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ACE Emeritus
ACE Emeritus


This blog was co-authored by @NicoleJohnson and @SeanAdams.


Over the course of the past year or so, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to share the story my “self-taught journey” with Alteryx. But the truth is that there has not been a single moment along this path where I have felt like I was tackling anything entirely on my own!

Within days of posting my first few Weekly Challenge solutions in March of 2017, I received a message from super-solver Sean Adams, giving me encouragement and cheering me on towards my first Weekly Challenge badges. Over the course of the next few weeks, as I was trying to tear through all the Weekly Challenges, I received more friendly notes from my new mentor with kudos and tips to keep me going. He sent me RegEx tips when I was parsing myself in circles, inspiring anecdotes about how he was growing a culture of analytics on his own team, and an irresistible “race you to the top” dare to keep momentum going when we were both on the cusp of reaching 75 solutions. I was even able to turn around and give him a few tips on a function that I had discovered, and he was gracious and appreciative for the knowledge shared in return. [Note to Sean: I actually did go back on the Community to find some of our earlier message exchanges 😊 You really were my first true Community champion!]


The thing that stood out most about those little moments for me (a brand-new user branching out into extremely unfamiliar territory) was that they were not so little! A few minutes of mentorship from Sean did more for me from a learning perspective than hours of traditional training courses ever could have. Most Alteryx users would likely comment on the intuitive nature of the platform and the value of the extensive resources available on the Alteryx Community, and I would completely agree. However, that human element, the call to action, the motivation to keep exploring, and the proliferation of that contagious passion from one of Alteryx’s biggest fanatics, is something that I feel truly fortunate to have experienced from the very beginning of my Alteryx journey. I can say that it has by far been the most important (not so) secret ingredient in my growth since then!


Sean and I wanted to share our personal stories about mentoring, growth, and finding friends on the Community as a way to help encourage those who are looking to grow their own network and skills in Alteryx. As such a critical part of our own journeys, the support from this Community of Alteryx users has made all the difference in our career paths, and touched our personal lives in the fostering of fun and friendships between those on both sides of the mentor-mentee relationship! We hope our stories resonate with you, and would love to hear about your own mentoring experiences as well… Cheers!





Similar to Nicole’s experience, I’ve also been very fortunate in working with several inspirational folk who have taken the time to invest in me. My start with Alteryx was also accelerated by coaching and advice from the Alteryx Community team, and from some of the seasoned members of the community (@jdunkerley79 and @MarqueeCrew to name a few). [Note from Nicole to Sean: 100% agree – these two have been instrumental in so many of our journeys. If you haven’t received encouraging feedback or life-altering inspiration from @jdunkerley79  and @MarqueeCrew, have you really even used Alteryx at all??]


In my mind, a mentoring approach/culture is an acknowledgement of our own imperfection since we are all learning and growing and are each at a different point in our own learning paths (very eloquently described by @patrick_digan on an episode of the AlterEverything podcast with @BrianO). By being willing to offer help and mentoring, it also allows us to be open to the opportunity to seek help when we ourselves need.  

This culture and spirit is also a realization that mentoring is a force-multiplier that acts in your own long-term best interest like teaching/servant leadership. By helping to build the next generation of passionate advocates, we create a broader reach and are able to tackle much more substantial and meaningful challenges than if we did this alone. We see this in the impact that Alteryx For Good is able to have (which is a great opportunity for more seasoned folk to offer help in the moment), and I see this every day in my work where 15 or 30 mins of invested time can often lead to a dramatic increase in motivation or productivity for days or weeks to come (so it has a meaningful return).

What makes the Alteryx community special is this willingness of many people to reach out and offer help. We see this every day in the discussion areas and in the way that people will offer ideas or build on suggestions. The first thing I noticed when I first joined the Alteryx community was that it felt like a small but friendly town--I could see the generosity of spirit in play and that the members made it safe to ask for help.



“You cannot embrace your destiny if you continue to only be defined by your history.”



@NicoleJohnson and her Grand Prix bling@NicoleJohnson and her Grand Prix blingNicole:

The most helpful aspect of my mentorship journey with Sean is that his encouragement has been steady throughout my journey and has evolved as we have both grown over time. When I was first starting out, Sean immediately recognized that what I needed most was a cheerleader and a few tips & tricks to keep me going. But my role has changed over time, from User Group Leader to Community Contributor, to Grand Prix Champion, to Alteryx ACE. These days, I have conversations with many of the ACEs that are now much more centered around how to foster a culture of analytics in our own organizations and how to share our ideas and solutions effectively throughout the greater Alteryx Community.


