What’s Good? A conversation with Eve Thomas. (January)

Welcome to the “What’s Good?” blog. The aim is to run one of these a month. I’ll be asking (begging) people to come showcase some of the fantastic stuff they are doing in the world of data. Predominantly these will be Tableau focussed to start, but I hope to get some input in later months that explore topics further afield. Each month will have a tailored theme, this months is Initiatives and Community.

I am delighted Eve Thomas accepted to be the guinea pig for the first trial run. I was fortunate enough to sit alongside Eve in the same cohort of Tableau Featured Authors in October of 2020. It is coincidentally Eve’s birthday today (25th January), so happy birthday Eve! Eve can be found on Twitter and Tableau.

Eve has been a fantastic member of the community and in the past year and co-leads on the #DiversityInData (with Autumn) and #VizToEducate (with Vinodh) initiative. One of her recent favourite visualisations of mine was her #DiversityInData The Inequality Of Childbirth visualisation. I love the contrast of the white and black as well as the additional touch of the lines interlinking each individual.

Now onto some questions!

CJ: You’ve been part of the community for a few years now, how has the community changed? Is there anything that particularly keeps you here?

Eve: I think the online community has really grown over the last year which is fantastic. Overall I’ve seen more creativity within the data community that has really inspired me in my own work.

The people are what keep me here. Over the last year, despite a worldwide pandemic and what feels like constant lockdown in the UK, through the community I’ve met friends from all over the world – something I know wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t a part of it. I love the fact that everyone is so supportive – during lockdown it’s felt as though I have had an extra support bubble, which has been really wonderful.

I also enjoy participating in community run initiatives such as #SportsVizSunday, #Ironquest, and #MakeoverMonday – It’s a great way for me to map my improvement and continue learning week on week. Sam Parsons “What’s going on Data” is my go-to when I’m trying to figure out my next viz! It’s a great resource to tap into if you’re looking to find some inspiration as it lists the latest topics for all of the recognisable initiatives within the community.

CJ: What impact has Tableau Public had on your career and journey in data?

Eve: I don’t come from a data background, having previously worked in Teaching and HR/Recruitment and so for me, Tableau public was the springboard, which enabled me to launch my career in data. It also led me to the Tableau online community which played an integral role in helping me build on my skills and improve via feedback. This enabled me to apply for my current role as a data visualisation consultant with The Information Lab – It’s no exaggeration to say that I wouldn’t be where I am today in my career without Tableau Public!

Coming from a teaching background, teaching tableau is something I really enjoy both in my current role and in my spare time. One of my favourite aspects of Tableau Public is that the community can use it as a learning platform. When I was first discovered Tableau, one of the main ways I learnt was to download complicated workbooks from other Authors, take them apart, and figure out how they worked. For that reason, I love it when people are inspired by my own work and use it to improve in Tableau – for me it’s a way to give back to the community that has taught me so much!

Becoming a Tableau Featured Author in 2020 definitely had a big impact. Not only did it give me more confidence in my own work, but it also helped me to connect with more people within the tableau community. Becoming a featured author has also introduced me to other projects such as #Vizconnect which I have been able to get involved with.

CJ: You’ve got 4 VOTD’s – what do you think makes a dashboard stand out?

Eve: It’s interesting for me looking back at my previous VOTDs, just because they are all completely different both in terms of topic and design-style. I think the commonality is that in each case I was passionate about what I was vizzing and I had a lot of fun creating them. I think when you have a passion for something and you enjoy doing it, that passion and joy is reflected in your work and will be felt by others.

Some advice for those just getting started or wanting to improve…

  • Have a clear goal in mind – it is good to know roughly where you are going when you start a new project – even if this is something as simple as wanting to answer a question about your data/ highlighting a particular trend
  • Research your topic. This is so important! Are you using appropriate language? Are you using the correct units/ currency – have you added enough context for the user? Making sure you have these points nailed will really take your viz to the next level!
  • Always ask for feedback – Don’t be afraid to request feedback or adopt feedback given to you by others in the community. In my opinion this is definitely one of the best ways you can improve in Tableau – I will discuss this in more detail later on!
  • It’s okay to take a break – If you start getting stressed then please take a step back – you won’t be able to create your best work if you aren’t able to enjoy the creative process
  • And lastly (and most importantly!) celebrate the small wins – it’s not all about getting #VOTDs!! Celebrate nailing that chart, completing that tough #MakeoverMonday and make sure you don’t forget to acknowledge your own improvement!

CJ: What have you seen in the community recently that you like?

