10 Questions for Tableau Zen Master Chuck Hooper

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10 Questions for Tableau Zen Master Chuck Hooper

10 Questions is an ongoing blog series in which Tableau Zen Master Dan Murray interviews some of the brightest folks in the world of data.

10 Questions for Tableau Zen Master Chuck Hooper

Chuck Hooper is someone old enough to fully appreciate how far technology has come in the last 50 years. When Chuck got his first real job in technology, IBM had been building computers with hard disk drives for several years. But computers in those days were very expensive, affordable only to governments and large businesses. They didn’t fit on a desk. They required large climate-controlled rooms.

The IBM Ramac 305 was the first commercially successful hard drive. By the time Chuck started his first job, the unit was no longer in production, but around 1,000 had been sold. So, if you were working with computers in 1965, it’s possible Chuck could have worked with one of these. This video will add some color when you think about Chuck’s early experience in the industry.

I met Chuck in 2008 when he was doing professional services work for Tableau Software. At that time, he was one of two people at Tableau helping early clients have success.

The Questions

Q: How long have you been working with data and databases, Chuck?

Hooper: I started in the database world at an Autocoder programming school in 1965. My first real job in what we called “Data Processing” was as a computer operator/programmer at National Education Association in Washington DC starting May 1965. So, I am closing in on 50 years!

Q: You were an early Tableau employee. When and how did you first learn about Tableau?

Hooper: ComputerWorld article in 2005 talked about this “startup” that had some promise. I checked out their web site and downloaded a trial version. I was busy at the time and did not install it right away.

The current EVP of Sales (Kelly Wright) was a sales rep at the time and called me just about every day to see how the trial was going. I bought, hoping she would back off ;-). Her passion for the company was a selling point!  

Q: How did you get hired at Tableau?

Hooper: After I tried the product (and loved what I saw), I checked out the management team. I liked everything I saw and heard. Later that year, in my old company, I became Tableau’s first formal “Referral Partner.”

Three years later, business was slow, and I was bored. Tableau offered me a position to start a new Professional Services group. I jumped at the chance – great company, product, people! I did phone interviews with some key executives and was hired.

Q: What was it like doing professional services at Tableau in the early days?

Hooper: All engagements were short (one week or less). The goal was to go in, do whatever was needed to get/keep the customer happy and to look for up-sell possibilities.

When I started, there was no Server, no dashboarding. Since we could train a new user on Tableau Desktop in about four hours, the majority of the engagements were more on what to do to get data ready, what to do with the data, etc.

My “data warehouse” experience went back to the early 1990s, and that gave me a great jump on helping new accounts.  

Q: Why did you leave Tableau before the IPO?

Hooper: Money was never a consideration. I picked up some stock options when I left; it was a smart move on my part. I was putting in long weeks, sometimes flying out on Sunday, home the next Saturday and out again the next day. I wanted more “at home” time to see more of my granddaughters.

But, I really don’t feel like I left. I’ve been gone nearly four years, and the whole time has been on consulting and training gigs with Tableau clients. I am based in California but have flown to Massachusetts and Colorado just to attend Tableau User Group meetings.

I’ve been to all seven USA conferences. The only real difference between now and when I worked there? Now, I can say “No thank you” to an engagement that I don’t want.  

Q: What was the most interesting gig you did when you were a Tableau employee? Why? 

Hooper: That’s a tough one! Most were great – usually great companies and great people. The fact that they were new Tableau accounts meant they were not stuck in old ways; their passion for what they wanted to do came through.

One that stands out is the Broad Institute in Cambridge, MA, specifically their Genomics Research department. I did some training for people that were managing the machines that did the sequencing. It was thrilling, knowing what these people were going to do for healthcare! 

Q: What was the worst gig you had to do when you were a Tableau employee?

Hooper: That’s an easy one. A Tableau partner had someone on-site at a client. The head guy at the client site did not believe everything he was being told. He wanted someone from Tableau to back him (the client) up.

I was sent in.

The consultant was right on in every way. I’ll only say the client was not a pleasant person. Ring any bells, Dan?

Q: What are you doing now?  

Hooper: I left Tableau in April 2011 and have been doing nothing but Tableau consulting and training engagements since. But I turned 70 a few weeks ago and FINALLY figured out what I want to be IF I grow up.

I am no longer taking on longer-term consulting engagements, will continue to do training for a while and will now spend more time on my speaking business. I’ve done a number of speaking engagements the last few months and have really enjoyed them!

I’m currently working on a new web site for just the speaking business. I’m hoping to have the new site up by end of March. The skeleton site is very basic.

Q: What inspires you about the Tableau community?

Hooper: Easy answer: The passion of the community and their willingness to help each other. I’ve never seen a community that is so willing to share not just ideas but willing to share their time!

When anyone in the community needs help, a quick email, phone call or login to the community forum is all it takes. I average 12-15 such calls a week; I love helping people. 

A few weeks ago, I was stuck and Joe Mako came to my rescue. By the way, that man is SMART!  

Q: What do you hope to see happen with the design of Tableau over the next few years and why?

Hooper: 

  1. I want Tableau to quit over-thinking dynamic parameters and give us the most basic enhancement. If I say “populate from a field,” let me tell it if I want to RE-populate with each new session!  
  2. I’d like to be able to “add sound/voice” to the Story Point buttons. Stories are TOLD, not just looked at. At the last conference, if Hans Rosling showed his charts without speaking about them, how impactful would that have been?
  3. Keep up the “improved performance” and the “enterprise readiness” enhancements that come with every new release.
  4. Continue to do what they do – to keep the caring and passion in the community.

Discover More Interviews

Want to read more insightful interviews like this one? Then you’ll love our 10 Questions blog series. Check out the full list of interviews here, and stay tuned for new additions.

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More About the Author

Dan Murray

Director of Strategic Innovation
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