What were my highlights of 2017?

As we approach 2018 I want to take time for a quick review before looking forward to the new year. So I’m going to do six highlights of the year, six visualisations of the year and six goals/aspirations for 2018. So that’s six, six and six – put them together and you’ve got 18 for the new year ’18, see what I did there? Alternatively, put them together and get 666 the sign of the beast, you decide … Anyway this post is about my highlights, which are, in approximate chronological order:

1. Tableau Public Ambassador

One of my aspirations after an amazing 2016 was that I might be able to take my recognition within the Tableau community further. My ultimate aim was that I might become an Ambassador, little did I know the opportunity would present itself as early as January!

What does this mean? In many ways, it’s simply recognition. And yes, the T-shirt, mug, hoodie and socks are nice too. But for me it’s been a spur to do more of the same. To not rest on my laurels and use the opportunity to keep pushing the boundaries of my own knowledge, to continue practicing, promoting and sharing visualisations and using the Tableau Public forum. To participate in initiatives such as Makeover Monday and Viz for Social Good and encourage others to do the same. To be allowed by Tableau to describe myself as such in recognition of my abilities – be it on LinkedIn or throughout social media. And to open doors and make closer ties with company contacts. Thank you Tableau – I may not include this in my goals for 2018 but I am keen to remain in post for as long as you’ll have me!


2. My job

At the end of 2016 I was offered a new job which I started near the start of 2017. I don’t feel I can or should talk about it much on here though it remains a highlight and a focus of my future aspirations. Suffice it to say I love working in a data visualisation focused environment and my eyes have been opened to the amazing variety of work being done with Higher Education data within the UK.

I’ve met talented university staff from all round the country, have enjoyed the opportunity to pass on technical tips while learning valuable experiences from them in the process. I’ve had a lot of freedom and support to shape the processes and structure of a collaborative scheme to work on dashboards looking at answering key strategic questions. Our sector is full of great minds and data experts and it’s been a pleasure to be a part of it!

3. Advances in Data Science

I had the opportunity to give a 45 minute talk at a two-day conference in Manchester earlier this year. Probably the furthest out of my comfort zone I’d been professionally, my audience were largely post-graduate and post-doctorate students and experts within different fields of mathematics and science. I wanted to attend the conference as well as talk at it, and their talks made me realise how little I knew and understood. However, for 45 minutes I had the opportunity to talk to them about data visualisation, specifically Telling Stories with Data

Possibly the only talk of the two days which was dumbed down from a technical point of view, I remembered the advice I had been given: when you are giving a talk there is no need to be intimidated by an audience because, by definition, you know more about the exact content of your talk than they do – they can’t persuade you otherwise. I had the opportunity to curate my very own talk: to discuss theory, show many visualisations (some classic, some current from colleagues in the community, some even by me – why not?!), and even top and tail with Hans Rosling and Kurt Vonnegut. I believe this opportunity came about indirectly through my ambassador role (see 1. above) and it felt like a landmark for me which has left me wanting more!

And for a technical highlight of the event for me, see my previous post here


4. London Tableau Conference

This event has been covered in passing in a few posts so I won’t go over in too much detail. For a passioned plea of why the Art Gallery element was such a highlight for me, see my last post, and from a development point of view my other highlight was the opportunity to give a customer talk. I thought I’d blogged about the benefits of getting involved and talking, but on reviewing my blog I realised I hadn’t … but I’ve put my money where my mouth is and spoken about it! Anyway, that comes later on in point 6, so perhaps one of my aspirations for next year should be better planning of blog posts.

The short point remains, this also felt pivotal in my development and acceptance as a professional to be taken seriously. And it goes (almost) without saying that there are many other benefits of a conference too – Tableau is renowned for putting on conferences packed full of great content and great socialising, and this was no exception. Below shows the time I got to meet the hugely talented Filippo Mastroianni from Italy (right)and David Krupp from the US (left):


5. Viz For Social Good

I’m long overdue to write a blog post about this all by itself, and you can also hear me talk more about this in my talk given in point 6. In a nutshell though, this was an initiative run by Chloe Tseng to involve the Tableau community in producing dashboards for non-profit organisations. The initiative started slowly for me, as I was blown away by the standard of some visualisations produced and didn’t initially feel it was something I could contribute to, but as the year progressed I recognised a few opportunities where I could take part and share my own “unique” visualisation style.

One submission for the United Nations Development Group was accepted for inclusion, which then involved taking part in a webinar with the UN team to talk about our visualisations, methods and thought processes. It was an honour to be included and great recognition to be able to talk with UN colleagues and assist them. This collaboration now continues as the UN battle with the nightmares of survey data and I’m delighted to be able to help.

The story of Viz for Social Good doesn’t end there though, as the project was nominated for an award at the prestigious end of year Information is Beautiful awards. I’m delighted to say it earned a Silver award, coming second in its category. Since this blog is all about me – here’s the wonderful Chloe accepting the award in December, with another of my contributing visualisations proudly on display on the huge screen behind on the right!


6. London Tableau User Group November 2017

I’ve mentioned it a few times in this post – if you are signed up for the Workplace group you can access it below (and, if you’re not, you can sign up)


This was a great culmination of the year for me – I was delighted to be invited to talk and used to highlight the number of great opportunities available within the Tableau and data visualisation community. I focussed mainly on Makeover Monday (which will need no introduction to followers of my blog) and Viz for Social Good (as mentioned above). User Groups are a perfect opportunity to learn more, get inspiration for things to take into your own work, and to network: something I’ve never really associated with doing throughout my career but is really becoming an important and pleasurable element of what I do now.

So, I could talk about many of the things I’d been able to do, and hope to inspire others to take part. In particular, it allowed me to sing the praises of Makeover Monday (which, most of the time, I do, despite this post here!) and review what a major contribution it’s made to developing the skills and portfolio for so many people. Of course, it was also a great opportunity to meet Chloe Tseng, Russell Spangler and Jacob Olsufka face to face once more – below is a non-grinning me and a grinning collection of all the participants and organisers from that day:


What else nearly made it? Well, this blog. Since starting this blog I’ve enjoyed contributing and the occasional positive reaction I get to my contributions gets makes it worthwhile. I know my “journey” into data visualisation and the position I find myself within the industry is fairly unique, so it’s heartwarming to hear from people who enjoy the read, or find that it resonates in some way with them. Look out for more!

That’s all for me from the 2017 review, though I intend to post my favourite visualisations and future aspirations before the year is up. Thank you all for reading and sharing.

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