Tableau Community Spotlight: An Interview with Jim Dehner

Jim Dehner Bio

Jim is a three-time Tableau Forum Ambassador and has helped literally thousands of Tableau Community users. His professional career focused in the retail and consumer products industries and he has had broad experience in developing and commercializing new product, product lifecycle management, forecasting, and inventory control. He was a business team lead on SAP and Oracle ERP implementations.

A self-described analytic, Jim has degrees in engineering and business from Purdue, has extensive experience with Excel, Access and, as we will see, Tableau.  

Jim views his role as helping users learn how to use Tableau and to that end writes a blog focused on the intermediate user ready to progress beyond getting started. See and his Tableau Public site that both supports the blog and also includes detailed “How To” examples for more detailed techniques:!/

Jim lives in Nashville, Tennessee where he is active in the TUG and also presents Tableau to undergrad and grad-level business analytics students. 



Michael: Hello, Jim. You are the #3 ranked contributor on the Tableau Community Forums and a three-time Tableau Forum Ambassador (BTW, Deepak and I use to work together).

Can you tell my readers a little bit about the Tableau Forums and how you earned this honor?

Jim: Thanks. There may be some who are not familiar with the tremendous resources available through the Community page on Want to find training, or join a TUG, update Tableau? 

The Community page is a good place to start.

The link to “The Forum” is under Community and it is where users can go to get help, post a question, search the knowledge base or learn different ways to solve their problem using Tableau. Just go to

The Forum gives you peer-to-peer access to other users anxious to share their experience and what they have learned to help you with your specific problem

Ambassadors are selected annually. The process starts with a nomination for Community Users and after a series of reviews, Tableau managers make the final selection for the coming year. There are 5 categories of Ambassadors: Forum, Social, User Group Leaders, Public, and Student. There are about 40 Forum Ambassadors globally, all volunteers.

Michael: You are a Business Intelligence Consultant at Nashville-based Market Analytics. Can you discuss how you use Tableau in your current role?

Jim: I started as a consultant 10 years ago in Ohio and continued when we moved to Nashville. In the pre-visual analytics era, corporations that had installed SAP, Oracle, or another ERP system struggled converting the volume of data into usable information. 

The business was focused on mining data from their ERP or data warehouse. It was all done with Excel and Access and gave managers charts, graphs or summaries they could use to make business decisions. Definitely a crude version of what was to come.   

Several years ago, a client moved to Tableau asked me to learn the software and help them with its use. It started as an extension of what I had been doing but quickly became the primary focus of the business. 

Nashville, Tennessee

Michael: You live in Nashville, Tennessee. Can you tell my readers why Nashville is such a great place to live? And can you tell me three must-see places to visit?

Jim: Nashville is a great place to visit and a better place to live. Let’s face it, if you’re planning a weekend trip to Nashville, you’re coming for fun, music, and food. Start on lower Broadway—that’s where the honkytonks are. Be sure to go to the rooftop bar at Acme Feed and Seed. It’s got a great view of the city and you never know who you might see up there. If you’re at all into music, stop in at the Country Music Hall of Fame and learn how Nashville crossed over from country to become a recording center for all genres of music. Plan ahead and see who is at the Ryman. If you are lucky enough to score tickets, it will be a once in a lifetime experience. 

On the culinary scene, local favorites include Martin’s Bar-B-Que and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, but don’t overlook celebrity chef Johnathan Waxman’s Adele or any of Maneet Chauhan four restaurants. Thirsty? Try Jackalope or Fat Bottom Breweries, and for cider lovers, Diskin Cider is a must!

But Nashville is also a great place to live: temperate climate, world-class higher education, excellent medical facilities, a diverse industrial base that includes automotive, healthcare management, and, of course, tourism and recording. But most of all three of my four grandchildren live here.

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

Jim: Tableau is so broad—I like to think of topics users need to understand.

First, the Order of Operation

Some of the most FAQs on the Forum result from misunderstanding the Order of Operations (OOO). Each worksheet in your workbook has an underlying data table that is a subset of your total data set created by using filters, creating sets, adding parameters and custom calculation. The order of operation is the sequence that those filters and functions are applied in making that table.


Second, LODs

I love them and use them to create levels in the data, add dimensions, nested in other LODs, and table calculations. Invest the time to understand how they work and try them in different applications.


Third, understand that learning any new language take time and an effort, but there are many resources available to help:

  • Take some training
  • Join a TUG
  • Follow a blog or two
    • There are many others – find ones you like and follow them
  • Use Tableau on a regular basis, daily or weekly or whatever fits your schedule, to add new skills  
  • Finally use the Forum as a resource. Post a question or just use it as a learning resource. Select a post that interests you, download the workbook, come up with a solution, then check back later to see what others have done. There are often many ways to solve a problem with Tableau

Michael: Can you tell me a bit about the Nashville TUG? What kinds of activities do you have?

Jim: Wow, now in the era of social distancing we are all try to figure out the new norm! In Nashville that means going to virtual monthly meetings, at least for now, but also using a virtual format for smaller group topical meetings. Currently we are doing a series on certification prep classes and they are going well. With interest, the idea could expand to newbie groups or industry- or role-focused virtual meetings.

We are also able to have virtual presentations from some of the true experts that would not be available in a live meeting format.

Michael: You are a triathlete and marathoner – you have even completed 3 Ironman triathlons. Can you discuss what is involved in competing in an Ironman triathlon?

Jim: the Ironman combines a 2.4 mile open water swim, 112 mile bike leg and a 26.2 mile marathon run. It starts when the cannon goes off at 7:00am you have until midnight (17 hours later) to complete the course. So much for the detail. It is exhilarating and yet the most humbling of experiences. Everyone has a story—some just make you realize how lucky you are.

I was in Wisconsin and I saw 2 athletes on the run course coming my way. As the gap closed I could see a rope between their wrists and one was wearing a bib that read “Blind Athlete.” My first thought was that I was not worthy to be on the same course. It was only later I realized how much trust and faith they had to have in each other. And they can only succeed together—one cannot finish without the other

We should be so lucky to have that kind of relationship. 

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

Jim:  Thanks, I will continue adding to the FAQ Series on my blog. I’ve been getting responses that it is resonating with users.

Before the shutdown, I had been working with universities here and elsewhere presenting Tableau to the analytics programs. When things return to a new normal, I will be continuing that effort.

Tableau Public


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