The Effect That Joe Mako Has On Me, #Alteryx, and #Tableau



I had just hit the enter button to send the email. It was 12:21 am (just past midnight) and within five seconds the phone rang. My wife was lying in bed behind me, my phone was on the bedside table beside her and she says to me: “Who is that?”. Without any doubt of who it could be, I give her the one-word answer: Joe. Acting perplexed, she says to me: “Who is Joe?”.

I stumbled in the dark to find the phone and I knew immediately that I was right – it was Joe – it had to be Joe! The big bright screen on my phone indicated “California” with some number listed below it. I picked up the phone, give a slight chuckle and immediately started a delightful conversation that seemed to take only a few seconds but actually spanned over an hour and a half (1:36 to be precise).

Who Is Joe Mako?

Time-compression, innovation, friendliness, creativity, friendship, comradery, and appreciation are terms that I would use when speaking about Joe Mako. His prodigious talent is coupled with an unstoppable desire to help others, and these traits make Joe Mako a modern-day data processing innovator. Joe is a giver, a guy that finds happiness in helping others. He is a teacher and someone that is so selfless that it seems like he does not belong in the modern-day world of “me, me, me”. I don’t think you are going to find too many selfies of Joe flying around the internet.

Joe has been a friend of mine since 2008, which is when I sent my first email to him to ask him for some help with a Tableau question related to a mathematical model. Since that time we have spoken on occasion, we have had some email bursts, and we have had several real-time working sessions. I have also had the great fortune of following his work through various on-line resources. A Google search of “Joe Mako” will give you more links that you will have time to explore, but if you have time to dedicate to learning, this would be a good thing for you to do.

Throughout all of this, I have never met Joe but I feel like we are brothers that were separated at birth. We share some traits that make it very easy for him to be my friend. If we didn’t live a few thousand miles apart, I’d be hanging out with him because he is a cool dude that is somewhat of a modern-day renaissance man. Spending a few minutes with Joe’s electric personality is equivalent to plugging in your Chevy Volt for an overnight charge in the 220 V circuit. When you interact with Joe, you better be ready to be infused with knowledge and an abundance of energy.

I think Joe has a two-part life: what he does at work followed by his night-time exploits as a problem-solver extraordinaire. Joe somehow manages to get engaged with solving problems for so many people that he has managed to become the only person that I am aware of to be recognized both as a perennial Tableau Zen Master and an Alteryx ACE. These awards were not just given to him because he is a nice guy. There is a huge amount of talent and real-world problem-solving experience behind those glasses. Joe has earned those titles through his continuous, multi-year effort to educate and inspire Tableau and Alteryx users from around the world. The man is a world-class talent that has a brain that is built to solve problems.

What Happened During That Phone Call?

When the phone call ended, it was about 2 am. This is typically when I have the time to write these blogs because I have a three-part life: work followed by family time, followed by my late-night adventures as a blogger. As I laid down in bed, time passed slowly. After 15 minutes of attempting to find sleep, my wife says to me: “Would you please quit buzzing?”. Another half an hour later, she said: “You are still buzzing”. All that I could say in response is: “I’m trying to sleep”.

That is the effect that a guy like Joe can have on you if you are lucky enough to get engaged with him.That is the type of effect he can have for companies like Tableau and Alteryx. His unquenchable thirst for problem-solving energizes you to the point where your brain goes into hyper-drive mode. Sleep isn’t possible when you finish a working session with Joe.

I would have been more productive if I had just stayed up all night and let the algorithms and Alteryx workflows stream from my fingertips into the keyboard, onto the computer screen, and into the computer hard-drives. As it were, I had to lay silently in my bed with my brain fully charged with ideas trying to escape into the computer.

Minutes passed by as I laid waiting for the sun to rise. Even though I was physically very still, my mental energy was emanating from me like a blue-tooth signal looking for a place to land. My brain was creating a 5 Ghz signal that was in competition with my home wireless system. That was the buzzing my wife felt coming from me.

So what caused this buzzing phenomenon to occur? Joe. Joe is what it was that caused me to go into full-blown, algorithm development mode deep inside my brain at 2 am.

During our phone call, Joe and I spanned the globe in an hour and a half, talking about everything from finding great companies to work for, to using Alteryx to set-up input files for multiple regression modeling. We even began solving a problem I had posed earlier in the day. I told him about my exploits of building the perfect beast of a workflow in Alteryx and how that has challenged me to dive deeper into Alteryx and to create something that initially seemed impossible to do.

We also discussed the complexities of challenging problems and how if you pay attention to the details, Alteryx allows you to prepare data exactly in the form that Tableau needs for us to be able to visualize and make sense of a huge amount of interconnected information.

We discussed the talents of others in the Tableau and Alteryx communities that make this such a special time to be engaged in this period of innovative software development. There are a number of people that work tirelessly in the Tableau and Alteryx communities and are quite amazing and deserve their own articles like this. Nobody is sending checks to these people for all the work that they are doing on their own time to help others learn to use these tools. Watching the development of these communities and the contributors over the past few years has been a delight, and people like Joe are at the forefront of this movement.

The combined tools of Alteryx and Tableau allow us to tackle problems that were not possible just a few years ago. By combining these technologies, we are able to do things that our technical predecessors like the transistor developers, the computer designers, and the quantitative scientists of yesteryear would have loved to be able to do.

I wish I had these capabilities earlier in my career because I spent 25 years writing computer programs to do the types of things I can now do so easily with Alteryx and Tableau. I think that Joe believes that it is our responsibility to share our working knowledge as much as possible. His belief is that we (and future generations) can all benefit from the advances that will be made by people who are capable of performing intensive data-driven studies using tools like these.

We are very lucky to have this opportunity to use these outstanding tools from these two amazing companies. I am also thankful for a friend like Joe, who calls me out of the blue late at night to discuss a fairly simple blog post comment, only to lead me down a path of enlightenment that is so full of energy and anticipation that I cannot sleep. There are so few people that give of themselves in this way that when you experience this first-hand, it is amazing and a lesson that you will not soon forget.

So that is how I would describe Joe Mako to someone that doesn’t know him. I would say that Joe is one of my best friends that I have never met. I would also say that Joe is a modern-day leader and innovator that tries his best to help a lot of people learn and solve problems. So thanks for sharing yourself with me Joe, and I look forward to our future adventures together.

Update Many Months Later

Partly due to my interactions with Joe and partly due to my own experiences in math and science, I suddenly found myself joining Joe in the limited community of Alteryx ACEs. I know from my first-hand experience that Joe has been a pioneer in using Tableau and Alteryx. I now understand why. Joe is a world-class athlete or artist disguised in the form of a data scientist. Watching him work is like watching a great artist paint, or a great player running the field. It is a spectacle to behold.


Joe Mako and Ken Black. May 2015, Boston, MA. Click the picture to learn more about Alteryx ACE’s.

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5 thoughts on “The Effect That Joe Mako Has On Me, #Alteryx, and #Tableau

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  3. Hi Ken,

    I had my first call with Joe a few days back and I would share your impression of Joe – what an energy, what a calmness, what a friendly attitude and a zeal to help others. And you are right – it is so rare to find individuals like Joe Mako in today’s world.

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