London Practice Lead for @interworks | Inaugural Iron Viz Europe Winner | Tableau Ambassador | London TUG Co-lead | Japanophile

Twitter: @davidmpires

David is a Portuguese in London since 2005 with a love for languages and Japan. David created his blog to help you take the first steps on data visualisation, as up until recently most data visualisation was in the realm of coders and Excel wizards, but that has changed considerably with the launch of user-friendly tools like Tableau. Now David is now a Practice Lead for InterWorks UK and Co-lead of the Tableau London User Group.

I have known David for some time and had many interesting conversations, so I thought, we would have one more conversation.

Toan: Hey David, for those that do now know you how did you get into Data Visualisation and Tableau?

David: Before Tableau and Data Visualisation I was an analyst, working in retail banking for a decade. Since we looked at a new Business Intelligence tool and when we came across Tableau in 2014, I have not looked back.

Toan: What business intelligence tool were you using at the retail bank, and what was it about Tableau that really changed your mind?

David: Don’t laugh but it was a combination of SAS queries and Cognos Cubes v7. The best thing about Tableau was the ability of quickly answering a question and allowing me to keep asking questions from the data in a very easy way. It is still my favourite aspect of tableau to this day.

The major change however happened after I attended the London conference in 2015 in London and saw how big a community there was and how much more could I do with Tableau.

Toan: Was there a moment that you thought wow, or something that really engaged you at the London Tableau Conference.

David: Yeah, over a ping pong match I got chatting to a few attendees and we all bonded in a wish to make data more accessible to everyone in the business. The levels of engagement at the conferences are unique to Tableau and you can witness really interesting conversations on really in-depth details of the product. Plus, Hannah Fry and Ben Goldacre both spoke at the conference and I loved their talks.

Toan: What has been the most rewarding work you have done in the Tableau space, and why?

David: If we look at Tableau Space as being the Tableau community, I love being part of the team that organizes the London User Group. We are very lucky to see an average of 30% new people to our events; It’s great to chat and see how they are starting to use Tableau and how it’s changing their business. Seeing new comers to the community learn new skills and applying them is fascinating.

On a technical aspect, I value Viz for Social Good ( as it lends itself to a lot of creativity.

Finally, last year I passed the gruelling 7-hour Tableau Server Certified Professional exam and I am extremely proud of that.

Toan: I read that out of the 500+ Tableau User Groups, the London Tableau User Group meets the most frequently as well as being one of, if not the most, well attended globally. What is the secret here? Can you give us a little insight into running a successful TUG?

David: The secret is that there’s no secret. Just lots of hard work and a group of people that keep each other accountable to make those events the best they can be. From previous organizers like Paul Banoub and Nick Bignell, to Pablo Gomez, Sarah Bartlett, Laura Sandford and Paul Chapman, we are always looking at ways to improve the TUG.

We also have a half day session every year to plan our meetings in advance, it may surprise you, but we’ve had speakers booked up 6-8 months in advance, it takes a lot of planning but it’s very rewarding.

Toan: What advice would you give to someone starting their own Tableau User Groups? What are the key things to think about and potential pitfalls?

David: Don’t expect to have 100 people on your first user group; I remember Data Plus Women in London, I attended the second meeting and there were less than 10 of us, organizers included. Their persistence paid off and holding regular meetings means they now have a very well attended event with very interesting speakers on a range of topics.

Toan: Congrats on passing the Tableau Server Certified Professional Exam, this is a great achievement and I heard how tough it is, can you give us a little more insight into your Tableau Server Certified Professional experience? Also, what resources and advice would you give to people who are looking to get certified.

David: At the risk of promoting my own blog, this is a great starting point Tableau Server Certified Professional is very much a hands-on exam and there’s no amount of googling that will help. You are required to install and configure a number of servers and if necessary, build a cluster. I used AWS to test as it made for a cheap and quick way of spinning up new servers to test. These days with TSM, some tasks are easier as you don’t have to use tabadmin for configuration.

Toan: To add to the above, what was the most challenging project you have experienced in Tableau, and why? How did you overcome this challenge, and what advice would you give to people who experience the same challenge? What would you say to yourself if you had a time machine?

David: The projects I find most challenging are when users are trying to replicate other tools in Tableau. For instance, using Tableau to create multiple tables similar to those found in Excel. I find that I must repeat myself countless times so that they understand that fundamentally they are different tools, built with a different underlying structure and behave differently. I continue to encourage users of Tableau to see it less as a reporting tool and more of a data discovery tool, for me that’s where the strength is, less on making pixel perfect reports to be printed on 10+ pages. I wish I had a time machine, but I also don’t have a silver bullet solution to this, I think it will come with time as analytics focus on the value gained and less on the quantity of reports produced.

