Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m Trina, and I’m a Senior Product Manager at Tableau. I’m working on a new data analysis app called Vizable that we launched last month. Before this, I founded a startup called Infoactive, which Trina Chiasson Smilingwas a web app for making interactive infographics and data visualizations — and Tableau’s first acquisition. I also co-organized and launched an open source e-book called “Data + Design” which is still in active development and has more than 80 contributors around the globe.

What inspired you to start a business?

Starting a business was a natural product of my personality. I’d say it was more of an obvious evolution than a deliberate choice. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “I want to be an entrepreneur now.” I’ve always been a creative person and I have a habit of starting elaborate projects. Infoactive was one of my projects that grew into a bigger thing.

I almost want to flip the question on its head and ask, “What would make you avoid starting a business?” It would take a lot of willpower for me to stop creating new stuff. It’s just what I do. It’s my default mode. And I love it.

What was the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?

You know, a lot of people romanticize being their own boss and imagine that they’ll have a lot more time and flexibility. I’m sure that’s possible for some folks. However, most of us are our own worst critics, so you’ll hear a lot of self-employed people say that their boss is a total jerk.

I’d say a challenge in being the boss is that you own a lot of responsibility for business performance. When things are going well, you feel really proud of your product and your team. When things aren’t going well, it’s easy to blame yourself and work harder to compensate. It’s a roller-coaster experience and it can be intense at times. I personally like roller coasters, but some people don’t.

The biggest rewards were the people I met and the things I learned. Launching a startup accelerated my learning and grew my network in a big way. I was fortunate to have an amazing set of mentors, supporters, and customers who taught me so much. I’ve grown a lot because of that experience.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?

This is going to sound very simple and obvious. It’s really important to eat well, exercise, sleep enough hours, get some sunshine, and hang out with people you love on a regular basis. Meditation helps, too.

You need to have a solid mental and physical base so you can withstand failures and bounce back quickly from setbacks. In order to maintain clarity, focus, motivation, and discipline to complete the marathon and achieve your long-term goals, it’s important to build up a strong psychological immune system.

Unfortunately, goal-oriented people never have enough hours in the day and it’s easy to let these things slip. “I’ll exercise and eat a healthy meal tomorrow when I have more time.” Then tomorrow is just as busy and before you know it, you’re becoming weak. Your health is a long-term investment. The benefits are both incremental and cumulative. It’s not just something that you can address occasionally when you have extra time.

Vizable is your current project. What’s that all about?

Vizable is a new iPad app for data analysis. The project started with a question: What do you do when you have a table of data and a tablet? How do you see and understand your data?

We decided to build an entirely new product to explore the answer to that question. We wanted to create a tactile experience where you could physically touch your data and explore it using a variety of gestures. We assembled a multi-disciplinary team with broad experience in storytelling, animation, mobile, and UX design. For example, some of our team members came from places like Pixar and Lucas Films. To design a brand new approach to data analysis and storytelling in a touch-first environment, we brought in fresh perspectives in addition to drawing on Tableau’s 12 years of wisdom.

We launched Vizable as a free product last month at our customer conference in Las Vegas. So far, the response has been very positive. We’re featured as a top productivity app in the app store, and last week we were also featured among a small handful of apps that are great to use with the new iPad Pro.

Why did you decide to join Tableau?

Joining Tableau seemed like a natural fit. There’s a lot of overlap in our interests and goals.

At Infoactive, we spent a lot of time exploring the intersection of data and design. We’re passionate about helping less-technical folks learn to navigate the often confusing world of data visualization.

We always admired Tableau and its mission to help people see and understand data. Joining forces with Tableau lets us work toward a common goal and achieve our vision on a larger scale. We’re not just interested in building a product — we’re really looking to change the world. And the world of data is changing so rapidly these days. It feels like we’re in the beginning stages of a massive social transformation. In a historical context, it’s an exciting time to invent new data analysis tools. It’s so cool to ride this wave and steer it at the same time.