Accelerate your career with a Personal Board of Directors

Hi all,

As we wrap up annual performance review season, you’ll all be on the receiving end of feedback. Some of it will be good, some of it will be less so, but hopefully it will all be constructive. With any luck there won’t be any big surprises in there, that’s always unpleasant. Feedback should be a continuous process throughout the year, driven by the individual.

A great way of creating that pipeline of continuous feedback, advice and support is to think of yourself as a company. Banoub Inc. if you will. Has a nice ring to it actually. The best companies operate with a solid, skilled and experienced Board of Directors, working together to provide the direction that the company needs. No one person can do it all themselves.

And that’s the same with you. We all need our own Personal Board of Directors. The people that can advise, critique, praise, motivate and generally steer each of us through the minefield that is our career.

I like to think of my own Personal Board of Directors as 6 – 8 people that connect with me in a number of ways. Here are a few suggestions.

  • A Subject Matter Expert

    • Someone that knows my subject area inside out. A person I can learn technical and job-related skills from. A real expert in the field.

 

  • The no BS advisor

    • We all need someone who gives it to you straight. Someone who’s opinion comes with no BS. They’ll tell you how they see it, whether it is uncomfortable for you or not. Often a great way to get the feedback that others are too scared to give you.

 

  • A super-fan

    • Some people just like you. They might like the way you work, or your attitude, or you just click. It’s always good to have a positive fan on your Personal Board of Directors. They’re handy for spreading that positive message about you and for selling your achievements.

 

  • A critic

    • While your super-fan will tell you all the things you do well, it’s good to balance that out with someone who will let you know where you’re going wrong. They might seem negative, but if they’re spotting flaws that you are missing then they’re extremely valuable. Obviously attitude is key here; you want feedback to be constructive.

 

  • The connector

    • We all know someone who seems to know everyone! They’re all over your social feeds, all over forums and events. Their name crops up everywhere and they seem to get all the info on what’s going on. It’s great to be close to someone who has this profile. They’re able to connect you with people from all over the place and they open so many doors. And as cliche as it sounds, it really is all about the network.

 

  • Someone from Generation-Not-You

    • Your perspective on life is profoundly influenced by your generation. And there’s not a whole lot you can do about that. I like my Personal Board of Directors to feature someone from another generation. Be they younger, or older, they see things through a whole new lens and as such can offer an invaluable opinion.

 

  • The non-work advisor

    • I find it useful to have an advisor that I don’t share any real work connection with. Maybe they share the same hobby as you, or have similar life challenges, the non-work advisor can offer unique commentary that you can use to make real progress.

 

Finally I like to think how I can act as someone else’s board member. Maybe you’ll have a mutual arrangement with some of your own advisors? But do consider how your own skills can be of use to acquaintances at work. The recipient might not even realize you could be of use. So offer!

You’ll probably already have some of these roles already filled, maybe without even realizing it. And just like a real company, there will be turnover, hirings and firings, and maybe the odd scandal, but the group will undoubtedly provide a great deal of collective value.  One thing is for sure, your Personal Board of Directors will provide a continuous fire-hose of actionable feedback and advice, that you can use to shape your career for the better. Don’t rely on the usual feedback channels, go out and get hiring!

Regards, Paul

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Tips for building a scalable enterprise deployment of Tableau (Tableau Conference 2018)

Here’s my talk from Tableau Conference 2018 in New Orleans.

Check out the presentation here

UBS | Tips for building a scalable enterprise deployment of Tableau

So, you’ve deployed Tableau and have 100 users? Are you ready for that 100 to become 1,000 users? What about 10,000? Tableau is a great tool and can spread like a virus. Join this session, led by Paul—who’s grown his Tableau Centre of Excellence from zero to 13,000 users, while maintaining a solid, affordable deployment with an engaged user base and dynamic community. Learn top tips for scaling your service, such as: scaling your infrastructure, monitoring performance, capacity, organizing your team and support, and more.

Speaker(s):
Paul Banoub, UBS
Content Type: Breakout Session
Level: Intermediate
Track: Enablement and Adoption

You’re a manager, but are you a coach?

Hello all. Thought I’d take a few mins to continue my series on leadership. Check out some of my other posts on Emotional Intelligence etc.

This one is about management and in particular, how management is a distinct skill from the oft-used discipline of “coaching”.

