The Why and How to Learn Data Viz


To grow your career, you should always be willing to learn new skills. We live in the information age and things move fast. Leaders make decisions based on data. If things don’t go as planned, you can defend your decision with data. There is an increased need for professionals to gather and visualize information. This is a huge area of interest for me.

I enjoy looking at raw data, asking questions of it and then helping the data to tell it’s story. Datasets tell stories, but they do need a facilitator. Data visualization suits me. I am a visual/graphical learner I know a picture can be worth a thousand words. There’s some magic that occurs when you provide a decision-maker the tool they need. Design an intuitive tool and let them discover answers with it.


When you enjoy something, you’ll spend time practicing and learning it. That is how I’m learning data visualization techniques. I realize not everyone enjoys data visualization. Yet, for those that do, if you put in the work you will develop a rare skill. You will learn what questions to ask of data. What types of questions you can answer. And why those answers are valuable. Additionally, there is a technical component of learning any new tool. And through hours spent asking questions and seeking the mechanism to provide answers, you develop your skill.

Specific steps to learn any software tool:

  1. Take a free basic intro course on the tool. I’m a big fan of LinkedIn Learning, but you could use YouTube or any other learning platform. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a well-marketed course. The purpose is to get an introduction. To give you an idea of basic concepts, terminology, and navigation of the software.
  2. Download a dataset and get started. I recommend using data that interests you. This will help you know what questions to ask of the data.
  3. Share your Work! I am learning Tableau, for it you should create a profile to store your projects on their site. This will provide you a link to point anyone to examples of your work. Especially if it’s software that you don’t use in your current role but want to learn. You can prove your familiarity with the tool. And the fact that you tackle independent projects demonstrates your personality and drive. A leader wants employees to take initiative and this activity shows that. Once you’ve added a few projects to your profile, add your profile link to your resume.
  4. Follow artists in your chosen tool on social media so you can see what is possible with the software. Get inspired!
  5. Sign up for contests. There is an annual Tableau contest called Iron Viz that I am participating in this year. I’m doing it for a couple reasons:
    •  energize my interest in the tool 
    • prove initiative
  6. Tell people about your interest in the software. You never know when someone might point you in the direction of a new opportunity.
  7. Track your time spent working in the software. This may seem too analytical. But, if your goal is a job in data analysis… the decision maker is probably into data driven decisions. Hours spent in the tool is a solid data point.

To learn Tableau, recommended steps:

  • Visit and download Tableau Public (free)
  • Find a beginner course to take – I found one on LinkedIn Learning through my public library membership
  • Visit and download a dataset you find interesting. One that you have some familiarity with and want to learn more about.
  • Import your dataset into Tableau Public and play. Learn by doing. You’ll get stuck and wonder why charts look wrong. Keep going… search to find others who have encountered the problem and learn from them. This is where the real learning happens. Slice and dice the dataset to your heart’s content. By answering one question, you will find others. Eventually, you will create an entire dashboard. You will learn so much.
  • Then download another and repeat.
  • Over time you will discover gaps in your skillset. You can always find more focused courses to address the gaps. It’s the classic case of you don’t know what you don’t know.

I hope this helps. Anyone interested, reach out and let me know. I’d love to connect. And if you want to check out some of my visualizations:!/

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