Getting started with tableau

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Data visualization is the art of making data easier to understand.

Any instance of data being organized for the purpose of communicating insights to an audience can be considered data visualization. Whether it’s an easy-to-read table, a simple bar chart or a scatterplot, these are all data visualizations. Bringing together multiple data visualizations in one place is called a dashboard. To make these visuals and dashboards come to life, operators in tech often use software tools to manage and organize their data. At the very least, they’ll likely be using GSheets or similar.

Keep reading to get the basics of data visualization and how you can improve your data viz skills with Tableau.

What is data visualization and why is it important?

Large data sets can make even the most analytical person’s head spin. It’s difficult and often impossible to make decisions simply just by looking at a massive spreadsheet.

Data visualization is the process of representing data in an easier-to-digest, graphical, and visual format. It makes it possible to communicate ideas and understand large data sets.

Data visualization is an important skill for any business role in tech. Operators can leverage data visualization to help communicate bottlenecks in company operations; product managers use data visualization to generate buy-in for feature prioritization; a chief of staff can use data visualization to make a case for pursuing a new opportunity for the company. The bottom line: data visualization is one of the most important skill sets to have an impact in tech as it helps prioritize projects, generate buy-in, and manage stakeholders.

One of the most popular and powerful tools for leveling up your data visualization skills is Tableau.

What is Tableau?

Tableau is a tool used by businesses to make better sense of large data sets. You can help visualize data within the software by creating interactive charts, maps, and other visuals. You can then compile these visualizations into dashboards and worksheets to help organize and present your findings.

Tableau might look complicated at first, but it is user-friendly enough that it’s not only used on teams like business analytics and data science, it’s also used by professionals in operations, marketing, sales, product, and more!

Our community's advice on how to improve your Tableau skills

Tableau is relatively straightforward to get started with. But there are a lot of features and capabilities that can take time to understand. To help, we reached out to The Commons Slack community to get some of their tips to upskill in Tableau, and we heard back from a true pro: Fairuz, one of the data mentors for the Strategy & Operations Sprint.

Start with Tableau resources

 When looking for tips, you can’t go wrong starting at the source! 

“Tableau has a lot of training videos that they put up to cover the basics, it’s a good start.” - Fairuz

Tableau has a whole set of free resources that are specific to their software. These resources cover topics like getting started with Tableau, connecting your data source and performing calculations. For those looking to go even deeper, Tableau also offers paid certifications that can help you hone your skills.

Practice. And practice some more.

One of the best ways to improve is by doing. Try exploring sites like Kaggle where you’ll find free data sets to play around with.

If you need more structure to help you practice, some recommendations from Fairuz include:

  • Makeover Monday – Weekly learning exercises with over six years of archived materials
  • Workout Wednesday – Challenge questions released weekly on Wednesday for you to recreate.

Draw inspiration from others

There is a whole world of data lovers out there sharing their top tips and tricks. Joining data visualization communities can help you connect with and learn from other Tableau users.

“There are Tableau Zen-Masters who build crazy dashboards that can give you some inspiration” - Fairuz

Tableau Public is a great way to get started with Tableau for free and is highly recommended by members of The Commons. From Viz of the day to Community resources, there is a whole world of Tableau-specific data visualization to explore. Getting exposure to more and more data visualizations and use cases will only improve your own creativity and ability to communicate via data visualizations.

Make use of transferable skills

Tableau is wildly popular for data visualization. But it’s not the only software of its kind. If you’ve used other platforms, you’ve likely got transferable skills.

“Overall my opinion is that Data Visualization has many transferable lessons to one another and even if you’re doing a project that’s in Looker, Tableau, Metabase, Power BI etc. you can use one tool to get better at another.” - Fairuz

As Fairuz mentions, a lot of data visualization principles are the same across software tools. If you have experience with another tool in your current role, you’ll be set up for success when using a new software, there might just be a short adjustment period to get used to the idiosyncrasies of the new tool.

Level up your data viz skills

Data visualization is like a craft – you can only get better at it! By continuously practicing your skills, you’ll be more effective at communicating your insights and data.

Consider joining The Strategy & Operations Sprint if you want to build reps working with Tableau, while under the guidance of a mentor. The Strategy & Operations Sprint is a project-based program where you’ll learn and apply key skills like Tableau. You’ll take it one step further by learning SQL, analyzing an actual dataset and compiling your analysis into visualizations that you’ll present to key stakeholders. It’s a great way to learn by doing, in the context of a business problem in tech. You can apply to join the waitlist here.

Interested in more?
Mentor Spotlight: Sarah Zarling
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Mentor Spotlight: Sarah Zarling
Meet Sarah, Senior Product Operations Manager at Color Health and Strategy & Operations mentor at The Commons.
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