Wisdom Tree -Michael Mixon

A new section to bring in light, thoughts of the Tableau experts who are an inspiration to all of us.The answers will be helpful to everyone aspiring to learn more and more in the Tableau world.Every week, we shall bring in such one personality who would share their words to the readers and motivate them to dive in deeper in this limitless ocean of knowledge and fun.

1. For how long have you been using tableau?

 Michael– I've been using Tableau for about 8 years. I encountered it at a TDWI conference (along with other up-and-coming software tools) and was just really impressed by how such a relatively simple interface served as a gateway to a flexible and powerful analytical experience. I was hooked pretty much from day 1.

2. Tell us one thing that you dread doing in tableau and why?

 Michael– I hate having to replicate Excel reports in Tableau. I love showing how you can do things in Tableau that are so much better than Excel, but often at work the pathway out of Excel first has to pass through a stage where you mimic the Excel experience in Tableau. And tables (which is what Excel reports predominantly are) are the least flexible chart type in Tableau, especially if your user doesn't have the benefit of using Desktop.. I suspect they did this on purpose, to force people to move away from walls of numbers, but that makes it all the more difficult sometimes to appease one’s corporate overlords. 😉

3.Tell us one feature of Tableau that you would wish was long removed.

 Michael– I’m not sure I’d call it a feature, per se, but the one thing that routinely annoys me is when I switch data sources in a workbook and Tableau decides to wreak havoc across my dashboards in the form of random changes to color legends and converting all of my filters from multi-select drop-downs to multi-select lists.  It’s all fixable but each time I have to spend 5 or so minutes correcting this stuff it lessens my affection for the software…but only a little.

4.You were the first user of Tableau at your work place – Seagate. What challenges did you face in implementing it across company? And now its Alteryx’s turn. How well will that be adapted?

 Michael– On the IT side, it was initially just the standard resistance to new tools, especially ones that (on paper, at least) seemed to compete with existing software.  We were (and still are) heavily invested in Business Objects, and while that tool serves certain use cases admirably (it excels at data dumps!), it was (and still is) flat-out horrible at dashboards, data discovery and rapid ad-hoc analysis.  But after I was able to showcase how quickly we could create and share insightful dashboards (thanks in no small part to Tableau Reader), and more departments started purchasing Desktop licenses for themselves, IT quickly recognized that Tableau addressed a critical BI gap and decided to embrace it fully and incorporate it into our BI platform.

On the Business side, the biggest challenge was our addiction to Excel coupled with the expense of individual Desktop licenses.  Even though we did ultimately go enterprise with Tableau, we’ve always had a pretty limited pool of Desktop licenses, meaning that only a minority of people were able to experience the full power of Tableau.  Granted, many of us were able to create some amazing dashboards that delivered insights and analysis that people hadn’t seen before (or at least not as easily), but this often resulted in situations where people like me were trying to develop views and workbooks that anticipated all of the ways in which our audiences would want to interrogate the data.  And while we got it right a lot of the time, we would regularly hear people ask to just have the data delivered to them in Excel so they could play with it.  And being a big fan of playing with data, I couldn’t begrudge them their request, but I also couldn’t get them to do that playing in Tableau since I couldn’t put a Desktop license on everyone’s machine (wouldn’t that be nice!). I think Tableau’s move to make web authoring far more robust is going to help address this more holistically. 
With Alteryx, we’re very early in our adoption, but we’re following a pretty similar growth path.  A couple of us got licenses about a year ago and started to use the software to either streamline data prep processes that were supremely painful or enable analytics that we simply couldn’t attempt before due to the complexity and cost.  And we made a point of showing people what we did…over and over again until the word ‘Alteryx’ resonated in their brains as something good (even if some of them still didn’t understand exactly what it did).  It’s not as visible as Tableau, yet, but it’s quickly proving itself to be an invaluable tool in our arsenal.  Alteryx and Tableau together really are the Ferrari of BI platforms – assuming you like Ferraris. 🙂

5.What features of Tableau do you often use in your office work in Seagate Technology?