Eve: I like seeing new community events/ projects. One of my favourites this year was the Christmas card exchange organised by Autumn and Michelle. It was lovely to reach out to the online community in a different way. For me receiving a Christmas card with a hand-written message seemed so much more personal somehow, and I think it brought joy to a lot of people who perhaps were unable to spend Christmas as they had originally planned.

CJ: You’ve got such a range of topics and visualisation styles on your profile, what do you use for inspiration?

It sounds so cliché but usually I’m just inspired by the world around me. Newspapers, articles, magazines … discussions in the office – also films. Something will usually spark and I’ll be off searching for data – if it exists then I’ll viz it! I like to experiment with different styles –  I’ve recently started to try and be more adventurous with colour palettes (deviating from my usual black backgrounds!). I also often take inspiration from members of the community. I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a self-professed CJ fan – not only in terms of his epic portfolio, but also for his innovation in chart design. His new blog in particular has really encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and build on my tableau charting skills.

Francisco Cardosos is another inspiration within the community – his Working Remotely viz is one of my all-time favourites! The bright colours of the Sankey against the black background, contrast beautifully with the minimal white text to create impact. For me Francisco’s classic style is clean, simple and so effective.

Tamas Varga is another source of inspiration that I just had to include in this list. His innovative, striking designs always leave me in awe. One of my favourites was his Flood Phenomena viz. I love how the use of a steam chart here mimics a river bursting it’s banks. Beautifully designed and beautifully executed.

CJ: What were your favourite visualisations of 2020?

Naresh Suglani is an author who I only just recently discovered. His viz Earthquakes recorded between 1898 to 2019 for #Viz2educate was an example of impressive slick design. He has produced some incredible work over the past year which in my opinion haven’t yet received enough recognition. I know that the teachers and students of #Viz2educate are going to be as blown away as I am.

I mean of course this work of art from Sam Parsons had to make this list – there is nothing that I don’t love about his VizForSocialGood viz. The attention to detail is incredible and I particularly love the ‘how to read’ section.

Steven Shoemaker created one of the most beautiful maps I’ve seen created in Tableau – it tells a compelling story. Not just of city buildings and roads, but of a city of the people who are working, living and co-existing together. I love how the beauty of the map serves as a stark contrast to the underlying story of segregation within a city that is celebrated for it’s diversity (named the fifth most diverse city in the U.S. in 2018)

Damola Ladipo is another author whom I’ve only discovered in the last month or so. He’s already produced some incredible work. His Food Apartheid in Washington DC viz was nothing short of outstanding. Beautifully designed, it highlights how income, race, and geography impact social and racial inequalities in the DC food system. A WORK OF ART.

Lastly I couldn’t not pick one viz from #Diversityindata – Chimdi Nwosu’s Fortune 500 Women CEOs was one that really stood out to me. The layout of this viz makes the data sing… also anyone who can elevate the humble waffle chart to this level can’t not make this list!

CJ: Do you have a particular topic you love to visualise the most?

Eve: I like to visualize topics that promote awareness.

Particularly after the events of this year, I have found myself wanting to do more when it comes to helping support underrepresented groups. I think this is what led both Autumn and I to start an initiative that will hopefully help us to do just that, with the help of the wider data community.

CJ: I see you’ve just released your new initiative – what are you most looking forward to seeing from it?

Eve: Autumn and I are so excited about the launch of #DiversityinData. Personally, I feel that recent events in the USA and across the world have shown us that promoting awareness and equality is more important than ever, and that this initiative is something which is really needed within the community.

For anyone who has missed it, #DiversityinData is an initiative that is centred on data, equity, diversity and awareness. Each month we provide the community with data that we hope you will help us to visualize.

This month’s challenge involves 3 different datasets, which we would love you to help us visualize 

  • Gender equality within the Fortune 500 CEOs since 1970
  • Inequality in HR – survey data from 108 white and 110 ethnic minority HR professionals working in the UK
  • Inequality of Childbirth – looking at maternal mortality in the UK

I am looking forward to the community participating with us and helping us spread much needed awareness. All three datasets are very simple to work with, which we hope will encourage people of all levels within the data community to take part! I believe that it’s so important that everyone has a voice and that their stories are being spoken about in the open. I hope this initiative will go some way in helping to facilitate people tell those stories.

Give us a follow on Twitter for regular updates and the latest datasets!

CJ: You just finished your round up of geography as part of #VizToEducate, it looked like a massive success. Was there anything that particularly stood out?

Eve: The range of submissions both in terms of subject matter and design was just fantastic – I feel like there is something there for students of every age.  Think Kevin Flerlage’s viz the Lorax was one that particularly stood out for me – in this visualisation Kevin uses one of Dr. Suess’ best loved characters to discuss the devastating impact of deforestation on our planet. For me, this was a brilliant example of both storytelling and design, which engages and inspires both older and younger audiences alike (coming from a background in teaching, I can tell you that it’s just as important to inspire the worlds teacher’s as well as their students!).

