#SlowViz – My Visual Resume – A labor of love and frustration

One of the first visualizations I attempted that was not part of a community project was a visual resume. I loved seeing the visual resumes that others had published. I had just redone my paper version in more of a graphic style the prior year and wanted to try my hand at a data visualization as well. There was 25+ years of full time work experience to fit in and tell the story of my career. This was not an easy task even when trying to accomplish it on paper never mind a new medium.

My #MakeoverMondays are quick hits once a week to keep in practice. I have a bit longer for #ProjectHealthViz and #IronQuest. This was a prime opportunity for a more lengthy review and revision. There was no deadline and I was doing it for my own gratification fortunately not to secure a new position. As it turned out my visual resume was a year-long process of contemplation and iteration. I was lucky to receive feedback from many people I respect. I struggled with the best way to incorporate a variety of feedback some of which conflicted and that contributed to some of the delay in publishing.

There were two things that were really challenging throughout the process. The first was that I was never satisfied. Even now I have not achieved the crispness and professionalism I admire in so many other visual resumes. All the same it was time to move forward, publish the viz and recognize all who had spent time assisting me. The other challenge was how to handle conflicting feedback from people I admired. As I chased my elusive goal of achieving a sense of satisfaction, I continued to reach out to people whose work I admired. Sometimes the feedback was exactly what I needed. Other times the feedback I received conflicted with prior feedback and occasionally it conflicted with deliberate choices I made.

To be fair I included controversial visual elements. People seem to either love Sankeys or hate them. It often feels like people use them to show off in one way or another. Perhaps I was doing the same here but I felt like it was the chart that best represented how my skills and experiences layered on top each other. I use things I have learned from every job I have held.


The Sankey as the main element really did not change that much nor did much of the content though I tuned and enriched it. The color and layout changes were extreme. I got great feedback from Josh Smith and Erik Rettman as part of #TheFeedbackLoop. Josh gently encouraged me to explore other color choices that were not so “jarring”. Believe me he said it in the nicest most supportive way possible and I knew he was right. Erik Rettman suggested I use Ken Flerlage’s curvy timeline and this became my second big element. This is one of the most interactive visualizations I have created with tons of additional content included in hover over tooltips. I wanted to include icons, visual elements and details about my personal life as well as professional life. I wanted someone to be able to look at this and get a picture of who I am and what I care about.

I went from a wide display that would have required scrolling across and would have blown up anyone’s screen to the current long form. I LOVE my bright pinks and vivid Hue Circle color palette but I recognize it might have been a little over the top. My second revision went too far in the other direction relying on the Color Blind palette. In the end it was a recommendation from Maria Brock to pick one primary and two secondary complimentary colors. She also recommended a more muted palette.


I loved how Lindsay Betzendahl incorporated her vizzes into her resume and she helped me do the same. That helped me include additional visual elements but the opening was still at odds with the playful nature I was trying to capture. Bridget Cogley helped identify that my opening read too much like a LinkedIn profile and that I had the opportunity to bring more personality to the text.

I will be honest here, I am a people pleaser and if someone takes the time to help me I want to make sure I incorporate their suggestions. In the end I decided I had to be true to my vision and what worked for me. I hoped the people who provided suggestions that I did not incorporate would understand and felt pretty confident they would or I would not have chosen them in the first place. I think that is an important component to asking for feedback. You have to trust the people you are working with.

As for providing feedback it comes in all different formats. I love the process and structure outlined as part of #TheFeedbackLoop. It keeps things positive but still gives us plenty to work with. That is not to suggest that feedback always needs to be positive, sometimes you really need that direct jolt of someone telling you what does not work for them. Even if you don’t agree it is good to take a second look and consider why you made that choice.

Thanks to Josh Smith, Erik Rettman, Maria Brock, Lindsay Betzendahl and Bridget Cogley for taking the time to review my work and provide thoughtful feedback and support.


Visual Resume

TheFeedbackLoop Rubric – Josh Smith

Here’s our general rubric for evaluation. Some general guidelines: feedback should be primarily positive. Remember that a lot of this is subjective — although feel free to jump into some more of the statistical stuff, too (like, “I might have chosen median there”). Consequently, recognize that even if it doesn’t make sense to you, there was probably a reason the author made their choices. A common phrase in artistic workshops is “I feel like <X> is working – can you turn up the volume on that?” And negative feedback, which is sometimes necessary, should be given with consideration. The inverse phrasing is common: “<X> isn’t working for me, could you turn the volume down on that? Or have you considered <Y>?”