 Michael– Oh there are so many. 🙂  Parameters, table calcs and LODs have been god-sends due to how much flexibility they allow me to embed into my visualizations.  Data blending was helpful for a spell, but ever since we started using Alteryx to generate TDEs, I find that I rarely blend anymore.  I don’t need to.  I suspect I will use Device Designer a lot now that we’ve upgraded to version 10.

6.You have some fantastic works on public with few like Public Transportation Satisfaction which has more than 10000 views. How does that make you feel?

 Michael– Thank you. It’s been a lot of fun to viz more in the wild over the past year, due almost entirely to my participation in Makeover Monday (and more recently, VizforSocialGood). This has allowed me to grow my Tableau Public portfolio considerably – I think I had a couple dozen or so vizzes out there before I started MakeoverMonday in Jan of 2016 (and most of them were pretty boring), and now I’m close to 90, with several that I’m very proud of. I never thought I wanted to build an online portfolio until I actually started doing it. 🙂 And while most of them don’t have that many views (the Public Transportation viz was VOTD and so gets WAY more traffic than all of my other vizzes), I’m still happy that they’re out there and that they showcase what I’ve done.

7.How much do you encourage users to be a part of events like Make Over Monday?

 Michael– Pretty regularly.  Whenever I talk to someone just starting with Tableau, someone in a creative rut, or someone who just wants to learn some new skills, I tell them to check out MakeoverMonday and the newer WorkoutWednesday.  I’ve been using Tableau for years but have learned a ton participating in MM, and I see how it helps new users grow their skills quite rapidly.  That said, I honestly don’t know how many have taken my advice (since I don’t see any of them post to Twitter yet), so either I really suck at encouraging people or they’re just participating in stealth mode. 🙂

8. How has Twitter helped you spread your word about the amazing features of Tableau?

Micheal– It’s just a great platform for connecting with like-minded individuals. I love seeing what others are doing (design ideas, tricks and tips, etc) and, whenever possible, contributing my own learnings.

9. Tell us a little about your blog – https://mixpixviz.blogspot.in

 Michael– Like so many people, I got inspired to start a blog after attending Jewel’s session at TC14. But I’ve been pretty inconsistent with it, only writing posts when inspiration and discipline collide.  I’m happy with the ones I’ve written (and they’ve gotten close to 100K views), so maybe I’ll make a bit more effort to contribute to it this year.  The challenge is convincing myself that an idea I have is unique enough to warrant a blog post, especially when there are already so many phenomenal blogs out there.  However, if I view it as simply a repository of things that I want to remember for later (and I’ve used my own posts on numerous occasions when amnesia hits), then the pressure to write something “worth reading” goes away.

10.   You mark yourself as an amateur Visual Artist but your page – http://www.michaelmixon.com/ says something else. A classic stack of beautifully captured moments can be seen. How did you develop this passion?

 Michael– Thank you. Photography’s been my primary hobby for the past 10 years or so. Of all of the creative outlets I’ve tried (I’ve dabbled in writing, drawing, painting), photography is the only one I’ve stuck with for any length of time. It just feeds me on so many levels. It gets me outside for extended periods of time, pursuing vistas and chasing light; it forces me to slow down and really observe life; new gear and software allow me to regularly geek out on the purely technical aspects of the craft; putting on headphones and checking into a sonic retreat while I edit photos always puts me in a better mood; and ultimately I get to translate what's inside of me into something tangible that, when I get it right, resonates with people in ways I rarely achieve any other way. As I state on my website, I've always struggled with expressing my emotions publically, but photography provides a bridge and a vehicle for turning my raw emotional response to the world into something I feel comfortable sharing with others. 

11.   Lastly, few words for our readers.

 Michael– "You’re young, you’ve got your heath…what you want with a job?” One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite films. 🙂

You can connect him via @





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