We hear a lot about management. About what makes a great manager, what makes a bad manager and how to develop your own management skills. And that’s important. Effective managers are vital to the success of a firm and also to developing and maintaining a cohesive team. In fact I’ve often seen that people don’t usually leave jobs, they leave managers.

We also hear a lot about coaching. Managers are encouraged to act as coaches to get the best from their teams, but often the specific skills involved in coaching are sometimes not fully understood.  The terms “managing” and “coaching” are also often used interchangeably, incorrectly in my opinion.

Managing refers to the task of overseeing the work of others, be that a team or a project.

Typically we see management responsibilities as

  • Delegating tasks and work items
  • Providing feedback
  • Monitoring performance
  • Onboarding and orienting new staff
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Resource planning
  • Status reporting and tracking

That’s very different from coaching. Coaching is much more of a two-way process between the coach and the employee which aims to implement and refine a framework that empowers the employee to develop their own skills in the areas of attitude, judgement, motivation and emotional intelligence.

Great coaches excel at the following

  • Listening, absorbing and understanding points of view
  • Asking probing but open-ended questions that encourage the employee to think
  • Providing feedback
  • Fostering behavioural change, initiated by the employee
  • Showing empathy and high emotional intelligence
  • Recognizing strengths and focusing energy on refinement
  • Helping the employee develop a natural support framework

I always think of my role as a coach first and a manager second. Sure we need to get the job done, and management skills are critical to that, but it’s also vital for me to develop a team that feels empowered to take charge of their own career. Coaching helps people to build those critical frameworks to self-support and self-manage, which gives the employee a much greater sense of satisfaction than merely following management direction. Seeing individuals join a team and then using coaching techniques to develop that person is one of the most satisfying aspects of my role, especially if that person then begins to naturally coach other team members or peers.

So I’d always encourage managers to have a strong focus on the coaching aspects of their role. Managing people enables them to get the job done, but coaching people develops the leaders of tomorrow.

As always, comments invited.

Cheers, Paul

Further reading

https://venturefizz.com/stories/boston/management-vs-coaching-whats-difference

https://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/05/01/know-when-to-manage-and-when-to-coach/

Emotional Intelligence – The Secret Sauce for your Career

Hi,

Back in the day I was a young, bullish upstart, with an over-inflated opinion of myself. I’d come to work, think I was the bees knees and then watch as others moved past me in their careers. It was always someone else that got the promotion, or the great feedback, or the pay rise. How could that be? I just couldn’t work it out. Why were these people leaving me behind? What was the differentiating factor? It was all just so unfair!

Then as I got more experienced and read more it became clear that these people all had one thing in common. A secret sauce for success. Something that is present in almost all successful people and absent in many people that struggle. That magic ingredient is Emotional Intelligence (EQ).

EQ as a term was popularized in the mid-90s by journalist Daniel Goleman and is loosely defined as the ability of an individual to recognize, manage, and adapt their feelings to situations, and use those feelings to achieve success. Something that as a young gun I thought I had full control of, but was sadly mistaken.

When the whole EQ subject clicked into place, my career started to rocket. Everything changed. I delivered, I got on with people, I influenced and achieved. I managed conflicts and improved relationships. I gained more friends. Results were transformed. I enjoyed my work again.

EQ is a complex subject so I won’t attempt to explain it all here, but in a nutshell there are a handful of key components that I’ve found most valuable.

 

1. Awareness of self, others & situation

The first step in controlling emotions and EQ is to be able to recognise the current situation. How is your behaviour coming across to that person right now? How will that email comment be interpreted? If I do this, what might the outcome be? We all know the people that cause a scene by shooting off that angry email without thinking – that’s a sign of low EQ. The high EQ response is considered, thoughtful, calm and measured and ALWAYS achieves better results.

Next is to be able to recognize the mental state of others. A common example is being able to spot when someone may have lost control of a situation and looks ready to shoot that angry email or make a silly comment. The high EQ person would spot that, and then gently intervene to prevent an escalation. That’s classic awareness of others / situation.

 

2. Empathy and humility

A common characteristic of effective leaders, empathy isn’t just being able to listen. It’s about placing yourself in their shoes and not just responding with your own experiences or opinions.

For example, a team member may be having a hard time at home with illnesses and wants to speak to you.

 

Colleague: “I’m really struggling. My child is ill and it’s causing me a lot of stress. I’m finding it hard to sleep.”