Generally speaking, feedback should very rarely take the form of “Do <X>”, or “You should do <Y>”. It’s simply not helpful for one artist to take the reigns of another artist like that.

The major goal here is to help people understand which elements of their style and choices are working, and how they can maximize on those. However, we can’t ignore the secondary goal of helping people see some less obvious “mistakes”, like misleading titles, etc.

As a framework, you can bucket your category in the following rubric – but this isn’t exhaustive, so feel free to jump outside of this:

Visceral: how do you feel looking at the viz? How engaging is the appearance of the viz? How are all the aesthetic choices working to support the overall theme and content?

Behavioral: how do you feel interacting with the viz? How easy is it to understand what you can and can’t do? How effective do you feel the interactivity is? Note: “interactivity / using” here might include “reading”, to allow for considerations such as organization and coherence. Not all visuals are meant to be interactive, so for the sake of this workshop reading may fall into visceral or behavioral, depending on how the text is used (discretion up to the person providing feedback).

Reflective: how do you feel thinking about the viz? Is the content interesting and engaging? Is there a narrative, and if so, do you feel that a story is adequately told? If it isn’t a story, do the insights feel trustworthy? Did the viz evoke any emotions? How do the design choices support the content and themes? This could also be considered the “impact” of the viz.

Ethics, accessibility, and approachability: Are there potential ethical concerns that should be considered? Could this viz ever [unintentionally] harm or be used to harm an individual or a group of people? How accessible is this viz to individuals with disabilities (i.e. vision deficiencies or learning disabilities)? Is this viz approachable to different [gender/racial/ethnic/religious, etc.] groups?

Other thoughts not captured: anything else you want to toss out there that isn’t captured above?
Recommended inspiration: are there certain vizzes or vizzers you recommend the creator view for inspiration and ideas?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Year in #MakeoverMonday


I would not be where I am today without my participation in #MakeoverMonday. I am grateful to Eva Murray, Andy Kriebel, Sarah Bartlett, Charlie Hutcheson and everyone who participates, provides feedback and encouragement to help make this project so successful.

In my previous blog I mentioned that my table at Fanalytics made a pact to publish a viz by the end of the year. Inspired by my bookend sessions at the conference of #MakeoverMonday and Andy Kriebel’s Fanalytics presentation I decided to take it a bit further and commit to doing #MakeoverMonday every week. I am a creature of habit and I knew I would have a better chance sticking with it if I did it every week rather than sporadically. The hardest part was putting myself out there so publicly but it was totally worth it.

I recognized if I wanted to improve I had to get out of my comfort zone. I also decided very early on I wanted my public persona to be the best possible version of me. I try to ensure I am supporting people and being positive even if I don’t always feel it. One thing I have to constantly remind myself is that it is not a competition and everyone is working on improving their skills.

So how did I do it?

What worked for me will not work for everyone. My kids are older and more independent. My partner is completely supportive, understands the value of the work and has seen how happy it made me. I wake up super early so I can get a head start on the data before most of the house is moving. I set boundaries. I do my work on Sunday and attend review on Wednesday whenever possible. I don’t usually work on it during the week other than iteration. All that said I definitely spend more than an hour and probably closer to 4-6 hours a week. I have the luxury and privilege that allows me that time. What is more important is finding what works for you and allows you to practice, get feedback and grow.


What were some barriers I needed to overcome?

The biggest challenge was overcoming my fear of putting myself out there. Impostor syndrome is real and feeling like you are not worthy or might be ridiculed is hard. You have to have faith in yourself and that what you are doing is good for you no matter what and have faith in the community and that they will be there to support you. I also worry about spending too much time online and not enough with my non-viz friends and family. This is definitely something I continue to try to balance as I make more and stronger connections with the #datafam community. I don’t have an answer other than awareness and I am going to try to be more intentional about my online time. Fingers crossed it works.

What did I learn?

You are never too old to learn something new. It is never too late to find your passion.

  1. Discovering my style and focus – Do it for you, not for anyone else. I am not the flashiest or the best and sometimes it is easy to feel overlooked. Remember, it is not a competition and be proud of yourself for spending the time working to improve your knowledge and skills.
  2. Viz review – Get clear direct feedback and iterate. I learned from every viz review, not just my own.
  3. Viz tips – Less is more. Don’t get carried away trying to show everything. Pick a narrative and illustrate it well. You don’t have to use all the data as long as you use it correctly.
  4. Community – Find a community that builds you up not holds you back. Showing up and participating makes a difference to those who run the projects. It is appreciated.
  5. Participating each week – Practice, practice, practice – The spirit will not always move you. Do it anyway. Throughout the course of your career you will likely have to work with data that does not drive your passion. It is good practice to work with something you are not interested in and you can learn something new.
  6. Access and ethics – Be ethical and considerate in how you treat the data, build your visualizations and publish your content.

