How to Improve Your Data Skills & Become an Exceptional Human Being

By Martha Kang 25 Sep, 2015

Note: This is the last installment of a three-part series celebrating the back-to-school season and the joy of learning. In the first part, the inaugural class of The Information Lab's Data School shared lessons learned. The second installment outlines tips on creating A+ dashboards for students.

Here’s proof that Tableau Zen Masters are much more than data viz whizzes.

As part of our back-to-school series, we asked our Zen Masters to share tips with our community of data explorers. What we got in return was a wealth of wisdom to help us not only improve our data skills but also become exceptional human beings. Here are their thoughts.

How to Hone Your Data Skills

Zen Master Mark Jackson demonstrates the proper game face.

From Zen Master Joe Mako:

From Zen Master Andy Kriebel:

From Zen Master Chuck Hooper:

  • Limit your social media involvement. Develop people skills.
  • Learn solid presentation skills. Join Toastmasters.
  • Take a course in statistics.
  • Take every business course you can find.
  • Read Mark Cuban's book How to Win at the Sport of Business.

From Zen Master Joshua Milligan:

From Zen Master Jonathan Drummey:

  • Learn to code, engineer, build statistical models, participate on a debate team—anything that will teach you logical thinking so you can take complex problems and break them down into simpler parts.

How to Embrace Your Inner Zen Master

Zen Masters Peter Gilks and Nelson Davis show us how it's done.

From Zen Master Joshua Milligan:

  • Never be afraid to ask for help or to give it to others (see: Tableau Community Forums).
  • Share what you learn with others. Don’t be afraid to share simple things. Give others credit where it’s due.
  • Embrace criticism.
  • Be confident as you grow in your own individual style, but always remain humble.

From Zen Master Mark Jackson:

  • Never let your schooling interfere with your education. Figure out what you love and do that (see: Hackschooling Makes Me Happy).
  • Failure is normal. They key is to fail quickly and learn from your mistakes (see: Courage to Fail).
  • Keep things in perspective and remain humble knowing that your life, with all its successes and failures, is barely a blip on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam (see: Carl Sagan's Pale Blue Dot)
  • Be thankful and love your neighbors. Don’t define your happiness by things that are temporal or are outside of your control (see: Attitude is Attitude).

Have a tip or an adage to add to the list? Share them in the comments below.


Submitted by James Swagger (no verificado) on

We need to develop our data skills in order to improve our professional skills; in most of the occasion we have found that due to lack of professional skills we are unable to develop our career developing opportunities in different fields. Therefore we need to follow several instructions on how to develop our data skills; I would like to choose some quality of instructions from here to develop my personal data skills.

Submitted by Kyra (no verificado) on

I noticed that all of the "Zen Masters" quoted here are men. Where are the zen master women who are doing awesome things with data?

Submitted by Kris Erickson (no verificado) on

Kyra, there are actually 2 current Women Zen masters.

In addition they are hosting a Women in Data meetup at the next conference.

Submitted by Tim Wong (no verificado) on

Kyra, I had noticed the same thing!

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