I #IronViz Not to Win But to Be

I’ve been using Tableau for four years now. Most of my initial years was spent using Tableau at work with a “here and there” upload to Tableau Public when I had some free time (ask me personally what “free time” is and I’ll tell you “there is no such thing” – at least not in my world!).

This past December, I was in Vermont at my parents mountain house. My then 4-year old had a tendency to wake early and my then 3-month old… well you probably can guess… also woke early. So here I was at 6 in the morning, drinking my second or third cup of coffee and stumbling upon some “free time” while the rest of my family slept.

Admiring the snow outside and the impending Christmas explosion that was to be the next morning, I happened upon the Makeover Monday website. I don’t recall how I ended up there, but fate would have it that I did. I jumped right in and worked on the Christmas tree sales viz that had come out that day. It was so fun to work on a data set that wasn’t my typical work-related project. I felt empowered, refreshed. Even though my first viz wasn’t anything amazing, I enjoyed diving into the community that I had longed to connect with.

So here I am, five months after submitting my first #makeovermonday hashtag on Twitter and I can say I submitted for Iron Viz. So I want to share my newbie experience.

If you are reading this, you likely have heard of Iron Viz. It is Tableau’s intense competition where three individuals (each winners from three feeder events) create a visualization in 20 minutes live in front of thousands at the annual conference. I saw my first Iron Viz competition at TC15 and again at TC16 (sadly I missed TC17, but only because I just had a baby – don’t worry folks, I’ll be at TC18!). It was an amazing experience to watch the three contestants create on the big screen. Even my adrenaline was pumping!

I never really thought that I would ever even attempt a submission. I mean, I don’t actually ever want to be on that stage in front of thousands of people! However, I was empowered to submit an entry this year and I’m glad I did.

I didn’t do it to win. I did it to be.

To be a part of the community.

To be challenged.

To be humbled.

To be vulnerable.

To be Tableau.

The first Iron Viz feeder this year was “books and literature” – not exactly something that came easy to me even though one of my two college majors was English and I did have a focus in Poetry. However, my first data set I explored was about Roald Dahl, one of my favorite authors as a kid, but after obtaining some data, it just didn’t inspire me.

Tip #1 – You don’t have to use the first data set or idea you come up with. Changing midway through is okay.

Finally, I landed on exploring the Pulitzer Prize and focusing on women in poetry. What was fun, was learning as I was finding the data to utilize. I know now a lot more about the Pulitzer Prize than I ever did.

After collecting most of the data, I got to work with the viz. When I was part-way done, I reached out to a few fellow Tableau users on Twitter to obtain some feedback.

Tip #2 – Be vulnerable. Reach out to the Tableau Community and ask for help, advice, feedback.

I completed and submitted my viz about two weeks before the end date. I was done, and did my best. Within days there were some posts of people who had just amazing Iron Viz submissions that were “winner, winner, chicken dinner” types of vizzes. I mean, no competition. That being said, I didn’t mind. I loved seeing what others created and being part of the Iron Viz experience. I learned a lot and I connected with so many folks – that has been invaluable.

Tip #3 – Do it just to do it. You have nothing to lose. Plus, you gain the status of “I entered Iron Viz.” Boom.

So now I can say I entered the Iron Viz contest. Something that if you asked me four years ago I’d ever do, I’d probably have said, “Are you kidding? No way!” But now I can say I did, and it was worth it. So if you are wondering if you should, I’d say, “why not?” Be Tableau. Be engaged. Be challenged. Be inspired. Be Iron Viz.

You can see my submission here: Pulitzer Prize

Here’s the information on the 2018 Iron Viz Global: 2018 schedule



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