Student to BI Analyst, How Tableau Can Lead to a Successful Data Career

This student harnessed the power of Tableau Public for data learning and networking to get her first job in business intelligence.

When Karolina Grodzinska took the stage at Tableau Conference as part of her Iron Viz: Student Edition award, it felt like the culmination of her data learning, which started in 2021. Countless hours vizzing, a standout Tableau Public profile, and a graduate degree later, Karolina reflects on her data journey and what led her to her current role as a Business Intelligence Analyst at Schneider Electric.  

Winning Iron Viz: Student Edition is no small feat. This annual competition, hosted by Tableau Academic Programs, encourages students from all over the world try their hand at building a data visualization using Tableau-provided data, and only three of them win. Most students are relatively new to using Tableau, and this challenge allows them to flex their data skills, learn new tricks, and network with the Tableau Community, all while competing for a spot in the top three.

Karolina speaking on stage at TC Iron Viz

Karolina Grodzinska speaking on stage at Tableau Conference Iron Viz 2023

Discovering data visualization and Tableau

Like many graduates of Economics, Karolina snagged her first job in finance. Everything was going smoothly except for one little problem. “I found it extremely boring,” she recalls. “I liked working with numbers but I knew that accounting was not really for me, so I signed up for a course in data science which ultimately inspired me to get my Master’s degree in Data Modeling.” 

“A lot of people are excited about building models and making predictions but, for me, it was the visualization aspect that got me interested. I started digging around for roles that could connect my love for numbers with the creative side of things.”

How did Karolina discover Tableau? “It was when I was bored at home during COVID lockdowns. I already had some interest in data visualization, I just didn't know where to start. Then, on LinkedIn, I found a workshop on building your first Tableau dashboard. After the workshop I spent a day building my first visualization and posted a link on Tableau Public. I got a lot of good feedback and I thought, ‘Hmm, this is cool!’ That inspired me to start participating in more visualization challenges, like Makeover Monday,  just to see how I compared with others. After every challenge I would add the viz to my profile. I haven’t deleted any of the early ones, because I think it shows my progress nicely.”

Which factors influence educational outcomes? Student #IronViz Visualization by Karolina Grodzinska

Karolina Grodzinska’s 2023 Iron Viz: Student Edition entry

Tableau Public for career development

An active Tableau Public profile gave Karolina an advantage when she was hunting for an on-campus job to earn some spending money.

“A professor teaching data visualization was looking for a teaching assistant to help students with Tableau,” she remembers. “I was the only applicant that sent him a link to a Tableau Public profile and, because of that, he could tell I knew what I was talking about. All the other applicants said they knew Tableau but didn’t have any tangible proof, so I got the job!”

Seeing the positive impact a solid Tableau Public profile had on her job prospects, Karolina doubled down and continued to showcase her data skills and career readiness on the platform. 

“Later, when I went for a full-time role, my Tableau Public profile was a big help because they could just click on my profile and see my skill level. They didn’t need to ask me basic technical questions because they could see from my data visualizations that I knew how to use parameters and other more advanced features.”

Make your job application stand out with a Tableau Public portfolio

Karolina believes there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain from building a solid Tableau Public profile. “If you are already studying something data-related, why not make the final presentation in Tableau instead of putting some graphs from Excel into PowerPoint? You might as well do this extra step. It looks nicer and you can add it right away to your data viz portfolio.”

“'I recommend everyone have an active Tableau Public profile, and link to it on job applications. I always add a link to my profile on job applications because it’s so much easier for people to click and see for themselves instead of me providing them with a paper certificate as proof of my knowledge.”

If you’re new to creating a work portfolio, Karolina’s first and most important piece of advice is to bring your own personality to your Tableau Public profile. “When creating data visualizations to share in your portfolio look for data sets that interest you, because then it won’t feel like work when you’re vizzing. It’s also easier during job interviews. When you’re asked about a viz you’ve created, if it’s something you’re passionate about, you’ll be excited to talk about it.” 

Learn and network with the DataFam

Karolina believes the Tableau Community has been instrumental in her development. “A lot of my learning was from the Tableau Community and even now, when I'm looking for inspiration, I go to Tableau Public and search for a topic. I can see what people are showing and gain inspiration from their ideas. I love that about Tableau!”

Her advice for Tableau beginners is to connect with other community members as much as possible. “Reach out to the DataFam and participate in different Community Projects. Try to meet people. They're all very helpful. I've never been rejected or turned down. What worked for me was joining different community groups.” There are more than 150 Tableau User Groups all over the world covering a broad spectrum of topics and interests, from best practices and technical tips to advice on how to upskill for your next job promotion.

“As well as the user groups, I was a host and a speaker for the StudentxCommunity TUG a couple of times, mainly sharing my experience with the Student Iron Viz competition. I went to two in-person events in Boston when I used to live there, and I often participated in webinars hosted by the Analytics User Group,” she says. “Following Tableau Ambassadors also helps to grow your Tableau skills. They create relevant posts on social media and inform their followers about upcoming events.”Asking for feedback from the DataFam is a key part of the Tableau learning curve. Karolina isn’t afraid to ask for help and feedback—it’s what pushes her learning forward. People can publish their work on social media or join Slack channels for different organizations, such as the Data Visualization Society, and ask Community members for feedback, “ she says.

“Posting my work was what helped me grow my network because a lot of people follow you on LinkedIn when you post pretty dashboards, and I also got a few direct messages after my dashboard was chosen as a Viz of the Day.”

Visualization: Review of my Spotify data by Karolina Grodzinska

Karolina Grodzinska’s visualization featured as Viz of the Day in November 2022

Now established in her career, Karolina reflects on her path and how Tableau helped connect her technical skills with creativity—she’s able to approach her work without feeling bogged down by the repetitiveness of daily tasks. In her words, “Data is fun!”