Named the top large company among Washington State workplaces by Puget Sound Business Journal, Tableau Software is one of the fastest growing companies in Washington state. This summer they held an open house at their headquarters in the trendy Fremont neighborhood of Seattle. With approximately 500+ attendees, it was a chance for Tableau to introduce themselves to the neighbors, show off their company culture to potential recruits, and demonstrate their product.
CEO and Co-founder, Christian Chabot delivered a charismatic welcome speech and demonstrated the versatility of the product to myriad technophiles in attendance. He explained that their mission is to help people see and understand data. Much like Google made web search easy, Tableau strives to make data analysis easy.
As a former network TV research analyst and media planner, I’ve worked with myriad quantitative and qualitative data sets – from Nielsen TV ratings, NetRatings, to US Census data, Scarborough, Simmons, Arbitron, Claritas, and so on. I can confidently say that I’m familiar with the concept of data visualization.
As an analyst, I took pride in knowing that I had an ability to take raw data and create interesting, persuasive presentations. I enjoyed poring over data and creating stories from it. In turn, the advertising sales teams I worked with would use my data to secure large advertising contracts.
In my naiveté, I asked very earnest employees what Tableau could do that an Excel spreadsheet and some PowerPoint tricks couldn’t. They explained that Tableau has the capability to take any organizations’ raw data – even in propriety form – and automatically identify the best way to visualize a given dataset. Tableau can also use the visual interface to break out the data, thus allowing “non-experts” to analyze complex datasets.
Their demonstration included datasets from an airline’s on time arrival and departure statistics. However, they could just have easily used data from any industry.
They repeated the theme that analyzing data was “complex and costly.” About the fifth or sixth time I heard that, I had flashbacks to the infamous “Math is Tough” talking Barbie doll. I also couldn’t help but wonder if my former job functions were going the way of long division. Given the trend of making data and technology more automated and accessible to the masses, Tableau Software is definitely one to watch in an industry that has nothing but room for growth.