Tableau-ho-ho, merry Viz-mas!

2019 is coming to its end and it’s time for me to look back upon all the things I can be grateful for this year. Christmas may be only once a year, but with the gift the Tableau community is to everyone, every day is a holiday.

(A year ago, I was asked to visualize Christmas music for our company’s Christmas blog. That’s where I came up with the horrible pun which I’ve reused for this blog post’s title, as well. I’m not super proud of it, but I am also completely unapologetic.)


I received a beautiful t-shirt for helping crowdfund CoWomen, a Berlin-based coworking space for female entrepreneurs, that sports a slogan which perfectly embodies the #DataFam mentality: “We rise by lifting others”.

I also decorated my living room wall with roughly 48 square feet of lights and 101 pictures of the people closest to me. Having attended “only” the European TC in London 2018 at that point, I didn’t own super many selfies with the #DataFam. Some of the most important people made it up there, though – Klaus Schulte, then-reigning European Iron Viz Champion and later Tableau Zen Master 2018, and Dilyana Bossenz and Ingo Levin, the coleaders of the Berlin TUG.

Oh, and of course I created a viz out of it.


My company, The Information Lab, was named Tableau Partner of the Year for the DACH / CEE / CIS region and for all of EMEA. I also finished the first part of my studies, becoming a certified Professional Business Analyst at Nordakademie Graduate School, which was only possible through the constant encouragement of my colleagues.


My second Tableau Fringe Festival was on! At TFF EMEA, I talked about pie charts, the biggest crimes you can commit in using pie charts, and what chart types to use instead.

I also watched an amazing talk by Candra McRae on how to avoid the blank stare. It gives great advice on how to present data in a way that sticks in the mind and drives action beyond the end of the meeting.


I got to experience Eva Murray (once more) in live action at the Berlin TUG. She spoke about how to get yourself involved in the community, and how to improve your Tableau skills. Also, there was a ball pool which I can never resist.

And we had the first TUG on my home surf! I banded together with Leif Hitzschke, the leader of the Hamburg TUG, and Oliver Rappold, Senior Sales Consultant at Tableau, and with Leif’s organizational skills and Olli and my talks, we rallied together about 30 people – one of the bigger TUG meetings Hamburg has seen.

It was also the first TUG I held a session at. The only one I had spoken at before was in Berlin in September 2018, where Klaus Schulte and I were interviewed on trapezium tile maps, because that’s our thing.


Certifiably Tableau Day brought with it a collage of people who were over-the-moon happy at being a Certified Associate and/or Professional at Tableau Desktop and/or Server. And guess who was on it?

I guess being unable to hide one’s joy is definitely not a bad thing.


Tableau Conference Europe! Where to start?

I could mention that I attended together with over sixty of my colleagues.

I could mention that I took plenty of group selfies with the #DataFam, one of which was actually featured by Tableau.

I could mention that I was over the moon at people – and not just any people, but absolute data rockstars who are the pillars of our #DataFam – actually knowing who I was, and asking whether I had brought my ukulele (looking at you, Neil Richards).

I could mention that I remained seated for a few minutes, absolutely stunned, after Klaus Schulte and Ludovic Tavernier’s talk about the most wondrous charts.

Or I could mention that I spoke at TCE19.

Twice, technically.

When asked about my goals for 2019 in my end-of-year discussion with the bosses in late 2018, I said at once, “I want to speak in Berlin at TCE19”. I didn’t know how, I didn’t know what about, and none of that mattered. I knew that I had to find a way to give back.

And I did.

I talked to about fifty people about how conventional BI is going to bring your business down if you don’t do something to modernize it anytime soon. It was controversial, it was divisive, it started discussions, and I was proud of it.

And I also held a small silent session an hour after my “big” session.

I’ll always be grateful to my colleagues for giving me the opportunity and pushing me and coaching me until I delivered the best talk I was able to. And I’ll also be eternally grateful for their honest feedback afterwards: “Stop apologizing, Heidi. There’s no need for it.”


Family vacation no. 1 – and yes, this was actual family (plus my Estonian host family), not #DataFam. We went to Estonia, a rather small, but technologically very advanced country in North-Eastern Europe, and attended the “Laulu- ja Tantsupidu”, a Singing and Dancing Festival that occurs every five years and draws around 150 000 people. Now, I get that for all you guys from the bigger countries out there, this sounds like a minor concert, but keep in mind that Estonia is home to only 1,3 million inhabitants, so this is a huge deal.

And my mum and I didn’t only attend – no, we got to walk in the parade as well! Together with 47 000 other dancers, singers, and musicians, we walked and danced and sang our way through Tallinn, the capital, all three miles from Freedom Square to the Singing Grounds.

Of course I had my Info Lab swag with me.


August came around, and with it came family vacation no. 2 – again, actual family, not #DataFam. My sister and her fiancé came from Australia, my brother came along, and our eldest sister brought her whole family. We spent an enjoyable week in Portugal and I took enough pictures in a hat to fill a whole keynote with.


September was an interesting month, to say the least. Everything was going fine – until it wasn’t anymore.

I broke down.

The strain of my full-time job, my Master studies, and my private life became too much. You know that feeling when every little issue taken for itself is nothing and completely manageable, like a little wave that will rock you, but you’ll easily ride over it – but when you accumulate them, they become a tsunami that will drown you.

And I drowned – almost.

I forced myself to reach out to people, to ask for help, and they held onto me so that I didn’t lose myself in the ocean that was trying its best to drown me.

