Interview with Katie Poznanski-Ring
Katie Poznanski-Ring (@kajepo) is a fierce Data Analytics & Visualization Engineer. Job aside, in her “real life” she is a (soon to be!) mom and wife of 8 years to her husband. I had the ultimate pleasure of meeting Katie at the Braindate meeting of #momswhoviz that I set up at TC19 (Katie is third from the right). What was great was that Katie, at the time of this picture and of this post, was pregnant, but she was already interested in connecting with moms in the data viz community. How fantastic is that!? She is due in about a month (3/1/20), but had the foresight to get connected beforehand. It’s something I think is hugely valuable. Plus, it was amazing to have a group of mothers from all ends of the spectrum – in the womb to teenagers!
In Katie’s spare time she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband (such as hiking the Bay Area, adventuring around the city, enjoying the beaches of Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz), cozying up for the evening with a book, tea, blanket, and cat (when she’ll decide to cuddle), and caring for and expanding her wonderful plant family (#PlantLadyIsTheNewCatLady).
Lindsay Betzendahl (LB): How did you discover Tableau and join the #datafam community?
Katie Poznanski-Ring (KPR): I discovered Tableau as a Data Specialist in Butler University’s Office of Institutional Research, where I often produced repetitive, manual reports. Through personal research and industry conferences like AIR, I saw the transformative impact Tableau could have on my office. Reporting that would take me days to accomplish took my AIR colleagues just hours, which freed up time for more interesting, advanced projects. Plus, the visualizations produced with Tableau were so clean and beautiful, much more my style than what was available with Excel and PowerPoint! I knew I had to get others on the Tableau train, so I began evangelizing to analysts in other reporting areas and eventually joined a multi-department initiative to adopt Tableau as the university’s reporting tool.
As soon as I heard our proposal was approved, I signed up for TC16. It was going to be the biggest conference I had ever attended, so I did some research to prepare. I found blogs of super passionate users, many of them seemingly well-connected and supportive of each other. I had never seen so many people rally together online around something as silly as software before, and I definitely hadn’t experienced such a strong tribal bond over it either! I kept seeing folks highlight other Tableau users as mentors and teachers, feature others’ work on their blogs, and found a positive, thriving community on Twitter. Normally, a somewhat shy and introverted person, I made it a conference goal to introduce myself to as many folks as I could, and I was delighted that my impressions were accurate. I met some wonderful people and was warmly welcomed into this crazy group I now know as the #datafam!
LB: OMG I love that story! I think it probably resonates with so many – myself included. I also enjoyed TC16 in Austin.
I wasn’t involved in the community at that time, but I did commit to being a little more outgoing and connected with two random people the first day at a bar. The three of us were like the three amigos for the week. We had so much fun. Having people to connect to certainly can make the conference 100x better. But once you really get involved with the community, you can truly find out how passionate people are and how helpful people are.
The Tableau community can feel like family sometimes. Tell us what makes the community so great in your opinion?
KPR: Welcoming, supportive, generous, encouraging, safe, open – this is what comes to mind when I think of what the Tableau community means to me. From my first interactions at TC16, my first participation in #MakeoverMonday, and my first forum questions, I’ve always felt like a welcomed and valued member of this great network of folks that goes way beyond the data viz practitioner commonality – connections that were initially made over Tableau have evolved over a mutual love of cats, being bookworms, having Midwestern roots, enthusiasm over craft beer, sharing a passion for the Data+Women movement, being curious travelers, and most recently, bonding over motherhood. These connections continue to inspire, encourage, and stretch me, and some have become lasting, cherished friendships. I don’t publicly viz as much as I’d like (work vizzes keep me busy!), but I still learn so much from the #datafam and give back whenever/however I can.
LB: Wait. Craft beer enthusiasm? Sorry, I got distracted. How have we not spoken about this!?!? Ha. Okay let’s table that.
But yes, this is a great summary! I think for a newcomer, it’s so helpful and reassuring to hear that it’s not scary. The connections will be built and the learning will happen. I love that you share you don’t publically viz a lot. I think it’s extremely important for people to know you can be connected and involved without being “required” to publish new vizzes every month. That’s a very wise point.
So getting back to being a soon-to-be-mother, what are you most excited about?
KPR: That I have so many surprises to look forward to! It’s been fun imagining who this little person will grow up to be, what we’ll get to teach them, what they’ll be interested in, what our new family dynamic will be like…I know life is going to majorly change once Baby PR is out in the world, but so far my favorite moments have been seeing Baby’s responses to Nate and I when we talk and read to them – so many sweet wiggles!
LB: Oh gosh, I remember those feelings! It’s such a weird feeling having someone inside of you for so long. You get used to the feelings. What’s even weirder is that once they are born, it’s so quick to forget those feelings. Like you can’t ever imagine that feeling again because nothing is every like it. Which is what makes those little movement so very special!
So now that you are in your last month until official motherhood work begins (ha!), what are some challenges you face trying to balance family life with data life (including your work life)?
