An Interview with Tableau’s 1st African Zen Master, Abisola Oni
A Tableau-centric weekly blog about the data viz-making process, #datafam member interviews, Viz of the Week & entertainment for introverts (consisting of a music morsel & a binge bite).
Abisola is a data trailblazer. She’s as humble as she is skilled and it’s my privilege to hopefully help you gain inspiration from her path to ultimately lead efforts in Nigeria for her community to practice and grow by applying data analytics and visualization. Please check out her WeVisualize Meetup site and Twitter.
Adam Mico (AM): Abby, it’s such an honor to interview you. You are the 1st African Tableau Zen Master and I’ve only heard great things about you. I can’t wait to learn more about you. What was your 1st exposure to data analytics?
Abisola Oni (AO): Thank you, Adam! It’s a pleasure to speak with you. I learned about data analytics when I started out in a sales role for a Tableau Partner firm in 2017. I was going to be leading sales engagements and demoing Tableau for prospective clients so I had no choice but to learn how to use Tableau and that’s how my journey started. (1)
AM: Please explain your initial experience with Tableau and how it compared to similar platforms you were working with at that time?
AO: I started working with Tableau in 2017 and it was the only tool I used for a bit, I was won over with how easy it was to pick up for someone like me that was not technical and did not know how to write things like SQL queries; I am self taught and learnt from watching videos and tutorials online. I have since tried other tools like DOMO and I may be biased but I always continue to pick Tableau over and over the other tools.
AM: Your degree is in Electrical Engineering from Covenant University. Did your career begin as an electrical engineer and please explain the transition from that to your work now?
AO: I started out my career in Procurement after my degree, then I took a gap year to experience working as an Engineer at a Power Plant. It was interesting but I quickly realised it was not something I wanted to continue in.
AM: It looks like the community project you enjoy is #MakeOverMonday. What is it about the project that inspires you and how has it helped you build your skills as a data visualizer?
AO: For anyone that wants to get into data visualization, I always recommend participating in MakeoverMonday, I joined MakeoverMonday every week for six months in 2018 and it was a fantastic learning experience for me, joining the reviews and the feedback from the community was so vital to my growth. Being able to participate from my corner of the world with people all over was super exciting!
AM: Who are some of the data analytics people that inspire you and please explain how they have an impact on you?
AO: Oh wow, there’s a number of them. Andy Kriebel (@VizWizBi) and Eva Murray (@TriMyData) for committing to helping others through MakeoverMonday. Sarah Bartlett (@sarahlovesdata) for being so supportive and engaging.
AM: You are the founder of WeVisualize. (2) Share what the community is about and what it does.
AO: As careers in technology continue to garner interest, many of the communities in Nigeria are focused on Software development and various coding languages and tools, but none focused on Data Visualization which exists in the day to day experience of professionals across all sectors. Everyone isn’t going to be a software developer and there’s a lot of data that organisations are generating daily that they need to be able to find answers in to help drive their business objectives.
AM: How has WeVisualize performed versus expectations as a community (which appear to be near its one year marker)?
AO: The growth and feedback has been great so far! Last year, one of our members messaged me to say he had just started a new job as a BI specialist taking the necessary steps from the interactions he had within the community.
AM: You were recently given Tableau’s largest community honor and that is Zen Master. There were 34 Zen Masters named in 2020 and you were the 1st ever from the African continent. Have you been able to absorb how substantial this is and what impact it has on you and your platform?
AO: Asides feeling a tad overwhelmed, it is very humbling and I do not take the honor lightly at all. There is definitely the expectation to do more and I plan to use WeVisualize as a platform to continue to support other data enthusiasts in their learnings.
AM: There isn’t a lot known about the African data analytics culture. Where do you see the future of Africa’s embrace of data analytics?
AO: I don’t know that I can speak on African data analytics culture, but looking at the growth from recent years I am excited for the future. There are growing communities focused on Data Science, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and they are making an impact already.
AM: Please share a talent, a silly fact or a guilty pleasure the community may not know about you.
AO: Haha, I watched all four seasons of Money Heist (3) in four days! Don’t ask me how… please, lol.
Viz of the Week
Simon Arira( @simon_arira) is a mega-talented data visualizer that I have been following for some time. In this collaborative effort we see so many wonderful attributes and insights Tableau offers as a mechanized canvas; it’s beautiful, highly customized, technically adept, provides clarity via data through a complex topic and provides fuel to call for action.
Many of us take safe drinking water for granted and it’s important to notice, recognize and understand that many people perish or get seriously ill from not having dependable access. To learn more, check out the World Water Day site. (4)
When you press shuffle on your playlist, does a tune hit you that missed you many times before? The Breeders’ “We’re Gonna Rise” itself is an understated mantra-esque song with an abbreviated bridge and cool little pauses [side note, many of their songs sound incomplete for their 1st few listens]. This week it broadcast the cautiously optimistic vibes I needed. Enjoy.
The “Waco” miniseries was added to Netflix — it is based on the events that occurred in Waco, Texas during the nearly two-month Branch Davidian vs. FBI/ATF standoff. I remember this vividly when it was featured on the news — the narrative was Americans vs. a gun-toting, sex-crazed & suicidal cult with a leader who thinks he’s the second coming of Christ. The stories from the survivors and former FBI negotiator adds a lot of texture and layers that were previously omitted by the government and press — this surely greyed out the protagonist vs. antagonist labels previously (and carelessly) applied.
1) & We all benefited!
2) Per the site description, “A growing community of individuals [based in Lagos, Nigeria] who are passionate and curious about data analytics, visualization and its impact on how organizations are making data-driven decisions. All skill levels welcome!”
3) I’ve never heard of “Money Heist” until mentioned here. It is a very highly regarded Spanish-language Netflix series. If you speak Spanish or don’t mind subtitles, it’s probably a great watch…
4) Due to time/energy restrictions, I will not interview my “Viz of the Week” publishers. Instead, the viz will be glowingly blurbed.