Visualizing our Way to Success

On October 22nd, DevTech sent five staff to the annual Tableau Software Conference in New Orleans, LA. The conference consists of three jam-packed days where 16,000 data visualization professionals participated in hands-on trainings, breakout sessions, keynote speakers, and data-focused activities.

The Tableau Software gives DevTech the ability to manipulate data into stunning and interactive charts, graphs, and maps, which can be easily accessed online. DevTech uses Tableau to produce data analyses for the Analytics Data Visualization and Information Services (ADVISE) project for USAID globally, and the Support for Strategic Information and Project Management Services (S4SIPMS) project for USAID/Nigeria.

Not only did DevTech staff interact with other companies and organizations using Tableau, they completed hands-on trainings, such as “Dazzling Dashboards; Finesse your Format,” “Top of the Table (Winning Table Calcs),” “Stack the Deck Utilizing Tabjolt (and other performance tools),” “Tableau + Python = <3,” and “R… You Ready? Jedi stats with R and Tableau.” These 2.5-hour training sessions allowed DevTech staff to follow guided lessons from Tableau professional staff, while practicing on the provided laptops and Tableau files. Some of the tasks that were learned included “set actions,” which is a new feature in Tableau that allows for benchmarking or showing a few selected countries in context. Other skills learned included cluster analysis with R and Python, performing advanced table calculations, and developing advanced charts such as sunbursts. These sessions were extremely helpful to the growth and development of the skills of DevTech staff.

“The Tableau 2018 Conference was my first hands-on introduction to the software and I was blown away by all of the functionalities in Tableau,” said Meredith Kerrigan, DevTech Monitoring & Evaluation Associate. “I am very excited to keep learning and improving my abilities – in fact I have already developed a dashboard based on newly collected data and have shared it with one of my projects.”

Additional sessions called “Brain Dates” were available, that allowed Tableau participants to meet one another and share ideas. DevTech analyst Srivani Valluru attended one of these sessions where she discussed the implementation of Tableau at USAID with other practitioners.

Throughout the week, the conference provided opportunities for DevTech staff to hear from keynote speakers and attend events focused on Tableau analysis. During “Devs on Stage,” DevTech was able to learn from the Developers of Tableau about the new Tableau features, from “Vector maps” to “Multiple table storage for extracts,” enabling our team stay on the cutting edge of Tableau usage. During the Iron Viz Championship – a competition where three Tableau experts each built a visualization in front of the 16,000 conference attendees in only 20 minutes – our team was able to gain ideas for new visualizations that we will use in the future for our clients.

DevTech staff attended breakout sessions that were designed to introduce new concepts to Tableau users and help them refine their existing work. Two attendees went to the “Practical Guide to Guided Analytics” session, which provided tips on how to format a visually compelling dashboard. Overall, the five DevTech staff attended a total of 36 (1) hands-on trainings and breakout sessions, three keynote speakers, and multiple data-focused activities. Moving forward, DevTech staff will use the skills and lessons learned at the Conference to improve upon their visualizations and create even more impactful products for DevTech’s clients.

“The conference spanned everything about this software—from the most basic, minute functionalities to the parts of Tableau that push the boundaries of what we can do with computers. Each session was presented with an infectious, earnest energy that was unapologetically passionate about data visualization, which reminded me vividly of the ADVISE team,” commented Robindra Banerji, DevTech Data Analyst (Economist), ADVISE. “The ten sessions I selected cover most of the data analysis functionalities there are in Tableau, and I’m especially looking forward to sharing level of detail calculations with the Foreign Aid Explorer team, since we deal with data along several aggregable dimensions.”

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(1) Some sessions were counted twice as they were attended by multiple individuals.