#data19 – Tableau Conference (Las Vegas – Nov 2019)

It’s been a seriously crazy month!!!

On 29th October I had a catch up call with Amanda Boyle from Tableau and Simon Beaumont (Zen Master and Tableau Ambassador), they told me that I had been awarded the Tableau Community Founders Award! They went on to explain that this meant that I would be given an all-expenses paid trip to the Tableau Conference in Las Vegas!! After briefly stunned into silence, followed by a series of shock responses. Wow…seriously…wow….OMG….you are joking….etc etc.. I then had to check that they meant the conference that was 2 weeks away!?!

Obviously I was absolutely over the moon; working in the public sector of the NHS in the UK doesn’t generally come with the opportunity to attend conferences in America!! To win this award means so much to me, and truly humbling. Discovering Tableau 5 years ago and then discovering the Tableau community a couple of years later has definitely changed my life! I love being part of the Tableau community, and love running two user groups in the UK.  It may take a little effort to fit this in alongside work and family life, but I get so much out of running them that it is genuinely worth it and never feels like a chore. It was so amazing to be recognised for what I do.


So after the phone call on the 29th October I had less than 2 weeks to sort out how I was going to make this happen! Fortunately I have an amazingly supportive family who were almost as excited as me. My partner thought it would be great if he could tag along (he’d never been to the US before), and my mum said she would be more than happy to have the kids recognising what an amazing opportunity this would be. What an absolute star she is, we are so lucky to have her in our lives! Work was also equally supportive, and thrilled for me. With both these things sorted, I quickly booked flights and accommodations and started to juggle my diary so that I could take an unexpected week out of my work schedule.

I have attended the Tableau conference in Europe for the last 5 years, but have always had to watch the US conference from afar. Always wondering what it would be like to attend!

Once my travel plans were arranged I immediately downloaded the conference app and started to plan my conference! Still feeling unreal! In fact now I am back and writing this it still feels a little bit like a dream, but I am absolutely buzzing from the experience and it’s currently never far from my thoughts!

My #Data19 highlights

On arrival at the Luxor (our hotel of choice for the conference) we immediately started spotting the very distinctive conference lanyards. My partner couldn’t believe that everywhere he looked there were data people, but I was immediately in my element and was super excited to get myself into the data village!

The welcome party was my first view of the colossal data village! This was my opportunity to catch up with the Tableau community, those I already know plus I got the chance to meet loads of the #datafam that I had only ever admired and talked to through social media! Amazing to meet so many new people!! Plus who knew my photo would be hanging in a tree in the centre of the Tableau community area of the data village alongside some of my data heroes!

The first notable moment of the conference was getting a high five from one of the Tableau people on the way into the keynote! People generally don’t really high five in the UK especially not at a conference! Loved it!!

Keynote sessions:

The keynote sessions of Tableau conferences are always one of the biggest highlights for me. Data19 keynotes didn’t let me down! The size of the arena for the keynote blew me away….seating 8000 people it felt more like a concert than a conference.

In the opening keynote we met the CEO of Salesforce, Mark Benioff, interesting guy and whilst the presentation about the data culture at Nissan was really interesting and gave me some ideas, I couldn’t get over the fact that I have obviously been saying it wrong for years.  Who knew it was pronounced ‘Neeess on’ – I thought it was ‘Niss An’ (please read in your best impression of a Manchester accent). The highlight of the keynote being the story about the American women code breakers of the World War 2 and a standing ovation for Liza Mundy who wrote Code Girls who was sitting in the front row.

The first day ended with IronViz! It couldn’t end in a better way. This time it did actually feel like a concert, we were given lightsabres to wave around as the lights dimmed to welcome on stage the 3 contestants. I was in absolute awe of the contestants and their final food vizzes after 20 minutes their work was incredible. It was so difficult to pick a winner! It’s hard to explain how exciting the IronViz is even to the most passionate data people I know, but if you are going to only watch one thing from the conference then this is definitely worth checking out!

