Welcome to the September episode of “What’s Good?” We have a really exciting guest this month. An individual who has impacted the community in so many ways over the years, helping educate, uplift, support and develop thousands of data journeys.
What a pleasure to invite Lorna Brown, Data School Coach, 3x Tableau Visionary, Tableau Public Ambassador, Workout Wednesday Host, Tableau User Group Lead…. *breathe* (and many other accolades), to the blog this month.
This blog really focuses on that next stage of development, moving away from analyst work towards coaching, leading and the joy of helping others.
CJ: Welcome Lorna, these blogs tend to start in the same way. I’d be quite keen to hear how and why tableau was first introduced to you? What did your journey look like in those early days of being a consultant?
Firstly, thank you Cj for having me, it is much appreciated. So my journey started back in 2015, when I was doing a placement during my Masters in Sports Biomechanics. I was working within an Olympic Sport, when my placement manager asked me to take a look at this thing called Tableau. So I started to play around with it a little. I was given some data to visualise to present to the coaches and athletes, and at that moment I saw the real life implications of someone being able to see their data in a visual manner. By that point I was hooked. I was coming towards the end of my placement and I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I saw a job advertised on the Video Analyst website, a website for sports jobs, called The Data School. Where they pay you to train on Tableau and another software called Alteryx. I thought it was too good to be true, but I started working on my application straight away. A few months later (I was an early applicant) we went to final interviews, and eventually I got the call to say they would like to offer me the job. I started The Data School as part of Cohort 2 in December 2015 and it has changed my entire life.
At the beginning of the Data School, I was very nervous and not confident in my approaches. I was 22 at the time and sometimes I felt too young and immature to be in a “Proper Job”. When we went out into placements my love for the softwares continued to grow and grow. I loved being able to help people see and understand their data. I also really enjoyed teaching people how to use Tableau and watching those lightbulb moments appear when they finally achieve a difficult technique.
CJ: You have since moved away from consulting into more of a coaching role in January this year. What is it about helping others develop that you take pride in?
I just mentioned that throughout my consulting career, the most fun part was teaching people how to use Tableau and Alteryx. I loved watching their faces light up the moment they understood something and could achieve it on their own. I love watching people grow as a person. I wouldn’t be where I am today without teachers, coaches and mentors, they have made a real impact on my life in many different ways. I want to be that person who makes a difference to someone else’s life and what better way than to help the next generation of Data Analysts.
CJ: One thing I wasn’t actually aware of when we caught up, as it was just prior to me getting engaged in the community, was that you wrote the Tableau Tip Tuesdays. Do you have a few favourite tableau tips you live by?
The one thing I love doing is helping people, I think we have already established that, by sharing my knowledge through tips is another way of giving back to the community. Tableau Tip Tuesday originated by the one and only (thank god) Andy Kriebel. He still continues to blast out content all the time, I honestly don’t know how he does it.
There are so many favourite tips, but I think the main one which I use ALL the time is AVG(0), AVG(1), AVG(-1), depending on the use case. I love this one because it gives me an axis and more flexibility over my marks cards.
As well as Tableau Tip Tuesday, I am a big lover of presenting Tableau Speed Tips for Usergroups and Conferences.
CJ: You then thought, Tuesday wasn’t enough, I need Wednesdays as well! How were you first introduced to Workout Wednesday? Why did being a part of the Workout Wednesday initiative appeal to you?
Need to make sure I’m flexing those muscles every day of the week.
Workout Wednesday is a weekly challenge which gives you a dashboard and you have to recreate that by using the requirements we give. This could be focusing on certain features like LODs or Table Calcs. I was first introduced to Workout Wednesday when Andy Kriebel (shocker) and Emma Whyte started the initiative in 2017. They are great challenges, but I never consistently took part in them until the 2018 team (Ann, Rody & Luke) did a WorkoutWednesday live session at TC, from there I was hooked. I completed all the 2018 challenges within 3 months. At that point, Ann Jackson my speed tipping buddy, took a leap of faith on me and asked me to become a leader of the initiative for the 2019 year, and I still remain as a coach there.
Workout Wednesday appealed to me in many different ways, I wanted to connect with the wider community. But the main reason, again, is to share my knowledge and give back to the community. The challenges allow individuals to hone in on certain skills and even take some of the examples back to the workplace. Even now, 4 years on, I still get joy from seeing people complete the challenges.
CJ: So, writing a book is no mean feat. What made you choose to write a Tableau Cookbook? Having got a copy myself it seems like there is something for everyone. Did you have a particular audience in mind?
The Book was inspired by many things, but mainly my desire and passion to give back to the community that helped me grow into the person I am today. The timing was also pretty perfect because of the global pandemic, it allowed me to focus on nothing but the book because we weren’t allowed to go or do anything else.
