How Tableau is Transformative



Recently a friend wrote to me asking me to make a video for the #MyTableauVoice campaign. I thought that would be easy to do, so I quickly said: “Sure, I’ll do it!”.

What I didn’t realize at the time, however, was how making that video would make me think retrospectively and critically about the role that Tableau Software has played in my life.

Making the Video

When you try to boil down a decade of using a software product into a video that lasts a minute or two, you quickly realize something important. To properly tell the story, you need to find the essence of what the software means to you. You have got to get to the core of the message real fast. Otherwise, the video sounds like this: “Blah, Blah, Blah, and more Blah, Blah, Blah.”

After about a dozen attempts at making a video to explain my Tableau Voice, I realized something really important. The videos all sounded the same and they all missed the point of My Real Tableau Voice. There were some funny moments, some cutesy statements, and some insights on how I see Tableau influencing my life. Upon review, I felt that every video failed in delivering the proper core message.

This is what I discovered was the core message of My Tableau Voice:

Tableau is Transformative

Uncovering the Core Message

Transformation means turning something into something else over time. It can involve a dramatic change in form or appearance as shown in the Figure 1 definition.


Figure 1 – The definition of transformation.

In all the unsuccessful videos I made, I had thought apriori of what I was going to say. I had a theme in mind and then I let the words escape my brain in such a way to support that theme. The problem was, I kept missing the point. When I reviewed each video, I knew that I had not captured the core message of how Tableau had transformed me.

In the very last video I made, I did not think about what I was going to say. I turned the camera on, and in 41 seconds, a series of words emerged that surprised me. These words were created by the hundreds of experiences I have had with Tableau through the years. These words were buried in my brain. When I listen to what I said, it collapsed to:

Learn Tableau and Transform Your Career

In fact, My Tableau Voice wasn’t even needed to make that statement. I completely dismissed my own voice by waving my hands and saying: “My own experiences with Tableau do not matter, I don’t care about that.”

The unprofessional video-making guy who is scratching his head during the video, who pauses, looks down and says “I have got to get real”, doesn’t even seem to be me. My body was just a spokesman delivering the message about transformation. I had no idea which words were coming next because it was completely spontaneous and unscripted. That is how the core message was uncovered.

How Tableau is Transformative

The types of transformations I have gone through because of Tableau are many. I no longer have to work hard writing computer programs to process data and draw graphics to understand what the data is telling me. If I were to redo my 1986-1988 Master’s degree and I had Tableau as a tool, the 1.5 years worth of work could be done in a month. After working more than two decades doing things the hard way, that is transformative.

I no longer have to think about instructing computer programs how to draw the data to answer a question. Tableau just draws it for me the way I want it, really fast. When I am working with a client and they ask me a question about the data, I just have them look at my computer screen. I flick my wrist and click the mouse a few times. What emerges is the answer to their question. That is transformative.

When I want to understand a complicated subject better, whether it be in business or science, I get the data and send it to Tableau. When I wanted to understand the truth about global warming, I sent the data to Tableau and this story emerged. When I showed this to a preeminent climatologist, she just said that the graphics were outstanding and the story was clear. She had never seen the data displayed like that before. That is transformative.

When I teach Tableau to new employees, the skill and thought transformations we achieve in three days are profound. The students are filled with wonderment, excitement, and a desire to learn more about this software product called “Tableau”. I know this because I have witnessed this type of response in hundreds of people. That is transformative.

I could go on and on about Tableau-produced transformations. When you have the ability to look backwards in time, it becomes easy to see how important someone or something has been in your life. For me, Tableau has given me the skills, courage, and desire to go inside the data to uncover the truth that lies hidden within better than any visual platform I have ever used. Tableau has transformed me into an efficient problem solver using data. Not only has Tableau transformed my career, it has transformed me.

Final Thoughts

Ten years ago, I might have been able to do some of the things I can do now. However, it would have been a lot harder to do and it would have taken me a lot longer to achieve. That is how Tableau has transformed me, and that is my truest Tableau Voice. It only took me about a dozen attempts at making a video to understand this voice.


Figure 2 – In 2001, I was given this performance award from Jacobs Engineering. Before then, I had Turbo-Pascal as a data engine. During that time, I had Excel, VBA, Autocad and Tecplot as data engines. Now I’m driving a hyper-charged Tableau data engine coupled with Alteryx. I wonder how Jacobs would see my performance now?

Part 3 – Proof of How Tableau Has Transformed Careers

If you want proof of what I have said in this article, click here to read the next article on this topic. This is the end of the series.

3 thoughts on “How Tableau is Transformative

  1. Hi Ken, I identify very well with your statement “However, it would have been a lot harder to do and it would have taken me a lot longer to achieve. That is how Tableau has transformed me”. This probably is the key essence of Tableau, the attention to detail they have put to make sure that we don’t end up spending a lot of time on repetitive non-value added activities is adorable. I get inspired each time I read your reflections about Tableau.

  2. Pingback: 3danim8's Blog - Proof of How Tableau Has Transformed Careers

  3. Pingback: 3danim8's Blog - #MyTableauVoice

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