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August 13, 2019

Calling All Superheroes

By: Stef Caldwell

There are people who walk into your life and change your trajectory

At Tableau Conference 2017 in Vegas, someone walked into mine who has become a mentor (at arm’s length) to me without even realizing it. Her name is Elissa Fink, and she is the former chief marketing officer of Tableau, a certified badass, best known for her eleven-year tenure building the data visualization empire known as Tableau, which was recently acquired by Salesforce for $15.7 billion.

When she walked onto the stage and into my life, I instantly knew I would never be the same. She was wearing a bright-red leather jacket and asked an audience of more than 14,000 people to take a moment of silence for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting that took place just a week prior. A respectful silence fell over the room as she remembered the event and the victims. She proceeded to command the stage with profound confidence and respect, graciously thanking the audience for coming to Tableau’s biggest conference of the year despite the recent events. She had planned the most epic lineup of speakers and the most fun data battle the world has ever seen, announcing a major technical achievement in Tableau’s history. Yet at the same time, making it fun and accessible to non-technical members of the audience, like me. I still remember chanting “Hyper, Hyper!” at the keynote that morning.

Fink has an innate ability to take something as unsexy and unfun as leveraging mass amounts of data in the form of data visualizations and weave it into a story that makes you literally get out of your seat and cheer at the top of your lungs.

Later that day, I was in the Tableau Conference Expo Hall and saw her headed in my direction. Admittedly, just passing by me, but I couldn’t contain myself. I just had to stop her and gush about how well she executed the keynote in light of the current events and how I was blown away by the quality of speakers she had enlisted and the overall flow of the event.  

“And by the way,” I said, “I’m Stef from Narrative Science.”

Without blinking, it was her turn to gush. She told me how great our products are and how excited she was about the innovation Narrative Science was bringing to the Tableau ecosystem! To say I was stunned is the understatement of the year. This titan of industry knew who we were and knew the impact we are making in the world of data! Holy 🐮!!!

My woman crush only grew when she offered to take a meeting with me and my boss on our next trip out to Seattle. In that meeting, she graciously made space for us in her office and let us share our ideas and ambitions for the Tableau ecosystem.

From chance encounter to personal connection

Since that day in her office, I’ve only fallen more in love with her impact on the data world. When she left Tableau, I was bummed that we wouldn’t see her as much. I took it upon myself to slide into her DMs on Instagram (of all places) to let her know how much I admired her and that I really wanted to continue to learn from her.  

In true Fink fashion, she graciously accepted and offered up an hour of her time to share how she created such an incredible company through the power of community.  

Her response? One person at a time. One step at a time.   

When you work for a company with the kind of ambitions that we have at Narrative Science, it’s easy to lose yourself in the excitement. The feeling of insurmountable pressure to get to “Tableau status” is strong. Shoot, even to get to the “first 100 customers of a new product status,” not to mention 10,000, is a lofty target. Especially when I sit in the customer success department and not somewhere with a shorter-term impact, like marketing or sales.

As I laid this burden on her to solve, she, of course, had just the answer I was looking for:

Well, customer success is the new place where the business lifeline is made. You can’t survive without it, or at least you shouldn’t. That’s a really expensive way to run your business. Customer success is how you feed the flywheel of community, revenue, and innovation.

“How did you do it?” I asked.

“I joined Tableau because I heard from someone about the product and how it had literally ‘changed their life,’ and when I interviewed, I was blown away by the culture from day one. We were a people-centric brand. We always believed we don’t sell to enterprises, we sell to people in the enterprise,” she said. “By the time people started buying Tableau, all we cared about was the one person who could buy it and have a huge impact on their company. All we wanted to do was turn that person into a hero and have the Tableau software be their suit. And that’s exactly what Tableau did.  

Tableau uplifted those individuals in their own companies, showcasing them as heroes. And as the ecosystem grew, the company brought together these superheroes in a community—a league of superheroes—that was helping drive the Tableau mission forward, making the data world a better place to live! Some people bank their entire careers on data and analytics, with their tool of choice being Tableau. It goes on their resumes, and they are renowned as heroes inside and outside of their companies. Our own #datapoet, Brent, is our resident Tableau dashboard builder. 

“I see,” I said. As her words sunk in, I really did see. I started seeing clearly for the first time in my career at Narrative Science what we had to do.

From personal connection to life-changing impact

What led me to Narrative Science is the same thing that keeps me at Narrative Science. It’s the opportunity that Fink talked about. The opportunity to turn people into superheroes with our software. This opportunity, to be the first superhero of your kind, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The first superheroes of Tableau have become titans of industry and have played a lead role in Tableau’s objectively speaking, inordinate success.  

Narrative Science has launched Lexio, the first data storytelling product the world has ever seen. We are looking for people to turn into superheroes. We’re looking for people who want to change the world alongside us. We’re looking for people who have an ambitious view of the future and want to play a lead role in writing it. We’re looking for people like you.

If you are ready to suit up, give us a call! 

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