Mighty Ducks

Part of my developer origin story involves me working at a job that I did not like — a dead end at the age of 30. My primary duties involved acting as some kind of occasional administrative assistant, though referring to my work in that way is a disservice to hard working administrative folks. I had a decent amount of education on under my belt, a clever-enough brain, and some creativity. All of that felt like it was atrophying under the fluorescent lights of my cubicle. I was desperate to carve my path to something better.

So I started a project, on my own time, that required me to go out and learn how to start. I had all this data that I’d collected previously relating to my organization and the work some of its members did out in the field. I had the locations of the work, contact information, information about the scope of the projects. So I set out to create a map. I hacked my way through setting up a MapBox account, formatting the data, uploading what I could, fixing errors by hand.

What soon came out of it was a respectable-if-rudimentary visualization of the data I had. I ran into a little trouble with something called GeoJSON and had my then-girlfriend (now-wife) help me with it (she’s a developer). And here is where my interest in code was sparked. I saw how far I came just messing around, and if I just new a little more I could do so much more!

I saw this as an example of a step toward my organization improving its engagement with its audience. “Look! Here is a product we made that should be of interest to you!”

When my project was admired, but ultimately bureaucratically shrugged-at by the higher-ups, I knew it was time for me to go. I couldn’t keep working at a place that didn’t care for me and didn’t care for ideas on how to be better at what it does. So I studied Ruby on my own, applied to the Flatiron School, got in, and made my career switch.

Anyway, now I’m looking at D3.js. And I’m starting to come back full circle. We live in an increasingly data-driven society. I think it’s important to be able to make that data usable by the masses… digestible. My most recent project was really a data visualization project, but I sort of made it work on my own. Now I want to be able to put together some compelling visualizations that really tell stories to people — stories about why they should support a worthy nonprofit, or how our world functions. So D3 is next…