The Startup
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The Startup

How I Drew Inspiration From My Desperation: Part II

Photo by Darya Kraplak on Unsplash

Robots are taking over the world.

Relax there, Terminator.

In the past decade, Data has become more ubiquitous than at any other period in human history. There is an abundance of data on what foods you like to eat, how far you typically walk, and your favorite Netflix drama — even how many times you click on an ex’s profile.

Even more terrifyingly, there is an underground battle between companies for access to this data. Their end-game is to generate more revenue by concentrating ads tailored to your preference.

Have a conversation with your friend about buying swim trunks from H&M, and you will find your explore page littered with “Sponsored Ads” detailing that specific item.

“Data is the new oil”

— Clive Humby

Ironically, this raises alarming issues surrounding data privacy and how major tech companies like Facebook and Instagram are in violation of some serious human rights regulations.

Data is inherently noisy.

There is more readily available data than people know what to do with. Consequently, companies now find themselves scrambling around like headless chickens, hoping to bring someone in to quell the noise and transform this data into valuable business insights.

I give you the Data Scientist.

*Dum-Dum-Dummmm*

Be a Data Scientist

№1: Visualize Your Goals

If anthropology, art, and science were to have a love child, it would be data visualization conceived through Tableau.

I have mentioned the intricacy of using Tableau before in my story, The Digital Divide.

With Tableau Software, you can use data to create powerful, artistic visuals and explore themes affecting humankind. Not only does the human brain process images 60,000 times faster than text, Tableau gifts you the ability to inject life and coherency into some arbitrary subjects.

Last week, I connected with a programmer from New York, Todd Schneider. The Yale graduate had created a dashboard on “The Simpsons” after compiling a CSV document on GitHub, analyzing script from all 25 seasons.

If you can find the data, you can build the viz.

I was sold. Data Visualization became my passion in the field of Data Science. Truth be told, I was suckered in by the bright colors. The fact that data can be manipulated to complement this was merely a bonus.

Eager to combine my new-found programming skills, with visualization projects, I began my pursuit of mastering Tableau.

I was curious to see just how deep this rabbit hole goes.

№2: The Community

To go far, you need to go together.

Tableau Public offers a phenomenal platform to cultivate ideas and level up your visualization skills. It’s rich with blogs, weekly challenges, and tutorial resources from highly-talented individuals the community refers to as “Zen Masters.”

Zen Masters? They sound like characters from the Japanese Anime, Hunter x Hunter. How could I not be captivated?

“It’s okay to be a copy-cat, so long as you copy the right cat”

— Unknown

Having carefully studied the Zen Masters, I drew inspiration from their work and went on to put together some compelling visuals of my own.

Link to my full Tableau profile: https://tabsoft.co/2LKAS1V

“Data Storytelling” was a term I heard been coined often within the Tableau community. Your visuals should not only engage, but educate. Communicating undiscovered insights to your audience in a clear and intuitive format should be the end-goal of a Data Scientist. That’s how your check is earned.

Building a dynamic visual is one thing, but having the storytelling prowess is what separates you from the herd.

How do you become a better story-teller?

Simple, write stories.

Be a Writer

Writing? Yea, you’re having a laugh.

While English with Mr. O’Doherty did bring back fond memories, I’ve always considered myself a pragmatic individual. Give me hard numbers and an infographic.

My job-hunt led me to connect with Data Scientists on LinkedIn, in a bid to stretch my network. Goodness, the process has been utterly draining. However, I discovered that it was not uncommon for these professionals to maintain an online column in alliance with their technical work.

In fact, this is often encouraged. It speaks volumes to your progression as a Data Scientist if you are able to confidently articulate your solutions to complex coding problems through text.

Kurtis Pyke is an “AI Writer” for the publication, Towards Data Science. He experienced a surge in his following, cracking the notorious 1K subscribers mark earlier this year. Pyke describes his journey into the industry and has written some comprehensive pieces on Algorithms, Machine Learning, and API Frameworks.

Yikes, and there it was.

