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  • Writer's pictureJames Goodall

Who are you and why should I care?

Good question. Well this is something I've been meaning to get around to for some time, and I was recently spurred on to do so by a recent tweet & older blog post from Tableau Zen Master and all round good person, Sarah Bartlett.

For a long time I have felt that I haven't had much to bring to the wider data and/or Tableau community that doesn't already exist. Anyone who's spent more than 2 minutes on Google or the Tableau Community Forums will be aware of the simply mind-boggling amount of resources out there. And yet throughout this time, I have continued to post internal blogs, Tableau challenges and how-to solutions to my organisations own internal data community.

Challenging this (impressively ambivalent) mindset head on, I began to ask myself - if I think this content will be useful to members of my own organisation, surely there must at least one other person out there who will listen to my ramblings, and maybe even take something away? Right?

Now I won't profess to know what I'm talking about a great deal of the time (or even some of the time – don’t worry, you’ll see), or consider myself to be an expert in almost any field. For example, after years of using Tableau, I have only recently got round to taking the Desktop Certified Associate Exam (perhaps that's a story for another post...) but I'm hoping I can lend at least some of my experience working with data over the last few years to the wider community and make someone's life a little bit easier!

So what makes me qualified to lend my voice to the discussion? Another good question, and not one I think I can answer here (or anywhere), but I can provide some of my background to help convince you to carry on reading (or make you stop and turn around now, either way it’s a decision point). I have worked in my current organisation (Surrey County Council) now for over 10 years, spending the first 7/8 years in adult social care, starting off in an admin role, then moving through some finance roles before settling in an IT-focussed consultant then specialist role (but still within adult social care) where I worked on various large-scale projects including the migration of social care systems and BAU improvements & upgrades. It was, however, during this time that I was introduced to Tableau. Having previously spent way too much of my life in SAP Business Objects, this was an absolute revelation! You mean I don’t have to manually set up every variable, then manually export to Excel then manually do my analysis?! I was sold. I was lucky enough to be able to secure one of the Desktop licences assigned to the service at the time and quickly began to produce performance dashboards for the service. However, the constant demands of my job meant that I needed more. And this is around the time when the application FME, made by Safe Software, was being pushed out in the organisation as a self-service data preparation tool. Very similar to Alteryx (and subsequently Tableau Prep), FME enabled me to build out workbenches to automate so many of the boring repetitive aspects of my day-to-day life and introduced me to new ways of thinking about data preparation and processes. Long story short (thank god I hear you cry), eventually, having gained some SQL and SSIS experience, an opportunity came up in the Data Analytics Centre of Excellence and without hesitation I applied, was interviewed for and was successfully awarded my current role, Analytics Support Specialist (thanks to my boss for that acronym).

This is truly where my love affair with data got to bloom (sounds weird doesn’t it, and you’d be right). This position led to me eventually taking on stewardship for our internal data community, taking the lead for all Tableau-related activities (including Server admin, upgrades, problem-solving, leading our local TUG, and eventually joining up with Mike Henry in Kirklees to form the UK Public Sector TUG), the chance to help push out self-service analytics tools and experience to other members of the organisation (I’ve been through their suffering – I know it can be easier) all the while working on developing and delivering solutions for teams and services within the organisation. The Data Analytics CoE in Surrey is IT-based and we are a development team, so we need to deliver solutions for many different business models and application types. It’s therefore no surprise that SQL and Python are part of my bread and butter and I get to work (play) with these daily

If you’ve got this far then well done, I can’t say I would have achieved the same. But if you have then I’m hoping I’ve at least partially convinced you to tune in every now and then to read my waffle. Coming up I’ll be presenting an internal initiative I run called ‘Tableau Bitesize’ which will also have a number of how-to blog posts behind it being posted regularly, I’ll be writing about my experiences taking the Tableau Desktop Certified Associate exam (because we definitely need more of those right), I’ll be writing about some FME-related activities and guides, I’ll somehow convince those lovely people (suckers) I work with to post a guest blog from time to time on various subjects, and I'll hopefully write up some data analytics use-cases working within the Public Sector (expect to see a lot of COVID-19 stuff I’m afraid). I can’t guarantee a publishing schedule but follow me on twitter (@data_and_stuff) and I’ll shamelessly promote myself whenever I put something new out there.

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