TC18 for a solo first timer

TC18 was overwhelmingly incredible for me as a solo and first time attendee, leaving me ever so motivated, inspired, and emotional. So I feel a strong urge to share my experience with new comers and say big thank you to my datafam who welcomed me with so much energy and support throughout the year and especially @TC18. There are just so many of you to name but you know who you are! For me, the best part of TC18 was the people, everyone I met and had the pleasure to spend time with. I have never experienced this level of passion, energy, and inspiration before. I am so grateful and lucky to be part of the community and want to give back with my first ever blog on TC18 and some afterthoughts.

I want to focus on my first timer experience @TC18, what helped shape it, and what I could have done better. I also included some logistical tips in the end which I learned from others in the community and benefited big time.

  • Participate in MakeoverMonday, WorkoutWednesday, Vizforsocialgood and other social projects. For me, I participated in MakeoverMonday religiously from week 1, 2018 and that was THE best new year resolution ever, period. Andy and Eva work very hard to help participants learn, share, and grow. MM live was the highlight for me as it meant so much more doing it in person with Andy, Eva, regular participants, and many others. I am forever thankful for them, this project, and everyone I got to know because of it. Also because of the people in the community, I never felt I was at the conference solo. So if you are going solo, you can be sure that the community will welcome you with much love!
  • Don’t be shy and say hi! We are all nerds and we have at least one common interest (tableau/data) with everyone attending so it’s not too bad! People tend to be chattier and more open in conferences I find. I also find it easier to strike a relevant conversation with others in the same standby queue who are also anxiously waiting. You are not alone to feel a bit intimidated. But knowing people online through social projects certainly helped with my experience tremendously. It still took me some serious deep breath at start to walk up and introduce myself to people I follow and not sound like a ‘stalker’. But it gets easier and better. My adrenaline was through the roof. It was just the best when I met my data viz inspirations and so many of them, all so nice, humble, and genuine. I know I’d regret it if didn’t at least say hi.
  • Set your conference goals and prioritize. Thanks to a few blogs on TC tips , I know I definitely want to attend some of the live events where you want to experience the energy in the room and that’s what’s TC is all about, MM, dev on stage, IronViz, etc. After that, I chose to prioritize meetups and appointments. It was a hard choice to skip some breakout sessions and not watch in person. But Ann Jackson put it really well ‘you cannot re-create conversation.’ Going to relevant meetup sessions, where you are from and which sector you work in, can be very productive and insightful. For me, I went to the Canadian region, West Coast, and Banking meetups. I had quite a few very interesting and productive discussions and made contacts with people who share the same passion on analytics and visualization in similar situations. I enjoyed those conversations very much and learned a lot too.
  • Don’t stress out if you are waitlisted. There are so many great sessions that take place at the same time, so have some backups as many TC veterans have suggested. Also most sessions are recorded. But if you really really want to attend one in person, line up early and you will probably get in. It happened to me at a few hands-on sessions and I was determined to get in there.
  • Go to Fanalytics. First, it’s just great to hear heart-to-heart lessons from community leaders, their missions and journeys. Also, it is an awesome and well organized discussion forum where you can exchange tips and experiences with fellow data nerds on specific topics that you may struggle or are passionate about. I was at the Data Culture in Organization table and definitely picked up a few approaches that I will try experiment at work in promoting data culture.
  • Make notes of your random conversations on the same day. I had many great, unplanned conversations. For some, I forgot to write down the topics and info right away or on the same day, with constant distractions at the conference and after. When I was collecting my notes on Friday, first day after the conference, and following up with contacts,  it took me a while to remember the specifics of some conversations, just due to the sheer volume of conversations in 4 days. So if you learned anything or had any idea sparked in you at all from a conversation, big or small, write it down soon, or at least on the same day.
  • Fly in a day or 2 early. If you can, arrive on Saturday or early Sunday for some pre-conference activities and mingle with your social groups early. Data plus women always has pre-game party on Sunday evening, which I missed this year and was very sad.

Other planning, scheduling tips (special thanks to Sarah Bartlett and Mark Bradbourne’s blogs)

  • Battery pack, comfy shoes, water bottle, backpack
  • Register hands-on training and live events (MM) ASAP. I knew about this from the community but didn’t realize just how quickly these fill up.
  • The auditorium is massive for the keynote speeches and Iron viz. Get there early for close up experience. I particularly enjoyed Iron viz and couldn’t describe the energy level and how exciting it was. You have to witness it for yourself and be ready to be blown away by the talents on stage.
  • Make an appointment with tableau doc. They were very helpful.
  • Get to tableau store early for swags of your size.

This is my experience about TC18, a very positive, inspiring, and emotional one. Thanks to my datafam who made it all possible and Tableau for throwing the ultimate data party. I really hope this summary can be helpful to the community!