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For the consultants and consultants-to-be: expert advice.

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Are you considering consulting?

Whether you are thinking about venturing out on your own or have already started, this two-part series will arm you with advice from seasoned consultants! Dr. Stephanie Evergreen and Ann K. Emery will be featured, providing their insight on common questions consultants (or consultants-to-be) might have. Note: both are heavily focused on data visualization, reporting, and infographic design, but their advice can be applied to a variety of fields! First up, Dr. Evergreen.

Bio:

Dr. Stephanie Evergreen is a “Research nerd turned information designer,” and owner of Evergreen Data. She is a seasoned data visualization blogger, workshop facilitator, and the author of two books, Effective Data Visualization: The Right Chart for the Right Data and Presenting Data Effectively: Communicating Your Findings for Maximum Impact. Dr. Evergreen’s background is in interdisciplinary research, which allows her to bring data visualization and reporting into a variety of settings. Below, she shares her experience of transitioning from a 9-5 and tips for successfully dealing with pricing and difficult clients.

Deven Wisner AEA 2017 Evergreen

How did you prepare for running your own consulting firm?

Mentors are totally necessary. Everyone would benefit from some detailed guidance on the nitty gritty details of running a business. Try Gail Barrington’s workshops (attended a few workshops per year). (If you are interested, here is a link to her AEA estudy). But like most people, I was just winging it and learning as I go.  It’s better to get going than to wait until you think you have it all figured out.

For those wondering how about the transition to a consultant, did you continue working at a 9-5 job until you became established?

“Yes! Most consultants start their side gigs while working a 9-5. The idea is ramp up the consulting as you do that – until you feel you are working two 9-5 jobs.”

Pricing, the tough but critical conversation…

#1 – do not work for free. Even for “exposure.” People can and should pay you for your expertise. Beginning consultants feel like they can’t charge until they get more experience but that’s just your imposter syndrome talking. Start charging.

People see more value in things that cost money. Do not undercut yourself. I made some early mistakes of charging too little and then those clients became repeat clients and they told their friends – which was great!  – except I had a lot of low paying work because I pitched too low to start. Protect yourself by using a contract.

How do you avoid being spread too thin?

– A giant whiteboard.

– Moved everything to the cloud, running notes, calls, planning, documents.

– Hired an assistant (should have done this sooner!).

How do you keep track of your progress during a project in order to ensure you are achieving the client’s objectives?

“It’s all in your head. If you can’t do that, you will not succeed as a consultant otherwise.” But we also use Slack to keep ourselves on track and on schedule. We also build in frequent check-ins with the client to make sure we are matching their vision.

Describe a time when you dealt with a difficult client. How did you make the relationship work?

“I have learned to avoid these clients by watching for red flags during the initial discussions. I actually keep a ‘Red Flag List’ that I continually update when I learn from my mistakes. One of my mentors passed on something her mentor told her: Projects should be ‘Fun, Lucrative, and No Assholes’ and this guidance has done me very well. But from time to time, difficult clients still happen. One recently kept sending my work for review by their Communications Officer – the same person who failed them so badly, that’s why they hired me in the first place. So, I had to say ‘This is why you hired me. This is my area of expertise. Your Communications Officer’s advice flies in the face of accepted best practice and peer-reviewed research.’”

How do you measure the success of a project?

“I usually contact clients 3-6 months after the contract is over to ask how things are going, do they need any momentum push, etc. That’s when I learn whether I was successful. But other times I learn through new ways, such as two clients who won awards for the report I worked with them on.”

Want more?!

If you are interested in learning more from Dr. Evergreen, check out what she has to say about marketing yourself as a public speaker. Also, make your way back here in a couple weeks when Ann Emery shares her advice!

“Expert” Photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash

How to Customize Colors in Tableau

How to Customize Colors in Tableau

Now you’ve got some fonts that aren’t basic, how about some custom colors? I really like matching my visualizations to my report, which is almost always based on the color scheme of the organization I’m working with. Let me tell you though, this can be a bit of a beast, so let’s get started.

First, identify the colors you want to use. I suggest Adobe Color, which will allow you to upload a photo and get HEX codes (along with complementary colors and other fun things). Of course, you might be lucky and already have your HEX codes available.

Next, you’ll need to determine whether you want to add a categorical, sequential, or diverging palette. I’ll show you categorical. You can add the others as needed using the same method.

With your HEX codes in hand, locate your Tableau Repository. Depending on where you installed this, it could take a minute. When you locate it, there will be a Preferences.tps you need to open in a text editing program.

