I Say Goals, You Say Resolution
As I wait at the cusp of a new year, it’s impossible for me not to reflect back on what an amazing year this has been for me. I’m truly grateful for all the opportunities and adventures. I’m grateful for the new friends, the fresh ideas, the new initiatives, and the skills I’ve learned.
I’ve never been one to make resolutions for a new year or even set goals, which I believe are quite synonymous anyhow. However, this year I think will be different. Goals are useful to hold you accountable and for me it’s a way to continue to push myself to do better, to be better.
But before I get to my goals, let me reflect back on the ride, or perhaps what should have been my goals for 2018 if I had made any.
- Participate in Makeover Monday consistently
- Challenge myself to submit for Iron Viz
- Start a blog
- Find opportunities to present to the Tableau Community
- Speak at TC18
- Fine tune my passion and individuality
While this post may be self-indulgent, I’m using it as a way to first, say THANK YOU for everyone who provided me opportunities to grow and, secondly, as a way to document all that I have achieved this year. For both reasons, I am exceptionally proud.
I’ve mentioned in a number of talks that while I’ve been using Tableau for years, I didn’t expand my Public profile until 2018, in part, due to my discovery of Makeover Monday (#makeovermonday) at the tail end of 2017. In 2018 it was almost an unwritten goal of mine to complete every week’s Makeover Monday viz, and while I didn’t complete all 52 weeks, I held consistent through week 25. Week 26 I was on vacation and due to slow internet, I couldn’t connect to the large London Cycle Hire Usage data set. Boo. I actually only missed 10 weeks all year, which I will still call a HUGE success.
One of my earlier (read: 5th ever) Makeover Monday vizzes, was on turkey vulture migration. It was my first of six chosen as one of the “favorites” for the week by Eva and Andy, who run the project. My turkey viz was pretty simple so I was astonished when it received tons of positive praise on Twitter. What was even more shocking, was when I received an email from Eva and Andy requesting to use one of my vizzes in their amazing Makeover Monday book!! It’s an honor to have a viz in “real” print and even more so in a book that summarizes the initiative that literally pushed me to achieve everything I have this year. PS – The actual viz has images, but for some reason they didn’t make it into the book.
Besides completing 42 Makeover Monday vizzes, two of them were chosen as Tableau Public’s Viz of the Day (#VOTD)!! You can find the full list here. The first was really my attempt to try a comet chart that was directly inspired by Ken Flerlage. I was a little embarrassed and immediately reached out to apologize as it felt like it should have been his viz of the day instead. Luckily, I redeemed myself for my second #VOTD, which visualized influenza seasons. To date, this viz has over 38,000 views, something I never thought I’d achieve.
Iron Viz Participation
I first became aware of Iron Viz during the 2015 Tableau Conference in Las Vegas. I watched the three stellar participants, Shine Pulikathara, Matt Chambers, and Skylar Johnson, battle live on stage. While I hadn’t thought at the time that I would ever even attempt to participate, I decided this year, why not? In fact, I submitted twice – once for the books and literature feeder and again for the health and wellness feeder. I really knew nothing going into these challenges, but I took them as an opportunity to really focus on a viz for a month. I was proud of my Malsow’s Hierarchy of Needs viz for a few reasons.
- I successfully found data to use, plus added in my own quantified self data – this made this viz very personal for me.
- I used a number of new chart types including custom polygons (the triangle), a jump plot (the arcs showing when I nursed my son), a dynamic baby food jar using random X/Y coordinates, and a custom square chart inspired by Neil Richards visualizing my son’s daily outfit colors.
- A message – If you read through the whole thing, it’s message is about how we all need our most basic needs met in order to live at our fullest psychological potential (to feel and give love, to have esteem and respect, and to be creative).
All in all, these were excellent opportunities, and while they do take more time than a typical viz, I still recommend you at least participate once. It’s fun to be engaged with the community during the process. However, if you are unable to, you may still be able to support others by providing critique and review. I had a few members of the community review both of my vizzes, which helped me make some minor adjustments before the final submission.
To Blog or Not to Blog, That is The Question
I suppose I was really operating at full steam in the beginning of the year, because after less than four months, I questioned if I should start a blog. I had seen many other Tableau Community members use blogs to share their insights, teach others, and the like. In April I posted a question on Twitter and received a lot of positive affirmation and guidance. By the end of the day, I had purchased a domain name and had plans to write. For me, it was a great choice and while I never intended to blog terribly often (once or twice a month seemed reasonable), I’ve used my blog to share a few tutorials, explain my design process on some of my vizzes, and provide recaps such as about TC18 and my own community initiative.
