An Interview with Her Data Co-Founders: Jennifer Dawes & Dinushki ‘Dee’ De Livera

A weekly blog about the ‘data viz’-making process, #datafam / data analytics member interviews, & entertainment for introverts (consisting of a music morsel & a binge bite).

Credit: Jennifer Dawes (left) and Dinushki ‘Dee’ De Livera (right)

Feature Interview

Her Data (stylized below to ‘HER DATA’ for clarity in my questions) (Twitter | LinkedIn |Site) is a platform founded by Jennifer Dawes (Twitter | LinkedIn | Tableau Public) and Dinushki ‘Dee’ De Livera (Twitter | LinkedIn | Tableau Public). The one-line description is ‘Empowering and Connecting Women in Data’, which is an actionable exclamation to enhance diversity in data (and our community). Let’s learn more about Her Data and its team!

Adam Mico (AM): Please share a little bit about yourselves with those that haven’t met you.

Jennifer Dawes (JD): I am Jennifer, a mom of four boys, two sets of twins. My education and background are in Human Resources but I recently made the career leap to Analyst and Tableau Developer.

Dinushki ‘Dee’ De Livera (DD): Hi, I'm Dinushki, everyone calls me Dee! I’m a Sri Lankan living and working in Cincinnati, Ohio. I have been using Tableau for about 4 years now and still can’t get enough of it.

AM: You both work at Unifund with Jeffrey Shaffer (@HighVizAbility) and Kevin Flerlage (@FlerlageKev) (among others). How long have you worked together and what do you work a lot together on projects and whatnot? Do you two work quite a bit as a team and how has that helped or hurt your ability to work together in HER DATA?

DD & JD: We have worked for the same company for 4 years, but only recently on the same team. As of right now, we have not worked on any work projects together but we are looking forward to doing so in 2021.

However, in the 4 years that we have known each other, we have developed a great friendship. This has only helped our Her Data journey! (1)

AM: Congratulations on your collaborative VOTD! Please walk us through the work on that viz. Did it differ a lot from teamwork on a work viz? Do you plan on working on more vizzes as HER DATA (possibly bringing other people to collaborate)?

DD & JD: This Viz was created for the Zurich Data+Women Christmas special. (2) This was our very first collaboration together and definitely not our last!

For this project, we focused on our strengths; Dinushki worked on the map and Jennifer worked on the bump chart. We then spent many many hours on zoom calls where we worked together on combining our ideas and design styles.

Priya Padham (PP): What are your perfect environments for vizzing? Do you like to listen to music; if so, what do you listen to?

JD: I don’t generally listen to music but in terms of my environment, I tend to have 20+ windows open. I try to have my inspiration in front of me to make color picking and styling easier.

DD: I typically don’t listen to music when I work…. I need to be focused while in my quiet bubble. Sometimes I have headphones on (without music playing) just to cancel out the noise around me.

AM: Who originally thought of HER DATA and please walk us through the planning process?

DD & JD: One day we were both talking about the idea of having blogs. Our own ones of course. We joked about creating a joint one because that would be half the work (so we thought...). We then stopped to realize what a perfect idea that truly was; two women focusing on empowering other women in data.

AM: Usually, partners share different skill sets. How have you learned to work with each other’s skills to enhance the experience?

DD & JD: Yes, we definitely both have different skillsets and design styles. This makes it so much better because we get to learn from each other and keep each other accountable.

AM: How has the 2020 lockdown experience impacted HER DATA?

DD & JD: The 2020 lockdown was one of the reasons Her Data was created! Our experience with working remotely and constantly being on zoom calls gave us the idea and opportunity to broaden our connections.

AM: What surprised you most about this initiative and its impact?

DD & JD: The immense initial support we received from all parts of our company and the data community.

AM: What did you wish you knew when you were planning HER DATA vs. what you know now?

DD & JD: The main thing that we didn’t know then that we know now is that Her Data is a much bigger idea than we originally planned. We are still new so I suppose we still have time to learn…

AM: What have you learned about the datafam community since launching HER DATA that you didn’t really know previously?

DD & JD: We learned how large, talented, and helpful the community is!

Since we launched, we interviewed and chatted with a lot of people and created so many new friendships. (3)

AM: What would you like to see as the future of HER DATA?

DD & JD: We have so much planned for 2021, of course, we won’t reveal all our secrets yet. Our ultimate goal with Her Data is to spread our sparkle in so many other directions.

AM: If someone else wants to begin a wide-reaching initiative such as this, what tips do you have for those people?

DD & JD: This is still such a new journey for us and Her Data but I would say connecting to the #datafam as much as possible. There are so many talented individuals in the community, we are learning so much.

AM: How can someone contribute or participate in HER DATA?

DD & JD: Anyone and everyone are welcome on Her Data! If you would like to participate please connect with us on the “contact us” tab on Her Data or Twitter/LinkedIn.

AM: What’s underrated about living and working in Cincinnati?

JD: Haha. This is a funny question for me. I have spent my entire life in Cincinnati so I really don’t know any different. I would say, I love the eclectic cultures and the large arts presents we have in our city.

DD: Cincinnati is underrated for many things! But the most significant would be the food and beverage industry. We have something for everyone and at a high-quality level. (4)

AM: Please share a fun fact about yourself that’s not too well-known in the community!

JD: Fun facts about me? I guess before going to school for Human Resources I dreamt of a career in animation. I was rather talented years ago but haven’t done much in recent years with these skills. I even applied to several art schools and was accepted. My parents really encouraged me to focus on business education instead. No regrets though. I love my current role as I can use so many skills and be artistic.

DD: Somethings you may not know about me; I’m a huge water baby. I swam and played water polo on the Sri Lankan national team in 2011. It was definitely an honor to represent my country and hopefully this summer I will try to start playing water polo again, for fun.

Music Morsel

Phoebe Bridgers’ “Punisher” is an incredible record and this is a sublime performance of ‘Savior Complex’. The AV Club summed up the album well when they chimed…

“Phoebe Bridgers has created a musical monument to our dissociative age with “Punisher”. It’s an album about sleepless nights and sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, wrapped in a musical package that’s both feather-light and lush enough to run your fingers through.”

Binge Bite

As an American, I (previously) couldn’t care less about the monarchy or ‘the crown’, so it took me a long time to have any desire to watch it; once I did, I was transfixed. In short, this is an expensive and expansive work of historical fiction. What got me into it was its detailed sets, beautiful cinematography, tremendous acting with well-researched history providing such a dynamic combination of real and reasonable hypothetical situations/scenes. It also made me much more interested in the ‘real’ stories behind ‘the crown’.

Footnotes

1) Dee and Jennifer have such great chemistry. It seems like they have worked together-together for a balance of those four years.

2) For more information on HER DATA’s collaboration with Zurich’s Data + Women collective, HER DATA covered it here.

3) HER DATA interviews really are immersive. Many of their blog posts are committed to these incredible interviews. Their direct blog link is here.

4) About a year ago, I visited Cincinnati and Dee was a sensational host. I covered it extensively here. If you do not want to read the post, I did photograph some cool street art and the visual aesthetic of Cincinnati while on Dee’s tour:

#DataVizThoughts Editing Team

Adam Mico

Twitter | LinkedIn | Tableau Public

Priya Padham

Twitter | LinkedIn | Tableau Public

Keyrus US’ Tableau Evangelist and Tableau Ambassador | Data Leadership Collaborative Advisory Board Member. | Views are my own | Co-Editor: Priya Padham