For SQL work I would recommend taking some database courses, in part so you understand how they work. This will also help you when you need to work with a dba, like when requesting from them a view or stored procedure.
There is only so much one can train for and the rest comes from experience, from -- ohmygosh! -- DOING IT. Taking a class and working with pre-formed data is one thing, being thrown into the real world with real problems and real data that is not perfect is what separates the book-smart folks from those who actually "get it".
Here's an example of how training can't possibly cover every situation and how one must adapt:
In the Navy I was part of a security team. We took classes on using weapons, how to canvas the ship, etc. We had "Security Alert" drills daily aboard our ship; which armory to go to, which teams to split up into, where to go, who to back-up, etc. If our ship came under attack by terrorists or other weapon-wielding bad guys we were ready with deadly force.
So, one day we are in a port, tied up along side a dock, and taking on tourists. Suddenly a security alert is called and it ain't no drill! We go rushing to the incident location which is on the front of the ship, on the main desk, where our Tomahawk missile launchers are, ready to defend our ship with our lives. When we get there to confront the awful enemy with our weapons loaded and brandished guess what we faced? Some anti-war protesters tossing chicken blood on the launchers and hitting them with hammers in protest! Well...we never had that as a possibility in our training! They put their "weapons" down and we politely gathered them up and handed them off to the police. The only real damage they did was inconvenience the weapons techs as their hammering chipped some paint off the armored launchers, so the techs had to wash them and do some touch-up painting. Yawn.
Our training was about neutralizing a threat with deadly force. We came to a thread that, really, wasn't deadly at all and kinda dumb -- seriously, who in their right mind would think of hitting a highly explosive (possibly nuclear) bomb with a hammer? Instead of "taking them down" -- our training -- we safely removed them from the ship. My point being that you won't know what to do or how you will do it until you face it. I've received jobs over others who where slightly more skilled simply because I had more work experience. I'll take an experienced person over a certified one almost any day in the IT market.
blood, sweat, and tears isn't only a rock band.
I don't mean to come off harsh, just that real-life should be next. Take training where and when you need it in the job. Tableau can get "niche"ist, like specializing in mapping or table calcs or R or Server. Trying to learn everything with little to no real world experience would be too big of a task.
I take your point but I am in real life and tearing my hair out with real problems.
I must be working in a niche (surveys) because my data structure is so different to all the (otherwise great) examples in Tableau training. I've found posts by Data Revelations that have been both relevant and written superbly, so clear and informative. However, I haven't found anyone writing in blogs or forums about the type of custom SQL issues that I encounter with every project.
In hindsight, my money would have been better spent on one-to-one coaching on specific issues. The content of the four day course is actually all out there in Tableau's videos and live training webinars. Same data, same examples, good presenters and the workbooks to download and practice... and free.
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Shawn, thanks for the reference to the Survey Data group and to the upcoming webinar. However, Helen -- note that the webinar is focused on a particular approach to marketing insights, gained through survey data, and will certainly not cover any kind of detailed insights about working with survey data or SQL (my data, for example, only involves reshaping in Excel and some joins in Tableau, no SQL work). But the Survey Data group might help you find someone who could help you with your particular needs, and I'd encourage you to check it out.
I'd also encourage you to reach out to Steve Wexler or other Tableau Zen Masters directly -- I've found them extremely generous and helpful with advice. I agree with Shawn that a one-on-one arrangement might be the best solution for you, so that you can work through a real-life data situation with someone.
Best of luck to you!
Thanks Susan and Shawn,
Your replies were really helpful. I have searched the forum many times for "survey data" and had not found the Survey Data Group. It looks very useful. (I hadn't seen Steve Wexler's new post about Likert Scales.) When I first started using Tableau a year ago, I corresponded with Steve, and as you say Susan, he was very generous with his advice.
The reasons I use custom SQL for survey data are:
- Our surveys run continuously and I update a client dashboard monthly. So I download a csv (rename it to keep the datasource file name the same) and then in Tableau I simply refresh the extract. Custom sql takes care of the reshaping and shortening the headers. That way I miss out the Excel step - which would be time consuming (for every client every month) and would be more likely to have capacity constraints.
- Most of our survey questions are common to all surveys (though the wording and options are tailored to each client). That allows us to combine the data to produce a benchmark group. A client can then compare their performance against the benchmark group. If I was working in an Excel spreadsheet, I would be adding rows under rows. Tableau's data blending joins columns not rows. So that's why I need custom sql (Union All).
I've just read your post Susan about Data prep in v9 - fingers crossed!
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A very nice screencast by Jonathan Drummey will also help - Getting Good at Tableau – the Screencast | Drawing with Numbers