior experience with being unable to read data in a network drive folder you reference your sticky knowledge to surmise that the reason is because the Tableau Server doesn't have Read permissions in the folder location where the Excel file resides. This experience has allowed you to trouble-shoot more quickly, reducing down-time from having to go to the forums and post a question or submit a ticket to Tableau Support.
Oh, by the way, this tidbit of knowledge above I just shared isn't found in the documentation so if this was a piece of a question was on a certification test your chances of getting it wrong would have greatly increased Just sayin'...