My #DataDev journey…

My #DataDev journey started in the summer of 2019. I wanted to share my experience to encourage those that do not have a coding background to get involved. I met so many great people and learnt a lot along the way – it is a journey worth embarking on!

I never thought that working with the Tableau developer tools would be something that I would do. I thought I would need lots of coding experience. But it turns out, all I needed was a bit of curiosity and a good mentor. 

What is my background?

I do not have any coding background. I dabbled in a bit of python before, but only spent a few hours on it. I studied International Relations at university which involved writing a lot of essays! The switch into data analysis stemmed from my love of solving problems and my desire to complement conceptual understanding with quantitative analysis.

How did it start?

With a project – I was part of a Tableau Foundation project that was exploring the possibilities of integrating data from Xero (an accounting software) into Tableau. It was difficult to get the data out using Alteryx (blog post on this coming out soon), so we explored other options. One of the options that I wanted to explore was creating a Web Data Connector (WDC). This then led into an intermittent 9-month rabbit hole, involving a lot of hours and help from Andre De Vries from The Information Lab, who had more experience as a developer. It also involved a lot of time troubleshooting and patience with myself when learning JavaScript.

Then what…?

At the Tableau Hackathon (to learn more about the hackathons, see here) in London I went to support the team from The Information Lab and met Geraldine aka Gigi. There she told me about the Tableau Developer Platform, where I found out about the developer tools and the developer community.

I was also very lucky to have the opportunity to go to the Tableau Conference in Las Vegas. At the conference, I went with Andre and Tim Ngwena to the hackathon where I met even more of the developers, saw other people’s projects and what was possible with the developer tools. There, I was added to the Slack workspace so I could access even more support and get more involved in the developer community.

Andre and I also recently published a webinar on how to use webhook integrations with Tableau. 

Key Learnings?

Be willing to fail, like a million times. During my WDC project, I kept finding holes in my knowledge every time I wanted to go further with the project, which was frustrating because I felt like I needed to go back before I could go forward.

The importance of having a good mentor

I cannot express enough the importance of having a good mentor. Andre made sure that I had a basic understanding of JavaScript before starting the WDC project. He gave me homework which involved a list of questions I needed to research and answer. He also organised for me to deliver a teaching session on an introduction to JavaScript to The Information Lab, which solidified that learning. Andre introduced me to the developer community by encouraging me to join the hackathon at TC and go to developer-related sessions, which expanded my exposure and knowledge of the subject. Not to mention he put up with my pestering and millions of questions.  

Final thoughts

I know I am still at the beginning of my developer journey, but the community has been so supportive that I know I will continue to improve if I have the motivation. There are still lots of things that I need to learn. I will hopefully be posting these in my blog soon, so watch this space! Feel free to reach out to me on twitter if you have any questions. 

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