Many believe that getting a job as a Tableau engineer means you will be using Tableau Desktop to build data visualizations. While this is exactly what some folks are looking for, there are many Tableau careers that job seekers didn’t even know existed. Data engineering, server administration, user experience, project management, and data strategy. These are just a few careers you can pursue in the data industry that relate to Tableau.
At Playfair Data, we have structured our team to accommodate the diverse needs that go into building and deploying an effective tool for our partners. In this post, I am going to walk you through the different Tableau careers you can pursue that would best suit you using our structure as a foundation.
At Playfair Data we use this Venn diagram that we have coined “The Playfair Venn” in just about everything we do. The Playfair Venn represents how our team is structured, how we organize our content on Playfair+, and even how we support our visual analytics consulting partners.
State of the industry for Tableau careers
Businesses have always relied on data to make decisions in some shape or form for hundreds of years. The ancient Babylon’s used to encode clay tablets with transaction information, The Aztecs built an extremely accurate calendar by recording the position of the stars, and the first modern data visualizations were hand drawn by our company’s namesake, William Playfair, in the 18th century. However, within the last few decades we have seen a surge in the amount of data that is collected. So much so that many businesses are now struggling to make sense and take action on their data.
That is where data specialists like yourself step in. To understand the vast amounts of data we need to structure data in tables, visualize it, run statistical modeling on the data, and provide different business units well designed tools to work with. Let’s take a look at each circle in the Playfair Venn and discuss the different Tableau careers that you can pursue in each one.
Data strategy is the process of defining requirements, ensuring projects align with company objectives, organizing the project, ensuring the tool is delivered on time and that the visual analytics tool that is deployed satisfies the needs of the stakeholders. There are several Tableau related careers that fall into this bucket such as project management and data steward.
Project management as a Tableau career
Building and deploying a visual analytics tool can be a long and complex process. Similar to launching a website, each tool should go through the process to deploy the best possible tool. A project manager’s role is to ensure that a project is executed effectively and timely. They help gather requirements, define objectives, and task resources to build a visual analytics tool.
You may be asking yourself, “how is project management a Tableau career?”. Well, to lead and manage an effective project, you have to understand the limitations of the Tableau software itself. Many project managers in this field that I have met and worked with all have had a long career in Tableau development themselves. This gives them the domain knowledge needed to understand potential roadblocks, provide accurate estimates, and define requirements of the project.
A data steward is an individual responsible for managing and ensuring the quality, security, and usability of an organization’s data. Their primary role involves overseeing data assets, defining data policies, implementing data governance practices, and collaborating with different departments to ensure that data is accurate, consistent, and meets regulatory compliance.
As it relates to Tableau, this part of the data strategy will help to certify datasets within Tableau Server or Tableau Cloud. They will also be responsible for gathering requirements and defining calculations for new datasets. In an enterprise environment, this task is important to ensure the people that need the data have it and they are using the approved sources.
To build great visual analytic tools, you need great data behind it. If you get excited when people talk about the level of granularity of the data, data lakes, or data prep, then this is where you belong. Data engineers help build datasets specifically for certain visual analytics tools. They can also help design and automate certified datasets that can be used across the organization. They may work hand and hand with the data steward or the development team to ensure the data is at the right level of detail for the visual analytics tool.
Tableau Prep, Tableau Conductor, Tableau Cloud, and/or Tableau Server are Tableau products a data engineer will use everyday. They may work alongside a data steward to build a new certified dataset or work with a visual analytics engineer to shape the data for specific chart types. All in all, if you have a passion for combing through data and blending it together, you should look at becoming a Data Engineer.
Visual analytics architecture
Many people often forget that design, user experience, and the user interface are an important part of every visual analytics tool. Having a dashboard that has the correct color, branding, interactions, and visual elements will not only drive adoption of your tool but will make them more credible. This role is for the more creative and artistic individuals who will explore how the dashboard will look and how the user will interact with it.
The primary tool that they will use are graphic design tools like Figma or Adobe Illustrator. This means they won’t necessarily be using Tableau tools throughout the day but they must have a thorough understanding of the limitations of the tool. To this end, the visual analytics architect should have experience with the tool and will be working closely with the rest of the development team. Whether it is trying to understand what the schema should be for a unique chart type or how certain user interactions will be implemented in the tool, a visual analytics architect should be able to have those conversations comfortably.
Visual analytics engineering
Visual Analytics Engineer is the position you are probably most familiar with. In this role, you would be acting as a creator or front end engineer of the visual analytics tools / dashboards. Attention to detail, a mind for complex logic, and strong domain knowledge of the visualization tools available are key to be successful in this role.
As it relates to Tableau, you would primarily be working with Tableau Desktop or web editing through Tableau Server or Tableau Cloud to bring the tools to life. While this is where you will most likely be spending 90% of your time, it is also key to have an understanding of the structure of your data and how to conduct complex analysis of the data. Often, you will be the first one seeing the data visualized in this role and therefore you need to be able to explore the data and understand the story. That means being a strong communicator and having not only the hard skills to engineer complex tools but the soft skills to deliver the insights appropriately.
Conclusion on Tableau careers
There are many different avenues to find the perfect career in Tableau that fits your strengths the best. I would be weary of businesses or job postings that are looking for someone to do it all. While I am sure there are folks that can operate in each area, the product will not reach its full potential if you go it alone. Even just having different perspectives and ideas to approach different tools can greatly improve the quality of those tools.
Until Next Time,
This month I received the news that I had finally reached a career-long goal of being named a Tableau Zen…