A student’s guide to Tableau and the Desktop Specialist exam

Editor’s Note: This piece is part of the Generation Data series on the Tableau blog. At Tableau, we know data skills are essential for the next generation of professionals and business leaders. The Tableau Academic Program seeks to arm students with the valuable analytical skills needed to think strategically and make an impact, both academically and professionally. To increase access to training, we've expanded our free, self-paced eLearning for students to include all courses and all 13 learning paths.

Melody Cheung, who is on the Academic Programs team at Tableau, sat down with Christine Rietmann, business administration student at Münster University of Applied Sciences in Germany , to talk about her experience with learning Tableau and her journey to passing the Desktop Specialist certification exam. She created a blog series "Becoming a Tableau Desktop Specialist,” dedicated to documenting her journey to being certified. Naturally, we got in touch with Christine to find out more.

Once you start visualizing data, it’s hard to stop

Christine was first introduced to Tableau in a business management course by Klaus Schulte, a Tableau Zen Master and Iron Viz Champion. Given her interest in data and controlling, it made sense to take Klaus’s Tableau class.

During this course, her appreciation and understanding of data visualization grew. Christine supplemented her classroom learning by reading blogs, books, and creating visualizations on her own. She found that the more she learned, the more she loved visualizing data—which she found was a sentiment shared with others in the Tableau Community. In her own words, “We all know the feeling. Once you start creating visualizations, you can't stop. Instead of going to bed, we work on visualisations!” 

A new challenge: The Tableau Desktop Specialist certification

Christine was impressed by what could be achieved with the Tableau platform. Not only was it fun to use, but she could see how having these data skills would help her with her future career. With an understanding of what can be achieved with Tableau, Christine wanted to know more about applying it to real world scenarios, so she decided to take on an internship at CO Data in the summer of 2019. Here, Christine built on her existing skills by building reports in Tableau. By doing this, she discovered that “Tableau shows how controlling will look in the future.” 

Building reports wasn’t her only task though: She was also challenged by Klaus Schulte to take the Desktop Specialist certification exam. To track of her progress, she decided to start a blog, and so, the “Becoming a Tableau Desktop Specialist” series was born. Not only did the blog hold Christine accountable to her goal of passing the certification within three months, it is also now an incredibly useful resource for others on the road to becoming certified as a Tableau Desktop Specialist.

The key to success: structure

Christine notes in her blog that Tableau eLearning and the free training videos on the Tableau website were valuable resources in her development. As a non-native English speaker, she found the options to watch videos in her native language of German especially helpful.* 

Here are more tips from Christine about how to prepare for the certification exam:

  • Read different blogs and watch videos for different topics. "People learn in different ways. Sometimes, you can understand a topic straight away, but sometimes you need to hear or see a concept explained a different way to understand."
  • Look at dashboards on Tableau Public. "It’s great because you can save other people’s work that you like into your favorites. I remind myself of cool dashboards I’ve seen before and go into my favorites to look and learn from them."
  • Engage with the #DataFam on Twitter. "It’s easy to follow community members on Twitter and see the vizzes and data sets they've shared to get inspiration."

Having data skills is a career advantage

As Christine graduates from Münster University later this year, she considers how having data skills will give her a competitive edge in her job search. By knowing Tableau and passing the Desktop Specialist certification exam, Christine shared her thoughts on having data skills and putting this certification on her CV:

“[It gives me] a greater advantage for some jobs. It’s a good qualification that will help me to stand out in my job hunt. In the future, tools like Tableau will become more and more important, and important for businesses to visualize their data to get an overview because we generate more and more data every day.”

From studying for the certification exam, Christine also found that she learned many new features and techniques to apply. Having these basic skills enabled her to branch out and try different, more complicated dashboard formats when taking part in Tableau Community initiatives like Makeover Monday.

We are happy to report that Christine passed her certification shortly after meeting with Tableau. She knew that having proof of her analytics competency with the Desktop Specialist certification would give her a competitive advantage in professional environments. “Hopefully, I’ll do something with Tableau when I graduate. I’m really thankful I was able to learn Tableau.”

To gain analytics skills by learning Tableau, download your free student license and access the full range of eLearning learning paths today.

*At time of writing, Tableau eLearning is available in English, Chinese (simplified), Japanese and Spanish. Tableau’s free training videos are available in English, German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin.

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