Low EQ response: “Ah that’s bad. My son had a bad illness last year as well. I had to take time off and it was really stressful for my family. I’m still not recovered, maybe I need a holiday”

High EQ response: “Ah that’s bad. I’m really sorry to hear that. It must be really difficult for your family. Have you thought of taking some time off or seeking help from HR? There may be things we can do to help. “

 

A world of difference in the responses. And it’s not just verbal, body language can play a large part. Having a level of empathy is key to achieving results from your teams.

And then there’s humility and equanimity. Don’t get over excited when things go well, and don’t get too down when they go badly. Stay calm and in control. Hard to do, especially when it all hits the fan, but a key characteristic of people with high EI.

 

3. Social skills

High EQ leaders work tirelessly on their communications skills, conflict resolution and being able to give and receive constructive feedback. They regularly praise others for their achievements over taking credit themselves. They genuinely enjoy seeing their colleagues achieving great results

 

4. Motivation

The high EQ leader is motivated to succeed, believes in their own abilities, and is constantly striving to learn more and improve.  They set goals, monitor and manage performance and demand consistent excellence from themselves and their colleagues.

The best high EQ leaders set such a high example with quality of work and interpersonal relationships that they inspire and affect change without even trying. You’ll regularly find the best way to increase standards in a team is to lead by example.

Obviously there’s more to it than this, but those are the components I’ve had the most success with. Of course I’m not perfect and have to continuously work on my own EQ, but if I was asked to name the main factor that allowed me to progress professionally, it would be Emotional Intelligence.

Regards, Paul

Further reading

https://www.hrzone.com/perform/people/emotional-intelligence-do-you-know-the-four-basic-components

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tracy-crossley/10-reasons-why-emotional-_b_6770864.html

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Daniel-Goleman-Emotional-Intelligence-GOLEMAN/dp/9382563806

On Tableau Extensions

Hello folks – I hope you’ve all recovered from TC18 in New Orleans? What a great gig that was!

Anyway, this post is about one of the most talked about new Tableau features – extensions. This is a new API that allows users to build their own plug-ins to Tableau Desktop, and do pretty much anything, and it hasn’t taken long for the extensions gallery to grow.

ext2

There’s already a ton of great stuff in the extensions gallery!

In the 6 or so years I’ve been working with Tableau, I’ve not seen any feature generate this much chat, debate and passion – certainly among my people, the server admin / COE community.

So here’s what I think about this topic;

 

What I like about extensions

Game changing functionality

There’s no doubt that extensions will lead to a great boost in Tableau functionality. We’ve already seen some excellent arrivals into the extensions gallery such as Show Me More, Write-Back, DataRobot Insights and Wordsmith. I have no doubt that will continue, and fully expect the brilliant Tableau community to build functionality that we haven’t even realised we want yet.

 

Fills gaps in the tool

We’re all pushing Tableau for more features, right? Well extensions must feel like a get out of jail free card for *some* Tableau dev teams. We kinda saw that with Interworks Powertools, which filled a number of gaps, albeit at a cost. I’m sure some extensions will emerge that take the heat off certain Tableau devs, maybe allowing those teams to switch focus to something else, safe in the knowledge that the extension has saved them a job. And that might ultimately lead to more innovation and a faster evolution of the tool.

 

Empowers the community

Placing such power in the hands of the super-enthusiastic and skilled Tableau community is exciting. For Tableau to create a conduit for us users to be able to feel like part of the Tableau dev world is powerful, not just with what we can create, but it’s also like we’ve been welcomed into Tableau’s world with a big embrace, knowing that any of us can contribute directly to the capabilities of the product, knowing that hey – I made that!

It’s a mark of respect for the Tableau community and a statement of trust from the vendor. Nice.

 

What I don’t like about extensions

Potential data leakage

This is obviously the big one. I’ve downloaded an extension, how do I know it’s doing what it says on the tin? Or at least not doing some extra stuff I don’t want?

At the Tableau Conference Server Admin meetup, our friend Tamas Foldi gave the audience a demo of a fictional extension he’d built. It went something like this. He downloaded the .trex file, installed it, then clicked OK to accept the terms and conditions (which displayed almost no info). The extension actually displayed cat pictures in a dashboard (Ann Jackson would have approved).

All fine or so it seemed. Until Tamas fired up a terminal and showed us that the extension was actually extracting all of the data from the workbook and sending it to some obscure URL. Grim.

evil-demo-01

Tamas Foldi’s demo of an extension stealing data

The above is hard to read so please click here for the higher resolution version 

This is the reality of extensions. Once you click that OK to accept the terms, you’re at the mercy of the code. And who knows what might happen then?

