Alter Everything

A podcast about data science and analytics culture.
Alteryx Community Team
Alteryx Community Team

We're joined by Andrew Derbak for a chat about how his musical background led to a career in analytics.



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Episode Transcription

BRIAN 00:06 

Welcome to Alter Everything, a podcast about data science and analytics culture. I'm Brian Oblinger and I'll be your host. We're joined by Andrew Derbak for a conversation about how his musical background led to a career in analytics. Let's get right into it. 



BRIAN 00:27 

Andrew, welcome to the show. 

ANDREW 00:30 

Great to be here. 

BRIAN 00:31 

Awesome. So let's get started with you. Tell us a little bit about you and kind of where you come from. 

ANDREW 00:38 

Yeah, so my name's Andrew Derbak and I am the business manager for Master Data Management at Chinook Markets in St. Louis, Missouri, born and raised. So kind of a strange journey of my life, but I've gone from working at a small business, like a small produce company, to working at a small music shop, to studying music and then eventually switching over on a long windy path to grocery retail and working my way through the analytics side of that. So it's been a very interesting journey. 

BRIAN 01:16 

All right. Cool. So some interesting sort of weaving your way through. Talk to me about the music part, how does that kind of connect to analytics for you? 

ANDREW 01:26 

Yeah. So when I was growing up, just like everybody - especially going through high school - they always wanted to be in a band. So I started learning guitar and I found out that it wasn't like you could just instantly pick up a guitar and play it. So you had to actually kind of figure some things out and actually over time I learned you learn how to learn, if that makes any sense. So picking up the guitar and trying to figure out how to read music, how to play the same songs that you hear on the radio, I had to really kind of dig deep and understand what was going on. One of the neat things about learning music and how it kind of transposed into a data career is that you really learn to focus your attention and dig into what's going on around you. 

ANDREW 02:25 

So a lot of us, we'll see spreadsheets and we'll see lots of numbers, and we'll see things going on and lots of columns and features and what not, just like you might listen to songs on the radio. It's kind of like a glancing pass at it. But with music, you get to really focus your attention in, and with analysis, you're really kind of figuring out what's going on underneath all those levels and layers and what's causing it all. Sometimes it's really simple and you're going, "Okay, much like a three-chord song, this spreadsheet is really just summarizing data." But other times when you get into like predictive analytics it's kind of like really learning to play. It's like playing 'Eruption' from Van Halen, you know [laughter]. As soon as you can do it you're like, "Ah, this is so sweet," [laughter]. 

BRIAN 03:09 

Yeah, so I've been known to play a little six string. I never quite got to Eruption, so congratulations on that, for you [laughter]. And yeah, no, I think that's right. I mean, and so one of the things that's interesting is we talk about learning and how you learn. Everybody has a little bit slightly different way of going about it and it sounds like yours was just the, you know, "We're going to throw you in the deep end," right? "We're just going to pick this thing up and start cranking away at it," is that how you typically roll? 

ANDREW 03:37 

Yeah, I mean, one thing that I always try to take an approach of is just immerse yourself in it. So it's not anything that anybody's inherently born with is to understand how to play an instrument. I mean, you'll see those kids that are on YouTube that are playing guitar at like age five and they're playing way better than I have [laughter], and it makes me sick to my stomach to watch them, but. Much like you might have someone who's really good at understanding statistics and mathematics. But with all of that, you got to really kind of throw yourself in the mix of things. And much like learning any kind of language, really, the more that you can join groups that speak the same language, or that talk about data, or that play music - I'm kind of jumping around from topic to topic on that - but the more you can immerse yourself in it with like people, speak the language, so to say, it pays off. So I'm not a big fan of dipping my toe in the water. I'd rather stick my whole foot in and if it feels okay, then I'm just going to jump right in. So. 

BRIAN 04:43 

Yeah. Yeah, totally agree. Okay. So you were talking earlier about kind of your career path and how you got to where you're at. Maybe tell us a little bit about what did that path look like? What does it mean when you kind of shift from career to career, like what's the mental sort of shifts that had to take place for you to make that happen? 

