"How I Went from" is an ongoing blog series that highlights our employees' different journeys to InterWorks. The results are pretty diverse, but each story is special in its own right.
I’ve had many jobs over the years, including dishwasher, radio DJ, pizza delivery guy, prison guard and IT help desk, but in my mind I’ve had only two careers. Today I’m a database and Tableau consultant, but that isn’t where I started.
Following up our “Life as InterWorks Consultant” blog post, I thought I’d share my journey as part of our “How I Went from _____ to InterWorks Consultant” blog series.
How I Became a Paramedic
My first love and first career was in the EMS. I got started working in ambulances as an EMT when I was 15. I was living in Michigan at the time. My best buddy Ryun and his dad had just finished their basic EMT training. Ryun was my age. We were in some of the same classes together, and in the same bunch of kids that always sat together for lunch. I guess Ryun decided to get into the EMS because he was a diabetic. His medical experiences ignited this fire in him to help his community the way others had helped him. My motives were less noble than his. I figured if he could do it, I could do it better. I guess I was a little competitive back then. 🙂
I took my basic EMT course in the early eighties. Thanks to Ryun, I did well in the class and was marked eligible to take the state EMS exam. After many months of pestering my EMS instructor, I was finally given a date to take the big test.
Unfortunately, I failed.
It was a big blow to my ego, but it also taught me an important life lesson. I failed the state EMS exam the first time because I took for granted a basic skill that I breezed through in training and then promptly forgot: I failed the CPR test. That was embarrassing. To redeem myself, I relearned CPR. I then went out and qualified to teach CPR. When I’d taught 100 CPR classes in my region, I went back and scheduled a retest for my state EMT certification.
This time I passed.
I was now one of the ten youngest, state-certified EMT’s in the country (Ryun was one of the others of course!). I learned that the best way to learn something is to teach it. This is something that’s held true to this day. Every time I teach a Tableau class, I learn something new.
Life as an EMT
As an EMT, I did a lot, saw a lot and learned a lot. I delivered babies. I helped people through every kind of trauma you could imagine. My proudest moment was after a CPR class. I was teaching a kid only a few years younger than me, and his parents told me that they wanted to thank me. I was one of the EMT’s that helped the father and son when they were in a car accident a year earlier. They said that their doctors told them that because of the way I treated their injuries, the type of splint I used and how I used it, the boy could now walk without a limp.
Above: Me during my EMT days.
The Next Chapter: Discovering a Love for Data
I remember the day I knew my time in the EMS had come to an end. It was in the mid-nineties. I was working from a fire department in Texas. We were in the station waiting for the next call. I was chatting with the dispatcher (who happened to be my cousin; it’s a long story). She had a problem with the software that she used to record activity from the 911 system. I was interested in computers at the time, so I was trying to help her figure out this software. A call came in and for the first time in ten years I realized there was something I wanted to do more than go on another emergency call:
I wanted to help the dispatcher fix her problem and work with her data.
I took a sabbatical from the EMS to figure some things out. Windows 95 had launched a year or two before, and there was still a lot of demand for help desk people. I took this opportunity to try something different. Soon, I was answering calls at a help desk. Help desk work can be very data driven. All day you work to achieve your SLA’s (Service Level Agreements). Length of time a caller sits in queue, time on call, time to response, number of calls escalated … there were so many interesting data points.
The first time the data guys showed me how they pulled their numbers into a Microsoft Access database and made all those reports, I was hooked! Soon, I was one of those data guys. It wasn’t long before I discovered SQL Server. I spent the next decade working in banking, telecommunications, marketing, healthcare and even at a couple other call centers. Everywhere I went, people were beginning to realize that capturing data wasn’t enough. You have to be able to do something with it.
The day I discovered Tableau I knew how to answer that question.
Applying What I learned Then to What I Do Now
I loved those years in the EMS. The most important thing I learned in those years was problem solving. Every day in the EMS you are presented new problems to solve. You learn to prioritize (triage). You learn to build processes that you can rely on when things get crazy. I learned to trust myself. I learned to slow down and think calmly in a crisis. It might sound crazy, but these are the same skills I use today to be a good Tableau consultant.
Above: Me taking notes before the TCC13 keynote speech from Tableau CEO, Christian Chabot.
Today I work with data. I still solve problems. I still prioritize. My work is different now, but in many ways it’s the same. I love working with people and helping them to work with their data. I love working with Tableau. I’ve been a database administrator for many years now. As a DBA, I’ve had great fun automating processes and writing queries. I love organizing data so that people who have always been intimidated by their own data can look at it and say “YES!” That’s my business. I see it now! I love helping people explore their data in new ways.