Jasent's Journey: #MAD Week 1
Our first day of the Think Like an Analyst program was so much fun and way easier than I thought it’d be. We began with introductions. The instructor, Chantilly, introduced herself and gave us her background. It turns out she is self-taught, which I think is so cool. My classmates and I then introduced ourselves and gave our educational backgrounds. Chantilly then spoke to us about the tableau community. She stressed the importance of data analytics and data literacy, especially in the current climate and job market where there are large amounts of data available, but the skills necessary to analyze and dissect it are severely lacking and in high demand. She went over Tableau specifically, its purpose and advantages. Then, she went over three different websites where we could practice our skills, participate in different visualization exercises, view the work of others, and interact with the community. We then went right into the lecture, starting from the very basics with the question ‘What is data?’. We spoke about data analytics and its process, data visualization and its purpose, and the types of data and their categorization in Tableau.
Next, we went into an interactive exercise discussing the yes’ and no’s of data visualization. Chantilly showed us different visuals and asked us to explain why they worked and why they didn’t. This portion was very important to me because it reinforced how intuitive data visualization is. Next, we circled back to the data analytics process, the first step of which is to gather the requirements. We spent a significant amount of time discussing how to approach a data analytics problem in order to gather good requirements. We discussed questions that can be asked to find the business problem, how to determine the audience/ end user, and the clarity and information we should seek before we begin.
With that, we started our second exercise. Chantilly threw us into the deep end with no life jacket by giving us a case problem and data set, with the instructions to create a visualization. Just kidding. She gave us life jackets in the form of colored pencils, markers, and paper. Our first visualization was to design a visualization based on user requirements using sales and profits data. The stipulations were that we could only use BAN’s (Big A** Numbers), line graphs, and/or bar charts (regular, stacked, or grouped) and it had to be completed in 45 minutes. An hour later (because Chantilly is generous with her time) I created the masterpiece below.
My classmates and I each presented our drawings as if we were in a boardroom presenting to executives, and Chantilly, along with the other instructors, gave us feedback. After that, we spent the rest of our time in Tableau. We were shown the main work areas, such as the toolbar, data pane, and marks card, and were shown how to import data into Tableau. Then Chantilly taught us how to make BAN’s, line graphs and bar graphs. I was shocked at how simple, straight-forward, and user-friendly Tableau is. For context, we spent about 45 minutes of our 7-hour class time learning how to use the software, and in that time not only did we learn the above functions, we learned how to make color and text edits, header edits, how to manipulate the data into continuous and discrete measures and much, much more. As class ended, we were given our homework assignment which was to recreate our hand-drawn dashboard in Tableau and incorporate the feedback we had been given. Below is an exact replica of my drawing in Tableau.
After incorporating the feedback I received on coloring and headers from my group instructor, this was my final visualization:
I had many (secret) misgivings about this class before it began. Coming from a background where the extent of my data analytical skills is making a pie chart in Excel, I worried that I might not have all the necessary skills to be successful, or that the software might be so difficult to use it would take me extensive amounts of time to learn. But not only is it very easy to learn and use, it’s also fun! It’s kind of like making a pretty jigsaw puzzle. I had a great time creating my first visualization and it is the first step in many on my way to becoming data literate and mastering Tableau!