Tableau Community Spotlight: An Interview with Sarah Burnett

Sarah Burnett Bio

Originally from New Zealand Sarah is based in Singapore, with over 20 years of experience working in Business Intelligence. Recently appointed as the APAC EMEA Head of Data Democratization at one of the world’s largest retail banks.

Sarah’s passion is making story telling clean, clear and simple by instilling best practices and reducing cognitive load all while using beautiful design. Her creative direct design thinking allows executives to drive their business from powerful visual insights through data, while removing the noise that could easily cloud the story. She has an aversion to 3D pie charts and one of her goals is to move the world of finance away from unnecessarily complicated and into clean, clear and simple data visualisations.

Sarah is also a Tableau Social Ambassador and co leads the Singapore Tableau User Group, bringing people together both globally and locally to share, learn and hack their way to better visualisation design thinking. She is also a Certified SCRUM Master, Tableau Desktop Specialist and a presentation specialist on the Tigerhall.

Twitter: @sezbee, Web Sites:,


Michael: Hello, Sarah. You are Head of Data Democratization at a large global retail bank. Can you tell my readers a little bit about how you democratize data?

Sarah: We want to break down barriers to get clean and clear data out to all. The company I am working for is early into its Tableau journey, so right now a lot of what my team and I are doing is setting up solid processes and taking the business on a steep learning curve of what data visualisation and design thinking involves. It’s a super interesting time and I’m loving the scope and potential.

Michael: You have mentioned that you have a real passion for mentoring. Can you discuss the benefits mentoring provides and how others can become mentors?

Sarah: I did a Bachelor of Management Studies but didn’t manage people until quite late in my career. I actually shied away from it and was pretty happy as an individual contributor. But I always liked teaching people. As my career progressed I found myself managing teams. It was then I found a real passion for watching people grow into their own strengths. I remember an old manager from a role a had back in New Zealand, would always say any role was a stepping stone and he would be there to help us. He really believed in me, always saying I could do his role. At the time I didn’t see the potential in myself, but him seeing it planted a seed. A big part of mentoring for me is passing that on. Meera Umasankar (@LosaniMeera) worked for me in my last company and I had the pleasure of mentoring her. Watching her grow over the last 4 years has been amazing. There are loads of formal mentoring programs you can become a part of, but for me it’s finding people and people finding me and learning a growing together.

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

Sarah: There are so many things, 3 is hard. So I will focus on the first 3 that come to mind.

For those of you that were lucky enough to be at IronViz 2019 you would have heard 18,000 people gasp when Lindsey Poulter (@datavizlinds) started dragging and dropping from Notepad into Tableau to automatically create Calculated Fields. Watch the full show here.

As part of my current role we are building out color palettes and I’m currently digging all the flexibility you have with Preferences.tps and creating your own custom sequential color palette. This is going to save us a lot of time and help us keep the look and feel consistent. I highly recommend reading this (Link here). Something else I use a lot is unicode to help explain deltas ▲▼or -+are my favorites. I used an example of this in a BAN (Big As Number) here.

Michael: You are a Tableau Ambassador. Can you tell my readers how you achieved this honor?

Sarah: There’s been a lot of talk on twitter lately about how people become Tableau Ambassadors and Zen’s, there are certain times of the year you can nominate people. I understand Tableau go through all nominations. But the science behind who is chosen and how is a secret that even us selected aren’t privy too.

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

Sarah: Tableau really broke ground on rapid visual design, I’d love to see more formatting options in dashboarding, like copy and paste text boxes. Better autosizing for different media, mobile to laptop to townhall presentations. Better functionality at scale like migration through test environments.

Michael: What were your three favorite things you attended or did at #TC19?

Sarah: This was actually my 3rd TC and I must admit IronViz is always a highlight for me, number two would have to be hanging with my crazy #datafam and my most favourite session would have to be our favourite Tableau Twins: (Link here).

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

Sarah: I’m actually having a big think about what I can do next for the community. There’s so many people out there doing so much amazing stuff. I have a few ideas. So watch this space.

Tableau Public

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