We’re 59 days into the new year and the Makeover Monday project has reached new heights in those first 9 weeks.

Not only do we have an astonishing 1,233 vizzes that were submitted since January 1, 2017, but we have also had 359 different authors participating in the weekly challenges so far. That’s a whole lot of vizzing and a whole lot of learning within the Tableau community and beyond.

In the past few weeks we have also been in touch with various people who are starting ‘micro communities’ around Makeover Monday and use the weekly datasets and vizzes as an opportunity to ‘viz together’, to learn and improve, to build their Tableau Public portfolios and to meet like-minded people.


Tableau takes off at Saint Joseph’s University

One of these micro communities has developed in Philadelphia at Saint Joseph’s University where Dr. Kathleen Campbell Garwood, assistant professor in the Business Intelligence and Analytics department had encouraged her students to use Tableau and get hands-on by starting a weekly data visualization practice.

Every business student in the Haub school of business works with Tableau while taking their undergraduate Business Analytics course. In early 2016, two of her students (Corey Jones and Tom O’Hara) approached Dr. Campbell with the suggestion of expanding the use of Tableau at the university, both teaching fellow classmates and challenging students to join the Makeover Monday project.

From this initial conversation grew an exciting initiative driven largely by the students that resulted in regular meetings of the Tableau community at Saint Joseph’s university.

Initially these were monthly and then fortnightly Tableau User Groups with around 30 people showing up to the first two meetings. Amar Donthala, Andrew Napolitano, Steven Saladino and Jon White, four senior students in the BI & Analytics course, have since started to run a ‘Tableau clinic’ every Monday as drop-in sessions on campus, available from 9am to 6pm. Anyone can come by and get help with their data visualizations, join the group for #MakeoverMonday or simply talk to peers about getting started with Tableau.


Over time Dr. Campbell and her senior students have noticed that many students return to the clinic frequently and that they enjoy the community that is forming around this initiative. Participants learn how to use Tableau effectively for their university assignments and research, but also get to spend time with their peers, working through data problems together and teaching each other.

The group setting helps students become more confident in their data analysis and visualization skills, which is key for those who want to publish their work and build their portfolio to show their Tableau expertise and who may just need a little encouragement to go from vizzing in private to publicly telling data stories.


Local employers are taking note of the talent coming out of SJU

Dr. Campbell (with encouragement from her department and the school dean) has been able to support the initiatives around Tableau since the beginning and is delighted with the enthusiasm coming from the students and the eagerness with which they teach each other, approach new data challenges and contribute to Saint Joseph’s and the wider, global Tableau community through social media and Tableau Public.

The approximately 70 students currently completing Data Mining (a required course in the Business Intelligence and Analytics degree) are required to get hands on with Tableau as part of their course work and receive credit for attending at least two weekly Tableau clinics. Dr. Campbell noted that many students return for additional sessions, even without additional credits, simply because they get a lot of value out of the sessions and enjoy them.


At a faculty level, the staff have seen companies taking note of the skills being developed at Saint Joseph’s and becoming more proactive in seeking the right talent to complement their analytics teams.

Organisations around Philadelphia have started to contact students based on the Tableau work they have published and a number of alumni are now employed in roles that focus on data analytics and visualization, mostly using Tableau as the front-end tool to bring business data to life.



Nurturing a strong community with alumni, staff and current students

Growing the community and maintaining the relationship with their alumni while also showing current students what opportunities exist once they finish their education at Saint Joseph’s university, were key drivers behind setting up a number of talks by recent graduates. On Wednesday evenings, alumni speak about their experience of moving from their university environment into full-time professional roles.

The talks underline the importance of building your brand all the way through university and using social media effectively to establish yourself in the global virtual Tableau community. As people, jobs and organisations are increasingly dispersed across the world, having a strong online presence is vital when students are looking for work and for opportunities to turn their skills into careers.  Building a portfolio in Tableau public is an important way to showcase skills, knowledge, and talent which can be viewed alongside a resume to provide comprehensive information about a job candidate.

While some feel intimidated to ‘put themselves out there’ by publishing their work, many students do start to work on their brand and are encouraged by the alumni presentations as they can hear real stories from those who have reached the next milestone after finishing their degree.

2017 has only just begun, yet Dr. Campbell can already see the effects of the last few months during which the largely student-driven Tableau initiatives have made significant contributions to the undergraduate students in the course.

With the goal of getting more and more students involved and helping them grow their skills through collaboration and regular practice as well as peer support, Dr. Campbell and the core team of senior students around her are busy planning how to best extend the offer and grow their Tableau community further.


A special edition of #MakeoverMonday for SJU

Andy and I love hearing these types of stories from the community and I’m especially pleased that a university is taking a leading role in educating their students not just on the concepts of analytics and business intelligence, but enabling them to learn the right skills in their course so they are equipped when they enter the workforce. With this kind of multiplier effect, the next generation of knowledge workers in the data and analytics industry looks like a force to be reckoned with!

We’re keen to support Dr. Campbell and her students and have a special #MakeoverMonday challenge lined up for them this month. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the vizzes coming out of Saint Joseph’s University, you’ll find them tagged with #VizHawks

We’re excited to see and hear more from these students as they embark on their Tableau journeys and wish them all the best for their studies in 2017!

From us at #MakeoverMonday: happy vizzing and never stop learning,

Eva & Andy


P.S.: Are you part of a micro community that formed around #MakeoverMonday? Do you viz together at work, school, on the train or in a pub? If so, we want to hear from you and would love to showcase your initiative here on our blog. Get in touch with Eva.