ANDREW 05:04 

Yeah, so, yeah, going a little bit more in depth on that career path and all those changes. When I was younger, again, wanting to go into music, I found that I could play guitar, and I could probably get by, but I wasn't going to make a whole lot off of it. So I was like "Well, I should probably get some business sense around my career here." So I switched from wanting to play in a band to, "Maybe I should be a studio musician. But I should really know how to know contracts and to understand if I'm getting paid a fair rate, and all that stuff." So I switched over to business administration in college, and that actually kind of kicked off my love for statistics and understanding all the aspects of business and economics and all that. So I kind of had that ingrained in me in college, and I knew a little bit of it from small businesses I had dealt with in the past. 

ANDREW 06:02 

But basically they kind of grew together, so as I was learning music, I was learning a little bit more about how to be a good business person. And then out of college, I was playing in a band, I was teaching guitar. I was actually going to people's houses to teach as well, as well as teaching in a studio. And I actually had an opportunity presented to where a small business was looking for a music studio to set up from scratch. And so I was like, "Well, perfect." Instead of being like a studio musician where you're getting paid to go play music, I could teach people how to learn. And I could also have a whole bunch of teachers help me and put some things together. 

ANDREW 06:47 

So I ended up working for a small company here in St. Louis called LS Electronics. It stands for Light and Sound Electronics-- hey, Tom; hey, Carlos [laughter]. But, yeah, so I developed a lesson program with the business and that also kind of forced me to do some things I wasn't comfortable with at the time, like learning about search engine optimization. I had to learn Photoshop and learn all these kinds of marketing and advertising practices. But on the back end of that, I also had to learn how our click rate was doing, and how many people were visiting the site, and how to increase that engagement. So I was, again, I was doing music and I understood how to kind of speak and learn a language, but then how you had to like immediately transform that into a new language that was this analytics of website analytics. 

ANDREW 07:45 

I worked at LS Electronics for a good number of years, and eventually I was kind of like, "Okay, now after doing this for a while, I really kind of like the business aspect," and I had to make a career choice. And so I ended up switching into grocery retail, of all places, right? Going straight from working on websites and music to, now I'm telling people how to put product on a shelf, by doing space management. And so that was kind of kicking off the super nerdy seed in me. So I had already done some things like understanding how much product to order in, how to kind of manage people, how to effectively be a business person. But here now I was helping to manage about 100 stores' worth of inventories and helping to reduce costs wherever I could, that kind of stuff. And that was really where I started getting into really some heavy data. 

ANDREW 08:51 

So you think about how many items sell through a grocery store in any given day and multiply that out by the number of grocery stores and then you talk about holiday selling, you talk about weekend selling, all those numbers they just get bigger and bigger and it's not quite like the capacity of what people might think of as big data, but there's certainly a tremendous amount of data points to look into. 

ANDREW 09:18 

And so after being in space management for a while, which again, space management is really just a fancy word for, how does product get on the shelf in a store? Where does it go? Should it be near the register, or should it be near the back of the store? And then in the middle, or in center store as we call it, where does it go on a shelf? Should it be on the top shelf? Should it be on the middle shelf, bottom, so on and so forth. 

ANDREW 09:46 

But after doing that for a number of years, I ended up switching to become an analyst, where I was still working with the same kinds of items, which was boxed goods and soups and things, and then I also switched to deli, which deli business is fascinating. Because you're basically like a restaurant and a grocery store all in one. And so there's so much you have to kind of keep track of, and you're constantly trying to reinvent the wheel to bring excitement because nobody wants to go in and see the same exact options every single time. There's always got to be something new and exciting out there. And so to be an analyst to say, "How is this performing, and how are you doing with this particular flavor?" and so on and so forth. I mean, I was really diving deep into some heavy data there. And along those lines, it kind of was like you almost you have to be data driven if you want to be in that role. You couldn't kind of half-ass it so to speak. 

BRIAN 10:49 

Right. Yeah, it's interesting, you were talking before about I think we all grow up not wanting to be in business, right [laughter]? Like we're all trying to have the cool, exciting, fun, sexy job where you don't have to be in business, but it turns out that a lot roads lead there, right? And you're better off in the long run maybe not being a hardcore business person, but having at least some background in that. I definitely see that paralleled kind of in the community industry as well where everybody's trying really hard to not be business people, but the reality is that if we want to be successful with this and we want to have really long careers doing it, you have to have at least some basis for understanding what's important to a business, how you cater to it, what are the goals going to be, and how do you navigate all of that in the end to make sure that the business can be successful, right? 

