Generation Data: Tableau and music mastery lead to dream gig at Spotify

Get to know Spotify intern and data rockstar Matt Farkas and hear about his Tableau story.

Editor’s Note: This piece is part of the Generation Data series on the Tableau blog. At Tableau, we feel that 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. If you are a student, download your free Tableau license today to start learning data skills.

Midori Ng with the Academic Programs team at Tableau sat down with Matt Farkas to discuss his data science internship with Spotify and how he learned Tableau.

A recent graduate from Northwestern University with a Master of Science in Analytics, Matt Farkas first worked in Tableau during a summer internship in 2016 at Georgia Tech. That summer, he and a colleague visualized curriculum-hour breakdowns and employer survey data. “I found it was great to make sharp, easy-to-use vizzes that are convenient for sharing with other users,” Matt shared with us.

Combining data and music was a sound decision

Using Tableau in an academic setting had its benefits, but Matt also enjoyed exploring data with greater personal interests. He saw an opportunity to chase a dream internship with Spotify for the summer of 2017. “It has long been a dream of mine to work at a company in the music or music streaming industry,” he said. “I had the idea to build something from scratch to show my passion for music and data at the same time.”

Matt built his own data set and dashboard from scratch using data from the Billboard Top 100 Songs of All Time. He dubbed this masterpiece the G.O.A.T. Music Dashboard (“greatest of all time”) and didn’t just publish it to Tableau Public—he entered it in Tableau’s Student Viz Assignment Contest and won first place. (It even plays songs!)

Adding the URL to his winning viz in his Spotify internship application was a simple copy/paste. Matt is convinced it increased his chances of being selected for the interview process and helped him land the role. He said, “I think it had a really big impact on my application, and essentially got me my job interning last summer.”

Finding harmony with Tableau and a data-driven career

Matt experienced a variety of work as an intern on the Spotify Product Insights team, from interviewing potential customers and users to exploring and visualizing usage data. A major project he worked on involved analyzing data about how ads on Spotify performed. He presented his analysis in an interactive dashboard and shared the information with clients.

Earlier this year, Matt returned to Spotify—now as a full-time Associate Data Scientist on the Product Insights team. “I really like working with data and using it to provide value to businesses,” Matt said. “Tableau has served as a great way to not only show my technical know-how, but also a great way to show my creativity through how I build and design dashboards.”

Matt shared some advice for future students interested in learning Tableau: First, he’d recommend finding data that’s fun and personally interesting to work with. That will make it easier to put in the time to learn. Next, he offered: “Don’t be afraid. Just hop right in, and go at it full-force.” That’s music to our ears, Matt!

Matt’s Tableau favorites

  • Favorite Color Palette: “Nuriel Stone.”
  • Favorite Data Set: “Outside of Spotify music data, which I'll always be a little biased towards, I had a fun time analyzing bike share usage data.”
  • Favorite Tableau Feature: “The ability to connect multiple data sources.”
  • Favorite Viz: “A Tale of Rainforest" by Tristan Giullevin. This viz is extremely interactive, walking you through a data puzzle using other parts of his visualization. I was super impressed with Tristan's creativity and attention to detail.”
  • Favorite Tableau Community Contributors: “I'm going to have to give a shoutout to Skyler Johnson. I’ve always loved his work, and he's a really great resource for myself and others as we navigate, learn, and leverage Tableau here at Spotify.”

Join the students of Generation Data and download your free Tableau for Students license today to start learning data skills.