Tableau User Group Ireland – An Interview with Nanette Solan CarTrawler
Tableau User Group Ireland – An Interview with Nanette Solan CarTrawler

Ahead of next week’s Tableau User Group Ireland, The Information Lab Ireland were delighted to sit down with guest speaker Nanette Solan, Head of Insights at CarTrawler, and chat to her about her path to Data Analytics and the power of Tableau.

Like all Dutch people, Nanette Solan’s command of the English language puts most native speakers to shame.

“They teach it from the age of eight,” she says, “and everything we watch in English on TV has subtitles. We don’t use dubbing.”

This simple twist of television policy fate meant that when Nanette chose to travel to Ireland on her Erasmus year from university she was well-prepared for the unfamiliar local accents she would come across in Galway.

Erasmus in Ireland

“I spent six months at National University of Ireland, Galway in 2004 and loved it,” says Nanette. “I had a great time. I went back to Leiden University and in my final year I did an internship at a university in Italy. While I was there I decided to do a PhD and thought it would be nice to go back to Ireland.”

This time Nanette came to Dublin where she spent four years in the Sociology Department at University College Dublin working on her PhD around Social Integration of Migrants.

“I really liked the work and the research,” she says. “But the problem with academia is that you do your research and you write it up and then you do the same. There is only a small chance your research is going to change the world. I had no intention of getting out of academia but then suddenly my contract came to an end and I still had to pay my rent.”

Nanette took up a maternity cover position at RTE under the assumption that it would be temporary and she would return to academia. Her role at the national broadcaster involved looking into audience behaviour and finding insights for programme schedulers and producers. 

“About two weeks into it, I discovered that really this was so much more fun,” she recalls. “The culture was much better, there was so much more interaction and collaboration and the best thing was that you did your piece of research, you wrote it up and someone told you it was a great idea and took action on it.”

It was the very definition of actionable insights. Nanette was hooked. 

“It was so much more exciting to work on a piece of research and then see it implemented. It was tangible. People were using the work I was doing and that is very motivating.”

After almost two years in RTE, Nanette moved to Paddy Power and then to Kerry Taste & Nutrition before taking up a role at CarTrawler where she has now been for almost four years. It was here that Nanette first came across Tableau.

Journey with Tableau

“It was the tool of choice when I arrived here,” she says. “I had heard of it but I hadn’t ever used it because none of my previous employers had it in their arsenal.”

Quite quickly, Nanette was convinced that her former employers might have missed a trick or two. 

“When I joined CarTrawler it was a question, first off, of understanding how the user interacts with Tableau,” she says. “then picking a dashboard that was quite complex and deciding to replicate that. My thinking was that if I could understand how to create everything that was on that dashboard, I’d have trained myself up to a decent level. Once I had done that I had a base from where I could start building new dashboards. It was a very quick and short learning curve because it is a very intuitive product.”

For Nanette, Tableau is first and foremost a data visualisation tool that makes the creation and communication of data easy for both the person building the dashboard and the stakeholder that needs to read it.

“Because it is built primarily for visualisation, it does that really well,” she says. “You might want to analyse your data using another tool but the visualisations in Tableau are much clearer and intuitive. If you use something like Excel, which I used to do in other companies, with pivot tables, that was fine for the analysis but the visualisations were kind of dreary and it took too long.”

Now a fully-fledged Tableau convert, Nanette enjoys nothing more than sharing her knowledge and expertise with other Tableau users.

On Wednesday, her presentation will look at the past, and examine how the future of car rental was looking at the start of the COVID19 Pandemic back in 2020, while also casting an eye to the future of car rental and electric vehicles. It promises to be an absolutely fascinating presentation.

On the day, Nanette will be joined by Johns George from Bank of Ireland and his colleague, Jamie Renehan. We look forward to seeing you. Please don’t forget to register:

About The Information Lab

The Information Lab Ireland is at the forefront of creating a data-driven culture in Ireland.

As part of its vision, The Information Lab Ireland regularly hosts free events throughout the country to show how being data-driven can improve decision making and lead to a better understanding of the world around us. For more on these events please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or catch up with us on LinkedIn