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How finding a passion for Data Visualization Transformed my Career Outlook

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

A little backstory

I’m a 25-year-old, millennial female living in an age where being labeled as such can have deeper implications than you’d think.

I worked my butt off in high school to get into an esteemed university and acquire that oh so vital college degree my parents insisted I obtain. Don’t get me wrong, my college experience was amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything (Go Clemson Tigers!) However, 4 years and thousands of dollars in debt later, I was at an impasse.

I had a communication degree and no idea where I wanted to go with it. On top of the fact that entry level jobs in this field are paid significantly low, if I wanted to land anything to jumpstart my career, I’d have to move to an entirely different state (not too many big-time, thriving communication companies in the palmetto state of SC).

So instead I went back to school and got my Master of Business Administration… the most generic secondary degree you can think of. Again, an unparalleled experience, but now potential employers considered me “overqualified with no full-time experience.” And I wasn’t the only student from my graduating class in this boat.

However, the tables turned for me in grad school during my Clemson internship. My coworker Matt Chambers (Tableau Zen Master, nbd) kept talking about this Tableau software. I kept hearing buzz words like “data visualization,” “data storytelling,” and “data driven.” Originally, when I thought “data,” I pictured rows and rows of basic excel dumps, but Matt was putting a whole new spin on the data culture at Clemson. It wasn’t just numbers, it was art, and it was meaningful!

My first viz

So on top of my school and internship load, I jumped on the data viz train and designed my first Tableau dashboard BB19 Favorite Houseguest Rankings (read more here). The software was surprisingly intuitive and easy to learn (Tableau’s Training videos were super helpful) and I instantly fell in love. The capabilities seemed limitless; the story I was able to tell through charts and graphs painted a much better picture than generic, tabular text poll results. I published it on tableaupublic, a community and sharing platform, and within a few days I received an email saying my visual had been selected as the Viz of the Day! (Cue the fan girl screaming!) I’m not sure if it was luck or just good timing, but now my BB visualization has been viewed by almost 10,000 people!

This small achievement, networking within the Tableau community, and Matt’s help, dramatically propelled my job search. Within a few months I had several job interviews set up at both local and national companies. I couldn’t believe it!

And here we are!

Upon graduation, I decided to take a Data Analyst job working with Matt at Clemson University. I was stoked to be in a roll where I could use both my analytical and design skills to contribute to the university. It’s really cool to now have an impact at a place that invested so much in me over the years. One major tableau project I recently completed in this position was a research expenditure tracking tool; now university faculty and researchers across the entire campus actively use a tool I created and designed. How cool is that??

The day-to-day work is actually fun, the data community is great, the industry is always evolving, and I have to say the pay (for a recent grad like me) is pretty dang good! Needless to say, I’m very blessed and thankful where this journey is taking me. I can’t wait to see what comes next!


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