I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Boise, Idaho resident and Tableau Ambassador Shinichiro Murakami for the Spotlight. Shin is originally from Japan and has been a Tableau Ambassador for one year. He has been active on Tableau and in the community for two years and is one of our most active and engaged ambassadors. Over the last calendar year alone Shin has contributed thoughts and answers to 2,747 questions - with 509 of those marked as correct and 369 as helpful!
We discussed the following 15 questions over the course of about an hour, and Shin followed up with notes for clarity. Please excuse any grammatical errors, as we are excited to share his interview in its entirety. We hope you enjoy, and please connect with Shin in the community!
Amanda: Tell me a bit about yourself, where are you from?
Shin: Originally from Japan - not from Tokyo, but small city near Kobe and Osaka. I moved to Boise in 2010. I first came to Boise on an intercompany assignment - then decided to move to the US company in 2012.
Amanda: How long have you used Tableau?
Shin: Around three or four years, but two years as a heavy user. About two years ago my company was looking for a replacement for another tool and we switched to Tableau after attending a sales event in Boise. Before then, I was using Tableau for my own things in my role.
Amanda: What data sources do you typically use?
Shin: MS SQL, Excel
Amanda: How do you use Tableau? At work? In your personal life?
Shin: I mostly use Tableau at work, but also dedicate time to Tableau community support. I’m not sure if that is personal or not.
Amanda: Is that internal support for coworkers or with the Tableau Community?
Shin: That’s both, but there are more questions in Tableau community.
Amanda: How did you discover the Tableau Community?
Shin: I posted my first question on 2015 September. Prior to that, I was asking questions directly to my contact person at Tableau. He did a good job setting up conference calls multiple times to work on issues, but we were still struggling to solve some problems. He recommended that I use the community as well. I tried it, but I was pretty doubtful about if the community could really help. Here is a link to my first post:
Within a day or so, I got reply. It was not directly a “correct” answer, but I kept communicating with multiple people like “How about this?” or “I still have this problem.” “Then this?” ….. Finally, I got the answer I was looking for. It was related to an inventory report where I learned about “previous_value.” I was still a newbie and I commented that, “Why can’t Tableau do this, but Excel can do very easily?” Now, looking back I know that Tableau and Excel are completely different tools, and both have strengths and weakness. But as a newbie, I was struggling to understand Tableau’s basic concept.
Amanda: After you had that positive experience you then went and looked through the community for questions you could answer to help other people?
Shin: Yes, I find many people are struggling with similar things I struggled with, and wanted to help them. At the beginning, some of my answers were not very correct. Fortunately, there are other community people who supported the conversation. I also learned that there are so many ways to solve the problems, and other people’s Q&A itself were very helpful to learn new things. So, I wanted to become one of these community supporters and keep trying to read through and answering the questions.
Actually there are many cases which I answered “It’s not possible” and after that, other guys like Yuri Fal and Jonathan Drummey in with “Hey guys, here is another approach…..”. I am still learning many things through community.
Amanda: That’s fantastic- that’s really inspiring!
Shin: Yes, that’s really the big difference to me than just learning through online video or training courses. Solving “real” problem is “live” and communicating with other people is fun. I realized I loved being a member of this fantastic community. I don’t really know why I have become so interested in Tableau and the community….. I’m not sure if this is a good example or not, but like in an RPG, where each person has a kind of skill for their preferred weapon. Some people are good at the gun or a rifle, or some people are skilled with a canon, sword, spear or whatever, but Tableau has been the most appropriate tool for me to support other people.
Amanda: I like that - it’s the tool you are more skilled with versus any other tool you might have.
Shin: Yes, of course there are different tools according to the problem, but based on the condition with my skill/experience and interest, Tableau was the best fit for me. It’s that feeling of “I found it”!!!
Amanda: What’s your favorite part about the Tableau Community?
Shin: I have been so impressed by the community from my first question. There are so many talented, passionate, and dedicated people here. And for me, this community is the best opportunity to learn new things. Then after being selected as an Ambassador, I had the opportunity to talk with other well-known ambassadors and learned how they are working in community. I also learned some “History” about long-lasting topics.
In addition to that, I sometimes become frustrated with the communication. In such cases, Shawn/ Toby / Simon and many other Ambassadors are mentors to me. Their experiences are precious and gave me very good suggestions. I feel the people in the community are like “Comrades” sharing a voyage together to expand Tableau’s core value of “We help people see and understand their data.” I hope I can keep supporting this role, even if my role is not significant. Actually, I use other communities to get answers for my questions, and here in the Tableau community, I am providing the answers. I love these kind of “pay-it-forward” relationships.
Amanda: What your favorite Tableau project you’ve ever worked on?
Shin: I haven’t accomplished many things, and I’m afraid this is too small of an example. My task was replacing an existing graph from Excel to Tableau in my current job. I think it’s too tiny of a step for an advanced company, but I had many hurdles to overcome.
In our group, the data was based on Excel and creating the graph for executive meeting was taking couple of hours through Pivot and designed Macros. Without a doubt, Tableau could help not only to reduce the time to create/modify the charts, but also to provide web-based interactive charts.
