Data Viz Thoughts .|: Maria Brock Interview & Christopher Conn’s ‘Connected Worlds’ is #VOTW

Adam Mico
9 min readSep 21, 2019

A Tableau-centric weekly blog about the viz making process, #datafam member interviews, #DataVizThoughts Viz of the Week + entertainment for introverts (consisting of a music morsel & a binge bite).

Maria Brock & Connected Worlds (Christopher Conn)

This week we will feature an interview with Maria Brock (@vizzingbrocks) and Christopher Conn (@ChrisC737) has our Viz of the Week!

#DataFam Member Thoughts with…

Credit: Maria Brock’s Interactive Résumé in Tableau (1)

Maria’s got chills

They’re multiplying

And she’s losing control

Cause the power Tableau’s supplying

It’s electrifying!

- This ‘may’ make a little more sense later

Maria is an energetic, talented and fascinating representative of the inaugural Tableau Student Ambassador Program. Her thirst for data analytics is palpable. She’s exceptionally bright, affable & energetic — exactly the type of person that would be a dynamic force on any team and we’re lucky to have her in our #datafam (2).

Adam Mico (AM): You are an active community member and just named as an inaugural Tableau Student Ambassador. How did that feel once you got notice of being chosen?

Maria Brock (MB): I was new to Tableau and just joined the Twitter community in July 2019. As soon as I put myself out in the Twittersphere, the community was shockingly supportive. The fear of failure has impacted me a lot in the past, but ever since discovering my passion for data analytics and Tableau, I’ve actually wanted to go outside my comfort zone, and the Tableau community has played a huge role in my urge to explore and get more engaged.

Eric Balash (@ReadySetData) nominated me to become an ambassador and Tableau let me know that I was selected. It was a special feeling; especially being part of the 1st class of student ambassadors and having this opportunity to give back to the community.

AM: Since becoming a Tableau Student Ambassador, what have you worked on in that capacity?

MB: Currently I’m working on hosting my first Tableau workshop on the George Mason University campus. A lot of that preparation has come in the form of my own training in the ambassador bootcamp and I’ve been very busy contacting the heads of the data analytics and statistics departments at the university. The professors and students I’ve talked to have been thrilled to have this opportunity, so I’m very excited. I’m also hoping to bring in speakers from the Tableau community (along with these workshops), so the students can grasp the importance of gaining data skills before and after graduation.

AM: You are firmly engaged in the Tableau tribe (3) — Tableau evangelism must creep into your personal life. Do you have ‘offline’ friends in the data/Tableau-sphere and what is their response to your glowing nerdom?

MB: Even though none of my friends are into Tableau or data analytics, they have been so supportive and are very excited to see the passion I have for it. I’ll sometimes come home to a message board with data puns on it from my roommates. Who knows…maybe I’ll convert them one day!

AM: What possessed you to seek a career in data analytics (4)?

MB: I am majoring in Economics and minoring in Statistics and Data Analysis. I added Data Analysis after my older brother wisely suggested it. Since then, I have an insatiable drive to learn anything related to the field. I’ve taken on learning R, SQL, and Tableau. I haven’t accessed my Netflix account for at least two months because I’d rather study resources like Lorna Edan’s tip videos or the Ken and Kevin Flerlage blogs — this has been a source of loving teasing from my friends.

AM: What role have others played in shaping the beginning of your journey/career in data analytics and visualization?

MB: My dad has played a huge role in shaping my journey. Ever since I was little he always told me that I could do anything I put my mind to, and seeing my 6 older sisters become strong, successful women with their own careers and families has encouraged me to pursue my passions and build a career as a woman in data analytics.

AM: What has your internship at Booz Allen Hamilton taught you about working in data analytics professionally?

MB: Right away, I saw many women in tech and in senior roles — it’s super encouraging that this employer embracing women in tech. It is so important for young women to see visible female role models when they enter the workforce.

My internship role was BI Applications — Enterprise Data and Analytics. The work is very Tableau-focused and a lot of time was used to create dashboards on their existing Tableau Server — I also worked on a team that developed dashboards per requirements. Working within requirements has made me understand the tool a lot more and it’s very helpful getting a good grasp of dashboard making in the corporate world.

AM: You are very artistically-inclined (5) — whether it’s theater, singing or playing the piano — you have strong right-brained tendencies. How does working on vizzes for Tableau Public balance left-brained (analytic) and the right-brained propensities you possess?

MB: Part of the fun of creating vizzes on Tableau Public, is that I can challenge myself creatively and also balance it with the focus on data cohesion. I love Tableau because it gives me the perfect outlet to use my right-brain tendencies with how you can design these beautiful dashboards which provide the logical insights in a pleasing, artistic way. It truly is a tool for the people.

AM: We’re going to switch gears a bit and talk about the 1st viz that hit a chord with me on your public profile was Myers-Briggs Personality Dashboard. What do you like about the test and should more people take and share their results (6)?

MB: I enjoy it because we can learn a lot about the diversity of how people interact internally and externally with the world. Personality tests aren’t the be-all and end-all and they’re broad, but I’ve found a lot of help in learning how my reactions to situations can come from my extroversion versus introversion levels or understanding how my friends communicate differently from me.

