Tableau Community Spotlight: An Interview With Adam Mico

Adam Mico Bio

Experienced Senior Data Analyst with a demonstrated history of working in the State government (and happily employed). Skilled in data analytics using a variety of tools and applications. 

Adam’s views are not a representation of the State of Wisconsin’s or the Department of Workforce Development and are strictly personal views.



Michael: Hello Adam. I found your Illuminati Influencers – Ternary (or Triangle) Plot Viz on Tableau Public very interesting. Can you tell my readers your process for developing this type of dataviz? For example, how did you decide on the topic, find and gather the data, design and then develop the data viz? Can you also discuss some ways they can use a Ternary (or Triangle) Plot dataviz for their purposes?

Adam: Great question and thank you.

I saw Tableau Magic’s blog on ternary plots (link). It looked very fun and made me think ‘Illuminati’ because it’s a triangle after all. Also, I wanted to develop something that was bespoke or used ‘math art’ and this was a basic jumping off point.

The hard part was figuring out three measures to use to develop the viz (anything more or less than three, it’s no longer appropriate for the plot), so I settled on net worth, years of fame and social media influence. I only wanted to use data points that could be researched and verified, so I jumped to sites that could help me find alleged Illuminati members, their wealth, Instagram followers and years in the spotlight… tossed in a spreadsheet and followed Tableau Magic’s blog. Of course… being silly, I added transparent eyes for a bit of the camp factor.

For use case purposes, this could be used for anything a radar chart would be used, but with only three measures.  I would also like to add, in hindsight… I should have used an image overlay in the triangle plot to show that the center area meant the best balance of the three.   

Michael: You are a Senior Data Analyst with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Can you tell my readers a little bit about how you use Tableau at work?

Adam: I have worked for the department more than 20 years and had many roles. For most of my career, my involvement was in the legal/business side. It wasn’t until 2005, I found out I was OCD about data. At that point, I was hired for a two-year project as a business analyst – my primary role was to develop system use cases, design process flows and storyboards for a large re-engineering project. In addition, I was a data organizer for their wiki and put together a number of spreadsheets to help manage tasks.

The project ended and I returned to my old career, but the data bug never left. Over the years, I proved myself as the go-to person for all things Excel-related. I developed a ton of spreadsheets using VBA and started a bit into SharePoint and web development (along with training unemployment law and handling/reviewing the most complex cases).

Around six years ago, a partner in our Technical Services Section shared a report developed in Tableau Server at a business conference. Of the 50 or so people, I was the only one with any interest because although the viz was very rudimentary (a basic forecast), but its potential leaped at me. I asked a ton of questions and went back to management to ask if I can develop on it. A short period later, it was granted.

For the 1st year, I was developing reports in Tableau Server; the old Server environment was so clunky and not too pretty, but it got the job done and was able to share a peak into its potential with management. Further development and trust allowed me to be the business/technical advisor for the 1st release of a major project with the partner that introduced me to the project. I was brought on board because this partner could develop visualizations, but had a big hurdle when handling the complex requirements and data and there was nobody that was able to grasp the complex data like me and understand the technical end too.

It came together and provided the business with a release that was usable, but not optimal. To get that done, we needed to do about a year of data clean-up, combining and data source management. At that point, Phase 2 of the project was mine to run. It took a couple years, but working with many partners, we were able to release a much more robust collection of dashboards used by many people with very modern techniques. Since then, it has been my responsibility to administrate dashboards, create ad hoc reports, test and enhance.

During this period, my job became almost exclusively Tableau and Excel and an opportunity opened up as a data analyst in a new section (Workforce Management) that seemed to be a natural extension of what I was doing and at 42, I changed my entire career to work as a data analyst. Fortunately, in two years, I reclassed twice to the business automation specialist/senior data analyst position (which is the top class for the data analyst series).

I just want to thank management for putting me in a position to work with great partners and trusting that I had the capability to achieve in a new career and taking a calculated risk.

Tableau was the primary tool that allowed me to prove myself on a very large scale and without the application… there is no way I could have dreamed of being in the position I am today. I still use Tableau 20% of my time, but also work a lot in SharePoint, Excel and a number of other tools.

Michael: Can you tell me three of your favorite Tableau Desktop tips and tricks?


  1. Limit your data sources as much as possible before applying to your viz. Although Tableau is very capable of joining and blending data, it’s best used when that’s one less thing you have to worry about. Developing your data source(s) on the back-end also helps you understand your data more and can be addressed more effectively than trying to fix bad data on Tableau after a blend or a join.
  2. For business practice, please attach a guide to help new users have a little crutch as they get use to interactive visualizations. All it takes is a small shape and something to link it from the server; it will help those uncomfortable find comfort quicker and help you sort out any loose ends you may have as you need to review the dashboard as its developed.
  3. Be available to your customers and really invest a lot of time learning their needs. You may have great ideas, but it’s very possible they are not useful for your customers; getting that trust and working with them to build their requirements rather than building what you want to build will allow you to have opportunities for more freedom in the future.
  4. Bonus: You do not need to come up with the answers yourself. The Tableau community is SO helpful and there are a lot of resources out there to quickly get the info you need. Jump into Twitter or the forums and get the info you need rather than wasting hours banging your head against your desk or giving up – there’s almost always a work around.