However, I needed to make a step by step approach. That means, as starting point, I needed to replace the PowerPoint slide creation tool from Excel to Tableau. So, without Tableau’s fancy feature of interactivity, I needed to create an alternative chart of Excel. Yes, Excel is good a competitor in this sense.
Those graphs were so popular among executives, and they had a strong preference for their existing graphs, so I only had a little flexibility to change the format. I explained other benefits, but the majority of the people wanted the same format. They were small things to me, like header position, space between panes, things like that. However, those were the must-have requests.
One of the examples I had trouble with was overlaying Line Graphs and Area Graphs. I had believed that Line charts could not be stacked… As many of you are already aware, that is just one click of “Analyze” Stack mark on/off”. Unfortunately, I missed that info and was struggling until when one of my colleagues taught me. I was so ashamed because I told her that “I” am the champion of Tableau among my group.
Anyways, I finally overcame all the difficulties and succeeded to replace Excel. Then as a next step, I tried publishing the workbook to server. There were again the struggles to apply every tiny request. Plus, I only knew a few things about Data Connections. And it took time to enable these things as well.
- Extract + append did not work ⇒ Asked IT team to create a SQL Database
- Live connection to SQL Database was too slow ⇒ Learned Extract + Live Connections
The final deliverables equipped many functions including many filters and parameters. Basically, the charts should be very simple, but for our specific case, we needed a lot of functions which allow many stakeholders to analyze the data, by many different angles.
I learned that creating the concept and prototype on Tableau desktop base is very important. But, that’s just a starting point. To understand how the final data connection should be, how big the data is, who is the main audience is, etc., are equally or even more important. It takes much more time to reflect certain kind of requests after the publishing steps are established.
Anyways, the benefit was huge. These days, I’m happy to see how well the people use my published dashboard to analyze the data from many different angles. It is surprising even for me. Plus, because I experienced so many troubles as a pioneer, I learned many things. These experiences have been helping me a lot to understand other people’s questions and suggest them a correct way.
Amanda: What is your favorite feature of Tableau?
Shin: I like features like LOD, many date formulas, but I love “Union” these days. It is a very good way to duplicate the data. One good example was when creating waterfall charts, which I described here: http://exceltableau.hatenablog.com/entry/2017/02/10/034028
Typically I don’t immediately understand newly released features until I use them and come to understand “best use” cases. When Union was released at 9.3 it took me more than six months to realize the real benefit.
Amanda: What do you want to learn more about?
Shin: I know Tableau is a very powerful tool, but sometimes a data source itself is not Tableau-oriented. There are cases which, Tableau can definitely do, Tableau cannot do, and Tableau can do but….. Tableau itself is adding new features like cross database join or smart join, but especially for when blending is concerned, the performance becomes very bad.
I have recently started learning about a database management tool, and am realizing those combinations bring huge new benefits, and of course I want to learn the server-side as well.
Amanda: What’s your biggest feature request?
Shin: This might be tiny, but I have seen many requests/questions around this: Grouped Bar Charts. (or Side-by-Side Bar Chart combined with Line Chart). Many people on community also want to create Bar + Line combination chart for multiple dimension by different colors. There is a workaround, but it’s still very troublesome and not available when the axis is Discrete. Here is a link to the suggestion in the Ideas Forum: Side-by-Side Bar Chart combined with Line Chart
Amanda: What advice do you have for new members of Tableau? Of the Community?
Shin: To New Community members: Please attach packaged workbook : ) As long as the workbook is attached, don’t hesitate to ask even tiny questions.
As I described above, I got a lot of problems at every step. It is always difficult to replace an existing report with a new one. In the community, I sometimes see the questions based on “inefficient” ways of utilizing Tableau. I know that is not a questioners’ problem. It really depends on the background. I am interested to see each question’s “history”/background” with reading through the post. I guarantee that you are not only a person who struggles with that problem. So, asking questions and showing your problem is very helpful to other people by itself. I also recommend that people try to “answer” questions. To answer the questions is the best opportunity to learn the features in Tableau. Through the Q&A activity on the community, I have learnt most of skills, hacks, and tricks. If your answer is not correct or most efficient, don’t worry. Nobody laughs at you! And the real benefit is that when that happens, you have a chance to know the better answer and never forget it!!
To new ambassadors: Try your best - don’t be frustrated with the hang-ups like “If you have trouble - just forget it”. There are so many questions you can help with - if one isn’t going well, look for another. This is actually more for myself : )
To the people who use Tableau but are not participating in the community: I am happy if more and more people participate in this amazing community. People need some time to struggle by themselves, but this community has the answer for most of the cases. “Know it” or “Don’t know it” brings huge difference, and community members are willing to help others.
We are making the best effort to keep this Community as “Where we always get answers - with good timely manner and good quality”. We recently got some new Ambassadors and I’m happy to start working with them.
Thank you so much to Shin for your dedication to the Tableau community both as a user, and as an ambassador! Check out Shinichiro's profile, and follow him to stay up to date on his work.