In January, the Alteryx ACEs had an opportunity to assemble at Alteryx’s first global kickoff event, and I was reminded once more how lucky I am. Since I do not come from a traditional data analyst or developer background, I often find myself apologizing for my past and making comments about how “I am not a technical person.” After hearing me say variations of this several times over the first few days, Sean finally pulled me aside and told me point blank in his own uniquely endearing and jovial way to knock it off, because it wasn’t true. In essence, he said, “You cannot embrace your destiny if you continue to only be defined by your history.” I was initially surprised at how easily he was able spot this area of self-doubt, but I immediately understood that there was nothing to be gained by continuing to sell myself short. It was exactly what I needed to hear. [Note for Nicole from Sean: Thank you! I’m not sure that I was as articulate as this, but really do appreciate you mentioning this conversation as it does take a real willingness to be vulnerable to bring this into a public conversation. It probably came out as “You have to let go of who you used to be and acknowledge who you are now, because that story of your past is no longer true and it’s a self-limiting story that ties you to a person that you have moved well beyond.”]


And I believe those are the most important ingredients to a great mentor-mentee relationship: keep talking to each other, and perhaps even more importantly, keep listening. Roles will change, challenges will come and go, and interests will evolve, but a great mentoring partnership will always have something to gain from either side.



@NicoleJohnson and @SeanAdams on stage with @DeniseF and @Treyson at Alteryx's Global Kickoff@NicoleJohnson and @SeanAdams on stage with @DeniseF and @Treyson at Alteryx's Global Kickoff




So, what should you expect from a mentor? In summary, you can work with a mentor or a coach to help give you a different perspective, offer you what they have learned in their journey, provide specific ideas or brainstorm solutions to problems you may be facing. The key though is that the value comes from the mentee’s actions. Change only comes when the mentee acts on the new thoughts or ideas and makes the necessary adjustments. The mentor is not a lecturer or a paid instructor with responsibility to achieve an outcome. The outcome should always belong to the mentee. I believe that we can all benefit from having in our mind a list of folks who have deep skill in different particular areas so that we can call on the right person for assistance when the need arises. Likewise, we should also be willing to be on this list for others.







@NicoleJohnson@NicoleJohnsonNicole's Call to Action:

For those who are looking for mentorship, be willing to put yourself out there and become vulnerable. Whether that’s asking for help on the community, bringing your questions to a User Group meeting, or reaching out directly to your local ACE, it’s important to be open to sharing both your superpowers and your weaknesses. Offering to help is a great way to get started. Then, once you’ve put yourself out there, pay attention to the people around you who are genuinely interested in helping others succeed, and who have new and interesting things to say even if they don’t exactly answer the question you are asking. The best mentors are often those who have less in common from a day-to-day task perspective, but who have everything in common from an inspiration perspective. [Note to Sean: And it’s always helpful if they also share your deep love and appreciation of celebrating bizarre international holidays too. 😊]


Once you’ve started having these conversations with someone, make sure you keep it an ongoing conversation, not a one-way street. The goal should be that both of you gain something from your interaction! When you mentee discover something interesting to share as a mentee, or you have a success that you think will inspire your mentor, communicate back in the other direction! You’ll likely find, as I did, that the person who started out as your mentor has really become a dear friend, excited to share in each other’s triumphs and eager to help tackle that next big mountain.


How have your experiences as a mentor or mentee shaped your own journeys? Do you have a mentorship formula that has worked well? Are you interested in becoming a mentor to others in the Alteryx Community? Let’s start some of those conversations here!



Nicole Johnson
Sr. Consultant, Business Solutions

2018 Alteryx Grand Prix Champion | 2018 Alteryx ACE Cohort | Weekly Challenge Addict | Seattle-Eastside Alteryx User Group Leader | Self-proclaimed Data Therapist... As part of the Business Automation and Modernization team in the Accounting Department at T-Mobile, Nicole Johnson uses the power of Alteryx to automate and improve manual, time-consuming Excel processes so that accountants have more time for value-added activities like in-depth analysis and growing their modern accounting skillset. These process improvements and Alteryx workflows are all done in a SOX-compliant environment, often with extremely large data sources, and in several cases have resulted in 20+ hours saved on a single process! Nicole and her team also frequently act as liaison between the accountants, BI teams, and IT professionals to translate business requirements into automated, accurate reports and workflows, and then provide extensive one-on-one and team training on Alteryx and other business tools. Follow her on Twitter @The_Real_NJ

Sean Adams
Alteryx ACE

Sean is an active BI developer & evangelist; ex software-developer; and an Alteryx ACE. He leads a global team focused on building analytical insights; and enabling the culture of data-driven operations. Key belief: "BI's core challenge is to minimize the time-delay between important business questions; and an actionable answer"