Interview with Kate Strachnyi (Data Visualisation Expert & Author)

I was lucky enough to interview Kate Strachnyi, the author of the great book Journey to Data Scientist, manager at Deloitte, and a well know data visualisation expert.

She’s an active contributor on the LinkedIn Data Science community, offering advice and guidance to aspiring and junior Data Scientists.

She was kind enough to share some valuable tips and insights that all Data Scientists can benefit from.

You have a large following on LinkedIn and are such a positive and helpful influence in the Data Science community, always happy to offer advice and support to aspiring and junior Data Scientists. What’s your personal drive?

Thank you for the kind words. I think my drive is that I am very interested in the data science space and the value we can uncover. I love helping others, as much as possible. Sometimes a small gesture can go a long way for someone else. As Mahatma Gandhi said – “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

You’re a successful author of the influential book “Journey to Data Scientist“. What was your motivation for writing the book and what have you most learned from it? Is there a particular interview that stands out for you?

It all started out with my curiosity about data science. I thought…what better way to understand the space than to speak to professionals in data science. So, I started asking people in my LinkedIn network (and outside of my network) if they would spare 30 minutes of their time to discuss their journey to data scientist. I was very pleasantly surprised at the positive response from this community. After a few interviews I decided that others would likely benefit from these stories and advice; therefore, I decided to compile the responses into a book!

You specialise in the visualisation and dissemination of information, an area that is sometimes overlooked by Data Scientists, somewhat of an afterthought, but is imperative to the success of sharing information and research findings. What tips and insights can you offer others to ensure effective communication and use of such powerful tools as Tableau?

Always start with the end-user/ audience in mind. Who will use the visualization? What question are you trying to answer? What insight do you want to share? I think all visualizations need to have a point. Formatting can also go a long way. People like to look at pretty things; we are programmed to like order and structure. Don’t make people think more than they have to. The less cognitive load you demand from your audience, the better.

What are some of the key challenges you face in your role?

The constantly changing requests for new dashboards. Once leadership got wind of how cool interactive dashboards are (thanks Tableau!) they were all interested in converting their static Excel/PPT reports into Tableau Dashboards. It’s a challenge but I love it! I truly get excited about every single thing I get to build in the tool.

What are some tips you’d like to share with aspiring, junior and senior Data Scientists?

Never stop learning! This field is constantly changing and is full of exciting innovation. Although I encourage people to keep learning, I also encourage people to not chase after every shiny object. Pick a programming language you like, select an area of the data science process, and become AMAZING at it! There’s a great book I read recently called “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport. I highly recommend it, it’s very relevant to this space. I also recommend that aspiring data scientists grow a nice portfolio of their projects (try https://www.kaggle.com/ for some ideas).

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by Kate represent her own personal views and not those of her employer.

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