So you want to get into DataViz consulting? (guest post)

The incredibly talented Anna Dzikowska recently jumped from a career in Academia into a role as a data viz consultant. At least from my perspective on the sidelines, it felt like her courageous move was quick: she put her mind to it, devoted her efforts, and landed a fantastic gig working with data visualization full time.

I've seen a number of posts / comments looking for advice on how to shift from a role that occasionally uses data visualization into a career focused on data visualization. Because I felt like Anna's story would resonate with the community, I asked her to provide a brief post describing her story and offering advice to anyone looking to make the same move. She was kind enough to create an encouraging six-point outline with some practical tips and a ton of fantastic resources.

Read her thoughts below -- and thanks Anna!

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I’ve spent my entire professional life in academia. I’ve taught and researched the economics of health systems ever since I got my PhD in Economics in 2007. The first years were very exciting. I love sharing my knowledge, doing research and finding insights from data – but things started to change…

Every case is individual, although here are some tips if you are planning to quit Academia Career:

#1 You can do it

I thought it impossible to find a career outside of academia. My entire professional life I was working at the University teaching, researching and publishing. But I start my new assignment in July! I am very excited to leave my Academia career after almost 15 years and I’m looking forward to working in a totally different environment. As time goes by, I realized that whenever I was frustrated and wanted to change something, I struggled to believe that I can do it, so…

#2 Believe in yourself

You have way much more skills than just collecting IF points or preparing presentations for students. As a researcher you are curious, you know how to formulate accurate questions, you love learning, you are not afraid of public speaking, and much more! Just write down what you like to do, and what you are expert in, and…

#3 Identify your passion

I wanted to find a way to share my knowledge with the broader public community. I was frustrated that only a few people read my publications. Only a few students were interested in my research field. I accidentally discovered this fantastic health related Infographics at the BMJ site, and I started to explore the topic of data visualization in healthcare. In May 2018 I decided to set up a Tableau Public account and posted my very first post on Twitter (@AnnDzikowskaViz), joining the #Datafam. My goal was to learn health data visualization and to start teaching my students how to use Tableau. I wanted to make my lectures more attractive. Since May 2018, I’ve read hundreds of blog posts about data visualization and started to participate in the #MakeoverMonday project. I discovered Lindsay’s Betzendahl’s inspiring #ProjectHealthViz. It was my ‘Aha!’ moment and I believe it was my breaking point in changing my career path. Since then I started thinking “I can do what I love to do”.

#4 Start showing off your work and passion

At the beginning it wasn’t easy for me to post my first steps Tableau vizzes on Twitter and ask for feedback, but community didn’t judge me. They encouraged me to develop my skills further and to not give up. At the same time, I set up and updated my LinkedIn profile. Once my Tableau Public profile became more attractive, I immediately started to receive multiple job offers within the data viz field. It was the first moment I realized I can change my career path.

#5 Find a mentor

My biggest problem is impostor syndrome. I always doubt my accomplishments. I often feel that I am not good enough, etc. I need somebody who will support me and give me some confidence. I was very excited when I read about Alicia Bembenek’s and Mike Cisneros’ mentorship. I would encourage you to find some time to read Alexander Waleczek’s article and listen to this great podcast.  I am grateful to Mark Bradbourne for a great Tableau mentorship project. I found a courage to write a message to both Sarah Barlett (@sarahlovesdata) and Lindsay Betzendahl (@ZenDollData), whose works I admire. I asked both of them to become my mentors.
Why two mentors? I value Sarah’s encouragement to Tableau projects and Tableau User Groups. I asked her to provide me with some feedback in this area. My next step is to be more visible in Community and pay it forward to people who want to develop their passions. Sarah has great experience and I can always rely on her. Lindsay, on the other hand, is doing exactly what I want to do in my professional life. She would provide me feedback on how to visualize health data and how to encourage people to use Tableau in healthcare. I learned a lot from her great taste in data viz. I can still develop my skills by taking part in her #ProjectHealthViz. Contact with both Sarah and Lindsay helps me build confidence.

#6 Interviews are great, don’t be intimidated – you are a professional

When a recruiter reached out to me and offered me an attractive job, I didn’t hesitate to accept it – and that was my first-ever job interview.  Of course, I was a little bit stressed, but I knew I had nothing to lose. It was a great experience. I told them about my passion in Tableau and research, showcased my Tableau portfolio and my learning path. They must have liked it because I got job! 😊… I start July 1st. And, no more articles, publishing, asking for funds, counting IF points! You can do the same!

Above are just some of the tips I want to share with anyone who wants to change their professional life mid-career. If you have more questions or need more advice, just reach me via Twitter (@AnnDzikowskaViz) or my LinkedIn profile.

Anna

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