I've been a certified Tableau Trainer since November 2014 and delivered over 16 classroom sessions to approximately 240 people. But when I started out using Tableau in 2012/2013 I was completely self-taught. I relied on the excellent resources on the Tableau website (check out the on-demand videos) and the support from the Tableau Community, as well as trusty Google, to achieve what I needed to in Tableau. Classroom training costs money, where teaching yourself is free (except for the cost of your time of course). So is the classroom training really worth it?
Before being able to complete my Train the Trainer course at Tableau's UK HQ in London I had to attend both their Fundamental and Advanced courses. Luckily I tagged along to my colleague and Zen Master Craig Bloodworth's training sessions. Not the worst person to be learning from! When you've been using software most days for 2 years, you think you know quite a bit. Yet the classroom training, even the Fundamentals course, still taught me something new. The content in the classroom courses is not just about teaching you to build charts or dashboards, but also about HOW Tableau builds those charts. Understanding how the software works can really open your imagination up to what is possible. The training also covers the WHY: why use a scatter plot to show relationships between data, or why use a box plot to show a distribution? That understanding of visual analytics is so important in our Tableau journeys.
Perhaps the most valuable part of classroom training for me is the interaction. Being able to ask questions, get ideas from others or just have a chat with like minded people that love Tableau! Sitting at your desk on your own watching training videos is really useful, and convenient, but classroom interaction really adds value. Also, because you're in a classroom you're not going to be distracted. Classroom training is a really immersive environment, where you'll turn off your email for a bit (yes you can check it at lunch), switch off the mobile and settle in for some uninterrupted Tableau time. That's not always possible at your desk where people are always fighting for a piece of your time.
But that's not to say that personal learning using the on-line videos or community content isn't worthwhile. Classroom training can only cover so much in 2-4 days. The Tableau community produces so much content it's hard to keep up with, and there are some incredible users out there doing amazing things. So many users are willing to share how they create the content with instructional blog posts and videos too. Spending a few minutes each day with community content like that can really broaden our knowledge of Tableau and improve our skillsets. Plus it's great for getting ideas for future dashboards!
So when should I attend classroom training?In an ideal world I would recommend that learners get their hands on Tableau for a month, watch the on-line videos, try out a few charts themselves and then come along to Fundamentals classroom training. That will give you a great foundation to go out and start producing some great dashboards all by yourself. It will probably give you some frustration too! Those moments where you hit a brick wall with trying to get Tableau to create what's in your head. That's when you book in to the Advanced training. Like I said before, classroom training is great for interaction. So with Advanced, if you've been using Tableau a few months, you'll definitely come with a pad full of questions for your instructor. That's what I love best about teaching the Advanced course, when a student has been trying to fix something and you're able to show them a way to achieve what they want.
And then after Advanced training keep your skills topped up by interacting with the Tableau Community. Don't think you know everything! I've been working with Tableau Desktop and Server for over 4 years and I'm always learning something new. That's what makes working with Tableau so great. The pace of innovation is outstanding. It never makes for a dull days work either! So get involved on Twitter and check out the Tableau Forums and blog posts out there. Learn from other people and hopefully you'll also be encouraged to share your own work too.
If you're interested in attending Tableau classroom training you can book in to a public session, or you can book a session to be delivered on-site at your organisation for a larger group if you'd prefer. Reach out in the comments below or via Twitter if you're interested.