I love the fact you noticed there is something for everyone because that was my intentions. Majority of the book is focused on those basic elements of Tableau, but even throughout those there are sprinkles of tips and tricks that can help even the advanced user. I’ve heard of some people using the book as a reference guide when they are training, which is super lovely to hear.
CJ: Over 650 pages of content, and worth every penny. Do go pick yourself up a copy! I’m waiting on Lorna to sign mine ha. I really feel Lornas book has given me alot more context to talk about areas of Tableau I would normally brush under the ‘that’s just the way it is’ category.
CJ: Your speed tipping sessions are without a doubt one of the crowd favourites at Tableau Conference. You must have done about 7 of them by now? How were the sessions born? What is it you think makes it so popular?
Yes I’ve done 7 of them for Conferences, but many more over the years throughout the User Groups. I’ve lost count now. The session was originally done by Andy Kriebel and Jeffrey Shaffer, where they battled against each other with people keeping track of the number of tips. Before we made it to the big stage, Ann Jackson and I, were picked to represent our User Groups at a user group tip battle at the 2017 Vegas Conference, we then reached out to Andy and Jeff to see if we could take over the session with the same format. And from there Ann and I have been doing them together ever since.
I think there are a variety of things that make the session so popular. Personally I’d like to think it’s because Ann and I are complete Badass visionaries and having two women on stage showing they know there stuff. But on a more serious note, I think that people get to see the real us, how our minds work through the way we demonstrate the tips, it is a very fast paced session and almost an information overload.
CJ: If you’d like to catch up on a few of the speed tipping dashboards you can find the recent ones below:
data21- #TC21 Speed Tipping #Data21
data 20 – #Data20 Speed Tipping Favourites
CJ: Something I really admire about you is the impact you’ve made in the community over the years but through so many channels for a sustained amount of time. Do you have a personal achievement in the community that you cherish most?
Thank you Cj. There has been many milestones that have been such achievements for me personally. I take it one year at a time. Prior to becoming an Ambassador and Visionary, the biggest achievement was standing on the stage at TC in front of 1000 people speed tipping with Ann Jackson. Since then everything I have done and achieved I cherish. But this year, I am most proud of becoming a new Data School coach, without the DS I wouldn’t even know about the community or anything like that. So being able to provide that starting point for someone else is a real honor and one I take pride in.
CJ: Is there anyone in the community that you’d like to recognise that has helped guide your career and community work the last few years? What advice would you give to someone who is an active member in publishing public vizzes but wants to now start giving back through other means?
Like with my personal achievements I have many people that have help guide my career and community work. I’d like to start with The Information Lab and The Data School for taking a risk on me, specifically Tom, Andy & Carl. They have been incredibly helpful over the past 7 years. But I have several community members that I now consider really close friends, but also cheerleaders. I’m not going to name names, but they know who they are. They always have my back when I’m having a wobble on my own beliefs and abilities.
My advice would be, don’t change. By publishing vizzes you are helping so many people already. But if you want to give back in other ways, I find videos of tutorials really helpful, and a lot of people learn through visual means.
CJ: Besides the scattering of Workout Wednesday posts on your tableau public, we get treated to a sprinkle of SportsVizSunday vizzes. Will we see a return of a sports viz? Rumour has it you follow a lot of your team’s stats?
That’s a great question Cj, I like to do them as a treat when I get an idea in mind. Happy to do a collaboration if you’re interested, Cj.
Yes I do follow my Rugby League Team’s stats, you can see it here. However I have been totally uninspired with it recently due to our team performances being such a low point. But I do really want to start doing more with the Rugby Data.
If any one wants to play around with the rugby data to see what they can come up with drop me a message and I can send it to you.
CJ: What in the rest of the year are you most looking forward to?
I don’t tend to look that far ahead of myself these days. I prefer to live in the moment. I still continuously look forward to my weeks of WorkoutWednesday, seeing all the different solutions. I also really enjoy seeing new faces in the community. I’d say one of my biggest aims over the rest of this year is to help elevate all the fabulous people I coach throughout the Data School.
I am also very much looking forward to attending DreamForce which should be one heck of an experience.
Cj, I just want to say, thank you for being you. You are doing great things in the Tableau Community, and well done for becoming the Youngest Visionary. Keep being you, don’t change and thank you for this opportunity to tell my story.
It was such a pleasure of meeting Lorna at the Tableau Conference this year. I always find that a funny prospect when you live in the same country and have offices probably about 20 minutes apart but get to meet someone over 5000 miles away.
What I appreciate most about Lorna is that strong desire to help others in their own careers and really develop their skills to improve. There are so many lovely quotes to pull out around watching individuals grow and the eureka moment people get with the tool. What a lucky bunch the DS’ers are to have such badass (in Lornas words) thought leadership and technical skills like Lorna’s in the room.
Finally, I want to say…. I will keep you to that collaboration offer Lorna. It’s in print now which is almost the same as a legally binding contract in my eyes.