Meet the DataFam o8: Lawrence Durbin

Fellow Tableau Social Ambassador, #DataPride Tableau User Group co-lead, #DataFamCon co-lead, and DEI evangelist

Nicole Lillian Mark


You can find all of the previous (and future!) installments of Meet the DataFam and — if this is your first one — learn a little more about how it works here.

⏪The Background

I’m so grateful for Lawrence’s presence in the DataFam. He embodies my favorite quality in another human — authenticity. Authenticity helps foster a community that values our shared experiences, provides mutual support, and encourages candid conversations. He’s as open about his ADHD as I am, which helps normalize everyone’s sharing openly about their mental health and well-being, and also supports celebrating neurodiversity.

Lawrence is one of the DataFam’s greatest cheerleaders — he provides genuine support and kind words of encouragement to the community on the regular. He also started the #DataPride Tableau User Group, which is focused on supporting and centering the growth, learning, and achievements of the LGBTQ+ DataFam.

The Viz

I love the clean design and clear analysis in Lawrence’s Real World Fake Data submission Everest Group HR Attrition Analytics Dashboard. He uses IBM’s Carbon Design System as a starting point, which is kind of genius, tbh.

Everest Group HR Attrition Dashboard. View on Tableau Public.

❓The Questions

Where are you from originally?

Originally from Michigan and was born at University of Michigan Hospital Ann Arbor (Go Blue!)

Where do you live now?

Colorado just 15 minutes east of Boulder and 40 minutes north of Denver.

Where would you live if you could live anywhere (assuming money, family, work location, etc. are not a concern)?

If my fantasies could be reality, a Federation Starship — Akira class if I was the captain. 🖖🏼
In what could actually happen, I would live in San Diego, which I fell in love with after a week-long trip out there in 2021. Great weather, water, and atmosphere there!

Do you have any pets? What kind(s)? What is/are their name(s)?

I don’t have any pets of my own, but am saving up to get a dog in the future. Hoping to eventually get a Papillon because they are so cute! Until then, I get all the love of dog from my mother’s sheltie Hera who I’ve known since the day she was brought home.

Hera about 6 years ago when she was 1!

Did you start your career in a data-related role or in another field? If another field, which one?

I didn’t start my career in data. My first jobs were in retail when I was in high school and for a few years after. Then I got a job doing level 1 technical support and within a few months I was learning Excel and doing reporting on call and issue volumes. Over several years, I moved up and learned a lot more, eventually moving into a Data Analyst role that has been my career and focus for 4 years now!

If you had to choose a different career path, what would it be? Why?

I would love to be a pilot, astronaut, or astronomer. Ever since I was young I have loved the idea of exploring space, breaking barriers, and learning what is out there. I grew up on Star Trek, Farscape, Star Wars, Stargate, and Sci-Fi in general which really grounded that for me.

What is your favorite Quick Table Calculation and why?

Honestly I’m afraid of most table calcs, so I use them only when absolutely necessary. That said though, INDEX() has been a savior in my life and is honestly the best calculation out there! (Learn more about table calculations in Tableau.)

What do you find the most challenging about Tableau?

For me personally it is anything design-focused. While I’ve been learning Figma and taking so much inspiration from the #DataFam around dashboard design and visualization, I’ve just never had the spark for overall design. A lot of times I like to work with Graphic Designers or UX/UI Designers to create prototypes and style guides.

What do you like most about Tableau?

I love that I can just open Tableau, connect any data, and start visualizing adn exploring it. When I first started learning Tableau it was just so easy to connect to an Excel worksheet and start seeing what the data is telling me. While I still have to use Excel to look at some aspects of data, Tableau is just so powerful for getting into weeds which is what I enjoy.

If you couldn’t use Tableau, how would you do data visualization? (e.g., coding language, other BI tool, draw it on paper or digitally, wouldn’t do it at all, etc.)

