Data Viz Thoughts: Priya Padham Shares Her Tableau Journey

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). This week, Priya Padham (@p_padham) shares the early chapters of her quickly evolving dataviz story on her sensational 1st ever blog post.

Credit: Priya Padham

Background

Before entering the world of Tableau, I had just recently graduated from my Computing and IT focused degree in December. During my course, there was one module that was related to visualising data where I used Jupyter Notebooks and Python to create basic graphs, but prior to that my experience with data visualisation was only with Excel spreadsheets quite a few years ago!

Journey

After graduating, I really wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in or what I wanted to pursue. Then in March of this year I received a call from a recruiter to let me know about a position she thought would be a good fit for me. This is when my journey started and how I discovered Tableau. I spent two weeks working on learning how to use the software and doing my first draft of my application (a viz on a topic of my choosing) and I loved every second of it. When the draft was submitted and I received feedback, I knew that I had so much more to learn and I wanted to spend time immersing myself into the data community and improving my skills before submitting my next draft.

That’s when I decided to make a Twitter account purely for data visualisation and to get involved with #MakeoverMonday. I eventually plucked up the courage to take part in #MMVizReview, as I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to get feedback from experts in the field and improve on my vizzes. (1) The feedback I received through #MMVizReview has been invaluable and both Eva Murray and Charlie Hutcheson have played such a huge part in my progress with Tableau so far.

Inspirations

I have so many inspirations and it would be impossible to name them all! Ken and Kevin Flerlage’s website is such a great resource that I always visit as it’s packed full of tips and tutorials. Chantilly Jaggernauth’s webinars have really helped me to experiment with different design styles; especially her recent “Modern Social Marketing Dashboard” tutorial where she demonstrates how to create templates using Figma. I am also a big fan of Judit Bekker, Pradeep Kumar G, David Borczuk and Eric Clements — they all have such individual styles and I hope to have my own unique style one day. After watching Jonni Walker’s (who does amazing map and nature visualisations) Mapbox Styling Webinar, I was inspired to try using Mapbox and creating my own maps. So far, I have created two entirely map-based visualisations — “UFO Sightings in the US” and “Bigfoot Sightings in Washington” (can you see a theme here?!). I love maps and I think they are stunning, so making my own has been incredibly fun. (2)

Credit: Priya Padham — Here is my UFO Sightings in the US viz (click the .gif to access the interactive viz)

Inspirational Tableau Public Profile Links

Motivation

The community itself is extremely motivating; seeing the beautiful visualisations and what everyone creates makes me want to delve into Tableau even more. That moment when you finally finish a project and you can share it with the #datafam is very rewarding, and I’m always anxious to see what everyone thinks! I feel like I have barely even scratched the surface with Tableau and what it can do, and it’s so exciting to think about how much more there is to discover. I find myself looking forward to waking up the next day (or wanting to stay up all night!) so I can work on a project. It’s a whirlwind of creativity and possibility, and it’s an exhilarating collective to be part of.

#VOTD

At first, I wasn’t actually planning on posting anything for Week 15 of #MakeoverMonday as I was struggling with the dataset and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I didn’t do a wireframe for this particular viz, but I knew from the start that I wanted it to be minimalistic with just a simple graph in the middle and a title — that’s it. I had never experimented with a minimal design before, so I was excited to try it out.

Credit: Priya Padham (VOTD, draft)

Here is what I came up with first. I thought a butterfly chart might be a good idea to compare both players based on their goal average by appearances. It turned out that I didn’t like the colour scheme as much as I thought I would, so instead I decided to try out a dark theme. (3) After thinking it over, I figured that this dataset was the perfect candidate for trying out something I had never used before: a dumbbell chart!

Credit: Priya Padham

This is how the initial revamp looked with the new dumbbell chart. Soon after I realised that placing the show/hide button at the bottom of the graph wasn’t going to be effective as it was awkward to use. There also wasn’t enough contrast, so I decided to use a lighter shade of purple to make it stand out against the dark background.