Another Viz that really stood out to me was Petroleum Microbiology by Young Song. This viz genuinely looks like it has just jumped out of the coolest geography textbook ever – perfect for an education initiative! It’s packed with information not only making it an ideal supporting resource for teachers to use alongside the set syllabus, but also ideal for those students who have limited access to expensive textbooks.

For those of you who don’t know, #Viz2educate is an initiative that focuses on creating a high-quality bank of educational resources for teachers worldwide. Our main goal is to create an online gallery of educational resources for teachers and students to access for free. For this month the topic is Zoology and we’d love for the community to get involved! Please check out our website for more details on how to take part.

CJ: You recently tweeted that you had 100’s of hidden visualisations on your page, what process do you undergo when deciding a Viz being finished?

Eve: Aha I did tweet that didn’t I?!

I have hidden vizzes for a mixture of reasons. Sometimes I have an awesome idea for a viz which I start but can’t quite finish – usually this is due to lack of data in the public domain. I keep them hidden just in case I come across that last piece of the data jigsaw that I need! Other times I just have too many ideas and so I’ll make three versions of the same viz and pick my favourite to share with the community… The last reason (which is definitely the most common!) is I make something, and in all honesty, it looked so much better in my head!

I think it’s so important to be open to feedback – in my view it is one of the best ways you can improve. The reason I often post my amendments is mainly to map my own improvement for myself, but also to show others in the community that it’s a positive thing to take on advice/feedback and learn from each other.

If you want to get some feedback on a viz but re unsure how then I would advise reaching out to the online community. One way you could do this would be by simply tweeting with the hashtags #DataFam and #Datafamfeedback – if you aren’t quite ready to go public however you could also reach out to community members directly. This is something that I do often (I will now take this opportunity to say my heartfelt thanks and apologies to Kevin Flerlage, Adam Mico, Sam Parsons, Ghafar Shah for my incessant feedback requests!)

CJ: Do you have any new visualisations in store for 2021?

Eve: I’m hoping to be putting out some awesome vizzes for #Viz2Educate and #DiversityinData – we have some really exciting collabs coming up with other community initiatives so watch this space!

CJ: What do you do when you’re not making vizzes?

Eve: When am I not making Vizzes?!

During lockdown I’ve been really careful about going out and so I haven’t been able to enjoy a lot of things I like doing outside of Tableau – for this reason I’ve been spending more time vizzing!

I like running when the weather is nice – particularly when I’m down in Brighton as I can run along the seafront! I also enjoy just walking around London and taking in the sights – sometimes it’s really fun just being a tourist for the day and snapping some great shots. I love to ski when I get the opportunity.

I also enjoy art and music – when I’m home in Brighton I usually dust off the piano keys and then feel disappointed at how much I’ve forgotten! I also like to draw and paint.

CJ: You are a self-proclaimed ‘coffee snob’, got any tips for us?

Eve: Okay so coffee is one of those things that I spend far too much money on. I calculated that whilst training at DataSchoolUK I spent around £9.00 A DAY on coffee… that’s almost 5 cocktails a week…

That first taste of coffee on my tongue is the highlight of my morning.

I take my coffee black, no sugar – fancy syrups have no place where coffee is concerned in my view. I also very much judge a person by how they take their coffee. You have been warned!

CJ: A few quick fire questions to end:

Iced Coffee or Hot Coffee? Hot – black – no sugar – preferably extra large

Winter or Summer? I’m a keen skier so I’m going to have to say winter….

TV Shows or Movies? Bridgerton is my latest obsession. Where is my duke at?!

Twitter or Linkedin? Oooooooo gonna have to say Twitter I think

Save or Spend? Not that we have a massive amount of choice right now but I try to strike a balance each month and save as much as I spend.

Early bird or night owl? Definitely a Night Owl – If I manage to switch off Tableau before Midnight then we’re doing well!

Dog or cat? Crazy cat lady and proud!

CJ: Eve will hate the fact that my favourite drink is a Caramel Iced Latte. I did laugh how she converted her expenditure on coffees whilst training at the data school into the equivalent of cocktails. On a more serious note, Eve alludes to VOTD not being the be all and end all of success. People should find comfort in the fact they are better today than they were yesterday! I think that is a wonderful thing. Once again, a massive thank you to Eve and make sure to check out some of the cool initiatives going on throughout the year!

Finally, February’s “Whats Good?” will be on the topic of design! I am super excited for it. Stay tuned because my organisational skills aren’t quite at the point of knowing which week they get released on.

Logging OFF.

CJ

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