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Resources for Self-Improvement for Data Industry Professionals

Last Update: May 22, 2017

Over the last year I have noticed that as my social engagement increased I started to receive many messages to the likes of the following:

 "I came across your Tableau profile/blog/Twitter and as a new user I would love to know your journey/resources you used to learn the tool."

"How did you enter the data field with a background in political science?"

"I came across your profile and was very impressed with your achievements and career path as you have grown into the Business Intelligence field. What advice would you have to a new comer?"

"As someone who came from a non-technical background and quickly grown into the BI field successfully, I am wondering if you would share your experiences and tips." 

For a while I felt a bit out of place to receive the compliments and struggled to realize I had a point of view that could be valuable to others in their own career progression. With the support of my peers and the amazing women I get to engage with in the Tableau/data community I have gained a new confidence and comfort in sharing my techniques. I've always been a compassionate person and I truly love helping others. Instead of keeping all the tips and tricks that have helped me grow hidden in private messages, I thought I would share with you publicly!

 My Recommendations

1. Always surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. I have always been intimidated by folks who I aspire to be like but have found that when I overcome that shyness and seek out their help they usually like to share it. I have two categories of these people. First, the peers I interact with regularly so perhaps people at work who are senior to me. With these folks, I seek mentors and try to meet on a cadence. I also use these people for advice on an as needed basis. Second, what I call "stretch connections" - people who are many levels senior to me, experts in industry, etc. I connect with the people via LinkedIn and Twitter. I usually introduce myself, compliment the aspects of their work I admire and try to see if we can chat over the phone or meet over coffee if we're located in the same place. I use these opportunities to discover how they've found success, their thoughts on the field, etc. Through this, I've met Founders, Data Scientists in the U.S. and met with people at companies I dream to work at.

2. Take on opportunities you're afraid of. I always find it easy to doubt my capabilities but my last two jobs I had fears about the level or work and expectations of my performance. However, I've always felt when under pressure and forced do step outside my comfort zone that it accelerates my learning. I'm able to quickly understand new technologies and apply them quickly. I am able to learn more in a few months through hands-on experience versus years of higher education.

3. Have a growth mindset. Good book on the subject: Basically, believe that your knowledge isn't fixed and that you always have the ability to learn new things. Some things may not come as quick as others but with handwork and persistence you can succeed in your endeavors. With that, always being cognizant that your current understanding is limited and that there is always more to learn. Be humble enough to recognize this and always strive to be better.

4. Have a point of view. Recently I've been becoming more involved in the public space - tweeting and sharing my work on Tableau public. As I've increased my social presence, I've increased my clout and have experienced more people viewing my LinkedIn page, reaching out to me for opportunities, citing my work in their articles, etc. Gaining credibility in the field really helps push you to develop your skills further and often widens your circle.

My Favorite Resources

New(er) to business intelligence, tableau or data in general? Looking to move into this career path? Here are some of the tools that have helped me along the way!
  • Books: 
    • Data Viz - Information Dashboard Design by Stephen Few for getting a quick foundation in data visualization design principles and really practical insights. I've honestly only read this and another one of his books, Now You See It. I just started Alberto Cairo's, The Truthful Art. Check out Andy Kriebel's curated list of suggested books here!
    • Stats - Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan
    • Business - Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, Seven Steps to Mastering Business Analysis by Barbar Carkenord
    • Books on my shortlist to read - Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, The Signal and the Noise: Why so Many Predictions Fail
  • Podcasts: I dabble in a lot of podcast by my two favorite that I listen to most consistantly are:
    • Partially Derivative
    • Freakanomics
  • Newsletters: I subscribe to a few newsletters that send me really interested datasets or date-oriented stories
  • Engage via
    • Twitter - The Tableau community is particularly active on Twitter. I use Twitter to ask questions, learn from others and stay abreast of the latest trends in the data viz industry. There's so many people I could recommend to follow but as a start, check out the Tableau Social Media Ambassadors.
    • Tableau Public - create an account and start sharing your work. Solicit feedback from those you admire. Download other folks dashboards and reverse engineer them.
  • Meet Ups
    • The Meetup and Eventbrite are teeming with so many industry events.
    • Don't see the group you're interested in? Start your own! I recently started a women in data meet up group in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have met so many amazing people as a result of it. If you're interested in starting a group and what to know more about my experience and lessons learned, reach out!

I hope that this has proved valuable to some of you. Self-improvement is an important value I've always held close. I would love to learn what your best advice is. Comment below or tweet me


  1. I should also mention I've been using Data Camp to learn Python! I like the format of the classes so far.

  2. I couldn't agree more with all of the strategies you follow. Surrounding yourself with positive people not only sparks positive environment but brings about instant optimistic thoughts that I believe is the first step to success. I also feel that in today’s fast paced digital space, we can easily get lost and be overwhelmed if we are not consistent enough.

    Some of the techniques I have used to succeed are:

    Having a can do attitude - I tell a lot of people that when you get a project or a task, never say ’no’. Say yes, and then figure out how to do it. Overcoming the fear of unknown means, you push yourself beyond limits that you didn’t even know existed.

    Willingness to communicate - This is so important and often underestimated. I think communication opens so many doors. Unreleased thoughts means unreleased opportunities. Communication is powerful!

    Asking questions - Another effective way of learning. Curiosity paves way for greater learning. I was taught that, not having a curious mind means being content with what you already know. And to me, being content ceases growth.

    Being adaptive - Flexibility and being adaptive to change means you are already a step ahead in the game. Unwillingness to not adapt to changing work environment means no new experiences.

    And lastly, knowing that success is perpetual growth, not a final goal. You don’t succeed once and be done. You have to consistently do your job better and constantly grow to be successful in your endeavors.

    So glad to be a part of an amazingly selfless community. Thanks for sharing, Brit! I will be sure to bookmark this page for future reference.

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