Michael: I really liked your blog post on on Crime at 7933 Tree Lane. I used to work creating data vizzes for City government and found this to be a fascinating story. Can you discuss it a bit for my readers?

Adam: Thank you so much.  It was a difficult blog to write. I had one question of what will become of the crime near me because of building a property forcing concentrated poverty that was increasingly violent and there was no supported answer to it. I knew for me, my neighbors’ and for the local government’s benefit, I needed to develop a story that showed the reality of what was going on rather than rampant speculation; I’ve learned over years that bad news sucks, but rampant speculation is worse. To help deal with this, I needed to grab data and update monthly showing the crime at a property that wasn’t getting sufficient supportive care, little thought into people that could most benefit from the situation and caused huge concern in the neighborhood, schools, businesses and the Police Department.

I shared with city officials and the MPD (along with my neighbors) to make sure they were aware of what we knew, be equipped to address trends and make sense of what was going on and what needed to change to allow us to all benefit from the situation.

I do not know if my viz had too much impact except it was appreciated by some officials and neighbors.

Michael: What do you feel is missing from Tableau Desktop? What features would be on your wish list to see added to the application?

Adam: I would love more out-of-the box chart types and 3-D options for basic bar charts (not always best practice, I know).

The page shelf has drove me nuts for a while because this is the easiest way to animate a Tableau dashboard, but teasing users with only being available on Desktop. I understand its in Beta to be available elsewhere. Easily animated dashboards, I strongly feel is the next evolution in data storytelling that will engage many more people that were less enthused about data visualization before.

Finally, I really think the parameter actions need to be smoother. Visualizers have started developing interactive games and they tend to be a bit clunky because of the speed at which the actions perform. They are fun for us in the #datafam, but aren’t ready for the general public yet.

Michael: What was your most humbling Tableau Public viz experience?

Adam: On a Friday after work, I found Tableau Software featured my Elvis viz (!/vizhome/ElvisPresleyWasTheOriginalUKRockIdolSeeForYourselfWithThisHitTimelineandMusicPlayer/ElvisOriginalUKRockIdol) across all social media platforms to promote #DataPlusMusic. 

It wasn’t a #VOTD, but if felt very similar and I was truly honored and humbled that they were so endeared by that viz. As a former music reviewer, music is very dear to me and some of the 1st public vizzes I developed were data-plus-music vizzes because it was fun for me to navigate music with visualization as this is something I would never be asked to do at work. 

At the time it was featured, it had one favorite and only 100 views, but it was very well received and quickly became my most favorited viz… but the love received from Tableau meant even more than that part of it because they are such a large part of my career advancement and it felt wonderful to ‘give’ them an asset they felt was marketable.

I worked on this viz with Zach Bowders. He helped create some of the color scheme and gave a bunch of wonderful notes that pushed the viz to a level I didn’t conceive of in the beginning. Before creating the viz, my only missions were to have a video jukebox and show how his UK career through 1977 was even more fruitful than his USA career although he never had the opportunity to tour there because his manager was an illegal alien. Zach’s effort was the trigger needed to not only create a cool and attractive viz, but to highlight its storytelling aspects.

The other part was just a couple days earlier, my The Smiths viz (!/vizhome/TheSmithsTV-SightsSoundsWordsofTheSmiths/TheSoundandWordsofTheSmiths) was added to their #dataplusmusic gallery ( That viz was very much inspired by Nina Lindell’s The Cure TV viz (!/vizhome/TheCureTV/TV) and I wanted to do something similar with The Smiths, but use their studio albums (and highlight their singles while they were an active band).

Michael: What are you most excited about at #TC19?

Adam: I’m excited for everyone else and the stream. Unfortunately, this year, I will not be able to make it (I have to ask for my leave in advance and already used mine up). However, I fully plan to attend #TC20.

Ivett Kovacs and Kevin Flerlage shared info about their presentations in my blog and those would definitely be two I would love to attend and would have definitely looked forward too.

Of course, meeting all my #datafam friends in person, data night out and data dates would have been what I would look forward to experiencing the most.

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

Adam: I love our community & this is the 1st community I feel I truly belong. Also, it helps that I know I can give a little back too. I fully expect to continue working with Tableau Magic’s Facebook Group, highlighting community members on Twitter and my blog, being one of the welcomers to folks that are new to the community and provide honest and constructive feedback when desired.

In the future, I plan to be an annual conference fixture and get more involved in my local TUGs (I will be presenting for a private one on 11/19).

My bucket list item is to one day be a Tableau Public Ambassador. Although having a VOTD would mean a lot… other people would benefit even more, but being a guy with Asperger’s with no real footing in IRL social situations to having that honor would be affirming.

Tableau Public


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