A month after starting my blog, I decided to launch a social data initiative focused on healthcare. Project Health Viz started out of my passion for healthcare, which is the industry I work in. However, aside from working in healthcare, healthcare and psychology is my passion. I received a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Connecticut and used to work with children and families.
Early in 2018 as I started participating in Makeover Monday and regularly looking through other Tableau Public profiles, I realized it was hard to find others who worked in healthcare or also enjoyed healthcare data. I quickly decided that I wanted to increase the number of healthcare visualizations – to increase exposure to healthcare data and to create a space for others who work in healthcare to have a collection of vizzes to be inspired by. Additionally, I wanted to challenge myself to find monthly data sets around this topic. You can read about the initiative here in my first post about the project. The short story is there is a new data set each month to visualize and the data can be found here.
I’ve been blessed by the response from the community. People who work in healthcare and those who don’t, have joined in using #ProjectHealthViz as an opportunity to visualize new data sets. I believe that because we all can resonate with health and healthcare, that the data sets often touch all of us in some way. Plus, the data often has very important stories to be told and it’s been delightful seeing what everyone comes up with. I have to thank everyone who has participated thus far. Obviously, I couldn’t have done it without all of the support!
Presenting to the Community
Again, while I never made formal goals at the beginning of the year, as the year progressed I did have “wants.” I really wanted to find places where I could present and become more involved by sharing any knowledge I may have.
My first opportunity came when Simon Beaumont and Nicole Lohr, the co-leaders of the Tableau Healthcare TUG, asked if I would present at the June virtual meeting, which of course I accepted. I presented on Data Literacy and how where I worked used techniques to help clinicians improve their data literacy skills. You can watch the presentation here.
Not long after, I was asked my Michael Sandberg to do an interview, which surprised me because I certainly didn’t think anyone cared what I had to say! Turns out, every voice is important.
In September, I was approached by Jonni Walker and the Tableau Public team to present at the Fanalyics session at the Tableau Conference. Since I actually had submitted a presentation on behalf of my company to present and didn’t get accepted, this news blew me away! I had a personal hope/goal to present at the conference for a few years, so this was an amazing opportunity. David Pires even asked a number of speakers, myself included, to share about their presentations prior to the conference on Interwork’s podcast, Podcast Your Data.
Leading up to the conference, Andy and Eva asked if I would participate in their Tableau Careers Spotlight series – a weekly webinar before the conference which highlighted the diverse careers of few community members. People discussed how they use Tableau in their careers, how they came to their current role and what it looks like, and each offered some career tips. I shared a bit about my career as the Director of Analytics at Beacon Health Options alongside Ann Jackson, founder of Jackson Two, a consulting firm. Our webinar can be viewed here.
At the conference I was honored to speak about my Tableau Public journey (pretty much some of what you are reading right now) and how I started #ProjectHealthViz in front of a large crowd of passionate Tableau Public members. After the presentation I was approached by various community members who were inspired by my talk. Some told me that they, too, had been using Tableau at work for years, but hadn’t done much vizzing in public. Others shared they worked in healthcare and were happy to find that a community was developing that they could connect in with. I was overcome with emotions that I was able to inspire and connect with others on something that I initially did simply because it was my passion.
After TC18, many people asked if Fanalytics was recorded. Unfortunately, it wasn’t recorded live, but Andy and Eva offered to host a repeat recording for those who didn’t attend in person. My presentation is here and you can also watch the other three presenters on the Makeover Monday Bright Talk page here.
Tableau Conference – WOW!
I had been excited for the conference since the beginning of 2018. This was in part because I missed attending in 2017 and so I had two years of waiting to attend again. However, this time I was filled with the anticipation of meeting so many new Tableau friends and the opportunity to speak at Fanalytics.
I had seen that Tableau had a Viz Gallery, a collection of visualizations printed on large canvases and hung in a arty gallery style formation at TC Europe. After seeing that, I couldn’t help but think how amazing that would be to have a viz featured for everyone at the conference to see up close and personal!
When I arrived at the conference, my co-worker and I immediately met up with some new friends for lunch and a tour of New Orleans. All of these people I had never met in person. Bottom line, it was a fabulous way to start the conference – talking with fellow Tableau enthusiasts and developing friendships.
