How I got started with using Tableau

One of the things I’ve been asked about more and more in recent weeks is how I got started with learning how to use Tableau Desktop and if I could share some of my experiences. So I thought the start of the new year would be a good time to finally write up a few words and share some of my resources. This will be a living document and items will be added as I start scaling this out further; but if 2021 is the year you decided to get serious about picking up a few new data skills I hope that the following will be of use to you as you are about to embark on your own Tableau journey.

Much like everyone else I started using Tableau (Desktop) because it became a requirement for work. So I did what most folks do and that is watch a few free videos and then start learning by trial and error. And while that could be sufficient for what you need to accomplish, when I was preparing to take my first certification exam I realized that I didn’t really understand some of the basic concepts and as a result didn’t really understand what I was doing. I very much believe that if you want to become proficient in using Tableau Desktop, understanding the fundamentals is critical. Next to that, what really made a difference in my learning process is taking part in a social learning project called #MakeoverMonday. Depending on what you’re interested in, there’s several other projects for you to participate in so check them out and see what works for you. I highly recommend you find some space/time to practice weekly over an extended period of time. I committed to 6 months and it really made a difference. And if you don’t have  a Tableau license via work, you can sign up for Tableau Public which is free.

The below is by no means the full overview and I’ll be adding content to this later in the year but I hope at a minimum you’ll found some inspiration to help you get started.

Getting started

The Tableau Student Guide: I really like the Tableau Student Guide as a place to get grounded. It’s has a great summary of short posts that will help you understand what Tableau is and does.

Going Back to Basics: I wrote this post as I was preparing for the Desktop Specialist Exam because I came to realise I was struggling with understanding some of the basics; and doing some homework and writing it down for myself really helped solidify my understanding. Hope you find it valuable.

Getting Started: beyond the free short videos you can find on the different concepts, I recommend you watch this one first. Tableau has also posted a few other recordings from live trainings that are also worth checking out.

Tableau explained in under 10 minutes: this short video created by Tim Ngwena is such a great intro to understanding the entire Tableau ecosystem and what it does, doesn’t do. If you’re new to Tableau, take a few minutes to watch this.


There are a lot of courses out there and Tableau also has a nice eLearning platform that I recommend you check out to see if it works for you. I signed up for the 1yr plan and worked through most of the content and collected a few badges along the way. Definitely make sure you check out ‘Data Literacy for All’, it’s free and a great addition to building out your data skills.

These are 2 paying courses I’ve taken that really worked for me. There is a lot of content out there so my advice would be to check out the different learning platforms and find something that works for you. Udemy has a decent offering and if you wait for a sale you can get most of them pretty cheap. Also most courses will let you sample some of their content so make use of that before making a decision.

Mastering data visualization using Tableau > From basic to advanced: this is the first paying course I took and what really worked for me is how they work through several real life examples and you learn all about key Tableau concepts as you move along and practice.

Tableau 2020 Certified Associate Exam Guide A-Z (w Datasets): i’m currently taking this course as I’m preparing to take my second certification exam and I am really enjoying the detailed content which is pretty extensive. I’ll let you know how if it paid off after I’ve taken my exam 😊

Tableau public

As mentioned Tableau Public is free and a great way to help you learn & practice. Also check out their resource section which contains a nice overview of resources you can leverage (how-to videos, sample data, community resources) as you get started.  The best advice I can give you is to sign up for Tableau Public today, start following the work of others, pin your favourite workbooks to your profile page and publish some of your own visualizations.

Tableau Public is great resource of inspiration as most authors (myself included) who publish their work will make the workbooks available for download. Downloading a workbook and trying to reverse engineer it is another great way to learn. Make sure you sign up for ‘Viz of the day’ and check out the ‘Featured’ gallery.

Social learning projects

If you’re looking for a framework (or datasets that are not ‘work-related’) to help you practice, check out some of the projects listed below. They are not only great for practice but also serve as a resource for inspiration. Check out the community resource section on Tableau Public for the full list or you prefer something a bit more creative check out this visualization created by Samuel Parsons. Take a look at what folks are posting on Twitter, Linkedin etc. using the following hashtags:

#MakeoverMonday: this project posts weekly visualizations including the datasets and challenges everyone to re-create the visualization which you can then submit and receive live feedback on during ‘Viz Review’. Feel free to reach out in case of any questions.

#WorkoutWednesday: this project challenges you to recreate data driven visualizations and will almost always include solutions/techniques you could easily leverage in your work projects.

#SportsvizSunday: if sports is your thing then this is the challenge for you.

#VizForSocialGood: if you want to practice your skills and support a good case at the same time then I can recommend this project.

#SWDChallenge: this project posts monthly challenges for which you submit your work via dedicated platform. Also check out the exercises and other data visualization resources.

#RWFD: this is a great project if you’re looking to practice using ‘Real World’ Fake data. Make sure you check out the summary recaps for inspiration for some of your business dashboards or at a minimum get a taste of what your business dashboards could look like.

#DiversityinData: this project just launched recently and is centered around diversity, equity & awareness. They will be posting monthly datasets.

A few extra’s

The bigger Tableau Community is incredibly generous when it comes to sharing knowledge and resources so to conclude I’m sharing a few of my favourite resources that I continue to go back to for inspiration or learning something new. I kept this list short on purpose as there is so much content out there and rather then throwing everything at you, I thought I would list just a few and hopefully that will encourage you to go out on your own and explore further.

PlayfairData: this is the first blog I ever subscribed to after seeing Ryan Sleeper present his favourite tips and tricks at the Tableau Conference in London in 2018. Even if you’re just getting started, it doesn’t hurt reading up on what’s possible. While you might not feel confident enough to put some of these tips to use, there will always be something for you to learn from.

Lets Talk Data meetup: this group is an initiative from The Information Lab in London and they host webinars/trainings online (often free) so make sure you check them out.

Welcome to the Tableau Portal: this is another great overview created by Sagar Kapoor to help you connect to more resources.

Best of the Tableau Web: these wrap-ups are one of the few blogs I read consistently as they are a great recap of the best content that’s been posted in a given month and will typically have something for everyone.

Tableau Community Hub: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recently updated Community Hub which is another great resource to read up on the great content that is being posted by community members. Make sure you don’t miss reading the ‘DataFam Roundups‘ and check the different categories in the blog section.

Tableau Escape Room: if are you looking for something fun to explore what you can do with Tableau; then make sure you check out this ‘Escape Room’ created by Mark Bradbourne.

Good luck with your journey and thanks for reading. I invite you all to leave your comments, questions and additional recommendations in the section below.

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