ANDREW 11:41 

Absolutely. And being in a band at an early age, you get some hard knocks on the business side. So you're trying to promote a concert, you're trying to make money so you can record an album and all that. You learn pretty quick that you have to be pretty business savvy, otherwise you're just going to keep losing money. And you don't want to do that because then it becomes-- it's not really a thing you're trying to do, it becomes a hobby, and you want to try to avoid that as much as possible. 

BRIAN 12:12 

Yeah. What about the storytelling aspect? I mean, one of the things we hear from almost everybody that we talk to that's in the analytics game, they talk about the importance of storytelling and how that's almost as important, if not more important than the data. Do you feel like you're, you know, certainly making music is essentially making stories. Does that have any correlation at all? Any of those skills transferable? 

ANDREW 12:36 

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. So I mean, when I was young and first learning music, there was some things where I would hear a song and I would just go, "Oh, that sounds really cool." But then you hear the actual lyrics and the music and how it all meshes together as you study it and you go, "Wow, this is really fascinating." Like what makes a sad song a sad song is not just the fact that someone says, "I'm sad," it's how they say they're sad. I've actually grown a bigger appreciation for country music for that fact that when I was younger, oh, man, you couldn't get me to listen to country music. Anything that had a twang to it, I was like, "Turn this off immediately." But now when I start hearing some of the lyrics, especially some older country, I'm like "Wow, there's actually a really fascinating, heart-wrenching story going on here." 

ANDREW 13:26 

A lot of the things that I do today, you got to take people through almost that same kind of feeling. Like you can't just say, "Results were good." You have to kind of hype it up and explain what's going on with the data and going from Point A to Point B. Otherwise, you could have some absolutely fantastic findings, but if you can't have a data story behind it, it's going to fall a little bit flat and you're not going to get the audience reaction that you wanted. And you might have something that actually saves the company a whole bunch of money, but it might just fall on deaf ears if you don't pitch it the right way. 

BRIAN 14:05 

Right. So tell me a little bit about this space management. You've piqued my interest here in terms of figuring out where products go in a store, on what shelf, in what area. Like from an analytics perspective, what does that look like? 

ANDREW 14:20 

Yeah, so basically we would-- it's a little bit of a visual-- well, actually the title of the job is Visual Merchandising Specialist, is what my role was officially. But it was under the space management banner. And you are basically looking at a screen that has all these images of products that you can move around on the screen on a shelf, but underneath are these spreadsheets where the data that tells you not only what the product is and what the size and height, width, and depth of it is because you got to worry about, you might have a hot-selling item, but it may not just fit on your shelf, just because of size constraints. But then you get all the performance metrics of, how much does it move? How often is it promoted? I mean, I'm trying to think of all the different columns of data that are there. 

ANDREW 15:16 

A lot of what we looked at was obviously the main performers. Like, "Hey, this is a really hot-selling item. There's no reason why we shouldn't be carrying this in a particular store." But there's other ones where you had to actually make assortment decisions where you go, "Man, this is a really unique and really cool fascinating item, but there's just no way it's going to fit in the set. We have to make some tough decisions." And you have to use the movement data, the promotional data to kind of drive that decision. And we did have analysts helping us from the visual merchandising standpoint, so it wasn't like I was the judge, jury, and executioner, it was obviously a team partnership, but at the end of the day, the space management team was the one in charge of what actually went to a store. 

ANDREW 16:04 

And one other big thing that we would look at is what are some items that are right next to this product? Which is again, it's kind of like consumer behavior, you know, "Do I put something like--?", hot sauce and ramen is one thing that comes to my mind. It's one of those things where we have a hot sauce special section, and we also have a ramen special section. But in the right store at the right place, the right price, it's going to move like crazy. And so there's all this data that supports that decision and it's crazy how it works out. Because some things you might go, "Oh, that's an obvious slam dunk," but the data doesn't actually support it. And other ones where you're like, "Wow, that's a pretty interesting correlation. I never would have put two and two together." I don't know how much hot sauce you put on your ramen [laughter], but apparently in St. Louis it's a [crosstalk]-- 

BRIAN 16:53 

All the hot sauce [laughter]. So have you ever got selfish and just like moved a product that you like to the front of the store so you didn't have to walk back very far [laughter], or am I just? 