September and the following weeks taught me a great many things: they taught me that there are borders you shouldn’t cross, and that when your body is screaming at you to take better care of yourself, you should listen. They taught me that mental health issues can and will happen to anyone, and it’s healthy to speak out. They taught me that #DataFam is not just a hashtag about data, it also means that there’s actually a family out there to support you through everything life throws at you. And they taught me that people will help you as best they can, if only they know you need them to.

I will never be able to sufficiently put into words how much it means to me to have the constant support and friendship and love of my colleagues at The Information Lab. I’m not completely out of the waters yet, but they are my life raft and I’m doing my best to mount the waves, rather then allow them to pull me under.


We started the Analytics Academy! Many of you will have heard of the Data School of TIL UK. The Information Lab Germany has started a similar program, called the Analytics Academy. Starting small with four chosen Analytics Academy Analysts – quite a mouthful, so just call them the Triple-A’s that they are – we gained four amazing colleagues that have made huge steps forward in the world of data analytics in the past few months.

I also was given and took the opportunity to speak at TFF APAC. Getting up in the middle of the night like two other similarly motivated European speakers, Dilyana Bossenz and Kris Curtis, I spoke about my favourite chart type: Marimekko charts, when to use them, and how to build them.


Tableau Conference 2019!

My first US TC. I’ll be honest, I was a bit apprehensive – I’m not the biggest fan of huge crowds of people, couldn’t fathom how the content could possibly be better than the session in Europe just because there would be more US-American speakers, and honestly, loving the “intimacy” of three and a half thousand attendees in Europe, there was no way a conference would improve by just cramming five to six times the number of people into one admittedly gigantic conference center.

To remain honest, I’m still not convinced the content is significantly better, but the people – I never thought I’d actually get to meet all my data heroes, and yet, I did.

Let’s start with the Data+Women pre-conference drinks. With some support from the organizers and a bouncer that was convinced by the big doe eyes, I managed to charm my way into the event. And that’s when I remembered that I knew basically nobody there in person, was not a fan of big crowds in small, enclosed spaces, and was notoriously bad at forcing my way into group discussions.

But I thought to myself, “Heidi, you’ve bombarded these people with random tweets for the past two years, and most of these guys are Americans; surely somebody will recognize your face and talk to you; just walk around until somebody stops you.”

And lo and behold, I didn’t make it more than five meters until I met one of my favourite #DataFam members, Chris McClellan. He kept introducing me to anybody who would hear it (and most of them who wouldn’t) with, “Have you met Heidi? She spoke at TFF APAC!”

Soon, I ended up in a group picture with plenty of people who were unbelievably happy to meet me. And I mean “unbelievably” in that I hadn’t believed that anyone would be happy to meet little old me.

But that’s the thing about the #DataFam: everyone is significant in their own right, and everyone is loved and supported. It’s called family for a reason.

This whole feeling stuck around for the rest of TC. I attended plenty of great sessions, discussed different topics in brilliant braindates, sat in the first row when my colleague Hesham Eissa co-won Iron Viz, stood in the center of lots and lots of group pictures, took and tweeted enough group selfies to watch my own face up on the big screen, hugged and was welcomed by #DataFam members I had never talked to before in my life, and had an amazing time all around.

And when it was time to say goodbye, I once again broke down – and was caught, once more, with open arms by the #DataFam. Special thanks go out to Claire Phillips, Chris McClellan, Alex Waleczek, and Ludo Koelman. Kindly asking, never pressuring, and gently, but strongly supporting me through the dark times and the good, I could rely on the family to be there whenever I needed them. And I know that no matter how far away, there will always be someone to talk to. (Heaven knows that we spread enough time zones for somebody to be awake at any time of the day, somewhere.)

I am grateful. I cannot put my gratitude into words, but I’ll continue to put it into song, and blogs, and TFF talks, and drawings, and anything else I can put my gratitude into, in order to show my love to the #DataFam who have and continue to shower me with their love in return.


As the year was nearing its end, I spoke at my third Tableau Fringe Festival of 2019, TFF NorthAm. I talked about Set Actions vs Parameter Actions in Tableau. With the help of Chris McClellan and the amazing #DataFam Network that he and Mark Bradbourne started, I started my own blog and posted my TFF NorthAm content in a mini-series of four posts. I am proud to begin my new year resolution in the old year already, and will do my best to keep blogging up in 2020.

Just this Friday, I was also featured in Matt Francis’ Tableau Wannabe Advent Calendar. Imagine my surprise to be featured next to rockstars such as four-time Vizzie winner Kevin Flerlage and Tableau HoF Zen Master Andy Kriebel! I can only reiterate the words of CoWomen: “We rise my lifting others.”

Giving back to the community will strengthen everybody, and what goes around comes around. Treat others as you wish to be treated, love thy neighbour, or whatever you want to call it – supporting others is the best you can do. Karma is real, data people!

And that’s one of my new year resolutions.


Give back. I will do my best to blog, to participate, to speak about tips and tricks in Tableau and general visual best practices, and to reach as many members of the #DataFam as possible, especially those who might not even know there’s a whole family out there.

I’ll also do my best to treat myself better, starting with a two-month-sabbatical in March and April which will have me spend a significant amount of time in the Sydney area, Australia. I’ll do my best to attend as many TUGs around the world as possible while travelling.

The year 2020 will, more than ever, be about reaching out. Reaching out to the community, reaching out to both get and lend support, and reaching out to simply raise awareness that there’s people out there willing to help.

And with that, I conclude this little post. I just want everyone to know that, same as people have been there for me, I am there for you. Be it with Tableau-related questions, general need for advice, or just an open ear, I am here.

Have a very merry Christmas, everyone!