Data Viz Thoughts .|: Candra McRae Interview & Vinodh Kumar has our #VOTW

Feature Interview

  • Get in and out (don’t belabor unimportant points and don’t keep talking just to hear yourself talk — shorter, but impactful talks > longer talks where half the room is asleep or stepped out)
  • Be authentic (inject yourself into the story and don’t pretend to be a person that’s never made mistakes — it’s not relatable or believable)
  • Don’t suck. Practice, practice, practice. There’s a time to wing it and there’s a time to make sure words come out as coherently and natural as possible.
  • Ask someone that isn’t in your arena (e.g., friend, spouse, kids are actually sometimes the best) to listen to see if they got the gist of what you’re talking about. If they didn’t, assume your audience won’t — revise the talk.
  • Extend grace to yourself. You’ll flub a talk or 5. Learn from them and step on to the stage again. As much public speaking as I do, there was one time I was giving an introduction of a new team member on stage in front of 600 people. Everything was going fine, and then for whatever reason I lost my rhythm and where I was at in my introduction, and I legit spaced on that person’s name, the reporting relationship to me, and more. It was HORRIBLE — luckily someone on-stage gave me some comedic relief to break the moment. I ended up laughing at the flub and myself in the moment, and it became a living comedy sketch for my team for the next year or so. This epic fail didn’t stop me from speaking at local analytics conferences, the 2018 Tableau Conference, and more. S*** happens — have a laugh, learn, and get over it!
  • The assumption that I’m not technical in conversations and people being genuinely surprised that I am, in fact, technical — despite having more technical depth than the person suggesting a tech-lite discussion. I assume these are projections mixed in with a little unconscious bias
  • People being surprised that I’m well-spoken as if there was some expectation that a woman with a master’s degree and a lifelong affinity for books would somehow jump start a conversation using urban vernacular or something inarticulate.
  • Maintaining individual agency. Being careful that people don’t view me as the representative for all black people or racial minorities. When I answer questions, I stress the fact that people of color are not monoliths, so when I opine on something — I’m opining as an individual, not as the voice for any group. I do so because America is still very much socially segregated, and I may be the only true exposure a person has to black culture — so I don’t want to speak for an entire culture.
  • Bringing my whole self to work. Early on in my career, I used to leave bits of myself outside of the office to make myself more relatable to dominant culture that controlled the gateways of my career. Some examples include: straightening my hair, code switching in the language I used, the clothes that I wore, the music I talked about, everything. I thought similarity led to relatability, which reduced the ‘otherness’ that could harm my career prospects. This gets exhausting after awhile, so I stopped and brought my authentic self to work (big curly hair, earrings of my choice, and relaxed). I did this to be an example for anyone that was looking at me that you can rise and be yourself. If being yourself hurt you, you were in the wrong place.
  • People in conversation suggesting that I didn’t earn my seat at the table — that it was some sort of gift from the diversity fairy not because I was willing to outwork and outlearn the people around me. This one is particularly troubling to me because it dismisses all of the sacrifices I’ve made to get what I have because THEY have hang-ups about seeing a woman of color in places they determined I shouldn’t be (based on assumptions of inferiority). This typically results in men having to slide my credentials and accomplishments across the figurative table so they know exactly who I am — something I absolutely hate having to do because it shouldn’t matter.
  • In our slice of the world, I think openly talking about diversity or the lack thereof to drive awareness because it’s easy to get in our bubbles where we don’t see the missing voices. I think those missing voices also need to be a part of the solution by becoming more vocal even when you don’t want to be. Honestly, as a black person, I hate being the first person to bring up an obvious lapse in diversity (e.g., when none of the 60 or so Tableau Ambassadors were black and then a black woman was appointed after there was a Twitter dust-up) because I don’t want to be accused of playing any sort of ‘race card’ — but diversity and inclusion is something that will make us ALL better, so calling out things that don’t contribute to the strength and growth of the community is part of my responsibility as a member of the #datafam.
  • Being aware of your unconscious bias — I saw something like this going around in the #datafam late last year when people were using a tool to figure out that there wasn’t a proportionate representation of women in their Twitter following.
  • My personal action is to become more active to raise visibility and to highlight voices that generally converse within the confines of DMs vs. open forums

Viz of the Week

Credit: Vinodh Kumar — ‘Food Waste and Hunger’

Hunger is cruel and food waste is a terrible problem.

Binge Bite

Music Morsel




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Adam Mico

Adam Mico

Principal, Data Visualization and CoE at Moderna | Data Leadership Collaborative Advisory Board Member | Tableau Visionary + Ambassador | Views are my own