Short Interview with Shirley Wu on getting started with Data Visualization

综合编程 2017-08-13

Introducing today’s QQ(Quick Questions) featuring Shirley Wu. Shirley does incredible things with Data Science and Data Visualization that will make you want to change careers. Now, she is streaming some of her work on Twitch
, which you should watch. I got to catch the stream live last week, and it was super fun. A couple months back I reached out with some questions to Shirley, and she got back with me! Summer was busy, but I wanted to pick back up with the short interviews today.

Twitter:Shirley Wu


I asked Shirley three questions:

  1. What are some common questions you are asked by junior software developers?
  2. What are you currently working on?
  3. How do you keep your skills up?

Here is her response…

What are some common questions you are asked by junior developers?

I actually get asked all the time about how to get into data visualization, or how to pick up d3.js. The answer to the first question is rather simple: there’s no one “official” way. I find data visualization on the web to be an exciting field because it’s so new, and there’s no academic major/minor for data visualization. Everybody comes from a different background — computer science, design, data science, computational biology, architecture, astronomy, etc. — and a lot of them fell into the role out of necessity for their jobs. And because of that, there’s a lot of materials out there that help make the transition, like this one
by Jim Vallandingham, or this more self-exploratory one
by Nadieh Bremer. There’s also fantastic posts about data visualization books like this one
by Nathan Yau, and a more detailed one
by Nadieh. After that, it’s all about just looking at works of data visualization and forming your own thoughts about what works and what doesn’t (I find Andy Kirk
’s “the little of visualization design” series to be fantatistic).

As for d3.js, there’s a lot of resources out there, and tens of thousands of examples on
. Scott Murray’s Interactive Data Visualization for the Web
is a great beginner’s guide (and if you wait a bit, he’s coming out with a v2 with updates for d3’s v4), and I’ve heard great things about Elijah Meek’s D3.js in Action
. And — shameless plug — there’s also the Frontend Masters workshop I did, where my main goal was to cover all the core concepts of d3.js and teach you just enough to get going with the rest of the library. It’s basically my take on how I wish I learned d3.js.

What are you currently working on?

I’m desperately trying to finish my datasketch|es
collab with Nadieh — it’s a project where each month we pick a topic and visualize that topic by the end of the month. We then do a write-up of our data/sketch/code process. We have just a few months left (it’s a year long project), and after that, I’m hoping for some down time to catch up on reading and tv shows.

How do you keep your skills up?

Well for now, datasketch|es is definitely keeping my skills up. But before then, I did a lot of side projects — I’d just find a curiosity, go get data for it, and visualize it. And usually that process gave me enough technical challenges that I always learned something new for it. For those that are just starting out — with d3.js, with data visualization — my biggest advice is to just pick a curiosity and dive right in and build something. But make sure that whatever you decide to build, you start with something small and achievable. It’s really easy to get discouraged when you dream up something grand, and you can’t get there as easily as you were hoping for. So give yourself a small goal to start with, and when you achieve that, give yourself a pat on the back, and then give yourself the next small achievable goal, and after a bunch of small achievable goals, you’ll have yourself that something grand.


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