ANDREW 17:02 

You know, oddly enough, there's a lot of rules around what goes toward the front and what doesn't. There's a lot of things that I would like to have done that are like, "Man, this would make my shopping trip way easy. Just put it all on the middle shelf and I'll just take my arm out and just scrape it [laughter] into my basket." But no, we had to really consider the customer and how they were going to shop, yeah. 

BRIAN 17:26 

Yeah, so if you want to move the, what are they, the baked Cheetos - I'm really on those right now - if you could go ahead and just move those to the front of the store for me, that'd be great. 

ANDREW 17:34 

We'll call it the Brian Special, yeah. 

BRIAN 17:35 

There you go. 

ANDREW 17:36 

We'll just have it at the checkout just waiting for you. 

BRIAN 17:38 

Premium end cap [laughter]. Sweet. Very cool. Okay. So what about tooling? I know that you use all-- I was looking at all kinds of different things that you're using, you have such a broad expertise across this industry and all the products. Like what's your favorite apps or tools that you're using to get this stuff done? 

ANDREW 18:02 

Well, obviously Alteryx. I mean, it's the multi-tool. It does everything that I need it to. Yeah, I studied R, I studied Python. I learned SQL. All those are great tools, but I don't come from a coder background, so a lot of what I did studying music, and all that, I mean, you would record yourself using Pro Tools and some of that had this drag and drop and the like. I'm really familiar with-- I know how to connect things up, just from the music industry aspect of things. Can I [inaudible] our cables to amplifiers, and the like. So using Alteryx was kind of a easy slam dunk for me of just going, "Okay, I'm going to drag this tool in and I'm going to connect it up this way. And I should expect this output." Let it run, and sure enough I get what I want. The concepts behind it were-- they were a little bit difficult to grasp, until I used a little bit of R and Python because it-- like when you talk about regression analysis and all that, there was things that I wasn't aware of. I mean, I could plug it up and I could let it go, but I wasn't understanding the math underneath. And some of those other tools like RStudio and all that, there's a lot of helpful documents that were really putting me on the right path. But then even after studying that for a while, I realized that the Alteryx community, there was probably that question was floating out there three, four different times and all the information is there for you if you really need it. 

ANDREW 19:35 

But from a tools standpoint, yeah, again, I'm going to go back to, just dive in and just experiment. You're going to find what you need through the community, or through using the helpful pages in Alteryx. 

BRIAN 19:51 

To maybe put it a little succinctly, you can't learn guitar without your fingers bleeding a little bit, right? 

ANDREW 19:57 

Exactly. You got to build up those callouses, baby. You know the guitar player for Incubus, Mike Eisinger, I think is his name? 

BRIAN 20:07 

That's right. 

ANDREW 20:08 

Well, when they were recording Morning View, there's this really cool picture of him playing and he's probably got about 50 pedals in front of him. And growing up I was like, "Oh, man, I want to get that." After buying about three or four of those pedals I'm like, "I'll never be able to afford this," [laughter]. But the concept is the same, you know, how do you hook this up to get the output that you want, right? And that's similar to what Alteryx is. 

BRIAN 20:30 

Yeah. No, that's fascinating stuff. Okay. So I also want to be clear with the listeners, one of the reasons that you and I got hooked up to do this is because I spied some of your blog posts that were out there and I was just sort of blown away with how insightful and great they were, and we'll be sure to link those in the show notes at, but I wanted to ask you a little bit about those. I mean, one of the interesting ones I saw recently was, it was mostly about kind of open-ended questions and like why do you ask them, and why is it important to do that, and how does that guide the work that you do, and the work that other people do. So maybe you could give us a little bit of flavor about that. 

ANDREW 21:18 

Yeah, just a taste. Yeah, thank you, by the way. Fuzzy Logic, the blog that I run, it's been a short journey so far, but it's been really amazing the response to it. So I got coworkers that are like, "Hey, I read your blog post. It's awesome." I'm like, "Wow, I didn't realize that many people were interested in it. That's amazing." I'm glad when somebody just gives me just one shout out, much less a full podcast, hey. 

