POET TURNED DATA ANALYST TURNED ENTREPRENEUR
My name is Erin Daugherty and I’m delighted that you’re visiting Data Dozen. Here’s a quick snapshot of who I am. Midwesterner through and through, I’m from Kansas City, went to Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and wound up working at Washington University in St. Louis for several years after college. It was there that this poetry major discovered data visualization. I was immediately hooked, and before long, I realized that the only thing I loved more than creating Tableau dashboards was teaching other folks on campus how to visualize their data too.
In October 2015 I co-founded WU TUG (Washington University Tableau User Group), and spent the next year and a half leading tutorials and delighting in our weekly gatherings. In May 2017, I left my position as Research and Visual Analytics Specialist in the Provost’s Office to launch my own data visualization education business, Data Dozen. As I embark on this new entrepreneurial adventure, I am filled with gratitude for my unorthodox career path. Its twists and turns define the humanist voice I bring to the conversation around data.
FAMILIARITY WITH DATA IS QUICKLY BECOMING A KEY COMPONENT OF LITERACY
Our world is producing data at a staggering rate, and we have the ability to turn this deluge of data into useful information. However, for many folks what data actually is remains elusive, and the prospect of analyzing it is downright terrifying. This was me three years ago. I was not a programmer nor a statistician, and therefore counted myself out of the elite who could leverage this type of knowledge. The first time I saw data displayed visually, I was stunned by my own ability to understand it. Three years, hundreds of visualizations, and countless generous mentors later, I am eager to help others break down the preconception that data’s not for them. My goal is to make data visualization—and by extension, data itself—approachable, exciting, and meaningful.
THE TWO THINGS DATA VISUALIZATION CAN TEACH US IN A DATA OBSESSED WORLD
First: data is just as unruly and fallible as any other type of information. Folks working in the data mess day in and day out know this, and spend the majority of their time wielding an inquisitive mop. But for the rest of us who never go sloshing through datasets, numeric output of any kind can often feel empirically bulletproof. Give someone a dataset to visualize, and suddenly their knee-jerk reaction shifts from “well I guess it must be true” to “how was this data collected?” Rewiring that default makes us better workers, consumers, and citizens.
And here’s the second thing data visualization teaches us: data needs to be humanized in order to be effective. To make an impact, data needs to be understandable, rooted in ethics, and tethered to our lives. Successful data visualization hinges on design, philosophy, and storytelling. Dichotomous assumptions about quantitative vs. qualitative people get tossed out the window. We are all capable of both. And when the full spectrum of our abilities get to mix and mingle, our critical thinking thrives. At its core, this is what Data Dozen is all about: firing up your brain and encouraging you to go explore the messy, wonderful world of data that’s been surrounding you this whole time. You’ll emerge sharper, more creative, and hopefully, even more curious than before.