Tableau Ambassadorship: What It Means to Me (and What It Shouldn’t Mean to You or Me)

A Tableau-centric blog about the data viz-making process, #datafam member interviews, Viz of the Week & entertainment for introverts (consisting of a music morsel & a binge bite).

Credit: Sarah Burnett & Tableau (a Salesforce Company)

Disclaimer: The following covers my initial experience and not representative of Tableau, Salesforce, and any other Tableau Ambassador or Zen Master. As with everything, these positions may change over time.

Zach’s podcast (@ZachBowders) inspired me to share my thoughts on my initial impressions of the Tableau Ambassadorship experience. This space was intended to be my ‘year in review’, but to some extent, that’s pretty well documented in this blog series.

In my 1st interview, with Michael Sandberg, I mentioned as a goal I wanted to be a Tableau Ambassador. There’s no taking that back, but I thought that if I were to become one, it would take a couple of years.

Since I’ve been part of the community and learned of the program, it would be a complete fib to claim I didn’t want it. (1)

- Did I think it was going to happen a year into my involvement in the community? Heck No.

- Did I change my mind after I was asked to complete a follow-up to the nominations? Nope — In my head, I felt that at best I had a 40% shot at earning the honor.

- Did I think there was a real chance that I would never be an ambassador? Yes.

- Did I nominate more than a dozen people without nominating myself? Yes and I am quite pleased nearly everyone I nominated earned the honor.

I was excited about the possibility of ambassadorship. In a year of flux, diversity focus, a massive wave of emerging talent, how can I be ‘okay’ with being considered an Ambassador and becoming one? As a middle-aged, career-established white guy, Tableau has little to gain on the surface by adding me to the ambassador ranks. Even if I wasn’t selected, I would continue to mentor, help on various teams and initiatives, provide feedback, promote growth + inclusion, and contribute to the community dialogue. But then I thought about what I wanted from others when nominating my ambassadors…

In order for me to nominate a potential ambassador, I had these considerations…

1. Will their ambassadorship help our community be more diverse and inclusive?

2. Has their impact been significant to the program they are being nominated?

3. Have they done something more than contributing to one ambassadorship section (e.g. if they viz, do they also promote others)?

4. Is it likely they will be contributing to their program and the community for the year or more they will be serving in that capacity?

5. Will they look to push profit from the honor, or instead, will they use the platform to further push others forward?

Considering these items closely and internalizing them, I really had to convince myself that these criteria apply to me.

For #1, I’m autistic (neuro-diverse). (2) It’s easier for me to recognize that my ‘brand’ of autism best aligns with Asperger Syndrome (since 2013 it has been folded in the umbrella of autism spectrum disorders) because I although I share the many traits of neuro-diverse people, I’ve always wanted and desired acceptance. There has always been a stigma against neuro-diverse people based on a lack of education. As far as I am aware, there are only a very few of us that are ‘out and autistic’ in our community — a huge influence on me coming forward and sharing is Hunter Hansen (@InsertKABOOM) and his blog (now on YouTube too) as he inspires autistic people (or neurodiverse) and educates neurotypical people (or those not on the autistic spectrum) — most education on the ‘autistic experience’ is shared by neurotypical people — they may mean well, but their examples may not resemble our own. Even those on the spectrum are very different and have our own set of experiences — for example, I identify a lot of experiences that Hunter has, but not everything — those ‘shared’ experiences also have a different lense (mine).

Determining the odds and what our analyst jobs entail, it’s very likely the number of neurodiverse people is much higher — it’s also likely many are like me and have a difficult time engaging in a community because of so many negative outcomes of committing to something with other people. It’s important for me to help reduce any stigma of autism in the datafam and also help bring more of us into our community. With that, it’s not at all lost on me that I am an autistic Tableau Social Media Ambassador (it’s okay to giggle, it does sound funny). The rest of the points I felt more comfortable because of my work and its intent.

I was shocked. I knew of super-duper stars (like Zach) who didn’t get in the 1st time they were considered. I read the entire email three times before I accepted it as truth. Since we know a little in advance of the announcement it somewhat tempers the enthusiasm (and likely for the best). I thought of how few people get to become ambassadors and know there are others that are just as (if not more) deserving that didn’t get the email I did. In a weird way, it helped affirm to my family that this thing I do is time well spent — to me, it supported that my work is very positive and impactful (remember, I need a lot of data validation).