 

I can’t (reliably) turn it off on desktop

Given the security concerns I would wager that most admins would like to disable extensions on Tableau Desktop. This is possible with a registry edit, fiddly but achievable and easily done in the packaging process. Same as many of us did with the annoying auto-update feature. So that covers the vast majority of people in any enterprise, which will no doubt have their desktops locked down to prevent unauthorised software installs.

However, as in Jurassic Park, life finds a way. And some users will manage to install software. Not many, but some. And that’s a risk.

 

Vetting

As far as I’m aware, and confirmed by my chats with the extensions team, Tableau don’t check or scrutinize any of the extensions. It’s a public gallery and anyone can upload. Tableau don’t have to approve.

 

The Tableau UX

So there’s a reason that Tableau doesn’t have speedometers, egg-timers, traffic lights and

Will extensions turn Tableau into this?

other chart junk like other tools. It’s because at the heart of the tool is a dedicated research team that applies science to everything Tableau does. If it’s going into the tool then it better be best practice and have some theory behind it. It’s the same reason we don’t have 3D, despite the massive demand on the forums – it’s just not right.

That may not  be the case with extensions. It won’t be long before we get the first extension that produces chart junk, and then many of our Tableau dashboards will look like shit. It won’t matter how much research Tableau do.

 

Technical dependencies

As stated earlier, some of these extensions are pretty good. So in time I’m sure many of my users will come to love one or more extensions, and get great value from them.

But how can I, as an admin, guarantee that the extension will support that next version of Tableau? What if it doesn’t? I can’t hold back an upgrade just because one third-party component doesn’t work. What if the extension vendor decides to sunset their creation, either deliberately or just by getting bored of it? It’s us admins that will get shouted at.

 

Support dependencies

Some of these extensions will be popular. REALLY popular. And many will also be homebrew creations made by one person and their dog. Are they going to be able to handle the influx of emails and support requests that they’ll get after thousands of downloads? How do we even know that the vendor of an extension is legit? Do Tableau keep the pressure on extension vendors to provide decent support or keep the product up-to-date? I don’t think they’d have the cycles to do that.

 

More vendors to get to know

I’m already the vendor relationship manager for a bunch of companies here. Last thing I need is a whole lot more to worry about.

 

Server defaults are on

Now extensions can be disabled on server. And restricted to a whitelist. What I don’t like here is the fact that the default setting for server extensions is ON. Not cool.

Go vote up Mark Kernke’s forum idea to change that default setting.

 

Paid for extensions a huge potential headache

So here’s a conversation I’ve already had here.

User: Hey I wanna buy this extension, it's great. 
Me: Okay - well we need to evaluate it first.
User: Sure, and if you okay it I need you to put it on the server
Me: Who's paying for that then?
User: Well you are, aren't you?
Me: Baaahahahaha

I’ve caught this one at source, but I’m sure there will be a time when someone has already bought an extension (yes I know they shouldn’t, but…) and then they try to pressure me to pay for it on server.

 

Implementing extensions will take a long time in enterprises

Even for the extensions that we do decide to bring in, there’s gonna be a ton of work for my team.

Off the top of my head

  • Evaluate and test the extension on desktop
  • Evaluate and test on server
  • Penetration test and risk evaluation
  • Add to internal software catalogue
  • Establish vendor relationship
  • Work out commercials and support with vendor
  • Get vendor added to our approved supplier list and internally vetted
  • Package extensions
  • Train team in basic support of extension
  • Organise deployment
  • Ongoing support, upgrades & maintenance

I’m sure there’s more. And that would be needed for each one.

 

What I think might help

Now the server admins have been bantering about this for a while. It was seriously the talk of the town at the TC18 server admin meetup.

admins

A beautiful cluster of server admins at TC18

We’ve not been able to come up with many solutions to these problems as of yet but here are some that we did talk about.

Make them easy to disable on desktop

Not an issue for the packaged deployments, more for the rogue installs. We talked about this a lot. No-one could come up with a solution other than somehow tying it back to the licence key. Open to ideas.

 

Set default to off on server

There’s an easy one. And I hear Tableau are already on the case.

 

Digital signatures

Make this a requirement. Packaged, digitally signed extensions that can be easily hosted internally and therefore blocked from accessing the internet.

