Hello Tableau Community. In this month's Tableau Ambassador Spotlight, let me introduce you to Tableau Forum Ambassador, Chris McClellan who is coming to us from Jilliby, Australia or as I say "Down Under".
Chris: Jilliby is a small rural area on the NSW Central Coast, within commuting distance of Sydney (about 90 mins on a good day). We (wife & 2 kids) moved to the Central Coast about 7 years ago and bought at Jilliby almost 2 years ago. It's 2.5 acres of "space" that we enjoy. We have 1 dog and 3 alpacas (arriving within a few days). We're 20 mins drive from some beautiful beaches and tourist areas, but we're "rural enough" that our water supply is tanks that are fed from the roof, we rely on rainfall to keep the tanks full (we do have about 80,000 litres of tank storage though). Not many kangaroos in this area, but you do see them occasionally. We actually see snakes more, there's several different species of venomous and non-venomous snakes that we've seen over the last year.
Patrick: Hey Mate, how long have you used Tableau?
Chris: LOL .... I only checked this the other day. I found an email I sent on 28 Aug 2014 to a colleague that started "O.....M.....G.... !!!!" and then continued to rave about how cool Tableau was, so I've been using Tableau for just over 4 years.
Patrick: How do you use Tableau? At work? In your personal life?
Chris: Yes, yes and yes. Tableau is my work and my life. I recently started my own company that focuses on Tableau and Alteryx. So I use Tableau to help a lot of businesses visualise their data properly in a work sense. I use it for personal projects like tracking the data that my solar panels (and batteries) help reduce my electricity bill. My kids use Tableau on some school projects and I help on the Tableau Community website to get others using Tableau.
Patrick: Where do you find data for your personal projects?
Chris: I don't need to search for it usually, I usually just have it. I don't have much time for big personal projects, but sometimes I'll find something that I want to demo. For people wanting a dataset to just play with there's plenty on the Makeover Monday website or data.world website.
Patrick: What type of data interests you?
Chris: Anything, but usually BIG data. It's always a good challenge to take a large dataset (millions or tens of millions of rows) and showing the data in a way to get the right story out of it. I always enjoy spatial data as well, probably because Tableau can map it so easily.
Patrick: How have you learned to use Tableau?
Chris: This is the way I discovered and now recommend to everyone else - watch the videos on the Tableau site, use Tableau Community in 2 ways - answer the unanswered questions and check the questions that have been answered (you can pick up some great tips from the proper answers) and browse Tableau Public - download anything that you like the look of and see how the author created the workbook.
Patrick: What data sources do you typically use?
Chris: Usually a database, or I'll put it in there first. I'm a big advocate of a properly designed database is the best way to store any data but I might start off with a spreadsheet or other data source for prototyping. I've used SQL for "quite a few" years and for any corporate level work that's where the data should be. I know there's plenty of businesses that run on Excel, but you can usually track the data back to being pulled from a database anyway.
Patrick: What your favorite Tableau project you’ve ever worked on?
Chris: I've worked with NSW FACS (Family And Community Services) for numerous years. One of their largest projects is an annual report that used to be a 70+ page PDF containing tables of data and text to explain the data they're presenting. With Tableau they now have a smaller set of workbooks that are updated annually and present the same data but in a lot easier way to understand. The dashboards are deliberately simple because the audience is "anyone on the internet". When the project first started they only had Tableau Desktop and did the data preparation manually in Excel. Over the years they've expanded to use Alteryx to load the data into a datawarehouse and then use Tableau Server to test the dashboards before public release (using Tableau Public) and also create other dashboards that they use internally.
Patrick: What is your favorite feature of Tableau?
Chris: Do I need to choose just one ? Dashboards, spatial, the ease of publishing to Server, Online or Public ... the list goes on. LOD calculations and Viz in Tooltip are recent favourites as well !
Patrick: What do you want to learn more about?
Chris: I'm really excited about Desktop Extensions and getting into that more. The idea of writing custom code to extend Tableau far beyond (& more customised) than what it currently does is an amazing idea.
Patrick: What’s your biggest feature request?
Chris: Transparent sheets (yes, they are in beta at the moment), Parameters - both dynamic and making it easier to change the default values.
Patrick: How did you discover the Tableau Community?
Chris: I've always enjoyed using "forums", so when I realised there was one on the Tableau website I registered straight away
Patrick: What’s your favorite part about the Tableau Community?
Chris: You get to see a wide variety of uses for Tableau. It's helped me build my knowledge immensely because you get to see so many business problems at the same time.
Patrick: What advice do you have for members new to Tableau? and how about anyone new to the Community?
Chris: For Tableau - spend the time to learn the fundamentals, it won't take much time and you'll benefit from that forever. For the Community it's tougher - when you're posting a question always provide some sample (dummy) data in CSV or XLS format and hopefully a workbook to show where you're stuck. Never post confidential data though !!! . Explain the problem using mockups or drawings if you have to, but the more detail you include in your initial post the faster you will get an answer to your question. If the answer is correct and accurate, reward the poster by marking their answer as correct (that helps the entire community, even the person that's going to discover Tableau in 6 months time and then go searching because they have the same question).
Patrick: Anything else you want to share?
Chris: "Never stop learning" - although I'm sure someone has said that before . There's so much in the Tableau ecosystem to learn, if you ever think you know it all then go to Tableau Public or Twitter and see what others are doing. You can also branch out into data preparation (Tableau Prep or Alteryx), databases, etc...
Patrick: Thank you Chris!