Alteryx Inspire – Day 1

When I went to the Tableau Conference last year, I felt it was important to spend some time documenting my experience.  Anytime I go to a conference related to my professional aspirations I’m always taken by the wealth of knowledge that’s uncovered.

The Alteryx Inspire conference is a pared down conference with about 2,000 attendees.  It is comfortably housed in the Aria hotel across 2 spacious and open floors.  There are escalators that split between level 3 and level 1 – there’s nice flow to it and plenty of natural light.  Events take place over three days: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Monday is mostly a product training day and the bulk of sessions are the remainder of the week.  Opening keynote is Tuesday.

This year – being my first – I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend and to do the product training track.  This gives me a firsthand opportunity to see how the product company sells and trains on its tool.  Facilitators are typically great at selling the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind something.

Today I sat for a full day going through the introduction to Alteryx Designer.  Not because it was my first time using the tool, but because I believe there’s something very powerful about origin stories.  There’s something you learn in the first 30 minutes that someone who doesn’t have the ‘formal training’ may never pick up.  That happened for me today and it was great to see everything in action.

As an advocate for data-informed decision making the tool is indispensable.  Just by listening to the 100+ in my classroom, it’s scary to witness firsthand the youth that exists with businesses accessing data.  Yes, there have been really great strides, but so many people are just at the beginning.  I chuckle when I hear the typical ‘Excel’ analogies, but the overwhelming majority are nodding with how much they relate to the joke.

I’ve always seen Alteryx as a natural companion for a data analyst.  For anyone out there trying to manage data it offers up a solution.  If only for the single act of being able to see a visual output of the thought process and work that went in to producing a data model.  A data model or report that can be shared, saved, printed (please don’t print), and most importantly: be communicated.  For someone doing data prep, blending, gathering – this is how you explain to your boss what you do.  This is the demonstration of what it takes to be the data wrangler.  This is how you share your critical thinking skills.

I’ve just scratched the surface and have 2 more full days of Alteryx.  One that has already been peppered with amazing collaboration opportunities and sharing of enthusiasm.  The vibe is chill, the people are great, and the mission is achievable.

Tomorrow is another day and an opportunity to take the building blocks and dream of skyscrapers.

Prepping for #data16

The last 6 months have been a huge whirlwind for me in terms of Tableau and the Tableau community.  I started out the year attending a Saturday workshop on Tableau and am now a Desktop Certified Professional and two month veteran Tableau User Group leader.

The whirlwind has been part of my 2016 vision – to get more involved in Tableau and reaffirm (maybe strengthen is a better term) my commitment to data visualization.

Right around this time last year (think TC15) is when the rumbling of ideas mentioned above started to take shape.  I wish I had been a little more agile and pushed to go to TC15.  I know it would have been an overwhelming newbie experience.  Alas, I didn’t do that, so I’m now jumping in to TC for the first time this year.

To help usher others into the conference and to leverage my community, I thought a great topic for our upcoming user group session would be the conference.  Selfishly it has multiple purposes: get seasoned Tableau users interested in coming to our monthly user group, not be lonely in Austin, and (most significantly) force myself to dig deep into the heart of what I can expect at #data16.

So here’s what I’ve learned so far, and the mistakes I’ve made so far:

  • Pre-conference starts Sunday/Monday – I scheduled my flight pretty late on Monday and may miss out on portion of the Data + Women meetup
  • Hotel booking during conference purchasing – I didn’t do this because I was afraid to have my corporate card charged, didn’t realize there was no charge until October (now I am maybe 6 miles away from the epicenter)
  • Hands-on training sessions are 2 hours – that really eats away with sheer bulk learning opportunities
  • The month leading up to the conference is zooming- I should have prepped for a Phoenix mixer pre-conference, and scoped out a time/place for us to meetup in Austin.

Tips and tidbits I’ve picked up along the way that I think will be extremely valuable:

  • Pack extra battery/power for electronic devices
  • Bring business cards – I actually caught this one in time to get some printed
  • Ramp up social media – I’m trying!
  • Plan out food
  • Get the app – the app is all powerful
  • There are social/networking opportunities not to be missed, meetups and the nightly gatherings
  • Prepare for swag (admittedly I need to get more courageous about asking vendors for swag)

And one of the most valuable tips I read was to step outside of my industry comfort zone.  I think this is one key piece of advice that will go the distance.  I love understanding how people solve their problems and then using their solutions to help solve mine.  Some of the heartache in the healthcare industry may be easily solved by a perception shift on tools and techniques used in the financial world.

My game plan for #data16 is to be as transparent as possible (without acquiring a stalker) about my whereabouts and keep everything casual.  I’m committed to minimizing FOMO and maximizing living in the moment.  And as part of my mission to enable others to harness the power of data visualization/visual analytics (and the power that Tableau has toward that), I feel it’s my duty to demonstrate and make the entire experience accessible.  Some of my favorite UG feedback has been that I make Tableau and data fun and accessible.

Look for me to share my humble deck after Thursday’s PHXTUG meeting and I hope to hang out with you at #data16 (even if that means virtually!).