Ok we are back back back! And it has recently come to my attention that there is now a competing interview series. Well I guess imitation is the best form of flattery so I won’t send the elite Ninjas around just yet. Besides, it’s a great read so I’d recommend you check it out!
But we’ve got a blinding guest this month, none other than one of my absolute Tableau heroes – Mark Jackson. Without further ado…
VN: So who are you then and what do you do?
My name is Mark Jackson. I go by @ugamarkj on Twitter and have a blog at http://ugamarkj.blogspot.com. I run the Tableau BI program at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta, GA. My mission is to create an army of viz ninjas (Ahem! they all work for me actually – VN) and turn them loose to do awesome things with our data. So I spend most of my time educating others and modeling data sources for them to work with. I now have a team of two senior BI developers that I’m able to transition some of that work to. So I’m able to spend more time these days thinking strategically and exploring new technologies like NOSQL graph databases to help answer really complex relational or pattern based questions.
VN: Tell me about your org
Piedmont Healthcare is a five-hospital system. We have 400 employed medical staff members, and we have approximately 1,200 affiliate physicians with more than 100 physician practices across North Georgia. In total, we have around 10k FTEs that work for the heath system. Piedmont has some of the best medical providers in the world, and I wouldn’t go anywhere else for treatment. We had our second child at Piedmont and it was a great experience. So I’m honored to be a part of this organization and play my small part in improving the care we provide to our patients.
VN: How do you personally use Tableau?
These days I mainly use Tableau to evangelize Tableau and the science of data visualization. Tableau is the best tool on the market to help people rapidly see and understand their data. No other tool even comes close at the moment. Sure other tools can build beautiful interactive dashboards. But Tableau is leaps and bounds faster at doing it because it lets you iteratively paint with data until you arrive at an insightful view. And because you are painting with data using VizQL instead of plugging data into prescriptive dialog boxes to create specific visualizations, it is vastly more flexible and lets you be super creative. The fact that Joshua Milligan created tic-tac-toe and blackjack with artificial intelligence in Tableau proves that point. Try doing that in QlikView.
VN: You’ve always been one of the community interested in the IT / enterprise side of Tableau. How come?
It is because I run the BI program for large healthcare enterprise. My role exists within Financial Planning and Analysis where we have a shadow IT program. So we are responsible for a large portion of activities that would traditionally be within IT. This includes data governance, master data management, security, streamlining data movement, optimizing queries, transforming data, ensuring application up-time, troubleshooting software issues, functioning as a help desk…and the list goes on. If I don’t get the infrastructure right and instill confidence in the reliability of the system, I’m doomed. I started out at Piedmont as a customer of data analytics services in my role as Manager of Business Development and the Project Management Office for our Heart Institute. When I moved into my current role, my goal was to enable everyone to easily do the things I was able to do and bypass all the mistakes I’ve learned from along the way. To do that required setting up a sound architecture to remove a lot of the complexity required to do analytics work.
VN: What does the Tableau community mean to you and who do you learn from?
I echo what Steve Wexler recently wrote in a blog series about the Tableau community. This has to be the best software focused community on the planet. I’m tracking more than 80 blogs that post about Tableau at http://ugamarkj.tumblr.com. That is crazy and just shows how much excitement there is about this tool. The best thing about the community though is that it has managed to be dominated by people who are humble and super giving of their time. I’ve received so much help and inspiration from the community that it is impossible to name names without leaving important people out. Folks on the Tableau forum played a big role in my early development and more recently I’ve connected with a lot of people on Twitter. Many of these people I’ve met in the real world at the Tableau Conferences. They are all wonderful people that I feel privileged to know. I’m an active member of the community because the culture is amazing and I enjoying sharing what I learn with people that I consider to be my friends.
VN: Could you give me an interesting non-work fact about yourself?
People that befriend me on Facebook or meet me in real life will learn that I love to talk about the things that they always tell you not to talk about: politics and religion. I love to think about things philosophically measure actions against principles. With these topics (and any topic really), it is important to stay humble and be willing to look at things from someone else’s perspective. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed my mind on things because someone else challenged my point of view. I’m incredibly grateful for those people. My wife Leigh is one of those people that helps me think though these things (God bless her for putting up with me). I’m also a father of two kids (Ansley-4 and David-2). They keep me on my toes and are always good for a laugh.
That’s great thanks a lot Mark. And thanks for all the support with the infra related aspects of Tableau.
Ok see you next time folks – VN