AM: This is the last and silliest question. Even as a performer… you must have guilty pleasure songs that you wouldn’t intend to act on publicly. What is yours and did you have any funny experiences related to that?

MB: Normally, I am not a shy performer, however, mine is definitely Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta’s Grease epic, ‘You’re the One That I Want’. The song is not such a guilty pleasure, but I try to sing AND dance both parts which can be embarrassing. The funniest if I am singing it in my car at a red light and a poor bystander incidentally witnesses my enthusiastic rendition.

Maria’s Closing Thought: I really want to thank the Tableau community. I feel like I’ve found my place with them and their constant support and eagerness has helped propel my love for Tableau as I start my journey with data analytics.

Viz of the Week

Credit: Christopher Conn (1)

As soon as Christopher Conn’s Connected World hit my Twitter feed, fascination struck me — besides being a sucker for map and flight pattern vizzes (not to mention, I’m traveling next month), the scheme was beautifully bold with tons mineable data to unfold and track.

He was kind enough to share his #datavizthoughts on the process and delivery. To my shock… he was not satisfied with this majestic viz of a map.

Adam Mico (AM): What was your vision for the Connected World and how did the finished product compare?

Christopher Conn (CC): My wife (@FiorellaConn) and I always try to sketch out our plan/ideas for any of our visualizations. Here is that sketch from August 30th:

This board serves as a wish list for final product and provides a peak into the layout. It’s kind of funny… I’m still working on a version 2.0 to implement all the other features I originally envisioned.

Version 1.0 did not come out completely as I had envisioned. I wanted to add in a few cool features but just ran out of time. My original goal was to have it published by my birthday (9/14), but I didn’t get it until the next day. I was getting tired and just said, “I’ll make a version 2.0 with all the bells and whistles.”

I reached out to Ken Flerlage (7) multiple times throughout the development. At 1st, I wanted to produce the Gephi Bézier curves with random midpoints and Ken quickly helped. His solution worked perfectly with 200 lines, but it was 37K+ row dataset, so it couldn’t function. Next, I reached out to see if he could help with the highlight actions, but we still were getting the longitude as the color. Fixing that proved to be much more difficult, so I threw my hands up and focused on formatting and posted to Tableau Public.

AM: Martin Grandjean’s original is also phenomenal, what inspired you to recreate this on Tableau & what were some of the other challenges you faced with this iteration?

CC: My inspiration to re-create Martin’s original viz all spawned from a visitor’s comment on our blog; Mathieu Jacomy pointed out to me that network graphs are isotropic viz and must not be stretched. He added a link to further back up his comment. While reading through the information he sent over, I came across Martin’s viz and was blown away! I love aviation and this viz was right up my alley! Since I’ve been playing around with Gephi for the past month or so, I decided to give it a go.

To be fair (and honest), the overall task was a little more in depth than I had originally anticipated. The data source, needed cleaning and batch geocode the airport codes to get the latitude + longitude and then figure out how to use them as attributes within Gephi to process on a Geo layout.

The next step was to figure out what algorithm Martin used to create the network. That was a lot of trial an error and parameter changing within Gephi — until I reached out to Martin personally to ask what he did. He was kind enough to point me in the right direction but couldn’t remember the parameter settings he used — even more trial and error! After a bit, it started coming together and looking more like what I was intending to visualize.

Music Morsel

Clara Clara — Run Away

Lost in the shuffle of banal bubblegum are lo-fi charismatic grooves like Clara Clara’s ‘Run Away’. This hipster-adjacent French outfit had a groovy go of it at the always stunning A Take Away Show in 2017 — the combination of fab sound and aesthetics prove that two good vibes always makes it right.

Binge Bite

Thanks to the #datafam +community fun, binging was less of an option this week. However, I had the chance to re-watch one of my favorite documentaries… a BBC 4 broadcast of Synth Britannia. Candid interviews from many pioneers of the genre and inspired sounds showcase the early history of Brit synth music (and what would become synth pop). If this peaks your curiosity just a little — give it a watch!

BBC4’s full Synth Britannia documentary on YouTube


(1) To access a link (a) Desktop: Go to the right and click the link & (b) Mobile: Simply click the image to follow the link.

(2) None of the accolades were paid for, but I’m happy to accept donations. Also, in a couple years she may my boss (or a boss to any one of you). She’s a force!

(3) I wanted to reference the Tableau Community as The Upside Down, but I may be pushing my limit on pop culture references and implying that the community is a force of bad. They tell me it’s not.

(4) This is NOT a judgmental question — data analytics is a hard path. Many people, including myself, fell into it via many forks.

(5) Just check out her fun facts/hobbies in her interactive résumé (linked above)!

(6) If curious, Maria is an ENFJ and I vacillate between an INTJ and ISTJ.

(7) On nearly any Tableau-related Q&A, you will see a ton of Flerlage action because those mischievous boys have their hands in every cookie jar. I’m kidding… they are an ever-present source of good and a big part of what makes the #datafam community gel.

Continue sharing #DataVizThoughts



Adam Mico

Data Visualization and Enablement Leader | Data Leadership Collaborative Advisory Board Member | Tableau Visionary + Ambassador | Views are my own