Deven Wisner Tableau Colors 1Deven Wisner Tableau Colors w

Now, get started with code. You want to add the following before copying anything into the text edit.

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You will need to copy the basic code down and insert your HEX codes. Tableau lists all the sets of you would possibly need here. Copy, paste, and customize.

HERE IS THE TRICKY PART…

Make sure you are using straight quotes. Anything else will cause all sorts of errors. I’ve included examples of a correct and incorrect repository. This is often not a matter of inserting quotes but changing the auto-correction in the program.

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Save and close your text editor and open Tableau! To test your colors, open up a sample dataset. On a worksheet, drag a dimension onto the Color Mark. You’ll immediately see those basic default colors but don’t worry – we’re fixing that!

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Select the Color Mark and click Edit Colors. You should see yours at the bottom!

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Select your color and be sure to click Assign, otherwise nothing will change. Close the editor and check out your new colors!

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SUCCESS!

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If you followed along, you just completed some serious steps in customizing your Tableau visualizations. I call it a small but mighty change. You can go forth knowing that your visualizations are more customized and specific to your project!

P.S. This is cross-posted on Ann K. Emery’s blog (because awesome people stick together)!

How to Customize Fonts in Tableau

Giving Your Tableau Visualizations a Makeover: Custom Fonts

Whether you are using Tableau, Excel, or any other visualization tool, you will come across defaults. The problem with using something right out of the can is that it often does not speak directly to your audience. Your investment in a visualization speaks to your investment in conveying the story of your data.

By now, you may know tips and tricks to de-clutter and minimize the amount of ‘out-of-the-box’ stuff in your Excel charts, but I want to share how to tackle the same problem in Tableau. It doesn’t take long to spot a Tableau visualization. Is that a bad thing? It depends (does that give anyone else grad school flashbacks?). Instead of being recognized for the font (Tableau Book) and colors that Tableau pumps out, have your Tableau visualizations recognized for their utility and story.

I’m going to share how to customize your fonts and colors within Tableau. And, make your life a lot easier (i.e. not changing one component of the visualization at a time.). Repeat after me: “I am better than the defaults.”

Let’s start with fonts, the easier change of the two.

Instead of having to change your fonts as you go, you can change the entire workbook. If you enjoy clicking on every area of your chart and changing the fonts, go ahead… but, I bet you’d rather spend that time on something else. You will also miss one or two! This way the entire book is the same font. You can adjust sizing as needed!

First, open your workbook.

Go to Format in the top, right-hand corner and click Workbook.

Deven Wisner Tableau Fonts 1

On the right-hand side, you’ll have a formatting pane, which includes fonts, colors, and lines. Choose your font (I suggest a nice sans serif), and you’re ready to rumble!

Deven Wisner Tableau Fonts 2

Check back on 11/27 for How to Customize Colors in Tableau.

P.S. This is cross-posted on Ann K. Emery’s blog (because awesome people stick together)!

Getting Started with Tableau

Tableau, which according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary means “a graphic description or representation,” is a powerful infographic tool with over 50,000 users. Although the user-base is nowhere near that of Excel (with 30,000,000 users), this tool has some perks depending on what you’re looking for in terms of dataviz. So maybe you’ve heard of Tableau or, if you haven’t, you have now.

My plan is to give you some background on the versions available, how to download it, and resources for getting started!

Deven Wisner Tableau Homepage

Which Version is Right for Me?

Options are great, but what’s the right choice?!?! Here is a simplified comparison.

Tableau Public

  • Basic version of Tableau.
  • Your visualizations must be stored in a global repository (the “catch”).
  • You can still do awesome things like Viz of the Day or #MakeoverMonday.

This is the perfect option for those who want to become familiar with Tableau.

Cost: FREE

Tableau Desktop Licenses

If you don’t want to share your client’s data with others, I’d suggest forking out the dough for this one. However, make sure you’ll use it before you buy it. A year goes by quick, and you’ll be sorry you spent the money if it sits on your desktop unused.

You can choose a personal or professional license. Both include a full license. All your workbooks (i.e., all your stuff) is stored locally). The personal license has limited data sources (e.g., Excel and Google Sheets). The professional license allows you to access data directly from its source (e.g., Microsoft SQL Server). You can also share data via Tableau Online/Server.

Cost: $420 (personal) or $840 (professional)

Tableau Student

Enrolled in classes at least part-time? Score a year’s license to Tableau Professional for FREE. No gimmicks besides a sales call or two from Tableau. You can do this for as long as you are in school.

Cost: FREE

All that said, if you aren’t in school, try Tableau Public. Why? Trying it takes no commitment. Play for a while, determine if it is right for your project, and make a decision.

Download Tableau!

Even if you plan on committing to a full-license, get a free 14-day trial first. That’s 14 days to get your act together and start using it.

You might also check the system requirements. Making your computer sound like a rocket ship = not good.

I Downloaded Tableau, Now What?

Okay, now that you have Tableau, it’s time to do things! Don’t let this giant program just sit on your computer unused. Open that bad boy and start playing with data. My advice: Stay away from the sample datasets. They’re “perfect” for all intents and purposes and that’s not a good way to learn. Instead, connect to your own dataset. Remember: depending on your version of Tableau, you will be limited to certain file types.

First, start utilizing the vast Tableau community. You can literally Google your problem and likely come up with an answer. You can also visit the official Tableau Community forums to ask questions and learn from other confused people. I do this on the regular.

Deven Wisner Tableau Community

Second, commit to at least one #MakeoverMonday per month. Challenge yourself, along with many other Tableau users, to recreate a visualization. In one revision of a viz, I learned THREE new things.

Deven Wisner Makeover Monday

Third, find your local Tableau User Group (TUG). You’ll be able to connect with other users and work through visualizations together.

Now…go forth and continue your path to becoming a Tableau beast.

P.S. This is cross-posted on Ann K. Emery’s blog (because awesome people stick together)!

It’s time to get serious about Twitter!

Today I am going to discuss getting started with Twitter. Why Twitter? Well, it is most applicable to the arenas I’m in (e.g., I-O psychology, evaluation, data visualization), but that doesn’t mean it is right for you. Depending on what sandboxes you’re playing in, you might need to consider multiple platforms (almost a guarantee) and Twitter might not be one of them. But, for now, let’s get Twitter savvy!

  1. Create a Twitter account. This seems simple enough, right? Yes, but I realize that this might still be on your to-do list. Make it happen! You will improve as you go along – not by planning forever and never actually doing it.
  2. Add a picture – seriously. Avoid using a logo or the default silhouette (it’s lame and doesn’t allow people to get to know YOU).Deven Wisner Twitter Bio
  3. Bio! I used to have what I would consider a lame bio, and I’m so glad I changed it. The day after I updated mine to something more unique, I was mentioned in an interview done by Dr. Stephanie Evergreen. They included a screen shot of my Twitter photo and bio. You better believe I was rejoicing that I changed my drab bio into something a little more hip. So, what do you put there?! This is a spot to market yourself in a few words, hashtags, and emojis. I’ve included mine as an example.
  4. Follow some awesome people. This is industry specific, of course, but my suggestion is checking out a few prominent players in your field. Check out who they’re following for other big names, and look at who is following them for up-and-coming connections. Click here for my profile.
  5. Set a schedule…I can’t stress this enough. I check twitter at least three times a day…once with my coffee, during lunch, and again after my evening workout. My posts are also on a schedule. Of course, I post sporadically as something interests me, but I always have a couple posts set to go out – no matter what! Note: People get discouraged because they don’t have many followers. Stop that. This takes time and effort.  The people you’re trying connect with as a professional aren’t your friends (at least not yet), so don’t expect an obligatory follow like you’d get from family on Facebook (kidding, of course). You’ll get there…it just takes time and effort!
  6. A schedule is great, but you need to set make goals. For example, you might make a goal of Tweeting three times and following two new people per day. After a couple weeks, you can reassess whether you can do more (MORE is better with Twitter but consistency is MOST important.

    Deven Wisner Twitter Goals
    This is an example from when I first started on Twitter.

If you want a personalized plan, or to discuss a different social media platform, contact me. I would be happy to develop a social media strategy based on your goals.

P.S. If you’re into I-O, Evaluation, and/or data visualization, you will find some awesome people under Nifty Resources.

New to Evaluation? Here are tips for plugging in!

As a new professional (or one that has recently pivoted) in evaluation, you might be wondering how to leverage yourself or “plug-in” to the community. The beauty of evaluation is its interdisciplinarity but that can make plugging in a little daunting (but not impossible!). Below are some tips on how to immerse yourself in the field!

Become an American Evaluation Association (AEA) member.

Not only will you be able to attend the yearly conference, you will have more opportunities to become involved than you will be able to sign up for. From professional development to peer-reviewed articles, AEA really does have a great compilation of resources for academics and practitioners.

Attend an AEA conference!

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Me nerding out with Dr. Stephanie Evergreen at the Eval16

It is one thing to become a member and never go to a conference, but this is one conference I am willing to pay out of my own pocket to attend. If you’re looking to share and learn from others, find a job opportunity, or just network with others, this week-long event is a great investment. I can promise you one thing: the AEA conference is like no other (in a good way).

Deven Wisner AEA 2016 NametagFind your Local Area Affiliate on AEA.

Again, AEA is a great resource, and that isn’t just at an international level. They also support AEA affiliates, which means you can be involved throughout the year. This is a great way to meet evaluators near you, find out about independent work (if you’re into that), and further develop yourself as a professional. If possible, I suggest being part of a committee or the board. You will be stretched more than just being a member. We have all become members of organizations to never actually attend an event (c’mon, I know I’m not the only one).

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Some of the great Arizona Evaluation Network board members I get to work with!

Join an AEA Topical Interest Group (TIG).

If you have a certain area (or maybe more than one) within the field of evaluation that strikes your fancy, get more involved through a TIG! You might have the opportunity to write a blog post, rate conference proposals, and/or be part of the yearly meetings (held at the AEA conference). Again, you will meet people with similar interests but with different levels of experience. I’m part of the Data Visualization and Reporting TIG, along with Research on Evaluation.

Refine your elevator speech.

Who are you? What’s evaluation? How do other people entitle what you do? All of these things are important. Be ready to explain what you do to others. Dividing my time between industrial-organizational psychology and evaluation means I’ve had to refine this for all areas of my professional life. My best advice is to think back to those family dinners…how do you explain it? Okay, take that and make it relatable each time you talk about it. UC-Davis has a good resource on this here.

Get on Twitter…oh yeah, I said it.

Evaluators are taking on Twitter and it is AWESOME! This is a quick way to see what the trends are and learn from others. Plus, you get to share your own thoughts and work. As someone who was anti-Twitter for a long time, I get it…you might be apprehensive. Twitter is the way to find little nuggets of information that can often times lead to great finds. So, if you haven’t already, create an account and start following other evaluators (pro tip: find one person you like and check out who they’re following)!

 

Deven Wisner Twitter

…and there you have it! Did I miss something? Feel free to share what has worked for you.

NEW – Additional tips from Ann K. Emery’s blog…

  1. Conference tips for new evaluators
  2. Newbie essentials
  3. Job hunting

P.S. Click here to read a blog I wrote for AEA365 as a Data Visualization and Reporting TIG member.

Formatting Tableau Filters!

Filters are awesome. One reason I love Tableau is that data visualizations aren’t static. How does that tie into filters? Glad you asked! Tableau makes it really easy for your stakeholders (i.e. end-users) to interact with their dashboard using filters. The only problem is that the filter you add on the back-end takes up a lot of room and, to be perfectly honestly, looks terrible. Luckily, I learned how to fix that, and I’m going to share it with you!

This post is most applicable when you’re visualizing data on a dashboard. So, assuming you have one, use a dashboard to test this out! I’m serious about keeping my client’s data private, so I am using a sample dataset.

The first thing you have to do is add a filter (well, make sure your monitored is plugged in too). Okay, okay, I know – not funny. But seriously, add a filter and select the dropdown “carrot” by hovering over the right filter. Opt to “Show Filter,” and be amazed as the filter options pop-up on the right side of your screen.

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Jump to your dashboard, which would normally have a lot of other cool stuff on it. But, for the purpose of this post, we’re only focusing on the filter! So, you see the filter showing on the right side of your screen, and your years with associated number of records.

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Now, as you can see, all your selections are there. You really couldn’t long for much more. Butttttt…it takes up a lot of space and it’s ugly. So, let’s hover over the right side of the filter box, click on it, and select the dropdown “carrot.” The first thing I do is change the filter to “Floating,” which means I don’t have to conform to Tableau’s organization of MY stuff.

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You’re floating and awesome now, so you can go back to your “carrot” and select the formatting of the list. Personally, I use a dropdown but this will really depend on what’s appropriate for your data. What makes the most sense? For years, usually my clients are comparing, so I choose “Multiple Values Dropdown.”

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Now we are in business. But wait. That thing looks ugly, right? So, let’s remove the title by going to the “carrot” and choosing “Edit Title.” Delete it! Now, add a floating text box with something that makes sense. Remember: more text doesn’t always make something better. I simply changed this one to “Order Date: …”

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Of course, you want to avoid Tableau defaults. Customize your dashboards to your client’s needs AND their company colors. Canned visualizations are rarely the right fit for anyone, and I find that they’re too cluttered and clunky. More on that soon…!Deven Wisner Tableau Order Data Success.png