TABLEAU: From Football to Frameworks, Laurie Walters shares his Tech story
"Tech is such a fast-paced industry; you really can't get left behind." Laurie Walters, Tech Evangelist, Enterprise Account Executive and head of Employee Resource Group Boldforce, mentions. Laurie is nothing short of titles, demonstrating his ability to adapt and transfer his skills when needed and where necessary. With personal regards to a family member for 'showing me the ropes' and citing the life lessons learnt through his time as a football player, Laurie Walters demonstrates what it means to believe in your craft honestly and use every experience to your advantage.
Describe your journey into Tableau?
"I came into Tableau via referral as I had a friend who was working there as an engineer. Initially, I worked in a startup as a partner, catering to people going on holiday. Our idea stemmed from football players and our fellow sportsmen, as my cousin and I both played. During the off-season footballers want to go on holiday, especially to places like Las Vegas or Ibiza, the problem is they don't know how to organise such trips or who to spend their money with. We saw the gap in the market and discovered our niche there."
Laurie and his cousin's startup business would run for four years, providing bespoke holiday packages for their fellow sportsmen. They would eventually come to boast of assisting over two thousand people with tailored holiday bookings. Running a startup with just two people would take a lot of work, dedication and consistent learning. The pair would understand the need to stay informed about the latest strategies and software systems to run their business effectively.
"It was just the two of us, so there was a lot of self-learning. We had to learn about integrating systems, how we frame and shape our services. We needed to learn how to market our brand to people effectively. There was no way we could have done that with just pen and paper."
The importance of working with others and being open to their expertise is imperative in anyone's journey, as Laurie credits his cousin as a significant factor in his professional development. "He showed me a lot of the ropes on what it meant to be a true salesman", he laughs as he recalls the strain of what was his learning process. "It was a lot of pain because I had never done anything like that before. I had to get comfortable with being on the phone and talking to people. Eventually, I got the hang of it. My friend who was working at Tableau saw what I was doing and that I was comfortable with technology, spinning things up and he felt like I would be a good fit for the tech industry."
What skills were you able to take from working in a startup to working for Tableau?
"When you work in a startup company, you have to make revenue for your paycheck. So we would use systems such as Salesforce and Hubspot for our CRM database. You have to think about what system will help you thrive constantly. Curiosity helps, too, as it will lead you to do things
on a broader scale to see more revenue. In a nutshell, my interest and the ability to adapt helped my transition into Tableau. I believe that is what my friend saw in me.
Citing the experience as valuable and innovative, Laurie gives his overview of the benefits of working in a startup. "Startup world gives people a lot of flexibility that you might not get immediately elsewhere. The experience as a whole pushes you to use initiative and look for innovation. Startup experience is highly beneficial."
You've mentioned the skills that helped you transition, but what do you do to upskill?
"It's all about proactivity and how badly you want it." His time spent in football comes into play, as he likens preparation to training and execution to the final match. "It's like sport. If you train one hundred percent, you can feel confident that you've done everything you can to be ready when the match on the weekend comes. It takes proactivity & preparation."
How does Tableau support its Black employees?
"We have various groups that represent diverse talent." He continues to list a few alongside their purposes. "We have BOLDforce, for the Black community, VETforce for people that have come out of the army and Women's Network, in support of gender equality."
Laurie is now a part of the BOLDforce leadership team and is in charge of partnerships. "It's really about how one community can connect with another-intersectionality. As different groups, we come together to run events and engage with each other. For example, BOLDforce and OUTforce (the equality group for LGBTQ+) will run events with each other. The aim is to represent the people that are a part of these communities. Equality groups bring a safe space for us to have conversations. We're all under the office of equality."
Tableau can proudly say that they have always had equality groups and always had conversations, but in light of George Floyd's killing last year, the intensity of these conversations grew. Laurie candidly details his experience as a member of BOLDforce amid the world's campaign for social justice. "It's a unique position to be put in; you haven't articulated any of these feelings before. You've just felt it, but if you don't open up, no one is going to know or get a gist of what is going on in your life."
As a leader of an equality group, individuals can often feel like they are the sole representative for a selected group of people. Fortunately, this was not the case for Laurie, nor the procedure at Tableau because of the office of equality. "The office of equality did a good job at protecting communities to ensure the onus and responsibility wasn't placed on just one person."
Tableau has since partnered with Salesforce regarding equality and can proudly list twelve equality groups. Learn more about each group alongside their goals and objectives here.
Why did Tableau connect with BYP Network?
"We wanted to create awareness, to show that we are taking the steps to a more inclusive Tableau and be proactive in our outreach to Black candidates and our efforts to reach more Black candidates. As Black people, we have seen that these things won't solve themselves overnight. It's going to take small incremental steps. We want people to know that we are sincerely investing in this area and that we are actively trying to improve in this area."
Referencing the current state of the Tech industry, Laurie mentions that part of Tableau's partnership with BYP is to show our network members that there is indeed a route to Tech. "We want to increase the number of applications coming in from Black people. It's not where it should be, but there is no arrival date either. So it is definitely going to be a continuous process."
Why should people work at Tableau?
"You have an opportunity to learn, innovate, create and have fun. One of the good things about Tableau is that when you join the company, you get to be a part of the interview processes when you're on the inside. Participating in the interviews and being on the other side feels very similar to mentoring. You're almost lending a helping hand, having gone through the same process yourself. The overall culture at Tableau & Salesforce is such a chilled vibe."
Advice to Black professionals?
Laurie muses before sharing his answer, as he genuinely does not want to 'use too many cliches or phrases.'
"The transition from startup to corporate was very much like 'I've only been in my bedroom working on deals, I don't know how I'm gonna transfer this to a corporate company' but when it comes down to it, be unapologetic in your background. If you believe in what you've done, focus on the soft skills you have and identify your transferable skills. The more intricate skills can always be taught.
Laurie's final message to network members.
"Be confident, be bold, and bear in mind that just because you don't see someone who looks like you doesn't mean there is no opportunity. Believe in your skills and your abilities. Focus on your ability to communicate, your ability to persuade and pick things up quickly. Always remember that an interview process is an opportunity to share your story and who you are. You will always get asked questions, but how you answer them is up to you."
Want to learn more about Black professionals navigating the world of Tech? Watch Tableau's first webinar here.
Interested in building a mentorship programme within your establishment? Get some tips from Tableau's second webinar here.