Analyzing Tableau and Power BI: A Conversation with Sekou Tyler

In this edition of Analyzing Tableau and Power BI we get a chance to sit down with Sekou Tyler to discuss his thoughts on one of the hottest topics in BI right now: Tableau and Power BI. Sekou truly is a jack of all trades when it comes to BI as he is fluent in SQL, Tableau, and Power BI. He has definitely been an inspiration to me to venture into other tools, so I am extremely excited to get to hear his thoughts on this hot topic!


Hey Sekou, glad to see you! Thanks so much for taking your time to talk with us about this very very hot topic that is the seemingly never ending back and forth between Tableau & Power BI. I am very much looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the topics below, but before we get into the heavy stuff, let’s start with some introductions.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into data analytics. 

First, I would like to say thanks for inviting me to your blog Spencer. You always put out quality content so i’m honored to be a guest. I got my start in IT by working on the help desk, and I was constantly solving problems while delivering customer service to the end user. I was able to get promoted to a process improvement analyst where I was responsible for finding trends and insights from our call data.

While in that role I learned the basics of SQL, but I decided that I wanted to focus on getting better at SQL so I accepted a new role as Healthcare Analyst. In that role I learned more SQL and also learned how to create internally and externally facing presentations. I did a lot of ad-hoc manual steps when i created my presentations and i just knew there was a better way to automate some of my work. I attended a local Power BI meetup presented by Will Harvey (who is still a good friend of mine) in 2016 called “How to create a dashboard in 10 minutes” and i was hooked. Power BI made connecting to several different data sources and automation look so easy and that is when I knew that I wanted to focus on data analytics and visualization.

I started attending as many SQLSaturdays as I could and I just started learning more and more about Power BI and Data Visualization. Jonathan Stewart is the person I look up to when it comes to data visualization and creating a data driven story. Patrick Leblanc is the person I try to mimic when it comes to being a subject matter expert. I met both of those men at SQLSaturday and i wouldn’t be here today without them.  Since 2016 I’ve been able to work with several different data visualization tools (Qlik,Looker, Yellowfin, Tableau, Google Data Studio, Amazon Quicksight, and Microsoft Power BI). I thoroughly enjoy what I do and I like the process of constantly trying to get better!

Now to the big questions about Tableau & Power BI. Which one of these tools do you use most? If you use both, how do you use each?

So I have to give you the standard consultant answer of “It Depends”. It honestly just depends on where I’m at in my life and what has my attention at that moment. I’m currently a Data Analyst II with Ryder and we use Microsoft Products, so professionally I use Power BI the most right now. When i’m working on personal projects with public data then I use Tableau because of how easy it is to embed dashboards into websites. Tableau public also provides a lot of inspiration because there are some great #datavizzes out there. I’m also #certifiablytableau and i don’t want those skills to go to waste (if you don’t use it you lose it), so i’m always trying to stay somewhat current with the new updates. 

Are there certain things that one tool does better than the other? And if so, which ones?

At the end of the day, Power BI and Tableau are tools and like all tools they have their strengths and weaknesses. I teach Tableau and Power BI to individuals who want to know more about data analytics, but they have little data experience.  They tend to pick up Tableau faster when compared to Power BI. Dax can be intimidating if you’re starting from scratch (still intimidating if you’ve been working with it for years!). My students tend to pick up the functions in Tableau easier, and the separation of Dimensions and Measures makes it easier for them to visually select what they need to use for a graph. Tableau is also really good with their label formatting, and dual axes. 

Personally, I really like Power Query (in Power BI) and the ability to connect to public data sources using a URL. Power Query has a lot of great things that it can do to transform data into the format that you need. Time intelligence functions and being able to use variables in your Dax code are also a favorite of mine too. 

What is an improvement you would like to see in either of the programs (or both)?

Being able to use variables in calculated fields in Tableau would be a game changer, and I would like to see more flexibility with dual axes in Power BI. 

What was easier for you to pick up, DAX or Tableau’s syntax including Level of Detail calculations?

They were both difficult for me, but I believe LODs were easier for me to grasp. LODs definitely took some time but one day it just clicked for me. I’m still working daily on ways to improve my Dax and my goal is to just get better each day. 

Who is your favorite Power BI developer/Tableau author?

Power BI 

Guys In A Cube (@GuyInACube) – Patrick and Adam are so smart and always create great content. I find myself using videos that they published 2 years ago for problems that I’m trying to solve today. 

Marco Russo (@Marcorus) – Dax guru! The amount of stuff this guy knows is just unreal. 

Bill Anton (@sqlbyoBI) – Bill has a great session on Time Intelligence functions and it helped me out alot. I highly suggest watching a recording if you get a chance. 

Tableau

Chantilly Jaggernauth (@chanjagg) – Chantilly is really smart and she is always willing to answer any questions that i might have. I reached out to her when i first started my tableau journey and she took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to talk about her process to become a zen master with me. 

Ken and Kevin Flerlage (@flerlagekr and @FlerlageKev )- They are so smart and brilliant. I make sure to read their blogs even if i’m not actively working in tableau at the time. 

Spencer Baucke (@jsbaucke) – I really enjoy #SportsVizSunday and I’m enjoying watching your journey into Power BI. You’re learning a lot fast and I’m excited to see where it takes you. 

Thanks for including me in your list above, Sekou. I’ll get you your $20 later. What are your favorite resources for learning Power BI? Tableau?

Power BI

Virtually: guyinacube.com, sqlbi.com,

In person/Remote : sqlsaturday.com, local meetups, and twitter using the hashtag #sqlhelp

Tableau 

Virtually: https://www.flerlagetwins.com/, https://www.makeovermonday.co.uk/

In Person/Remote: Local meetup groups, Twitter, and wherever else i see people posting content

If you’ve been to both Tableau Conference and PASS Summit, which one did you like better? If not, tell us something you liked about the one you’ve attended. 

I think I’m one of the lucky ones who has been able to attend both. Both conferences were a mixture of learning a lot of content fast while meeting some great people. I had fun at both conferences, but socially the Tableau conference has the edge. I mean Tableau rented out the Superdome in New Orleans (I still think about that party from time to time). If you get a chance to go to either conference then you won’t be disappointed!

Thanks so much for taking your time to talk with me today Sekou!

Leave a Reply