Credit: Priya Padham (final, view 1)
Credit: Priya Padham (final, view 2)

In-between tweeting these pictures for #MakeoverMonday and just before the #MMVizReview, I decided to make the circles smaller as they were slightly too big which made it tricky to see the exact value on the x-axis. I also increased the width of the bar between the points so that it would be more visible.

After receiving feedback during #MMVizReview and implementing some suggestions (such as adding some context, making sure the axis numbers don’t shift when the parameter is used and adding my name and data source to the bottom), this was the final result:

Credit: Priya Padham (click the .gif to access the interactive viz)

I posted the edited version to Twitter on a Wednesday and on Friday night I received a notification on my phone saying I was tagged in a post. I looked on Twitter and saw that Tableau Public tagged me and there was a picture of my viz with “#VOTD” in the tweet. It was such a huge surprise that I wondered if there had been a mistake! (4) I received so many lovely messages and kind words from the community and I can’t explain how much it means to me and how happy I was that my work was chosen to be #VOTD. The data community is so supportive and the fact that everyone was so nice to someone who had only been part of it for not even a month at that point was very heart-warming.

#Datafam

The #datafam has helped me so much in so many ways, whether that’s by giving me feedback or being supportive of my content. I get so inspired by seeing other people’s work and I love reaching out to people to let them know how much their work has influenced me and inspired me to be better with my own projects. Looking back a few months ago, I would have never thought I would be so involved with such a vibrant and growing community (that I didn’t even know existed until recently). When I first made my Twitter account, I was so nervous and hesitant to post anything or to interact with people. Now I know that there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of and the data community is very welcoming! Being inspired by the people I mentioned earlier and so many others has allowed me to see what can be achieved with Tableau and the amazing things you can do with it. I’m always really surprised and happy when someone comments on my work saying they liked it, or that they downloaded my workbook and they learned something new. I would love to continue to help people, even though I’m still a beginner myself!

I just wanted to end this blog post by saying thank you so much to both Adam (5) and the #datafam for all of your kind words, guidance and support. It means the world to me and I love being part of this community!

Music Morsel

I love LCD Soundsystem and this song has been stuck in my head all week! Definitely check them out if you like what you hear — I recommend trying “Someone Great” which is equally addictive. (6)

Binge Bite

Ever since Judit Bekker (previously mentioned) posted her Modern Family viz (which was amazing, by the way!), and the fact that my boyfriend loves the show and really wanted me to watch it for so long, I thought I would finally give it a try. Let’s just say, I wish I had watched it sooner! It’s so funny, wholesome and relatable and we definitely binge watch it every day lately. Give it a try if you have never watched it (even though I’m very late to the party and everyone has probably already seen it)!

Footnotes

(by Adam Mico)

1) I’ve always been a strong advocate for people serious about data visualization to get involved in the #MakeoverMonday project. It’s a great place to learn and observe best practices and see many examples tackling the same data set — it’s more about substance than flash.

2) She has great taste! We interviewed Ken and Kevin + Judit (same blog post as Ken’s) and Pradeep had Viz of the Week honors previously (and maybe they will be interviewed for the blog some day 😉)!

3) I’m a total sucker for dark themes. I like how it makes vizzes pop. Obviously, dark themes aren’t to everyone’s liking, so please consider that and whether the data itself can support the theme when visualizing.

4) Any of us with a healthy dose of humility can completely understand impostor syndrome when receiving unexpected recognition!

5) A few weeks before the pandemic culture set in, I was in a big funk. Once the new normal started to unfold and I had an excuse to bury myself elsewhere that funk completely dug in its heals — in my case, I generally isolate myself as much as possible (I have no idea if that’s due to me being on autism spectrum). I have to credit our datafam for being huge inspiration and supportive — it has allowed me to re-calibrate. Developing + motivated talent like Priya helped me recall the excitement & opportunities when starting my Tableau journey (+ subsequently my datafam journey). This re-focus revealed my purpose & that is to pay it forward by featuring people who best exemplify our collective mission and deserve a stronger spotlight and/or recognition.

6) You may be surprised, but the ‘Music Morsel’ selection was the most challenging blog bit for Priya. She stewed for days on an artist until landing on a song.

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