ANDREW 21:44 

So anyways, the open-ended questions. So this was actually from a different podcast, I forget what the name of it was, but they were talking about how to really tease out questions. And they were talking about, "If you're going to go down this analytical path, you want to try to know what kind of question you're going to ask." So if you ask this concept of a closed question, you're just going to get a short brief answer. So, "Who did this?" "John did it." "How much did it cost?" "$35.00." But if you ask something like an open-ended question, which usually circles around what, or why, or how, you'll get a lot more insight before you get started on your analysis. So not only John did something for $35.00, but, "How would you do things differently if you had more money?" That's the kind of question you can't just answer with one simple phrase. You have to kind of really think through it and give a lot of information. 

ANDREW 22:45 

And that's super helpful for analysts because I can tell you in the grocery retail business we want constant reporting and finding out what's going on. But sometimes it's not something you can just quickly answer. You have to really tease out a question and say, "Well, what did you expect out of this?" Or, "How would you do this differently?" Or, "Why are we running this promotion this way? Is there anything else we could do different to get a bigger impact?" And even asking yourself that question sometimes, if you find yourself on that path, "What else can I do here to really tell something to the end user?" It goes back to a little bit of that data storytelling, "What is the end user expecting here?" And that will really open up your eyes to seeing how much you can pull out of just a simple question, or a simple report, I should say. 

BRIAN 23:35 

Yeah. Now was that a skill that you always had, or did you develop that along the way? Like where did that come in for you? 

ANDREW 23:43 

You know, I'd like to think that I kind of had it ingrained without thinking about it. It was just one of these things where when I heard it I go, "Yeah, that makes total sense." I can't believe I was doing that, but I was doing that. I do think it's something you can develop, though. I mean, it's almost like a checklist like an airplane takeoff list. I've got this, I've got this, I've got this. So I'm going to ask this question. I'm going to ask this question, and I'm going to make sure I ask this question. And if I forget, I'll follow up with another one. It is something, I think anything, just like guitar, just like piano, you can teach yourself new skills all the time, you just got to be actively thinking about it and really focus in on it, make it a priority. And just like the teacher who would slap your hand if you played the wrong note, practice makes perfect. 

BRIAN 24:30 

Yeah. What do you say to people, I think, you know one of the fears people have, especially if they're talking to executives or things like that about data, they might be afraid to ask that open-ended question because it's sort of like, you know the old famous thing about being a lawyer, right? Like you don't ask a question you don't know the answer to in front of the audience. How do you suppose people get over that fear or develop the courage to kind of go in and ask some big questions like that? 

ANDREW 25:00 

Yeah, that's a tougher one. Being in a band, I've played in front of a lot of people and when I first started I was scared out of my mind. I didn't know how people were going to react to whatever music I was playing. And when I was studying in college, they force you to perform. They force you to do recitals every so often. And when you are learning a piece of music, something that's pretty in depth, you're scared out of your mind to play that in front of people. You know you're going to mess up. You know something's going to stumble. You got that thought in your head like, "This isn't going to go well." But what you'll find is that the more you put yourself out there and the more you try it, the easier it becomes. And I'm not saying, "Hey, if you're working at your company right now, go kick down the CEO's door and start asking questions." But what I am saying is the more opportunities you can to get in front of people to practice that skill, the better and more comfortable you'll become at it. You will find yourself being a performer when you didn't know you were a performer. 

ANDREW 26:04 

And with the questions, sometimes they are difficult questions. If the company has invested a bunch of money into a major promotion and you are starting to do this analysis, and you're starting to see that that promotion wasn't turning out the way that it needed to, you've got to ask some pretty difficult questions about what's going on. And sometimes those conversations aren't always the most fun, but you have to have confidence in what you're doing and your analysis, and everything else will follow. But to practice the skill, you just got to keep putting yourself out there and keep trying to make that face time with whether it's your boss, or your boss's boss. And I'm sure that at any company they're going to support you in that because they want to see you to be successful. They don't want you to be hiding in the corner or afraid to ask questions, they want you to boldly go where no one's gone before, right, so. 

