3 Cheers to 3 Years

Today marks my 3 year anniversary at Tessellation, or as we are now known, the Analytics group at phData. Holy shit it’s been a journey. I honestly don’t even know where to start.

If you give me a shot….Just give me a chance to get my voice heard, man… I think I wouldn’t even have words for that shit, man.

Hustle & Flow

I first met Luke Stanke at Tableau Conference 2018 in New Orleans months after we had first started to exchange DMs on Twitter. He was starting this company called Tessellation with his two co-founders Baxter Boe and Alex Christiansen. We took in a session together and then got to chatting about their ambitions. I had always admired Luke’s groundbreaking work, but with a wife and 2-month old child at home, I was hesitant to jump at the opportunity to spend every other week away from them. After a lot of consideration, 4 months later I was on a flight to California.

My first day of work at Tessellation included a 6:05am flight out of CVG (Cincinnati’s airport) to Los Angeles (LAX) – a 5-hour flight. I knew the company I was going to be working with, but not much else. After an hour Uber to Newport Beach, Luke met me at an elevator and escorted me upstairs. “Here you go” – he said as he handed me a laptop and some Tessellation stickers. I had never been to California or the Pacific time zone as a matter of fact, but I was ready to get to work.

The company I joined had 7 other people. Now the Analytics team of phData (formerly Tessellation) has over 50 people. Below is a screenshot of one of the first Tessellation all-hands meetings I joined.

I started at Tessellation as a Tableau developer and 3 years later I’m a Director of Analytics focusing on our Microsoft Power Platform business. Countless people have contributed to this, but here is my attempt at thanking them:

  • Geoff Zimmerman – if I hadn’t met you, I woundn’t have gotten an opportunity to learn Tableau
  • Jeff Shaffer – without you, I woundn’t have fallen in love with Tableau and I wouldn’t have gotten hired at Tessellation
  • Leigh Tami – you hired me to OPDA, which marked my career switch to data!
  • Jason Ferguson – thanks for showing me what working hard and taking work seriously looks like. Also, no burgers at the Sedona Taproom? Confusing.
  • Troy Tomson – thank you for showing me how to be a great leader. You were my first manager that I said, hey, I want to be exactly like that!
  • The Tessellation Team – Nick, Elizabeth, Gavin, Taguma, Autumn, Aidan, Phil, John, Connor, Ryan, Dave, Ahmed, Adam, Krishn, Jacob B, Jacob K, Jenn, and all my other Tessellation teammates, THANK YOU. You all are seriously some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be your coworker, leader, and friend.

A special shoutout to my main man, Luke Stanke. There are so many things to say thank you for that only you will know. You’ve pushed me, you’ve advised me. You’ve helped get the best out of me, as well as helped me get the best out of others. Above all, you’ve listened to me. I know I can be a pain in the ass, but you’ve attempted to understand me as a human being first, and an employee second. For that, thank you.

Lastly, and most importantly, my wife Nia. You have believed in me more than literally anybody else on earth. You’ve put up with me working on nights, weekends, and all the time in between. You’ve held down the fort while I was traveling to client sites and leaving you with kids for nights at a time. You’ve helped me recover from failure, you’ve helped me be a better person, and you’ve helped me prioritize things along this journey. THANK YOU.

Over the past 3 three years of extremely long nights, adapting to endless change, and growing our company exponentially, I have learned a few things along the way. Here is my attempt at advice.

  1. Hire good people, and hire diverse people – the people that you hire is arguably more important than the things they know. You can teach most people just about anything, you can’t make a shitty person, unshitty. Also, hire additions, not fits. Most of the time a fit means they look like you, talk like you, went to a high school similar to yours. Research shows when you hire a diverse group of people, your company performs better. Other than being the right thing to do, it’s literally better for your company in every way imaginable.
  2. Getting everyone where they want to go, gets everyone where they want to go – everybody has dreams, goals, and ambitions. If you are able to help people achieve them while also getting the larger group where they need to go, I think you’ve done your job as a manager/leader/etc. And if people on your team can see themselves accomplishing their goals while working with/for you, then that’s the only way your company will achieve their goals.
  3. You’ll learn the most from the person you vibe with the least – althought this is very contrary to human nature, I’ve found it to be true more often than not. We like to associate with those that we vibe with most or have the most in common with. But, in my experience it’s been the people that I didn’t quite understand, that I underestimated, or that I simply didn’t care for that I learned the most from. Whether it’s the natural friction that comes from differences, or the difference of perspectives that a person brings who isn’t like you, I can always count on those people to teach me the most.
  4. Care – it’s very simple, yet sometimes in the world we live in, it’s very hard. At the end of the day, we’re all people. We all eat, sleep, and shit. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, what title you have, what car you drive or house you live in – treat every single person with respect simply because they’re human. If you don’t understand them, try. And listen to them! Listening shows you care, and sometimes that’s all people need, is to feel heard.

As I typed this blog, I had the classic movie Hustle & Flow on in the background. In the ending scene, DJay (Terrence Howard’s character) is being taken to his prison cell after getting into a fight with Skinny Black who had refused to listen to his rap demo cassette. DJay is stopped by two prison guards who recognized him and wanted him to listen to their demo tracks, just like DJay had asked Skinny Black. Knowing how not being listened to felt, he took the cassette tape and said…

You know what they say…everybody gotta have a dream

DJay, Hustle & Flow

In the past 3 years, I’ve gone from a fresh-faced Consultant to a Director. I’ve gone from barely being able to manage myself to now managing people who manage people. And most of all, I’ve been given the opportunity to accomplish some of my wildest dreams at Tessellation (now phData). Time to make sure I’m giving everyone else’s demo cassettes a listen.

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