"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.
Recently, we shared a blog post entitled, “Life as an InterWorks Consultant: Oh, the Places You Will Go.” In that post, we announced that we would be doing a follow-up series outlining the varied backgrounds which InterWorks consultants come from.
Here’s my story.
Life in Casino Operations
Shortly after I finished school with an Accounting degree, I began working for a casino management company as a Financial Operations Manager. Over the next few years, I helped open two resort casinos and acted as Controller for a year at another casino. I spent much of my time doing project management, training and analysis. Every day was different. I met lifelong friends and had about as wild of a time as you could expect from the casino world.
I later worked as Revenue Audit Manager at one of the casinos I had opened. I had a much more focused set of daily tasks here, but also had the opportunity to become deeply involved in the analytics and reporting worlds. Due to various poor business intelligence solutions available to me, I found myself building many reports in Excel. The best I could hope for was something that could dump the data I needed into a spreadsheet. I got my first exposure to databases and SQL working with casino IT groups to create custom SSIS reports off the myriad systems a casino uses.
Above: Me (far left) during my Casino Operations days.
Back then, I was the biggest Excel fan you could find. I loved taking manual processes and making them “automated” in Excel. I once spent three months making a single Daily Operating Report that took information from five systems into a multi-page tabular report. At another position, I took a process that previously took forty hours a month down to just minutes. I always laughed when I heard how much business intelligence systems promised, cost and ultimately, failed. That was until I caught up with an old college friend and heard about Tableau.
Enter Tableau Software
I saw Tableau for the first time like many others: a simple twenty-minute demo with fake sales data. I knew I was quickly going to be laughing at another waste of time. Instead, that demo showed me what I wanted all along: a tool which wasn’t held hostage by unseen developers with months to build and validate reports and untold dollars sunk to bring it all online. I saw a tool that let me get from data to analysis in just seconds; a tool that made visual analytics important and necessary to truly understanding my data.
I thought of all the reports I built in Excel and the months upon months I had spent getting my VLOOKUPS, SUMIFS and tables to work just so. I was so disgusted at all my wasted time that I had to walk away from my computer. That was only from a twenty-minute video. Now, as an InterWorks consultant, I get to show people who are in the same position I once was a better way to look at their data and spend less time building analysis. This allows them to focus on why they need analytics: to make the best possible decisions.
How Casino Experience Helped Me in Business Intelligence
The casino world helped me become a Tableau Consultant in several ways. I didn’t realize I was dealing with data all the time. I just thought I had problems and the numbers to solve them. As a young manager, I had to figure out how to get people who were often more experienced and older than myself to change their thinking and behavior even when they didn’t report to me.
This experience has been the foundation of my career at InterWorks. The analytical nature of my previous jobs gave me the skills necessary to understand what people want and how to shape the analysis process to find the answers necessary. The positions I held quickly forced me to connect with a wide variety of personalities and needs. Pair those skills with great training and powerful tools like Tableau and you get a recipe for success.
Above: Fellow InterWorks BI Consultant, Eric Shiarla (left) and myself (right).
Though most of my work now frequently takes me far outside the casino world, my hands-on experience with business leaders over the years helps me immensely. I can quickly look at a data set and have a great idea of what the users want to see. I can take it further by teasing relationships out of their data which they probably have never thought to check with traditional reporting.
Transitioning from the Gaming industry to Business Intelligence Consultant at InterWorks has been one of the biggest, yet best, surprises in my career. Looking back though, it’s not all that surprising. The skills I learned are incredibly applicable to what I do today. That said, I think the industry one works in isn’t the biggest contributor to success in BI. For me, the difference is in how I apply my experiences and the skills I’ve learned.
Every client brings new challenges, whether it’s eye-catching dashboards or where live-to-data dashboards generate never-before-available opportunities. I was never a full time analyst, but I have a love for data like few others. All of this has helped me to become a Tableau Consultant at InterWorks, where I get to do the best work, for the best clients, with the best people.