Tableau Community Spotlight: An Interview with Zach Bowders

Zach Bowders Bio

Zach has been with ALSAC St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for 11 years and has served as an IT developer, Business Analyst, and Data Analyst. He received his MBA, Marketing, and ITS degrees from the University of Memphis.

He is co-leader of the Memphis TUG and frequent #MakeoverMonday contributor.



Michael: Hi Zach. I really liked your Rat Race: New York’s Rat War data visualization. Can you tell my readers the process you went through to develop this data visualization? For example, how you gathered and prepped the data, created the design, and translated that into Tableau.

Zach: Rat Race spun out of MakeoverMonday 2018 and is based on NYC public data.

When I’m using work data, I’m familiar with the business, the data, the rules.

Tackling a new public project, I begin with some quick exploratory charts to get the lay of the land.

I quickly became interested in closure rates compared to reported instances (The spine chart on the right).

From there, everything spun out organically.

Reports are increasing, completed cases aren’t keeping up, and in some cases, closure rates are misreported either by accident or fraud.

Add some nice colors (thanks, some editorial, and a little bit of whimsy and you’re off to the races.

As DiVinci might say it, I chipped away everything that didn’t look like pestilence.

As DiVinci might say it, I chipped away everything that didn’t look like pestilence.

Michael: You are a Senior Analyst at St Jude. Can you tell us how you use Tableau on a day-to-day basis in your work?

Zach: As an analyst at ALSAC St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I work to support fundraising operations for St. Jude in their fight against pediatric cancer and other illnesses.

I work with Digital, DRTV, and sustainer fundraising though I’ve been known to dabble in Radio and other divisions as well.

I could go into projections, data visualization, but my primary goal is to Make Data Less Scary.

Smart and hardworking people from Program Manager to Vice presidents can be stifled by “analysis paralysis.”

I do my best to create clarity and tell a story in the best way for my audience.

Even if it takes a pie chart.

Michael: Tableau v2019.1 was just released. What do you think is still missing in Tableau Desktop?

Zach: A skilled and motivated practitioner of the Tableau arts is limited only by their imagination and time.

Having said that, there’s always room to make things easier.

Have fonts show IN their font, allow easier creation of custom color palettes without editing the preferences file, have a ‘turn off all lines’ setting.

These are nitpicky things, but as someone who vizzes daily, they can be a hassle.

Additionally, there’s a lot of opportunity with Tableau Public.

Allow publishers to allow comments on their work to solicit feedback.

Let publishers flag vizzes as ‘work in progress’ or ‘give me some feedback’

The #Datafam is an awesome resource for fledgling vizzlers and Zens alike, and more robust ways to communicate about our work is always welcome.


Michael: I really like your data visualization about M. Night Shyamalan’s movies. What are our thoughts on the Unbreakable-Split-Glass movie trilogy?

Zach: Thanks! That’s my first public Viz, I made it on a lark, not even knowing that Tableau Public was a thing.

I was curious about M. Night’s reputation of making ‘bad movies’ in recent years and wanted to see if the numbers bore out that claim.

M. Night has always had a very nice sense of style and pacing, and Unbreakable was a big hit when I was in college.

I haven’t seen Glass yet but Split was a welcome return to the quality of his earlier work.

Michael: What is next on your “To Do” list? What can the Tableau community expect to see from you in the near future?

Zach: Currently I’m quietly working on a group project that should see light sometime later this year.

I haven’t found my dream dataset, but I’m having a great time participating in #MakeoverMonday and the occasional dataset.

Beyond that, I’m here to have fun, chase whims, and cheerleading.

The #Datafam is an incredibly talented, diverse group of people and one of the best things I can do is provide encouragement, support, and keep things fun.

Tableau Public


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.