BRIAN 26:56 

Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. All right. Anything else you wanted to get out here for our audience? Are there other topics you wanted to hit on? 

ANDREW 27:06 

So I talk about analysis and music as a language and I stick firmly by that. I've seen people in my company who have really excelled and it's because they're really active in what they're doing. It's not something you just haphazardly stumble across. So I'm a huge fan of giving recommendations for what else can you do to learn analysis, or learn music, or whatever you're trying to do. Just like if you were trying to learn a language. You know you go to a foreign country and you're more likely to absorb that really, really quick. Well, visit websites and visit the places online that openly talk about this. So I'm a huge fan of the Alteryx community for the mere fact of it's the main tool I use every day and everything's completely relevant to me. 

ANDREW 27:47 

But I also would recommend places like DataCamp and R-bloggers and even Twitter, just because if you find some of the Alteryx Aces out there, they're always active in on Twitter. And even if I'm not really participating I'm kind of just like scrolling through my timeline there, some of the stuff they put out is not only insightful, but it's also hilarious. So you can also get a nerdy chuckle out of them from every time to time, which is great. 

BRIAN 28:22 

All right. Great. So let's talk about community picks. What have you found interesting, or what do you find interesting out there that other people should be looking at in the community? 

ANDREW 28:30 

All right. So I got three big ones for everybody. The number one thing I can recommend to anybody that's new to the community is just try the challenges. Absolutely love the weekly challenges. I try to find ones-- you have an index out there for everybody, so you could pick some beginner ones, some intermediate, some advanced, but just try your hand at them and that's the best way to learn is to actually have a useful question. How close is this? Or, how much did this cost, or any of the other crazy questions that get asked too. I think there was something about eating pop tarts and beer at one point in time. Either way, [crosstalk]-- 

BRIAN 29:09 

That's my favorite one, for sure [laughter]. 

ANDREW 29:12 

That's an amazing tool that I haven't seen anywhere else, the challenges. The other part is the Tool Mastery Index. So I can't tell you how many times I have gotten-- that page is brought up as soon as I log in. Because I feel pretty comfortable with a lot of tools on Alteryx, but there might be a couple specifics I want to look up. And so I use that index a lot to kind of peruse through and learn more about the tools I'm already using. And they also include sample workflows and whatnot, so it's extremely useful for anybody trying to learn some of this stuff. 

ANDREW 29:47 

And then last but not least is the user group pages. So I am actually a St. Louis user group leader, believe it or not, shout out to STL. But be a part of those community groups, those user groups because just like I was saying before, it's a language and find like people that speak that language, and nothing is better than actually meeting face-to-face the same people you could talk to online, but you can go talk to them in person about how to use Alteryx and ask questions. 

BRIAN 30:16 

Yeah. Thank you so much for being a user group leader. Those are so crazy valuable. And if I might also suggest, maybe you should show the pop tart and beer pairing weekly challenge to your organization and see maybe if we can't get those two items moved to the front of the store together [laughter]. 

ANDREW 30:34 


BRIAN 30:36 

I just had to get my plug in there. So I'm actually going to piggyback off what you were saying about user groups in a slightly different way. I was fortunate enough to be in Denver at one of their most recent user group meetings, and they had Alexandra Mannerings there, and she did this wonderful presentation. We'll make sure we link to this in the show notes, but basically Alexandra had put together this really great use case that she posted on the community and she ended up actually winning one of the Excellence awards at Inspire Anaheim this year. And I don't want to spoil it for you, but basically she works at a hospital organization and she was tasked with finding out how they could reduce the reliance on prescription opioids. And the analysis that she did and the story that she told and the results that she had around this were just completely amazing. And there was you know like 50, 60, 70 people at this user group meeting, and you could just tell like everybody's minds were blown when she was like showing this off and explaining the impact that they have. So I'll put the link to that in the show notes. Definitely a really cool thing to check out 

BRIAN 31:47 

And the other one that I would like to know is what is your favorite user group moment? Like what's the big aha that you had around that? 

ANDREW 31:58 

Are you talking about just going to these user groups and meeting people, or are you talking about some analysis that somebody has shown? Because I mean-- 

BRIAN 32:06 

All of the above, man. What's-- hit me with the deets. 