KPR: I have a tendency to get really excited about too many projects that I try to do all at once, not leaving enough in the tank for myself or family. It’s an early career “work hard and prove yourself” mentality that I haven’t fully evolved from, meaning I still prioritize taking on additional work initiatives over personal data viz projects. So when it comes to balancing my free time, personal vizzing constantly loses to family time. I know becoming a mother is only going to make this balance more challenging, but I see it as an opportunity to prioritize and more intentionally choose how I’m spending my more limited, precious time. I’m always hearing about the “do more with less time” motherhood efficiency superpower – crossing my fingers that I find it within myself!
LB: I think that is a great summary. It resonates with me strongly. Before kids, I definitely worked outside of work all the time. With my first son I realized I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t stay around in the office until 6 anymore. I had to leave at 5, if not 4:45, in order to drive the 20-30 minutes home and get my son from daycare before they closed. Working afterhours no longer was an option. It was funny how priorities shuffled around and, to be honest, my employer didn’t notice. Meaning, I still was able to do what I needed to do in the time I was at work and no one cared if I did or did not work “after work”. I quickly realized it was up to me to make my priorities. You won’t get more than 24 hours in a day, but you can decide how you allocate those hours.
So given your wisdom as a mom-to-be, what advice do you have for other mothers in the data viz space?
KPR: For one, strengthen your “no” muscle, and say yes to only what energizes and serves you. Second, let go of perfect. You’re setting yourself up for failure if everything in your life needs to be perfectly polished and done by you. Welcome help and support. And lastly, get more out of personal vizzing by focusing on quality vs quantity. Really enjoy the process of creating something you’re proud of rather than worrying about how you stack up against others.
LB: Couldn’t agree more. I especially like focusing on quality vs. quantity and letting go of perfect. Those may seen to conflict, but letting go of “perfect” is ubiquitous. I need to let go of perfections everywhere in my life. Life is not meant to be perfect, it’s meant to be lived. Speaking of living – hobbies are important to feeling fulfilled. So how do you create time for your hobbies (if you do)? If not, do you have goals to find time? What needs to change?
KPR: We are just weeks away from our baby’s arrival, so every spare moment is dedicated to final preparations: parenting classes, gathering baby gear, financial planning, legal arrangements, nursery design, preparing to step away from work for more time than I’ve ever been off…there’s much more to welcoming a child than I ever imagined! This, plus working full time, getting 8 hours of sleep (growing a baby is physically demanding work!), prioritizing healthy eating and exercise, etc., has left little time for hobbies, let alone personal data viz. And based on what I know from other moms, the first three months will go by in a flash. I like the concept of life having its seasons though – I’m in the “becoming a new mom” season, which won’t last forever. The three of us will learn how to be a family, and I’m sure I’ll find creative ways to reinvigorate my hobbies. Any advice from moms who’ve made it happen is more than welcome!
LB: What a beautiful image – the “becoming a new mom” season! I love that. And you are right, everything ebbs and flows. I think it’s an important point to make that mothers, especially new ones, don’t and won’t have time for “hobbies” such as vizzing. This can be even more true for mothers who choose (and are able to) breastfeed because their partner isn’t able to help in the feeding.
With my sons, for the first 13 months of their lives, I was dedicated to feeding them. This meant, my “extra time” was providing food for them and caring for their needs. A full year. No hobbies during that time. But I know they will come back some day! Just like you said. It’s a season and it’s a good one! However, it’s a reason I wanted to connect with other mothers. I know it’s not easy finding the ability to do this “extra” work to learn and promote and support.
So, in your opinion, what’s one thing you think we can do to support other moms who viz?
KPR: Moms are constantly negotiating every minute of free time, so they may not produce as many vizzes as others. As a result, their work often gets overlooked. I think we should lift up fellow moms who viz and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. The Tableau community already does this well with hashtags like #DigThisViz and #DataPlusWomen; why don’t we highlight moms by adding #MomsWhoViz to retweets? It’s a small thing, but representation and visibility matter.
LB: I hope people who read this note that. I think it’s a great idea and you are so right. It’s one of the biggest challenges… It sometimes feels if you aren’t producing a ton of vizzes, or helping a bunch of people with their vizzes, you aren’t relevant. And that’s just so far from the truth. We can learn so much from each other and even from just one viz. There are a number of women I know who one have a handful of vizzes but they are amazing. I think supporting the mothers and women with those hashtags can be helpful. If nothing else, it can be validating.
So please, tell us, what is your favorite viz that you’ve done and why?
KPR: My favorite viz that I’ve done was for a client who had struggled with getting timely updates from their department’s various teams in one place. Due to confidentiality I can’t share the viz, but I’m proud of it since I greatly strengthened my technical Tableau skills to make the client’s work life better with their new dashboard. While it’s super rewarding to build vizzes like that, my personal vizzing has been lacking so I’ve made it a goal to get back into #MakeoverMonday and #WorkoutWednesday this year with at least 1 personal viz a month. I’m looking forward to renewing my focus on creativity and more frequent engagement with the community.
LB: Awesome I totally get that! And client work can be very rewarding. It’s tough that we all can’t share it. We are here if you need any help or accountability in 2020! 😉
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!