Content Warning: suicide (at very end of post)
Interview with Stephanie Shorey-Roca
Stephanie Shorey-Roca is a data-visualizing mother of two (a 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son). She lives in Connecticut married to her husband of 7 years and currently works as a Data Analyst for Beacon Health Options. Outside of work, she enjoys reading, nature walks, and building awesome Lego masterpieces with her family.
I met Stephanie many years ago when I, too, worked at Beacon Health Options. This makes Stephanie the data mom that I’ve known the longest and know the best. We worked very closely together when I was the Director of Analytics and Innovation at Beacon, and she found a passion for Tableau as I had during that time. In fact, she came to her first Tableau Conference in 2018 with me and was able to attend again in 2019, where she joined the #MomsWhoViz braindate.
Lindsay Betzendahl (LB): How did you discover Tableau and join the #datafam community?
Stephanie Shorey-Roca (SSR): You, Lindsay Betzendahl! We worked together at Beacon and you introduced Tableau to the company and blew our minds. I still cringe at the thought of what our deliverables looked like and how long it took us to explore and analyze data before Tableau.
In 2018, I had the opportunity to attend the Tableau conference in New Orleans where you (Lindsay) had also introduced me to the #datafam and convinced me to finally join Twitter.
LB: Ah, yes. I vividly remember hounding you to get on Twitter. It was a bit funny when you told Kevin Flerlage and I the name you decided on. We were like, “Um no. Let’s rethink this with you.” The rest is history and Steph_Chart was born. Which reminds me, the Tableau Community can feel like family sometimes. Tell us what makes the community so great in your opinion?
SSR: I was hesitant to join Twitter because my first thought (or rather, misconception) was that it was probably dominated by “Internet Trolls” including people who enjoy criticizing others to make themselves feel superior. I was so very wrong about this. The first time I shared a viz on Twitter (for #projecthealthviz), I was overjoyed by all the constructive feedback. It was a very positive learning experience and the comments I received were encouraging, helpful, and not the least bit snarky or “troll-like.” I think the community is so great because its members are sincere, supportive, and respectful.
LB: I 100% agree. The community is very generous with their time and knowledge. Feels a bit like motherhood! I know as a mother, I spend much of my time caring for, teaching, engaging with, and playing with my children. Perhaps the only difference is I cannot take much of a break from that work. What is the best thing about motherhood to you?
SSR: Oh wow, there’s so much! It’s hard to pick a favorite. My kids are great snugglers! Relaxing with them after a long, stressful day is the best. I also love all the laughter! I don’t think a six-year old’s fart jokes can ever get old!
LB: Ha, kids are exceptionally funny. I know I smile more because I have kids than I ever would without them. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t yell or get super frustrated from time to time. What are some challenges you face trying to balance family life with data life?
SSR: I feel like I can go on and on about this. There have been numerous times when I’ve had to miss out on spending time with my family in order to meet a deadline, including missing part of my daughter’s 6th birthday party, which felt truly awful. Additionally, I’ve had to call out of work countless times when one of my kids was sick, needed to go to an appointment, or in the event that the school/daycare was closed. It’s a continuous balancing act and can be very stressful, and it results in feelings of anxiety and guilt that I am not dedicated enough to one (my family) or the other (my career).
LB: The balancing act is so challenging. I’m totally working on that every day. What advice do you have for other mothers in the data viz space?
SSR: I had my first brain date at TC19 and the topic was “Working Moms in Data Viz Unite! Let’s talk about challenges, strengths, and community!”. I am so thankful to have met these wonderful women! During our brain date, we engaged in great conversation that continues to this day. My advice is to reach out and make connections with other working mothers in the Tableau community and/or your workplace. You’ll be glad you did!
LB: That’s great advice. I strongly believe that community really can help ground us and keep us feeling positive and connected. I also know that having some “me time” is super important too. How do you create time for your hobbies (if you do)? If not, do you have goals to find time? What needs to change?
SSR: I’ve learned a lot from attending Tableau conferences, including the fact that my family doesn’t need me to do everything, all of the time. When I was invited to attend TC18, I was both excited for the amazing opportunity, but also worried about being away from my family for almost an entire week! How would they manage without me?! Will my husband dress the kids like weirdos? Will they all live entirely on breakfast cereal? Will they remember it’s “pajama” at my daughter’s school? When I returned home to find everyone was perfectly fine, the house was clean, the lunch boxes and backpacks were packed, and I realized my concerns were completely unfounded. My husband is a great dad and very supporting partner. In addition to my husband, our parents and neighbors are also super supportive and very involved in our children’s lives. To create time for my hobbies or just get a little “me time,” I had to learn to let go of my control issues and have faith in others. And if the kid’s clothes are mismatched, oh well. I doubt they’d even notice.
LB: I am the same way. Because I do so much, sometimes it’s hard to imagine that things will be okay if things are done differently. My husband always tells me with a smile, “Dad’s do it different.” It’s become a mantra I just have to roll with – essentially that it’s okay if things don’t always happen the way I want. Letting go of control is probably great advice for a mother to get a little time back. I spend a lot of time thinking about everything that needs to get done. What’s one thing you think we can do to support other moms who viz?
SSR: In my opinion, flexible hours and the ability to work from home is life changing. My job mostly involves developing and quality checking reports and Tableau dashboards. All I need to perform my tasks are a laptop, phone, and internet connection. With the help of supportive supervisors and our HR department, I’m able to work from home three out of five days each week. My office is located an hour from my home, so on the days I can work remotely, I have two hours that can be spent with my children and taking care of family/home responsibilities that would otherwise be wasted on my commute. Those two hours are HUGE, especially while my kids are so young and go to bed early. I think more if more workplaces adopted flexible hours and the option to work remotely, it would enormously help other moms who viz by creating more time to balance work/family life and create time for one’s passions.
LB: That’s fantastic. I agree that cutting out that commute really helps put time back with your family. To wrap up, I’d love to know what is your favorite viz that you’ve done and why?
SSR: Some of my favorite vizzes were done at work using my company’s data, so unfortunately it can’t be shared due to privacy and legal concerns. However, of the vizzes I’ve created using public data, the one most meaningful to me is “Suicide Rates in the US (1999-2016).”
While my professional background is in public health and behavioral health, this topic really hit home recently. A very close family member quietly battled depression and other mental health issues before taking his life. Working on this viz helped me with grieving and coping with his loss. I wanted to honor him by giving this important topic the attention it deserves in an effort to reduce the stigma associated with suicide and mental illness.
For more information on #MomsWhoViz, please check out my original post here and my viz template here. Subscribe to follow my blog for more updates and interviews with other mothers in the dataviz community.
Also, please email me if you know of mothers who should be spotlighted by emailing me a link to a visualization they have done.
Thanks for reading!