DataDev Ambassador Spotlight: Elliott Stam

elliott stamm headshot
Elliott Stam

It’s not every day that an insect mating call brings enough inspiration to change the course of your life, but it recently did for DataDev Ambassador and Data Scientist Elliott Stam.

He had been studying for his electrical engineering degree when a project that he worked on involved a certain tree-hopper insect and its mating partner. Essentially, the male insect sends out a signal while at the same time sending a separate signal to prevent other males from attracting the female.

It was while working on identifying these specific signals from audio files that Elliott started getting into pattern recognition and data. After graduating, he decided to pursue an MBA in marketing analytics and his journey into data science began. In his words: “By pursuing this degree, I just thought this was an area where I could play with market data and predict consumer behavior. It was all just so interesting.”

After school and an internship at Bloomberg that concentrated more on writing and reporting, Elliott decided to double down on his interest in data and analytics and started as a Tableau trainer at a company in Oklahoma. He claims that it “took me about two years before I started not only understanding the product inside and out but somewhere along the way, I woke up and thought I actually know how to do something useful and was able to solve others’ problems and challenges.”

After gaining more confidence in Tableau, Elliott moved to Los Angeles to work with Activision, where he became their resident Business Intelligence point of contact. It was around this time that he started learning to write Python because he “just had an itch to learn how to write code and I’m drawn to that creative element of solving things with code.” 

“I spent way too long in ‘tutorial hell’, where you invest countless hours reading blogs and writing hello world apps but never really build anything. Once I started building my own ideas, the learning curve went exponential. The first real thing I built was a Python script that automated a tedious Excel-based attendance report that Tableau trainers used to fill by hand for virtual trainings. The script would download the entire roster for clients who had logged in for each day of the training, and it filled in all the required details. Finally, it outputted all of the information to a CSV file that I would email to the Tableau organizers. That’s when I stopped copying code from tutorials and started Googling my way out of errors, and it’s when the real learning started.”

These days, Elliott is one of Tableau’s DataDev Ambassadors, a new category added to the long-running Tableau Ambassador program which also includes ambassadors for social, students, and User Group leaders. When he applied, he had already been writing and sharing his knowledge of Tableau’s developer tools so it seems like a good way to extend his reach. At the same time, the Tableau Developer Program was also running their “Developer Site Mini-Challenges” series for developers to try out in their developer sandbox. 

As Elliot recounts, “I initially signed up for the Developer Program because I wanted to get a developer sandbox. I had been working with the REST API and wanted a space to work in.” The Developer Site Mini-Challenges enabled him to extend his knowledge. 

“Everything in those mini-challenges that didn’t have to do with the REST API and Metadata API was new to me. I know my way really well around those two, but the Hyper API and JavaScript API were completely new to me.” Elliott remembers. “My day-to-day work involves more backend coding than frontend, so there’s a lot for me to learn in the frontend space where the JavaScript API shines. The mini-challenges were a great opportunity to push myself to pick up a few things on the frontend and see what the tool is capable of. On a side note, that small exposure to the JavaScript API sparked an interest in learning Vue.js.”

He also now works as a Data Scientist for Adyen, a payments platform company, where he says that his past work in Tableau training has helped him “connect the dots” when it comes to working with Tableau developer tools and creating content to help other DataDevs and Tableau users alike. 

He says that one of his goals is to build software products that help teams get the most of their Tableau environments and most of his blog content and tutorial videos demonstrate how you can automate a variety of things in the Tableau ecosystem. 

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