How I Became a Data Leader with the Help of Tableau and the Community

Tableau Community member Will Perkins’ data visualization skills have transformed his career path to where he now leads data viz work at JP Morgan Chase.

From former bartender to executive director, how did Will Perkins skyrocket his career to now leading analytics and data visualization? It started with Tableau. 

Will Perkins from TC’16

When did you first become aware of Tableau?

Will: I was introduced to Tableau in 2015. I was hired for a position to do reporting and streamlining processes. And I knew a lot of visual basics and access and SharePoint automation things. Then out of nowhere, they [JPMC] said, “We're gonna start using this tool called Tableau,” so I had to learn everything about it. 

You've had a really cool journey with Tableau – you were a bartender before? 

Will: My wife always makes fun of me whenever I tell people that, but l worked many years in the restaurant industry. If you would have told me back then that I would be working with databases and data visualization, I would’ve thought, “What the hell are you talking about?” I went from mixing drinks to mixing numbers and mixing views.

When I came to Chase, I came in as an associate analyst-type role. Through Tableau and data visualization and data storytelling in general, my career has just skyrocketed. Now I'm a director leading a global team and a prominent voice in the data visualization community at Chase.

How did the Tableau Community help you on your journey? 

Will: I didn't know anything about the Community until TC’16. I didn't even understand what the big deal was about Tableau Conference. So I was like, I want to go learn more about this tool that y'all are making me use. So I went and was just blown away at the amount of information out there. I had already seen some blogs and YouTube videos, and I would just start absorbing all that stuff I didn't know about Community initiatives. 

I started learning and growing and was just in a devouring-information stage, like “all right, give me more” until I got confident enough to where I could start giving back and getting involved with the Community. I didn't really get involved until about 2018 where I started really giving back. 

"The World of Legos” by Will Perkins on Tableau Public.

Can you share more about how you’re involved? 

Will: I'm a Social Ambassador so I'm very active on Twitter. Never in the world would I have thought that Twitter could be a positive place for people to come together and genuinely want to help and lift others up – but the Tableau Community is that group. A lot of people have messaged me questions about data visualization. I like responding to people's questions and trying to help out. I've also been involved with different user groups doing presentations. 

Has your Tableau Community also expanded at JPMC?

Will: I helped start our internal Tableau user groups at Chase. The one in Dallas was one of the first internally, and that pattern we developed expanded to other hubs, so now we’ve got an internal community. 

I've led virtual training for India, the UK, and Singapore teams, and I've even done training in Portuguese for Brazilian teams. If I can help at least one person get that Tableau bug and say, “Wow, this is more than just a tool. This is a career choice,” I feel like I’ve succeeded. This is something where you can drive a difference in your career. The possibilities are limitless.

Were there key things that inspired you?

Will: I have always been a fan of the Workout Wednesday stuff, and re-creating different visualizations for the Makeover Mondays or Sports Viz Sunday. A lot of great people put a lot of work into those things that I've always been fascinated with like how I can make my business dashboards more meaningful, impactful and dynamic. 

Do you remember building your first viz? 

Will: I would be lying if I didn't say it had pie charts. It had lollipop charts, lots of color and everything that anybody would just like throw at me. It was like, “Look at all these cool things I can do. I'm just gonna put it all onto one sheet.” I don't remember exactly what it was, but I'm sure it contained all the worst things that you can think of in a data viz because it was so easy to do. 

And it was very much along the lines of what our stakeholders were asking for. They wanted pie charts, they wanted tables, they wanted to re-create Excel. I'm learning this new tool, and I learned how to meet their demands. And while I was successful, and I'd learned a little bit here and there above and more, I got another role because of my Tableau work. And I was doing a lot of different things and still making it look like Excel, but a little bit more visual and I started evolving a little bit more.

It wasn’t until TC’16 where I saw the art of the possible and realized more about the science behind data visualization. User interface, user experience-–it's storytelling, it's not just what was expected, but it's how we then say, “Here's the insight you care about here, the things that you're trying to drive your business with and asking those questions.” That drastically changed my design style.

What are some of your favorite vizzes?

Will: I enjoyed my re-creation of the Rolling Stones’ Top 500 albums. It was one of my first big vizzes that I put together, and I got Viz of the Day for it. That was a big boost to my ego. 

I like to pride myself in doing a lot of experimentation with my public profile, or I mock up something that I've created in the real world, and I'll dummy it up using superstore data, because superstore data is super versatile. I would say my favorite thing that I've got on my profile is my “Superstore: Build Your Own Dashboard,” because that's truly like a data-driven dashboard where I've built so many dynamic aspects into that thing to where the end users can create their own view or kind of like drill down and take a different view on things. And then they can go through and tell their own stories, they can find relationships based on what they want. As a developer, the fun stuff is under the hood, like how it only uses four parameters to control the whole dashboard plus staging data in a way to be scalable and dynamic.

Will Perkins’ “Rolling Stones’ Top 500 Albums” 

Are there people in the Community who have inspired you?

Will: Yes and yes. When the pandemic started, there was a group of people within the Community who started doing game nights. Through those game nights, we built a group chat, and it ebbs and flows with people coming in and out so it's a lot of people and just great conversation not just about data visualizations. I’ve learned so much more about family and life and travel and all those fun things. So I absolutely highly regard and love those people when it comes to the quality of members in the Community. 

What do you have to lose? Do it now! There are so many well-meaning, good-hearted people in the Community, and they're giving their information out for free. I have met so many people from so many diverse backgrounds from so many parts of the world, and they are truly genuine, salt-of-the-earth people who will make you feel welcome and that you're not alone.

There are an infinite number of people that I could list off whose work I enjoy like Zach Bowders. I've always been fascinated with Luke Stanke’s work – he's always phenomenal. Lindsey Poulter is another example of how amazing, beautiful and simple business-style dashboards can be. I can just start naming all these people who blow me out of the water, and I will still fall short of the number of people who impress me in this Community.

At JPMC, you already use Tableau. Do you use it to find new talent too?

Will: Absolutely. I've brought in like 10 people to JPMC, so yes, it’s definitely about networking and growing. The economic equity that this career can bring to people is life-changing. And sometimes changing jobs will help you see that. 

If there's anybody on the fence about joining the Community, what would you tell them?

Will: What do you have to lose? Do it now! There are so many well-meaning, good-hearted people in the Community, and they're giving their information out for free. I have met so many people from so many diverse backgrounds from so many parts of the world, and they are truly genuine, salt-of-the-earth people who will make you feel welcome and that you're not alone.