You Don't Need Permission

This past weekend I participated in a panel discussion at the National Conference on Women in Economics and as I reflected on the enlightening discussion, one particular question stuck with me: Are there any specific decisions or moves (big or small) that you connect to your success today? My answer can be summarized by stating that my success has been impacted more by smaller choices than larger ones. Of course, deciding to change companies or pursue a certain career path are big decisions, but I truly believe that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity and I just happened to be prepared when opportunities presented themselves to me. In my case, being prepared came down to a series of small decisions.

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. ― Seneca


Small Decisions

One such small decision was to attend a Milwaukee Tableau User Group meeting back in 2014. This opened up doors for me a year later when I was asked to take over as a leader of the group by its founder, Sarah Nell, who was leaving Milwaukee to take a job with Tableau in Seattle.

Then there was the decision to start up a blog for no other reason than I wanted a way to articulate and organize my thoughts about data. I'm sure I signed up for a free Blogger account on a whim back in 2010 (this is still a free Blogger site, btw). Having a blog has no only continued to allow me to structure my ideas in a meaningful way, but I hope it has helped others on the same journey.

I also make the small decision every day to check out LinkedIn to see what my #datafam is up to. It helps me stay on top of trends, hear from my peers and those I admire, as well as post about the random things I come across in my daily, professional routine.

Analysis Paralysis

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with everything going on in our world. In the Tableau community specifically there are numerous ways to get involved, and while they're all extremely valuable, getting involved can feel like a daunting task. That's why I like the notion of small decisions having a tremendous impact. You can put a post, comment, or dashboard out there and it can lead to places or connections you could never anticipate. Or you could attend a user group meeting and it might lead to your next job, 5 years down the road.

Maybe that's why I say yes to a lot of things. I'll present at conferences, teach a weekend course, or participate in a LinkedIn Live chat. I'm aware not everyone is a fan of public speaking, but I would urge you to find a way to put yourself out there. Another amazing nugget of advice from the National Conference on Women in Economics was "The proudest moments in our careers have been times where we overcame a challenge, even when we did not feel confident we could do so."

The Secret

So, here's the secret: you don't need anyone's permission to do what you want to do or get involved in a way that makes sense to you. There is no gatekeeper to the Tableau #DataFam Community or the blogosphere or LinkedIn, and the only gatekeeper to Clubhouse is a friend with an invite (hit me up if you want one). Oftentimes I find myself wanting to do something, but hesitating for some reason. Most of the time it's because I want to ensure I'm acting within some sort of appropriate boundary. Should I start up a data book club? Should I host a Clubhouse battle (Tableau vs PowerBI, Pie Chart vs Treemap, etc.)? Should I try a podcast format on being a data science newbie? Whatever your ideas are, the answer to these questions you're asking yourself should be YES!

You have ideas, insights, and experience that can help others. You have a unique perspective that the data community needs. Join us! Whether you want to start your own Tableau User Group or your own book club, your own LinkedIn events or your own blog, you don't need permission.

I'll leave you with the following quote, which I use in moderation to muster the courage to do the things that excite me.

It is better to beg forgiveness, than ask permission. ― Grace Murray Hopper