How has it helped me at work?

  1. I can do everything faster.
  2. I have a better design eye. My work is more consistent and professional.
  3. I found inspiration from my own vizzes and others that I use at work.
  4. External recognition of the growth in my skills
  5. I bring back expertise and ideas to help my coworkers
  6. My weekly practice and commitment helped inspire me to follow my passion and find a role that allowed me to do this full time. I am now in my dream job where I am excited to work every day.

What do I recommend?

  1. Do what works for you – my schedule and practice work for where I am in my life that will be different for everyone.
  2. Get involved in your local TUG or a virtual one if you don’t have a local one.
  3. Practice with community projects.
  1. Move beyond your comfort zone.
  2. Get involved with the virtual community. Please reach out to me to say hello or ask questions.

When you do what you love it is not work.

If all that was not enough, here are more specific details about what I learned this year.

My year in #MakeoverMonday – tips and tricks I learned along the way

Discovering my style and focus

  1. I have a very different way of looking at things and that is OK.
  2. I like to find a story or point of interest to tease out time permitting.
  3. It’s OK to have some fun. Depending on the data set I love to find fun titles.
  4. I like to personalize my postings with a little chat about what I am doing that day.
  5. I tried to focus on different things over time. Sometimes that was successful and sometimes it was not but I always learned something.
  6. I am not the flashiest or the best and sometimes it is easy to feel overlooked. Remember, it is not a competition and be proud of yourself for spending the time working to improve your knowledge and skills.


Viz review

  1. I learned from every viz review, not just my own.
  2. It is OK to disagree with the feedback. Sometimes you make deliberate choices or the feedback is based on personal preferences. You can stick to your vision and explain your choice in a positive way.
  3. Before you incorporate feedback from prior week’s reviews in your new viz make sure it makes sense with the current visualization
  4. It took me a few weeks to get all the right things – signing up for the webinar, including a link, the correct hashtags, tagging people correctly, uploading an image, including data sources, name and reference to twitter handle, etc.
  5. If you don’t like the feedback take a deep breath, wait a bit, watch it again and remember, this is to help you get better. It is not a personal attack.

Viz tips

  1. Less is more. Don’t get carried away trying to show everything. Pick a narrative and illustrate it well. You don’t have to use all the data as long as you use it correctly.
  2. BANS and marks – decimal places matter. Only use them if they will clarify your point and if you do, try to keep to one place. Use percentages when they tell the story better but if the % difference is too large it is easier to understand X times.
  3. Do not use HUGE blocks of text
  4. BANS – bigger is not always better. Size appropriately.
  5. Size your dashboard appropriately. Do not use automatic sizing and start with 1000×800. It is better to go long than wide if you need to increase the size. Try not to go wider than 1200.
  6. Include significant context and be clear in what you are communicating. I still struggle with this sometimes.
  7. Make sure tooltips are done meaning don’t leave them with the default values.


  1. Showing up and participating makes a difference to those who run the projects. It is appreciated.
  2. People are happy to help and there are a ton of resources available to help you solve problems, get ideas, learn new skills, connect with other people with similar interests and roles, etc.
  3. You don’t have to have years of experience to provide support or feedback. Be positive and thoughtful but step up.
  4. Always give credit when someone inspires or helps you.
  5. You will meet people from all over the world who come from all over the world, all walks of life, span many ages and industries
  6. You will not click with everyone. That is OK.

Participating each week

  1. Done is better than perfect.
  2. Practice and repetition/weekly rigor was so helpful learning Tableau.
  3. You cannot do it all and you should not try. There are so many projects and you can burn yourself out. Set goals but be realistic. Do what is meaningful and helpful to you.
  4. It is hard to keep putting yourself out there when you see the amazing work others create. DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO THEM. Measure your success by your own progress even if it seems small. Give yourself credit for participating.
  5. Find balance and what works for you. Maybe the data set in a particular week is not compelling, but see if you can find an interesting angle or go super simple.
  6. Make the time that works for you. I get up early and my kids have activities on Sundays so I was able to fit it in then. Once Monday hits it is much harder for me.
  7. I learned more about a variety of topics than I would have left to my own devices.
  8. It does not matter how much experience you have, you can still teach others.
  9. Don’t be disappointed that you are not the best or picked as a favorite. You need to measure your progress against your own growth and goals.
  10. I got inspiration from my own vizzes and others that I use at work.




