I moved from Chicago to Providence in 2018; simultaneously, I quit my full-time data science career to launch my independent consulting practice. Starting out in Rhode Island was tough. The local network was difficult to break into as a transplant, and trips to Boston were almost inescapable for learning modern technologies and getting inspiration from smart peers.
Some serendipity came on the evening of January 9, 2019: I dropped into the Providence Public Library to get some work done in the reading room between obligations in the city. It turned out to be the inaugural night of the RI Tableau User Group. I was a little gobsmacked. I’d frequently worked in the vicinity of business intelligence tools like Tableau, but I never got the chance to build a Tableau dashboard myself. I hadn’t expected to see something so topical in a small city. I didn’t attend RITUG that day, but I excitedly recorded the date for the next quarter’s meeting.
The rest has exceeded my expectations significantly. As I engaged more deeply with the organizers Don Gregory and Bill Rebello, I learned that RITUG is just a piece of an interconnected ecosystem they’ve developed around Tableau. Don teaches a high-quality Tableau course through PPL, and they both organize the Data For Good program to offer a straightforward way to apply these skills and help local nonprofits. Through these programs, I not only filled a blank spot in my technical toolkit but met a bunch of like-minded colleagues in a stimulating environment. I always come away energized; I’m not sure how Don and Bill keep up their exuberance.
Overall, I’ve been impressed by PPL’s savvy and professionalism. PPL’s smoothly run events and courses respect my scarce discretionary time. It was a smart community-building move for Don, Bill, and PPL to go deep on Tableau rather than attempt to cover a broad range of topics. Even as quiet places to read and think, public libraries are critical for knowledge workers unmoored from schools or traditional jobs. I’ve found PPL to serve that need and, through its Tableau ecosystem, to do much more as well.