A Tale of Two Conferences (#DATA17 Recap)

It was the best of times… until Friday, when everyone was gone, then it was the worst of times.

#Data17, the Tableau User Conference has come and gone and I’m left with an inspired mind, a full heart and a thankful soul. Seems like a bit much, but sitting in  the Las Vegas airport reflecting on the past week left me with all these emotions and more.

First, a huge kudos the Tableau, Mandalay Bay and Las Vegas as a whole. One week removed from the worst mass shooting in history it was amazing the way the conference went off without any major hitches. Moving an event that would hots 14K people can be no easy task, but the fact that Data Night Out happened, with all the events and activities that were already planned, plus a few surprises to give back to Las Vegas was a testament to the hard work and dedication of all those involved.

Two years ago I attended my first Tableau Conference, and I had a great time and learned a ton. This year, attending the conference was 100%  more engaging, entertaining, educational and down right awesome.

So what was the difference? Simple. For Tableau Conference 2015 I was not “plugged in” to the community. That is to say, the only people I knew were the people I worked with, who attended with me, and a few authors of blogs I’d read during my learning process.

In October of 2016, I was in the ebb and flow of getting laid off and I made a decision to get more into Tableau, and in the process get more involved in the community. I started with Makeover Monday, not publishing anything at first, but eventually I started sharing my work. I started “meeting” regulars via Twitter and continued to get more and more involved. Long story short, I continued to get involved, make more contacts, and started to get really, REALLY excited about the 2017 conference.

With that, I present to you the Top Ten Experiences from #Data17:

  1. The Data Village – This year it was really cool the way they set it up, with the Zen Garden and Community Zones, as well as the Tableau Labs.
  2. Passing the Qualified Associate exam – Personal goals are the only way we grow, and achieving those goals only drives us to create new ones.
  3. Makeover Monday Live – I credit MOM as the gateway drug of my Tableau growth over the last year. Sitting in a room full of 500 people, participating in Makeover Monday was awesome. I loved hearing the conversations and collaborations that were happening. I feel like Makeover Monday has become one of the core activities inside the greater community.
  4. The Front Row – 2 years ago, I didn’t care where I sat for the keynotes and I skipped IronViz all together. This year, I did everything I could to be as close as possible and found great success. Being front row for all the keynotes was awesome. It’s a completely different experience being up close and personal
  5. Tableau Employees – I went out of my way to meet more of the Tableau staff, talk to them about the product and the roadmap and it was awesome. From Elissa Fink to Ben Jones to Kate Hotler and so many more… all awesome.
  6. Data Night Out – Two years ago it was awesome, no question, but this year it was magnified because of all the connections I have made (see #4). Getting to hang out and mingle among them was awesome and only added to the experience.
  7. Data + Women Pre-Conference Meetup – This was the jumping off point and it was awesome to meet a high percentage of people before the conference even started. So glad to support this worthwhile cause and plan to do more for and with D+W in the next 12 months.
  8. Fanalytics – In 2015 I didn’t even consider this session as it was after the last keynote and I didn’t put much stock in it, but this year I wasn’t going to miss it. People who I had gotten to know were presenting, and the conversations that were had around a multitude of topics were important and I believe will be a catalyst for some amazing things over the next months and years.
  9. #Data17Donates – I knew the community was awesome, but the way 14,000 in attendance, and others around the world came together to raise funds, donate blood, and give their time back to the Las Vegas community after the tragic events at the Route 91 Festival were heartwarming. The conference raised over $120,000 which is unbelievable.
  10. The People – The sessions and keynotes were great… I learned a ton of cool new tips, tricks and approaches to Tableau that are going to be so valuable at work, in the Cleveland TUG and personally… but the people I met, hung out with, got to know better, hugged, took selfies with, and generally depend my connection with made this conference so special for me.

In closing, I wanted to share a bunch of photos from the week… just a small sample of the memories I walked away with.. such an amazing time with such amazing people.

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