Access and ethics

  1. Do not use RED/GREEN! Seriously though, you can use them together but be aware of how it will impact people who are color blind. Make sure you consider accessibility. If you are making a design choice that may be a barrier for some, try to compensate so that no one in your audience will be excluded.
  2. The datafam will keep you honest and encourage you to treat your work with the highest of ethics.
  3. Be thoughtful when publishing and ask how your audience might view your data. Is it sensitive and does it require a content warning? Is it correct? Are you adding bias?



  1. Week 13 – Someone in the community reached out and asked me to explain how I accomplished something in my viz
  2. Week 15 – Earned my Tableau Desktop Specialist certification
  3. Week 18 – My first favorite though I preferred some of the original with the background image so I iterated with two versions.
  4. Week 42 – My favorite viz –IronWoman – The Queen of Kona
  5. Week 43 – One of the greatest learning experiences I had was about data ethics
  6. Week 46 – Getting nominated for the Biggest Growth Vizzie won by my friend Zach Bowders
  7. Week 51 – VOTD
Posted in #MakeoverMonday | 3 Comments

How I learned to stop worrying and love the #datafam

I am grateful to so many people in the #datafam community for helping to make 2019 an amazing year for me. I have never been so inspired or engaged with my work as I am today. I have made many friends, learned more than I could have ever imagined and had so much fun along the way. I can’t wait for 2020! The road to change really started at TC18.

The Tableau Conference is unlike any I attended before. Not only because of its size but also the enthusiasm and opportunity to learn and get inspired to do more with the product. TC18 was my first time attending and I learned so much about Tableau, data visualization and what I wanted to do differently the next time.

At TC18 I focused on hands on training. They were excellent but I felt like I was missing out on some of the essential parts of the conference. I also have a confession to make. I did not attend data night out at TC18. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and could not face a night out alone with 17000+ people.

While I may have made many mistakes I did two things right. I started the conference with #MakeoverMonday. I went straight from the airport to the session bags and all. On the very last day of the conference I accidentally found my way to Fanalytics. I honestly have no idea how it happened but it the speakers and my table inspired me to step up and join the community. My table made a pact to post a viz by the end of the year. That gave me the incentive to jump in and keep going. What a difference a year makes.

Once again at Data19 I learned a ton but I also got the chance to meet people from all over the world that I had connected with over the year. I solidified virtual friendships started new projects and had a wonderful time. Connecting with the community was such a game changer. I never felt alone and I now have so many people I can go to for advice on technical questions, ethical issues, design choices, working Mom challenges and so much more.

I still have a lot to learn but I wanted to start giving back to the community that has given so much to me. My hope is to provide a helping hand and encouragement to those getting started. Perhaps those further along will join me on the journey as well.

The road to 2019 – How did I plan to make the most of my conference experience?

  1. Committed to doing #MakeoverMonday every week. My next blog post will focus on that more.
  2. Joined the second round of #TheFeedbackLoop and other community projects like #ProjectHealthViz and #IronQuest
  3. Participated in my local TUG. It is great to meet people virtually and at the conference but even better when you can see them in person regularly.
  4. Got involved in the community by jumping in and responding to posts on Twitter
  5. Learned how to add gifs to tweets. It seems silly but having fun with folks helps build a virtual community

How can you get started?

  1. Jump in and join the conversation. Be positive and contribute your vizzes and thoughts.
  2. Take time to practice on data sets and/or projects that are of interest to you.
  3. Work with data you might not otherwise look at. You will learn something new and may find inspiration from things that seem unconnected.
  4. Reach out to the community. People are happy to help and there are a ton of resources available to help you solve problems, get ideas, learn new skills, connect with other people with similar interests and roles, etc.

In case you are wondering, here are my tips on where I went wrong at TC18 or as I like to call them how to have a terrible conference experience.

  1. Fill up every minute with scheduled activities
  2. Slavishly adhere to your plan even when it is not working
  3. Turn down opportunities to continue a fun new connection for a chance that you might connect with someone else
  4. Lose business cards of fun new connection
  5. Miss out on talking to Zen Masters
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment