Tableau Community Spotlight: An Interview with Michelle Frayman

Michelle Frayman Bio

My journey to data visualization began early but was not direct. I started college as a Mechanical Engineer and finished as an English major. Crazy change right? I have always loved to read and I had joined our daily newspaper first as a Layout Editor and then Production Manager. All my friends were English majors and I realized that I learned best either with something that I could put into immediate application or doing something I loved so I switched majors. When I started at the paper we still did layout with x-acto knives, wax and layout boards earning me the nickname “knife”. By the time I left school we were doing full page layout on our computers.

I worked with a dBASE3 database during an internship in college. My first job out of college was writing documentation for a small software company. I picked up Access and built a bug tracking database. From there I went to the New England Journal of Medicine where I picked up HTML working on their first online prototype. It was a small shop so I got to do some networking and became a SQL DBA migrating 10 years of mainframe data to a SQL server. Over the years I moved more towards IT Security managing firewalls and then policy and compliance.

I have been at my current employer for almost seven years in various roles. Throughout each role I spend most of my time helping people make better use of our data. Now I get to do that, try to make it look pretty and actually improve our processes. I also earned my CISSP and Lean Six-Sigma Green Belt.

When I am not working I try to exhaust our 13 and almost 12 year old boys (Sam and Max), cook a lot, play ultimate Frisbee with my husband and Grand Masters team Old Spam and train for the Nantucket Triathlon. We live outside Boston. I grew up in NY, came here for college and never left.



Michael: Hello, Michelle. Your #MakeoverMonday entry for 2019 Week 51 was named Tableau Public’s VOTD. Can you talk a bit about how you analyzed the data, designed the dataviz, and then created it?

Michelle: So, I know nothing about professional basketball. I played in leagues up until high school so I understand the sport to some extent but I don’t follow any professional sports. Fortunately basketball is my husband’s favorite sport and he knows a ton.

I always start my analysis looking at the data provided and reading the accompanying article. If I need to learn more I will Google the subject as well. The article and data focused on defensive ratings and discussing the topic with Scott I found out more about Tim Duncan’s career. I wanted to show that it was a combination of his efforts in addition to Popovich’s coaching that helped them achieve their winning streak. With so many teams and the historical data it was an easy choice to use small multiples. I chose the colors orange and black as those are the colors of a traditional basketball. I almost always try to use BANs as that was one of my takeaways after reading #MakeoverMonday. I almost always do all my work on Sundays. Once Monday hits I have less time to devote. I was lucky that week and the data dropped early. I was able to download it at 6am ET and had lots of time to work on it before the family started moving for the day.

Michael: How has #MakeoverMonday helped you in your development of data visualizations? Do you have any tips or recommendations you would make to a newbie at #MakeoverMonday?

Michelle: I have gotten faster at analyzing and visualizing data. I have a better understanding of best practices. My work has become more consistent and professional.

For newbies I recommend finding a pattern that works for them in their lives. Weekly practice and feedback was really helpful for me but I could afford the extra time outside of work. It is a lot to take on depending on other responsibilities a person might have.

Don’t be intimidated by what you see other people doing. We are all at different places in our journey but we all had to start somewhere. What is important is you are working to improve your skills.

Don’t be intimidated by what you see other people doing. We are all at different places in our journey but we all had to start somewhere. What is important is you are working to improve your skills.

Michelle Frayman

Reach out, engage with the community and ask for help if you need it. There is a wonderful community happy to provide assistance. I have met so many wonderful connections over the year. Participating in #MakeoverMonday, #ProjectHealthViz and #IronQuest have had a priceless impact on me both inside and outside of work.

Michael: You recently attended #TC19. What were your three favorite things you attended or did at #TC19?

Michelle: Braindates, Zen presentations and the Community area. I loved having the opportunity to have smaller topic focused chats and had the opportunity to connect with a number of people I had met online via braindates. One of those braindates provided the inspiration for #MomsWhoViz. It is a wonderful opportunity to continue our conversations and connections while helping to highlight the work of other mothers who sometimes get overlooked. I attended a number of Zen Master Presentations in person and then watched after the conference. I had intended to attend more in person but one of my braindates ran long for one. It is a little hard to walk away when you have the chance to pick the brain in a one on one with one of the IronViz champs. The other one I missed was to go to a different session with someone I was connecting with. I knew the sessions were recorded but there personal connection could not be re-created later. That brings me to my last favorite, the community area. The conference is HUGE. It is easy to feel lost even if you know people who are attending. Any time I found myself on my own or with a few free minutes I headed over to the community area and I was able to find someone to chat with.

Michael: In your Twitter profile, you state that you are a “Lover of Cats.” I really love cats, but am highly allergic to them, thus I have dogs. What is it that makes cats such a unique pet?

Michelle: We are lucky that our cats are extremely affectionate and friendly. All cats are different and they tend to have strong personalities. I think I relate to that J. We also have a pretty active lifestyle and like to go away to visit family, camp, ski, etc. Cats are pretty easy going about being left for a day or two on their own and with a pet sitter coming to visit them for longer time away. No need to kennel them as they vastly prefer to be in their own homes. Ours are indoor cats as we live near woods with coyotes. As I was reminded by the family over dinner you don’t have to walk them and scooping litter is vastly preferable to picking up poop.

Michael: What is next on your “To Do” list? What can the #Datafam community expect to see from you in the near future?

Michelle: Oh my to do list is way too long. I want to keep up with my existing community projects and would love to try #VizforSocialGood and #storytellingwithdata. I am co-leading the third round of #TheFeedbackLoop started by Joshua Smith with Michelle Gaudette and Erik Rettman and if that is not enough I am participating in #MomsWhoViz with Lindsay Betzendahl, Christina Gorga, Stephanie Shorey-Roca, Karen Hinson, Katie Poznanski-Ring, Jacqui Moore and Aline Leo. I hope to get up the courage to submit an entry for an IronViz feeder but I REALLY don’t want to win J.

Tableau Public


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