Meet the DataFam #10: Desiree Abbott

Nicole Lillian Mark
5 min readApr 1, 2024


I’m getting into the Conference Season spirit, and I am ready to celebrate the amazing Tableau community with some new Meet the DataFam guests!

Think of this spate of posts as, like, speed networking. A bit shorter than in the past, with less of my commentary. (I mean, maybe. Sometimes I cannot help myself.) Read the archives here.

📊 DataFam, meet Desiree Abbott!

🗺️ Where are you from originally?

I was born in Florida, but we moved to New Jersey when I was three years old, so that’s where my childhood roots are. I also spent a good deal of my formative years in the Midwest — six years in Southeast Ohio and five years in Indiana.

📍Where do you live now?

I now live in the East Bay outside San Francisco, California. I got tired of winter when I was at Purdue University in Indiana for my undergrad degree — one wintry day when it was something like -36° (Fahrenheit, but at that point it doesn’t matter much) and I still had to walk to class, I wrapped myself up in nearly every layer I owned, including about 3 hats and several scarves. By the time I’d traversed the 2 blocks between my house and campus, my glasses had fogged up, of course. But when I got into the building, I found out that they’d frosted over while on my face. It was then that I vowed to go to grad school in California or Florida (but my hope was for California). I still count a winter as a success if I can go the whole season without being subjected to snow.

Where would you live if you could live anywhere (assuming money, family, work location, etc. are not a concern)?

If I’m on the ocean, I’m a happy girl. Give me the sound of ocean waves right outside my window, and as long as there’s no chance of snow, nothing else matters.

Same, girl. Same.

Do you have any pets?

I do! My husband and I decided not to have children (and we’re very happy with that decision), so we have fur babies instead.

Athena, our incredibly sweet, three-year-old German Shepherd Dog mix, is named for the Cylon in Battlestar Galactica as well as the Greek goddess of wisdom. Pan, a 12-year-old boy Tuxedo kitty, is very gentle, and is named for the daemon in the book series His Dark Materials. Ellie — aptly named for the main character in the tv series and video game The Last of Us — is our no-nonsense brown and white tabby, the newest addition at 11 months old.

Did you start your career in a data-related role or in another field? If another field, which one?

Define “start your career,” haha! Right out of high school, I got an associate’s degree in office management and tried — and failed — to sell real estate for about a year. Realizing I’d only used about three brain cells to get that degree, I decided to go back to school for physics (a natural leap, lol). From there, I went to grad school intending to get a PhD in physics but grad school is awful. I had a lot of crazy personal stuff happen in the interim, so I left with a master’s degree instead and that’s when I fell into data analytics, as a product analyst.

If you had to choose a different career path, what would it be? Why?

I love my crazy spaghetti-shaped career path, so I’d have it no other way!

What do you find the most challenging about Tableau?

Omg, definitely table calculations. I’ve leveraged the hell out of teachings from Andy Kriebel on the subject, but I have yet to truly subjugate them.

If you couldn’t use Tableau, how would you do data visualization? (e.g., coding language, other BI tool, draw it on paper or digitally, wouldn’t do it at all, etc.)

I’d use JavaScript, especially d3.js, for sure. I adore writing code and making the computer do what I want it to do, and the power you get when coding your visualizations by hand is second-to-none. I’m not a trained coder though, so I find it difficult to write production-ready code in a reasonable amount of time. This is an area into which I’d definitely like to grow though!

What is your favorite chart type? Why?

For sure it’s a donut chart. For one, because I love donuts, and for two, when done well it’s an incredibly effective means of showing parts of a whole or progress toward a goal in a cute and tidy way. And I prefer a donut over a pie because of the extra space in the middle for a BAN or label.

Which community challenges do you regularly participate in? Why would you recommend them to new members of the Datafam?

I’ve been out of the community challenge circuit for several years now, but my favorite for beginners is absolutely Makeover Monday, and I’m so pleased that it’s made a comeback recently.

Makeover Monday is a fantastic way to practice on many different kinds of data, try things you can’t or wouldn’t try at work, and if you time box it right, it’s a great way to hone your skills and get faster at vizzing.

What hill would you die on? (This can be data-related or not. For me, my non-data hill is the belief that the Oxford Comma is the Only Comma. My dataviz-related one is the conviction that you should never use the default tooltip.)

People should not be allowed to show others YouTube (or similar) videos in a group setting. The reason for this is that once one person shares something they think is funny, another person will feel the need to share their funny thing, followed by another and another until finally everyone (or maybe it’s just me) wants to stab their eyes out.

This makes me also want to stab my eyes out.

Have you received any certifications, honors, or accolades you’d like to share or feel especially proud of?

After seeing my successful course on Coursera (produced by University of California in Davis, who’d invited me as an instructor after seeing my Tableau Public portfolio full of Makeover Monday vizzes), Manning Publications reached out and asked if I wanted to write a book, so I did! It’s due in print sometime this spring, and you can find out more or pre-order it here.

How can people learn more about your work?

I recently made the leap into freelance consulting, so you can check out my business website. There are links to my socials and my portfolio there, or you find me on Twitter here or LinkedIn here. (I don’t typically connect with people I don’t know on LinkedIn, but you’re welcome to follow me there.)

What is your astrological (sun) sign?

I’m a ♏️ Scorpio ♏ and I confess I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean about me but I wouldn’t mind learning more about it, just for fun. 😊



Nicole Lillian Mark

data visualization engineer | Tableau Social Ambassador | community builder | dog mom | vegan | yoga practitioner