Last week, I drove over 4,000 miles to spend a couple of days in Boston, MA. It was a delightful journey for many reasons. This article will explain what I did and why I took this cross-country journey. I will also explain what it means to me to be selected as an Alteryx ACE.
In this context, ACE is an acronym for Analytics Certified Expert. This title is humbling and I’m not sure I deserve it! However, I will do my best to earn the title by teaching and publishing my Alteryx insights as much as I can.This software is so powerful, deep and impactful that I feel that I am still a novice, even after using it steadily for the past year.
The Phone Call That Started the Journey
It was Tuesday, April 7, 2015 when I got the call that both humbled and surprised me. I was working in Detriot, MI, in the glorious GM corporate headquarters that overlook the city (Figure 1).
Figure 2 shows some of the sights I saw during that week of work. The towers contain showrooms for all the GM products so that it is easy to directly inspect all the cool cars being created.
When the phone rang, I had to explain to the person calling me that I had completely lost my voice the previous day. I was only able to whisper to her during the call. It only took me a couple of seconds to whisper an enthusiastic “yes” when she asked me if I would accept an invitation to be a 2015 Alteryx ACE.
She told me that the Alteryx staff nominated me for this award based on the Alteryx work I published in this blog. She mentioned that my work represented some of the most creative and innovative uses of Alteryx that they had seen in the technical blogging space. When she told me this, I felt very appreciative of these comments.
When you write a blog, much of what you do goes unnoticed and there is little to no feedback. Well, this endorsement by the Alteryx staff was a very positive form of feedback that made all the time I put into creating and publishing that work well worth it. I’d like to say “thank you” to the Alteryx staff that nominated me for this selection.
Going to Boston
Six weeks after that call, my family took a trip to Boston, via New York City. We visited some sites, including the World Trade Center site. Figure 3 contains some pictures from that visit. After spending a few hours in NYC, we headed to Boston.
The 2015 Inspire Conference
This conference was my first foray into conferences in the field of analytics. I have attended many conferences in my previous career of environmental science, but this conference was different than those in a couple of ways. First, there were many training sessions offered by Alteryx that spanned a wide range of topics from beginner to advanced levels. Second, the solutions center allowed users like me, that have particular use-cases to get direct help and advice for the more technically challenging approaches and topics. Where else can you go to get time directly with the program developers? I thought that both of those aspects to this conference were very valuable to attendees. All of the Alteryx staff is fantastic.
Since my trip to the conference was a combination family adventure and to receive the ACE nomination, I didn’t spend much time enjoying after-hour activities or even watching the sessions. For that reason, I can’t comment on the quality of the content presented. I saw long waiting lines for many of the sessions, which indicated to me that the attendees were really engaged in the conference.
What Does Being an ACE Mean to Me?
I know that I am not yet a veteran “ACE”. I am a rookie “ACE”. I am just finishing my first year of using Alteryx. I feel like I was awarded a “rookie of the year” ACE award and I have a lot of work to do to earn this title.
However, to be able to do some of the things I can already do in Alteryx is a testament to the brilliance of the software combined with my own 30-year history of applied math, computer programming and science. To me, being nominated for this title simply means that I have the potential to become an “ACE”, like Chris Love, Jarrod Thuener or Andy Moncla.
These gentlemen, as well as others such as Tableau Zen Master Craig Bloodworth, have been using Alteryx on a daily basis for seven to ten years. They understand Alteryx better than I do at this time due to their experience. They have the confidence to solve problems in Alteryx like I have the confidence to solve problems in Tableau. Once I get to that level, then I’ll know I will be deserving of the title of Alteryx ACE.
For me to achieve this goal, I simply have to work at my craft. I have to use Alteryx on a daily basis in work and for my other activities that are data related. I have to challenge myself to get better, to be able to solve more challenging problems. I have to work harder and learn more to achieve the ability to work in the “zone”, much like I describe in this article about Tableau. When you achieve this state, you know it. You can’t pretend to have it. You simply have earned it and it is obvious to others that watch you work.
An Example of Someone in the Alteryx Zone
As an example of this, I had a few minutes to talk to the 2015 Alteryx Grand Prix winner Jarrod Thuener. We were standing in the big conference room (Figure 4), a few hours before the competition began. Jarrod told me that he felt like it was not his turn to win the competition after finishing a very close second to Chris Love last year and in the top 4, twice before. I asked him if he had butterflies in his stomach, and he said that he did. Based on his response, I knew that he was ready.
To be sure, I asked Jarrod two final questions. I said: “Have you used all the Alteryx tools? Do you know them all?” He response floored me. He said: “I have used every Alteryx tool at least a dozen times.”
I was floored because I have yet to learn all the Alteryx tools. Wow! That tells me that Jarrod has really prepared for this competition and he is very confident. That is mastery of a subject. That is why Jarrod is an ACE.
A few hours later, Jarrod went on to win the competition. I wasn’t surprised.
As I walked around Boston with my family (Figure 5), Jarrod used his years of experience to achieve his goal. He didn’t win by chance, he won because he prepared for the competition over many years. He deserved to win. He earned the right to be the champion. That is what it takes to be great at anything in life. Congratulations to Jarrod for accomplishing his goal.
Finally, although I didn’t get a chance to meet some of the legends such as Craig Bloodworth, Andy Kriebel, Jonathan Drummey (who made a cameo appearance for dinner one night), and a few others, I did finally meet my best friend that I’ve never met. I met the man. If you are a Tableau fan, you know who I mean. I finally met Joe Mako and Figure 6 shows us together.
In fact, Joe was the very first person I met upon arriving at the conference. He recognized me before I recognized him. It was only fitting since Joe and I have been collaborating for nearly 8 years without ever having met in person. Meeting Joe was worth driving 4,000 miles!
Finally, Jett (Figure 7) attended Inspire 2015, which was his first appearance at a professional conference. He is 3 years old, has visited 23 states and multiple countries and now he is an Alteryx investor (Figure 8). Look for more from Jett in this blog in the future once he learns to do more complex math! Thanks for reading!