 

Tableau approved extensions

I’d like to see an upper-class of extension that has been approved by Tableau. Vendor checked out, support checked, code reviewed etc. Give them a special badge and pride of place in the gallery. If Tableau approve then I’m confident it’s not some amateur outfit.

 

So that’s the deal with extensions. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE this feature. It’s very exciting and will undoubtedly lead to lots of innovation and some cool stuff that we haven’t even imagined yet. But we do need to be careful. The problems for the admin community are clear. I’m looking forward to working with Tableau devs, product managers and the wider community to solve them.

Comments invited, as always.

Regards, Paul

 

Our Tableau centre of excellence: Managing an Enterprise deployment of Tableau (Tableau Conference 2017)

Hi – been asked for this video a few times. It’s my talk from Tableau Conference 2017.

Check out the presentation here

UBS: Our Tableau centre of excellence: Managing an Enterprise deployment of Tableau

At UBS we run a global Tableau Centre of Excellence, supporting 10k users across the business and IT. Over the last 3 years we have built a reputation as one of the most dynamic, well-run and user-focused IT services in the firm. In this session you will learn how we:
– Implemented and rolled out the infrastructure & application
– Manage upgrades & demand
– Run multiple training programs for users & execs
– Monitor performance, availability & capacity
– Run a dynamic, fun community of Tableau enthusiasts
– Work with the vendor to contribute to product evolution

This session will provide you with many practical tips and tricks to take back to your own organisations to enhance your deployments of Tableau.

This is part of the financial services track.

Speaker:
Paul Banoub, UBS
Content Type: Breakout
Level: Intermediate
Track: Enablement & Adoption
Tags: Financial Services

What to name your Tableau Server?

Hello all. Yes, contrary to popular belief, I did indeed survive Tableau Conference 2017. I’ll admit it was a close thing, but I got through it!

Now back to business..

This one all started with a tweet from my good pal, the Wizard of Excel (and Tableau genius) Mr Dan Harrison (@danosirra) who was wondering what to name his Tableau server host.

This awakened the server admin in me (not that it’s ever asleep).. It also made me question Dan’s taste in music.

An example being…

And this is the point. Server naming is critical in any organisation, large or small.

Picture the situation – you get woken up at 2am by an alert or a call from an operator – server “superman” is down. Fine if you’re experienced and know the environment inside out, but what if you’ve only just joined the company. You know the servers are named after superheroes, but that’s it. Was the production server superman or spiderman? Or was it WonderWoman? Do you need to take action? It’s not clear and you need to dig into a server inventory system to get more info, and that takes time. And you’re new, so you can’t remember the URL for the inventory system.

You assume superman is your production server. But it’s not reachable via console, and you need to call someone to get into the datacenter to fix it. So you call the hardware team – sure they’ll go in, but they need to know if the server is in the London or the Birmingham datacenter? Errrr…

So you dispatch Server 5’O to fix the box, and then the next day you find out it’s a development machine and could wait. What a waste of time.

So you get the problem here. It’s very tempting to name servers after Simpsons characters or animals (I’d choose sharks obviously), but those names convey no organisational information and as such, are useless.

So what should you do?

There are tons of different naming conventions you can use. Here’s one that I like

When I get that call in the middle of the night I (or the hardware technician) will want to know..

  • Where is the server?
  • Is it production, Disaster Recovery, UAT or development?
  • What application is it? Tableau, obviously.
  • Which worker of my Tableau cluster is it?
  • What operating system is it?

So I get called and am told server lnpwtsw3.company.com is down. Let me think..

  • ln – London
  • p – Production
  • w – Windows
  • ts – Tableau Server
  • w3 – Worker 3

And with that info, I know it needs acting on now, which platform admin to call if it’s an OS issue, and where to send the hardware technician if it needs physically addressing. I also know which worker it is so what the potential impact to my cluster is.

Yes the server name is a little harder to remember, but that soon comes and it is possible to create a DNS alias to reflect a friendlier name if needed. There’s also a balance to be had in terms of character count etc.

Another example – this time server name is lndwtsw1

  • ln – London
  • d – Development
  • w – Windows
  • ts – Tableau Server
  • w1 – Worker 1

Fine, that’s development. I’ll go back to sleep and deal with it in the morning.

So as you can see, it’s pretty important. Not just for me and my Tableau environment, what if you’re a server admin in charge of 5000 servers across the globe? This needs to be right!

Anyway, that’s it. Pretty simple. For the record, Dan made his choice…

See you next time, Paul