This is tough. I personally need to start learning other tools, like PowerBI, as they are gaining more traction in the market. I might just revert back to what I used to do when I was working in IT helpdesk. I created full dashboards in Excel with full automation via VBA macros. (Though they would be a lot prettier now after all my experience with Tableau!)

What is your favorite chart type? Why?

Network graphs are my favorite, hands-down. They show the interconnectivity of data in such a beautiful way that whenever I see them, all I can think of is how all of us as people are connected. My first time seeing a network graph was in my first data role which was focused on connecting people with training and new roles to help upskill or reskill. That is when I fell in love. They used to be so difficult to bring into Tableau, but I am so excited to try out Tristan Guillevin’s network graph generator for Tableau.

Which community challenges do you regularly participate in? Why would you recommend them to new members of the Datafam?

I could talk forever on the community challenges and projects that are out there. Each one has something for someone to learn or data to explore that matches their interests. Not to mention all of the leaders and participants are more than willing to help and provide feedback.

I would be remiss if I didn’t shamelessly plug the #DataFamCon project, which I co-lead. #DataFamCon just makes my nerdy heart happy! We don’t specify chart types or require any particular technical skills, which allows all those nerds and geeks out there to just viz to their heart’s content how they want to.

I have worked to participate regularly in #B2VB (Back 2 Viz Basics), #WorkoutWednesday, & #RWFD (Real World Fake Data).

#B2VB, run by Elisa Davis and Eric Balash, build their challenges for individuals just starting in Tableau. They also so an amazing job on working with other projects and highlighting issues that are important to the #DataFam. Just this year I had the privilege of working with them on two challenge collabs, #DataPride in June highlighting the LGBTQ+ Community & #DataPride TUG and #StarTrek month for #DataFamCon focused on tree maps, which was beautiful.

#WOW is fantastic for learning new things, like Dynamic Zone Visibility, as they are released. My first Tableau Public viz ever was a #WOW2021 Project around Thanksgiving football games. Go, Lions!

Last, but not least, #RWFD — led by Mark Bradbourne and Jacqui Moore — is great for focusing on business work in Tableau, from call center to HR data.

Shameless plug: the Tableau Healthcare User Group is excited to have Elisa Davis speaking at our next meeting on March 29th at 11:30 a.m. EST. Follow us on Twitter for RSVP information, coming soon.

What hill would you die on?

The best solutions, data or non-data, are built by diverse teams and groups that have the safety to be vulnerable. This diversity should not be based solely on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or ability but also on experience, education, and upbringing.

The Wisdom of Crowds, a book by James Surowiecki, journalist and lecturer at Yale, supports and explains this idea very well. Another influential thinker in this area is University of Michigan professor Scott E. Page, author of The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies and The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy. His Coursera course, Model Thinking, is a deep dive into the topic of diversity and expands on the diversity prediction theorem.

Nicole’s note: Lawrence’s response to this question sent me on a weekend long deep-dive into theories of diversity and collective wisdom that was very fascinating and educational. Also, if you have an Audible subscription, the audiobook of The Diversity Bonus is included!

Have you received any certifications, honors, or accolades you’d like to share or feel especially proud of?

When I look back on 2022 there are two things I am proudest of.

First is having started the #DataPride Tableau User Group this past year to highlight the LGBTQ+ community in the #DataFam. Second is being named a Tableau Social Ambassador. It’s such an honor to be among amazing individuals like yourself. I still pinch myself that it is real!

What are your astrological signs?

I am a Cancer sun, Libra moon, and Leo rising.

Connect with Lawrence on Twitter and LinkedIn. View his work on Tableau Public, and visit his Medium blog, Data Divergent.

Many thanks to Lawrence for his unwavering patience as my publication schedule got way off track while I was starting a new job and enduring a bout of burnout. He’s been a huge supporter of my work, and I am so grateful.

Want to be my next victim, er, GUEST? Send me a DM on Twitter or email me.



Nicole Lillian Mark

data visualization engineer | Tableau Social Ambassador | community builder | dog mom | vegan | yoga practitioner