Interview with Michelle Frayman
Michelle Frayman is an active data-visualizing mother of two boys, ages 13 and 11 (almost 12), who are only 17 months apart. I can only imagine what it must have been like to have two kids under two! She has been married to her husband for 15 years and currently works as a Technical Engineer. When she has free time, Michelle enjoys playing Ultimate Frisbee, cooking, and reading a good book.
I met Michelle at TC18 after Fanalytics. I had done one of the four talks, but at the time was only at the beginning stages of getting my feet wet with the data community around the world. I recall Michelle coming over to me after my talk and sharing how moved she was with my journey. Since that time, I had kept in touch with Michelle and watched how she grew in 2019 after the 2018 conference. I also had the pleasure of going to the Boston TUG in late 2019 and spending a few hours in the car with Michelle as she graciously drove me to and from Boston and the TUG venue. She is a fantastic, genuine person!
Lindsay Betzendahl (LB): How did you discover data visualization and join the vizzing community?
Michelle Frayman (MF): Shortly before TC18 I was searching for help on how to solve something for work. I came across Andy Kriebel’s blog and discovered #MakeoverMonday. I published my first public viz right before TC18 and attended the live session. That said, I only started to discover the community at Fanalytics, which was on the the last day, and that barely scratched the surface.
All the presentations were fantastic, but the three that stayed with me were Andy Kriebel’s on his Visual Vocabulary, Lindsay Betzendahl’s on #ProjectHealthViz, and Chantilly Jaggernauth’s on Millennials in Data. They all wowed me and inspired me to want to do more. In addition to the presentations, my table discussion was on Building Gender Equity moderated by Sophie Sparkes. It is a topic I am passionate about, and we talked about how to get more people involved. We made a pact to publish a viz by the end of the year.
I decided to commit to doing #MakeoverMonday every week and that quickly led me to jumping in on Twitter and engaging with the community. It was a lot to take on, and I had so much to learn. I started in on #ProjectHealthViz and #IronQuest a little later and really enjoy the longer timelines and opportunities to build something more impactful.
LB: It’s fantastic that you got so much out of the conference, and that you made goals, which I know you stuck to! Congrats on all the #MakeoverMonday vizzes! After participating in something like that, you begin to meet others who are also participating and a community is formed. In general, the data community can feel like family sometimes. Tell us what makes it so unique in your opinion?
MF: The generosity and kindness of the community cannot be overstated. It is amazing how much time and effort people volunteer to help others out. I have never seen anything like it before over the course of my career. New member or longtime participant, I love watching and helping cheer people on and celebrate successes and commiserate together on challenges. It is also fun. I love the playful way people interact and connect.
LB: So true. I find it amazing how it brings together people from all around the world. I’d never know so many wonderful people if it weren’t for the data viz community. Speaking of family, what is your favorite thing about motherhood?
MF: Watching my kids become people. It is wonderful to see myself and my husband reflected in them but also the unique people they are. I also love the connection my boys have with each other. They are only seventeen months apart and a year apart in school. They are the best of friends, and I am so fortunately how much they care about each other. We love spending time together as a family playing games, camping, skiing, playing Ultimate Frisbee or just watching TV together.
LB: That’s fantastic! My kids are younger, but I am starting to see them enjoy being with each other and playing, even despite the age difference. It’s such a joy to be able to spend quality time with your children and have them enjoy also being with their parents! How do you balance family and data visualization work? Do you face any particular challenges?
MF: Biting off too much. In my excitement over my new found passion and connections to the community, it is hard to step away as I don’t want to miss anything. I also worry I spend more time online than with my non-dataviz friends and family. I am trying to be more intentional about my time this year making sure I prioritize existing friendships and family time along with my new connections and practice.
LB: You read my mind. I spend a lot of time talking to data viz friends and while very rewarding, I know it likely looks like I’m on my phone or computer a lot to my family, especially my kids. Finding a better balance is definitely a goal of mine this year. What advice do you have for other mothers in the data viz space?
MF: Prioritize the things that are important to you and not what you think you should be doing based on what you see from others.
Let go of perfection. Nothing is perfect and you can make yourself crazy and burn out trying to get there.
The more I plan ahead, the easier my life has been. I realize it is not how everyone works but it has helped make my life easier. It does not mean I have to slavishly stick to the plan but it is good to have something in place to help guide us when I don’t have time or energy.
LB: Very good advice! How do you create time for your hobbies (if you do)? If not, do you have goals to find time? What needs to change?
MF: Privilege, an equal partner and older children. I am fortunate to be able to outsource some of the things that would take up time. My husband handles a lot of the day to day maintenance (laundry, dishes, paying bills, etc.), while I manage the planning and larger projects (home maintenance, budgeting and finance, menus and cooking, schedules, etc.). My kids are in middle school and much more independent. That said, we did start to teach them to help contribute to running the house when they were younger. They both do their own laundry and have made at least one full meal though I do the cooking most of the time because I enjoy it.
LB: That’s fantastic. I think figuring out where more time can be gained is key. Off-loading a bit to the kids is a great idea. Plus, all kids should learn that sort of structure and responsibility. It’s so healthy. What’s one thing you think we can do to support other moms who viz?
MF: Highlight their work. Make sure we are focusing on quality and growth and not quantity of output. Ensure that men and women without children are part of the conversation and support as well. If it is only women focusing on the problem then we are preaching to the choir.
LB: So true. I’m thankful that a number of men and fathers have already spoken up about their willingness to help recognize other women who may have less time to produce visualizations or blog posts. We should all be in this together.
Lastly, tell us, what is your favorite viz that you’ve done and why? (please share the link)
MF: It is hard to pick just one but I am going to go with my October Wicked Vizzah contribution. I loved vizzing about my hometown and playing with lots of different chart types. I really enjoyed how it all came together.
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!