Toan: I agree and see this issue daily in my job. What are your key talking points when discussing this with clients? How do you overcome the objections and get them to start seeing and working in a different way?

David: It takes time and I’ve seen really interesting articles from Harvard Business on the reasons for an organization fail on adoption, almost always it’s people related. At the same time Gartner has shared that the more companies talk about data and act on it the more they grow and that translates to revenue. Doesn’t sound pleasant but the companies of the future are those who focus on data driven decisions and less gut feeling, they will be the ones left standing. I guess that’s the choice for executives, what company would you rather be?

Toan: Moving from Excel to Tableau is becoming common, what do you see are the pitfalls and challenges around working with clients to achieve this?

David: As above it’s all moving away from our old habits. I really don’t like when people say, “we’ve always done it this way,” that to me is a clear path to failure. I’m often pushing the needle with clients and sometimes they are taken aback as I seem to disagree with them often. In the long run however, they appreciate the honesty. I always want to help clients derive value from my time and contributions, that’s my main goal.

Toan: Tableau is awesome and is a big part of our careers, where do you see Tableau going in the next few years? What are your thoughts?

David: I think Tableau has hit the ground running in 2019 and released a series of much-awaited features that open its capabilities. For a couple of years Tableau development, while good, was more around some fringe use cases. Additionally, I’ve had the privilege to speak to a lot of developers recently and they are making some serious strides in listening to the community feedback and bring them along in the alpha and beta conversations.

The one thing I wish we could bring would be to re-use dates irrespective of measures. That would reduce the need for a lot of calculations.

Toan: Yes, there is a lot of very impressive stuff and the product and engineering teams are doing great work; what upcoming features in 2019 excites you the most? Are there any features that you think will be a real game changer?

David: No doubt, Set Actions, Parameter Actions, Replace Worksheet and Containers Docking will transform the way dashboards will be built. I’m not sure the word dashboard is well placed here anymore. I can see a lot of app like tools being built with no code. It’s revolutionary.

Toan: Where do you see Tableau going in the future? I am sure you have seen the Gartner Magic Quadrant, what do you think will keep Tableau competitive?

David: I don’t really care that much for the quadrant as it’s heavily skewed towards some auspicious ideas on data. Big data revolution came and went, AI and ML revolution is now apparently, but there are still lots of companies struggling with data literacy. I think, for as long as Tableau continues to make data accessible to all it has a place in the market. Tools like prep bring data to the desks of analysts who had to rely on data engineers previously and Ask Data gives access to data to people who never thought they needed it. I’m not the main audience of Ask Data but I can see it being extremely valuable.

Toan: Tableau has an amazing community for learning and there are loads of places to go. What is your top tip for really excelling within Tableau, what is your secret?

David: I’d say start simple and take your learning as Lego pieces, block by block. While it may be tempting to fast forward to Nested LOD’s for instance, really taking the time to understand the underlying architecture of Tableau will give you a leg up later on. Particularly when you must explain a certain behaviour of your data on a work dashboard. Understanding Tableau allows you to move away from the comfort zone and explore other types of charts such as the ones you see here on Tableau Magic.

Toan: Who have been your inspirations in the Tableau community? Who has encouraged you to improve your skills?

David: Without a doubt Bridget Cogley; from bouncing off ideas off of each other to long discussions on data in general, I have always looked up to Bridget and her ability to design compelling data stories.

But there’s so many in the community that I look up to and I get inspiration from, Peter Gilks was one, Kelly Martin, Pooja, A Crahen and so many others in a variety of areas. They cover so many areas; leadership, desktop, strategy, server, Tableau and data in general is so wide that you are always looking for inspiration on a daily basis.

Toan: Who else in the community would recommend following and keeping tabs on?

David: I’m lazy so I created a list of tableau and data related people, it has about 750 members and it’s full with advice and amazing content on a daily basis. Start there.

David is slowly going back to playing bass; David used to play in bars and venues both in Portugal and the UK, stopped about 10 years ago, but slowly getting back into it; it is fascinating how much muscle memory is retained.

Finally, David loves to cook and finds it both therapeutic and relaxing. In his words “there are few things in life as satisfying as cooking a delicious meal for those you love, friends and family.”

London Practice Lead for @interworks | Inaugural Iron Viz Europe Winner | Tableau Ambassador | London TUG Co-lead | Japanophile

Twitter: @davidmpires

A Conversation with Season 1:

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