The conference just kept on giving! Day two kicked off with Devs on Stage. My absolute favourite part of Tableau conference. This bit started with a ‘tune’ made especially for me…I mean the conference!!! Now I was in my absolute element……’we are data people’! 10 days on I have still got this going round my head, it’s more catchy than ‘Baby Shark’!! Seriously – could the conference get any better!?! Everyone was loving it, people were on their feet dancing at the front!!

So as well as the ‘tune’! the Devs on stage killed it! The Devs share the updates about Tableau in such an entertaining way. I love hearing about the new features despite being on a much older version of Tableau. It always sparks ideas in my head! Can’t wait for PDF subscriptions, animations and dynamic parameters!!!!

Breakout sessions

As I was a bit late to the ‘party’ loads of the sessions I would have loved to attend were fully booked up so I am busy trying to catch up on the ones I would have attended since I got back. I still managed to attend a few really useful sessions though. Tableau blueprint and updating our data strategy, interesting session around extensions and workforce analytics but my favourite had to be Collaborative Vizzes by Tableau Ambassadors Kevin Flerlage and Lindsay Betzendahl. I love hearing about people working together in such a collaborative way. I am now inspired to build a collaborative viz, and already have a conversation with a colleague about doing this.

I also got to attend the live Workout Wednesday session. This was my first ever Workout Wednesday so I was a bit daunted by vizzing under pressure. It didn’t help when my computer didn’t work! But luckily Lorna Eden was on hand to lend me hers, I didn’t get very far but I enjoyed taking part and enjoyed meeting another workout Wednesday newbie who was sitting on my table! And my new mantra…I must do more Workout Wednesdays! Such a great way of testing out your Tableau skills and pushing yourself to learn more.


Braindates – What an amazing idea! This was such a brilliant opportunity to connect with people in a different way. Basically you could post a topic and people could join a group Braindate if they were also interested to talk about the said topic. Alternatively you could create one to one Braindates again on a subject that you were interested to share your ideas on. I had 5 Braindates which were all really useful! Simon Beaumont encouraged me to share my experience of Agile project management so that I set this up and got the chance to have 3 Braindates with others interested in sharing ideas around implementing Agile which was fab. I agreed to keep in touch with all of them to continue to share ideas and see how they are getting on. I had one Braindate around board reporting and one around mental health outcomes with Stephanie Augustine from Orange County, California. I really enjoyed the braindates concept, it gave me chance to meet new people with similar interests and challenges. Fingers crossed they run these at the European conference next year! Such a great way of meeting new people and expanding my network!

In between braindating, breakout sessions and the keynotes I managed to make sure I got my fill of the data village. Checked out the vendors (got some freebies for the kids!), had a quick look in the Tableau store and chatted to lots of different people in the data village. Always on a mission to share ideas to take back to the office. Oh and I might have tried out the slide into the ball pit!

My conference ended with the Data Night out on the Thursday as we had to get back early for the kids. Probably couldn’t be a better way to end my time in Las Vegas. The party was pretty amazing; with a massive neon sign shining above the Palm Casino telling Vegas the data people were in town! And the night ended with the new data anthem ‘We are Data People…we are data people…’!

It has been really hard to write this blog, and in fact it’s less of a blog and more the ramblings of someone who can’t believe they were in Vegas two weeks ago attending the mother of all conferences! It wasn’t hard because I had nothing to say, it’s because I had too much to say and struggled to put into words how much attending the Tableau conference meant to me. I am so touched to be nominated for the community founders award let alone win it. I have had such a good year and this has been the icing on the cake. It doesn’t go without saying that I recognise how lucky I am to be given this opportunity. Thank you #datafam.

Big shout out to Simon Beaumont for his continued support, and to Amanda Boyle and Jordan Scott for making sure I got to Vegas and always taking great care of the Tableau community!

If you made it to the end my blog post, thank you for reading my ramblings!

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