When the announcement came out, it’s a notification bomb. You get a ton of notifications and messages congratulating you. It’s a huge deal in our small but growing community. The other thing that’s great to see is who you are surrounded by and the other new faces to join many of the familiar faces (AKA data heroes) on the ambassador page. That moment you see your picture up there is when it becomes real.

Although Ambassadorship provides a little more credibility to your initiatives and platform, it’s not needed. Prior to the announcement, I had over 1,900 followers on Twitter, over 1,200 connections on LinkedIn, and nearly 400 followers on Tableau Public. (3) I was already on a number of leadership team initiatives. Having an ambassadorship is not a platform or contribution prerequisite. Our community is designed to support positive contributions by all of our members, independent of a title.

We may get some sweet swag, but I didn’t get a raise or a promotion at work. Yes, people on LinkedIn are more likely to seek a connection with you, there’s no flood of lucrative job offers or a pot of gold waiting for me. The social elite in my town our not clamoring to invite me to their virtual or in-person soirees. My work life, home life, and social life is exactly where it was before I learned I was an ambassador. This title does nothing to change that — it carries with it a ton of responsibility as you are not representing yourself, but the people in the community that can’t serve with you + even though you aren’t an employee of Tableau (or Salesforce), it’s imperative your actions don’t tarnish their brand.

If you didn’t get called to serve as ambassador in 2020, it’s no fun to see others celebrating. It may even be harder if you been an integral part of the community for years and notice people like me who’ve been around a year or less get selected. Seriously, I thought I would not get in this year and feel incredibly fortunate to have been selected. Of those that get nominated, a very low percentage of new people get elected to serve as a new ambassador.

I know of MANY people who are worthy of the title and would serve it well. Don’t stop being a great force in the community because you had a setback. When the #datatrendsetter came by early in the year and I was only mentioned a week or so after the tag began, it stung. At that point, I kind of felt kind of purposeless. Other stressful issues (like adjusting to the new normal) forced me into isolation (4), but when I wasn’t considered a ‘data trendsetter’, it made it a little easier to take a break. It was during that time, I realized… blogging, being nice in the community, and making quirky vizzes doesn’t make a data trendsetter — mentoring, helping lead impactful initiatives, and helping those at every opportunity does. It just pushed me harder to find out how I could be a ‘data trendsetter’ and work toward more impactful community-oriented goals and not fixating on personal goals.

Maybe your biggest contributions are still very much ahead of you — a short break may be necessary, but don’t give up on a community that needs you very much. Zen Masters and Ambassadors contribute a ton, but it’s a very small fraction of the inspiration, fun, insightfulness, and engagement the vast majority of ‘yet to be titled’ community members provide.

My binge bite with so many others has been Cobra Kai — especially since it’s now on Netflix! If you seen the series and want to have a little fun, feel free to check out my viz that tracks google trends of Johnny and Daniel, covers IMDB ratings, and provides episode recaps as Johnny and Daniel (written by me).

Part of the reason I love music so much is it helps me understand a little about how people feel and why. This song is based on Elvis Costello grandmother’s battle Alzheimer’s disease. It is not only well-written and catchy, it provides a peek into how he processes witnessing her mental deterioration and the pain it causes him.

Footnote

1. It’s okay to make that a goal, just don’t make it a priority or end goal.

2. Yes, this bit goes on a while.

3. Before I joined the community on 8/3/19, these spaces were not utilized as I loathed networking. This was not a brag or anything, it just points out when committed to the community and engage with the datafam, you can experience a lot of growth and build your own platform.

4. Seeing change and adjusting to change is a very complex experience for autistic people. Even if the change is a net positive (working from home), it adds a ton of stress because it messes up with a routine that we need to adapt and cope.

Adam Mico

Twitter | LinkedIn | Tableau Public

Keyrus US’ Tableau Evangelist and Tableau Ambassador. Views are very much my own. Priya Padham assists on #DataFam Interviews.

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