Upon entering the conference on the first day, I immediately rushed over to the Viz Gallery to check out the chosen vizzes in print. I was speechless when I saw my Medigap viz hanging alongside so many other exceptional visualizations. Can you see my enthusiasm below? Ha! Also hanging in the Viz Gallery was a #ProjectHealthViz submission by Young Song! While Young wasn’t at the conference, I was sure to send him pictures sharing my excitement with him.
Later at the Welcome Reception, I joined up with a number of Community friends to watch the Vizzie Award ceremony, which is presented by Emily Kund and Matt Francis, the co-hosts of the Tableau Wannabe Podcast. The awards are based on community nominations for a variety of categories and are open to non-Zen Masters only. I was able to watch a number of people who inspire me regularly receive awards including Simon Beaumon, Kevin Flerlage, and Ludvoic Tavernier.
I was extremely surprised when Emily and Matt called my name, not once, but twice to receive the Best Designer and Data Do Gooder awards. Talk about being overwhelmed. I almost can’t talk about it even now. It’s an honor to be selected by the community and I’m appreciative of everyone who thought I was deserving of these awards!
Lastly, after the conference I was inspired by Josh Smith, who had given me a poetry journal for the flight home. I read through it on the plane and felt compelled to recap the conference in a poem during my flight. I used to write almost daily for years, but stopped a number of years ago for no reason other than time and a lack of inspiration.
The poem, plus another one about upcoming changes, I transferred into X/Y coordinates in order to provide me with data I could visualize in Tableau. This year has had many seemingly happenchance moments that led me to new adventures and new ideas. I’m sure if I hadn’t met Josh, and we hadn’t connected over poetry, and he hadn’t kindly given me that book, I most certainly wouldn’t have written the poem. However, writing it stirred up an old passion of mine and that was invigorating.
The Tableau Fringe Festival
Things settled down after the conference and I got back into the swing of work’s year end deliverables. PS – Here is when I missed most of my Makeover Monday submissions. But one night I saw a post regarding the North American Tableau Fringe Festival submission request. I had watched the Fringe Festival before (both in 2018 and in prior years) and had heard about it when it started a few years ago and thought the concept was spectacular.
Originally, I hadn’t thought about submitting, but again, in an effort to share more with the community and to challenge myself to present publicly, I set a submission the night it was due. I was pleasantly surprised when my talk, Dashboarding in Reverse, was accepted. Emily Kund and the rest of the North American team (Cesear Picco and Alex Waleczek) are truly exceptional people. I know it takes a lot to organize a free event and this one ran without a hitch. You can find all the videos on their YouTube page and I’ll update the link once the North American session’s videos are posted.
Whew, if that wasn’t enough for one year, I don’t know what is!!
One More Big Thing… A New Job
Through all of this excitement around Tableau and my community involvement, I also was approached with a new job offer. I’ve been at my current company for 8.5 years, which for me, is the longest I’ve ever been at a job and more than half of my working life.
While it was a hard decision, I’m ecstatic to begin the new year as a consultant with HealthDataViz. I’ve known the team at HealthDataViz ever since I discovered Tableau. In fact, they were a large factor in my discovery and initial drive to use it. This opportunity blends so many of my passions (healthcare, data, Tableau, visualization) but also provides me new challenges and skills to acquire including the consulting side of visualization work. I’m looking forward to working with various organizations and challenging my visualization techniques for different needs.
Goals for 2019
Honestly, my brain hurts a little bit after writing this blog post. It’s a lot to take in for me emotionally. It’s hard to convey my appreciation for everyone that has helped me along this path this year and I simply cannot list everyone here in an effort not to accidentally miss someone. You all know who you are! But while this is a summary of my achievements, the big take away is that with a little motivation, some passion, a dash of social collaboration and communication, a strong drive to give back, and a relentless urge to viz, has helped me be successful this year. It’s hard to follow this year with another #highfive year, but I can’t imagine that it will be any less exciting as long as I keep doing what I’m doing.
Here are my goals for 2019, in no particular order.
- Participate at least once a month in Workout Wednesday, if not every week
- Expand #ProjectHealthViz to possible collaboration with small healthcare non-profit companies
- Continue to give back to the community both via my blog, but also specifically to “moms who viz”. I have something in the works now and a few other ideas to follow. Stay tuned!
- Read all of the amazing data viz books I recently acquired (Makeover Monday, Storytelling with Data, Big Book of Dashboards, and Practical Tableau)
Have a wonderful New Year and I look forward to so many more adventures!
PS – Thank you to Josh Tapley for putting together this Viz in Review viz. You can see your own year in review here.