How to Improve Your Data Skills & Become an Exceptional Human Being
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:
- Build lots of charts (see: The Gap by Ira Glass). As with any creative endeavor, we get better with practice and attention.
- Remember: Everything is a remix (see: Everything is a Remix). Copy charts that you like, transform charts that you do not like, and combine data to enable comparisons.
- Read everything possible, blogs and books from people like Stephen Few, Alberto Cairo, Andy Kirk, Nancy Duarte, Jean-luc Doumont, and many more.
- Design with intent and awareness of human cognition and the principles of visual perception.
From Zen Master Andy Kriebel:
- Watch the Tableau training videos in order, and be sure to follow along.
- Practice, practice, practice: Find data sets that interest you and create something, anything.
- Find examples that catch your eye, download them, and rebuild them, pixel for pixel.
- Get involved in Tableau socially, through Twitter and Tableau Public.
- Go to your local Tableau User Group meeting and ask to present.
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.
- Test all assumptions. Never stop asking questions.
- Know (or figure out) what your data really is before you do anything else with it (see: "The First Question to Ask").
- Learn new paradigms (i.e. aggregations, Table Calculations, Level of Detail Expressions, dashboard design), and practice until you master them.
- 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
- 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.