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Being an ACE is hard. I often times think, “what the heck am I doing even being associated with these brilliant people." It’s intimidating, because somehow I was able to get to this point and I should know everything. Therefore, it can be really difficult for me to ask questions of my own ACE community, for they will discover that I am a fake and their title of Alteryx ACE will somehow be cheapened because I am a part of their group.
Now this is of course all false. The ACE community is a group of some of the most loving and caring individuals that I have ever had the opportunity to meet. However, the mind is a powerful enemy and can keep us from realizing our true potential.
Recently I had an opportunity to break down some of these self-perceptions when putting together an agenda for one of the Phoenix Alteryx User Group meetings. I wanted to demonstrate to our community how you can (with a little bit of creativity) build your own tools to solve repetitive problems that arise within your data. Typically we see problems through all of various channels of the Alteryx community. Typically I would look at the community on Alteryx.com or through archived conversations from one of our user group meetings. However, I am a huge fan of social media these days, so I looked there to see if anyone had a good example that we could build a macro for.
The Twitterverse provideth.
Mark Frisch (@MarqueeCrew) reached out with a problem that we have been seeing pop up more and more often within the Alteryx community. Oftentimes, when data is sent in a text file and parsed, you will get columns of true numeric values that come across as strings, because characters physically exist in that data. Have I lost anyone yet? So as soon as I saw Mark talking about this exact issue, I thought, “Oh heck yes! I’m building that macro.”
After about an hour of playing around, I had an Alpha set up to demo with Mark. Mark lives in Michigan, which is humid this time of year, and is a place I would likely never venture, so I settled for a phone call. I am a huge fan of troubleshooting in this manner as I can really dive into someone’s situation to help build the optimal solution. We discussed when and why people would need this macro and the fact that international number formats differed from those we are used to here in the states (See: Radix Point). The best part of the call was getting a chance to really dive into how vastly different we see and think. I took a completely contrasting approach to the problem than he would have, and ultimately, the beta used elements from both of our thought processes. I also now had a clear direction of what we needed to look at, not to mention a new energy around building a tool that could really impact users around the globe.
When researching the Radix points I noticed that many European countries differ in how they store numeric values. This makes everything hard to test, because I am based in sunny Phoenix, Arizona and only ever come across numbers formatted in a specific manner. However, I knew a few ACEs in Europe who would be able to test out our beta to see how it would work. I emailed Daniel Brun (@danielbrun) to see if he’d be willing to test, which he did happily!
Fast-forward to a few days later when we had gone through the Alpha and did some Beta testing, we reached out to the ACE community to talk about this collaborative effort that we were working on, and almost immediately one of our ACEs who works heavily with numeric data, Nicole Johnson (@NicoleJohnson) reached out saying that she had “about 100 use cases” for this exact macro. At this point I was super stoked about the collaborative efforts thus far, and now I was going to work with the 2018 ALTERYX GRAND PRIX CHAMPION!?! You can imagine my elation.
I sent the macros over to Nicole where she played around with it for a while and then sent me back a list of questions. This is where the panic of the first two paragraph started to set in. However, she was very kind in her feedback and had a few opinions on process improvements that we were able to debate over from a failsafe perspective. The best part about this whole process was that she brought up some good points about looking at negative numbers and how they are often formatted in a few different ways. Which, because I don’t often look at accounting data sets, I would have never thought of!
All of this has been said to illustrate a few things:
In the end, my skillset was comparable to theirs. I didn’t feel dumb asking questions and getting help.
ACEs love to help the community, especially when the results can benefit everyone.
We are all better together. At the beginning this tool literally just took traditional Americanized numbers and fixed them. However, in the end we had a superb tool that was an amalgamation of experiences that all helped us tackle a variety of problems for users worldwide.
So the lesson here is: if you have a problem, we love it when you reach out the Alteryx community! We love it when you reach out personally! Please don’t be intimidated or worried about your own level of knowledge because we all started somewhere and we all have different experiences that have trained us for where we are today. Who knows, one day I might be reaching out to you for help.
Treyson is active in his local Alteryx Pheonix User Group. He also writes a blog regarding how he is impacting the organization with the platform as a way of inspiring others to follow suit. His favorite interactions are the one-on-one moments he gets with people he can motivate to be brave and take control of their own careers with a platform like Alteryx. Treyson likes to talk possibilities. Follow him on Twitter @TreysonMarks