ANDREW 32:10 

All of the above. And I'm actually active in a couple different user groups, and I can say that the Alteryx one is really interesting in that you get a lot of different backgrounds. So if you go to our user group meetup, or a Tableau user group meetup, you'll get a variety there, but a lot of these people have a really heavy background in statistics, or, you know I can't tell you how many times I've gone to one where somebody's like, "Yeah, I've got my PhD in mathematics." I'm like, "Oh, okay. Well, I've got a BS in business administration, that's awesome." You know I'm nowhere near that level. 

BRIAN 32:45 

I have a BS in BS. 

ANDREW 32:47 

Yeah, I have a BS in BS [laughter]. But yeah, like the Alteryx user group, you're going to find people that are just kind of interested, but they might not have that technical background, or they might not have a mathematical background, but you can still pull insights from each other. So you can go, "Hey, what are you working on?" And somebody might mention something about healthcare, or somebody might mention about transportation insights, or you run across someone like me and learn about grocery retail. You know, there's all kinds of stuff going on there. But I think that the actual community aspect of meeting those people are the best-- those are connections and networking opportunities, you're going to be hard to find anywhere else. 

ANDREW 33:30 

And as for an analysis, I mean, I've seen some of the cool things that people have done with Alteryx and Tableau, and it's just blown me away. I'm still fascinated today. I mean, every time I see something come up where somebody did some kind of spatial analytics and they visualized it in a really cool way, that drives me to want to learn more and more about spatial each time. 

BRIAN 33:52 

Very cool. Well, thank you so much for your time, and thanks for being on. 

ANDREW 33:55 

Thank you. This is awesome. 

BRIAN 33:57 

All right. Well, and folks for those of you listening again, is where you go to get all the show notes and everything we talked about today. And our thanks to Maddie Johannsen who produced this episode. 



BRIAN 34:14 

Okay, Andrew. So I have a serious question to ask you. 

ANDREW 34:18 


BRIAN 34:20 

So you were a musician. You are a musician. You play guitar and piano and it sounds like a few other things as well. Let's hone in on the guitar part there. So what's your favorite guitar that you owned, or have owned? 

ANDREW 34:35 

I have a G&L ASAT Special. It's made by-- basically once Leo Fender left Fender, he came up with this G&L brand and it's a mix between a Telecaster and a Stratocaster. So basically if you've ever played a Fender, you've played something like this. It's a jazz style guitar with the F whole semi-hollow. Oh, it's gorgeous; it's gorgeous. But that is by far that's been my workhorse. So every time I play anything on electric, I'll play that. I do have-- I had to study classical in college, so I have a Pavan, which is just-- I don't know how well-known that guitar line is, but it's a really nice classical guitar. In fact, my wife, she does photography and she's like, "That is the guitar I'm going to take a picture of and hang on the [laughter] wall, so everybody could see it because it's just so pretty." 

BRIAN 35:33 

Yeah, they're great art. They can be great art. 

ANDREW 35:35 


BRIAN 35:36 

Yeah, so back in the day -  here's something people don't know - back in the day, I was a minor YouTube celebrity, and by minor, I mean not even on the map minor [laughter]. But I got into guitar and my thing was I made a lot of videos about gear. You were talking about gear earlier. Being sort of a techie kind of a guy, I of course, went out and spent every dollar that I made for a number of years on amps, and effect pedals, and guitars, and-- 

ANDREW 36:08 

As you should. As you should. 

BRIAN 36:08 

Yeah, like we should have just like routed my paycheck straight to the guitar store [laughter]. And so I started making these videos, and I don't really know why, you know? I think because of who I am I had this need to share. And I started making these videos and at some point I had amassed like three or four million views across all of these videos that I was making. They're no longer up there, I kind of took a lot them down because it's just sort of a, you know, it's a past part of my life, but it was a great experience. And I hope that those were valuable to some people and maybe got some people into music. But I totally learned to play guitar over YouTube. I never had a single lesson or [laughter] professional tell me what to do. Kind of to your point earlier in the show you we're talking about that, about just jumping right in and that was it, man. YouTube learning is pretty crazy. 

ANDREW 37:05 

Yeah. That's a very real thing. You know, it's funny, I think about all the lessons I paid for and then I see all the stuff that exists now and I'm like, "Oh, man. I probably could have just like split that in half and learned it online." But people learn different ways and that's what's really fascinating to me is, I'm a pretty visual learner, so if I see it on screen, I see it on YouTube or something, I could probably pick it up pretty quick. But I knew people that they didn't even have to see you play it, they could just hear it and they would know. And again, those are the-- that's in line with the same people as like the five-year-old kids that learn to play Eruption [laughter] and you're like, "Oh, you make me sick," you know. But it's just fascinating how as human beings we can have all these different levels of learning. And some people are very visual, and some people have to have things like broken down in every which way before they can absorb it, and others are like, "You show it to me once and I got it," so. 

BRIAN 37:59 

So it sounds like you're more of an electric guitar type of man, is what I'm hearing. Do you jam on acoustic? Are you-- 

ANDREW 38:05 

I'm a jack-of-all-trades. So when I'm sitting around the house - just because I don't like to have wires - I'll jam on acoustic or classical. But every now and then I've got a multi-effects pedal and all this little gear floating around that I'll plug into and have a session. Just go crazy. 

BRIAN 38:25 

Yeah. Yeah, so my thing was, after I amassed all that gear and then sort of came and went in and out of that a couple of times and simplified my setup. My thing was I got really into the  loop stations and doing like the one-man jam band thing with my-- I have a Taylor 414 CE, I believe it is. That's my-- actually the only guitar that I still have left, I just got rid of everything and I just jam on that. But I love that style of music of just like one person sitting there cranking out sounds, and for anybody who's still listening to this [laughter], definitely go to YouTube and just search for loop station videos. And I think what's really cool is I saw a couple months ago - oh, what's his name? - the really, the popular guy [laughter]-- 

ANDREW 39:14 

Oh, yes, him. 

BRIAN 39:16 

Yeah, him, the popular guy. What's his name? His latest album has an X on it, or divide, multiply-- 

ANDREW 39:24 

Oh, Ed Sheeran? 

BRIAN 39:24 

Ed Sheeran. I noticed he was-- I don't know how I didn't come up with Ed Sheeran without you telling me. That's sad [laughter]. But anyway, Ed Sheeran has a bunch of songs where he does that, and I think it's cool because that's kind of bringing that into the mainstream. Like I think he did it at some awards shows and people - I saw on like Twitter the next day - were like, "Oh, my God. That's incredible. Did Ed invent this?"  And it's like, "No, that's been going on a while." But it is cool that that's sort of becoming a style that's, you know, a lot of people like and it kind of takes the pressure off to go find a band. Not that that's a bad thing, but for people who kind of want to sit at home and rock out in their living room, loop stations are a beautiful thing. 

ANDREW 40:03 

Oh, yeah. I mean, I would actually-- as I was teaching, I would tell my students if you can afford it, get one. Because it's a great practice tool as well. If you're trying to learn to play like a Johnny Cash song, and make sure that you're on time and on beat and can play the little solos and all that, you could just loop it one time and then practice playing the solo over it. It's great at training yourself on. And actually, I think my jazz guitar teacher is the one that turned me on to those at first. I had heard about them, but I'd never really messed with them that much. But man, they're-- yeah, absolutely, a lot of fun. Because you can just come up with whatever and it can get prettier and prettier the more you keep adding on the loop. I think there's actually a guy in St. Louis who was at one point the loop station like grand master. It was like a world-- 

BRIAN 40:53 

Yeah, I know they have championships and stuff like that. 

ANDREW 40:55 

Yeah. He went down to like Australia to play in the finals, or something like that. Where he had a drum kit hooked up, and he would loop it all, and then he would play the-- it's crazy to me. 

BRIAN 41:07 

Yeah. Yeah. 

ANDREW 41:08 

I'm not quite that talented. I like to throw chords and solos and stuff together, but I don't think I could do like all at once seamlessly, [laughter] like I've seen other people do. 

BRIAN 41:18 

Yeah, it's pretty hard core. 

ANDREW 41:20 




This episode of Alter Everything was produced by Maddie Johannsen (@MaddieJ).