Pre-Conference Anticipation

By Ellie Fields October 16, 2011

Vanya Tucherov, QA Engineer at Tableau, posted the following on a Sunday morning in Vegas:
It's 8:30 on a Sunday morning, and about four hours before I should head out to the airport to make my way to the 2011 Tableau Customer Conference (hereafter TCC11). I probably should be sleeping, but I'm not.

For those of you who don't know me, I work at Tableau in Development- I'm one of the QA engineers, and I've been with the company for about a year and a half now. Before coming to Tableau I worked as a software tester, project manager and business analyst in the software development side of a company which was a hybrid sales-management force and marketing consortium within the luxury travel industry. Before moving to the Seattle metro area and getting into the software industry, I was a reporter for a daily newspaper in southwest Florida.

Believe it or not, there is some purpose behind me mentioning these things. I find that being a good software tester involves using many of the same skills as being a good reporter- learning from context, careful observation, attention to detail. And looking at the Conference agenda, I see some discussions which pique my interest- a Tuesday morning (9:45-10:45) talk entitled "Exploring the Stories Behind the Data" being given by Cheryl Phillips, Data Enterprise Editor of the Seattle Times and one from Simon Rogers of The Guardian, "How the UK's Guardian is Pioneering Data Journalism" Thursday from 11:00 to noon.

Thinking back to the company in the travel industry, much of the time, the team I led seemed to get bogged down in what felt like a never-ending string of one-off report requests from the business teams we supported, all cobbled together from SQL Server databases or Excel spreadsheets (and at times requesting a blend of the data from both). Tableau could have made things so much easier- both for my development team and our stakeholders- by empowering the people who knew what they really were hoping to get out of their data to do it themselves rather than having to ask a development team to take a stab at compiling a report for them only to have a request come in to deliver a slight twist on it because we missed some nuance in the data we didn't know was significant.

I'd love to be able to sit my old boss and CTO down in Wade Tibke's session "Tableau on Tableau" Tuesday from 4:30 to 5:30 and DePaul University's Jon Boeckenstedt's Wednesday 11:00-12:00 talk "A Ton of Data Seeks an Ounce of Insight: A Tableau Implementation Tale." One of these days, I'll convince Scott that he needs to adopt Tableau because it's what his stakeholders need for the sheer simple reason that it will empower them to use their ounces of insight to unlock the value in their tons of data.

Besides, the very location of TCC11 is an indication to me that the universe has a sense of humour- you see, that company holds its annual conference in- you guessed it- Las Vegas. I managed to avoid going to that conference for all five years I worked for the company- but it should be noted that at Tableau, every staff person who attends gets to be useful in some way or another, but there, the development staff were, shall we say, not used to the best of their abilities (I have horror stories from my former colleagues who had to go because they didn't have valid reasons not attend to like "I need to make sure the major software release coordinated to coincide with the CEO's keynote address actually gets deployed and is working properly so that he can unveil it in a production environment live on the dais at the Bellagio in front of thousands of travel industry movers and shakers.").

So, a few years removed from building solutions and reports centred around travel, travellers, and destinations, I'm going to a company user conference yet again in Las Vegas, and I'm feeling good enough about it to be scribbling down ideas on a Sunday morning before flying down there, and not just because the universe is sending me to the Nevada desert in October rather than in July. I'm genuinely excited to have the privilege of meeting and talking with those in attendance for the second year- because understanding how you use Tableau, the things you'd like to be able to do with it, your 'pain points' and areas where you're really pleased with what it can do for you is incredibly useful information to a software tester. It helps us test the product in ways which are at least informed by your real-world usage, and as a result, hopefully deliver a product of the calibre you deserve and have come to expect.

See you in Vegas! By all means, feel free to come and talk with me- I may be a bit of a wall-flower and observer/reporter by nature, but I think I'm also fairly approachable. Look for the bearded guy with the braid who is wearing a suit and chances are pretty good that you'll find me.