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In September, I was invited to speak at a Women in Data panel alongside Rebeca Pop. Thanks to Kanchan Malhotra for inviting me and for organizing the event! 

Women in Data is an international non-profit organization started in 2015 whose mission is to bring women together for career advancement and an opportunity to uplift one another. They have chapters throughout the world and each hold quarterly symposiums that include enlightening talks, expert panels and networking opportunities. 

Co-presenter Rebecca Pop is the founder of Vizlogue, a data visualization and storytelling lab that offers training and consulting services. 

Watch the Recorded Panel 

What’s Inside 

Here are some of the topics addressed during the panel. 

  • Can you share your personal journey and how you got started with data visualization? 
  • How do you approach data visualization problems? When you are working on a dataset, do you have standard steps/best practices that you follow every time? Are there any key focus areas one should be mindful of? Ann said, “Something so important to know in advance, is whether your audience is technical or non-technical. Technical audiences are people who like data, who love opening a spreadsheet, and are in a data career on purpose. Non-technical audiences are the opposite. They’d rather hire a consultant or let another staff member handle it. It’s probably the last thing on their to do that they want to tackle (and they probably procrastinate!)” 
  • Important aspects to keep in mind while working with data are data integrity and data ethics. What is your take on data integrity and data ethics?  
  • For someone just getting started in data visualization, it can be overwhelming with the number of tools and courses available these days, what is your advice for beginners? Can you also share some resources? Ann said, “At first, learn the one-hour version of about 10 different tools, but then take a 10-hour training on just one tool and go deeper and specialize. There’s a lot of great courses out there.”  
  • What is the future of data visualization? How do you anticipate data visualization to differ in the coming years? 
  • Data visualization is a very competitive field, how can one stand out from the crowd and make an impression? Ann said, “Don’t worry too much about having to be the best at everything, I don’t think it’s even possible. Just pick one and play on the strength that you already have and make that public in some way… For example, if you like Tableau post a lot of visualizations on your Tableau public profile. If you like R, post to your code on Github and connect with other people.” 
  • What are the key skills required to be successful in data viz? How important is the tool? Ann said, “Chart choosing [is so important]. Are you going to use a pie chart, bar chart or something else altogether? It’s very difficult to take a table, rows and columns of summary statistics and figure out what chart that is going to be. I think a lot of people go to the standards like pie charts or bar charts.” She added, “One activity that you can try for yourself is find a table of data, set a timer for 10-15 minutes and see how many ideas you can come up with in that time period. When I started doing this, I could only come up with a couple of ideas in a 15-minute brainstorming session. Now I come up with 15 ideas in that same time period.” 

Learn More 

Here are some of the resources we mentioned during the panel: 

More about Ann K. Emery
Ann K. Emery is a sought-after speaker who is determined to get your data out of spreadsheets and into stakeholders’ hands. Each year, she leads more than 100 workshops, webinars, and keynotes for thousands of people around the globe. Her design consultancy also overhauls graphs, publications, and slideshows with the goal of making technical information easier to understand for non-technical audiences.

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