Fear

It was clear that this was the next juncture in my progression, but for one reason or another, I had fallen prisoner to the voice of fear once again.

The thought of writing filled me with dread, lest having your work on display for the whole world to scrutinize.

I would station at the computer for hours on end — nothing. This was promptly followed by the negative self-talk, convincing myself out of the path of advancement because I did not stack up well against the thousands of skilled AI writers out there.

Perhaps the Insights Manager was right. Boxes exist for a reason.

Mentally, I was met with a road-block. The piling list of job rejection letters only served to compound this.

№1: Super-Nanny, Nana

You know how I feel about the term “Self-made” — utter nonsense. We can not voyage alone as much as we’d like to think we can.

Enter Nana Owusu-Nyantekyi.

Nana holds degrees from Princeton University and Imperial College London in Evolutionary Biology and Sustainable Energy respectively. Juggling his academia, he co-founded two successful Startup ventures.

His latest business undertaking, Spiny.ai, is a SaaS analytic platform that integrates digital publishing with cross-enterprise data solutions. It often blows my mind, how someone could wake up in the morning and conjure up such an idea.

Oh, Nana is also a former Ivy League Triple Jump Champion and competed at the 2016 UK Championship and Olympic Trials.

Talk about an individual who shows a complete disregard for the conventional notion of sticking to one box. Nana was the perfect counsel.

“How’s it going, mate? My primary school teacher dropped the ball on this one. I can’t seem to string two sentences together. Help!”

I was eager to see what profound words of wisdom he was going to bestow upon me.

“Bro, you’re overthinking this. Just sit down and write. You could even start with a paragraph a day”

Speaking in verbatim, Nana was telling me to stop being a b*tch and just get on with it.

We’re all constantly in search of the perfect solution. Turns out, there is no magic formula. Moreover, there is certainly no reason to make mountains out of molehills. Small deliberate actions will compound and prove fruitful over time.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

—Zig Ziglar

Then it dawned on me to approach writing with a similar mindset as I did whilst attempting to learn Tableau. It’s not feasible to jump out of the gate, writing an elaborate account on Python scripts. Rather, select a topic that interests you and infuse your own thoughts on the subject matter.

Simple as they were, Nana’s words pull me back out of the box.

№2: Happy Medium

What an incredible journey it has been since writing my first story on Medium, two months ago. This piece actually captured the attention of a major publication in Tennessee, Contemporary Media, Inc.

Is Memphis a City Stuck in the Past?

My fifth story, The Digital Divide, ascended me into the status of “Published Author”, when it was picked up by The StartUp last month — The largest active publication on Medium with over 740,000+ followers.

Grateful.

By my highly stringent, statistical calculations, this will be my 8th story in the said time-frame lol — not very prolific, I know.

Renowned Entrepreneur, Gary Vee, advocates churning out content like your life depended on it. Well, he’s right. Just not in the conventional way you’re assuming. I’ve grown to manifest a deeper passion for writing that goes well-beyond simple scaling or monetization.

Staring at a PyCharm IDE for 8+ hours can get monotonous. A mental switch is needed from time-to-time and Medium fosters that balance. Medium has become my therapist. While others would prefer to hurl a jam jar against the wall (don’t ask), I found a domain to pour out my innermost thoughts.

Even more compelling is the wave of support I have garnered on this quest. Messages from friends, relatives, and even new acquaintances, expressing how impactful my stories have been in their lives.

Forget about data-storytelling, writing has helped define my voice. Through writing, I’ve rekindled who I am and who I want to become.

I guess my life has been dependent on it — as of late, anyway.

Culmination

Due to COVID-19, there is a slim chance that we will be partaking in any social gathering any time soon. Many have even coined the idea of making remote work a future trend, post-COVID. On that account, I decided to give my wardrobe a good spring cleaning as there won’t be much use for certain garments.

More boxes. In the literal sense this time around. As an avid Jordan fan, I had amassed quite the collection of Nike trainers over the years — Retro VI’s, Jordan I’s, you name it.

I’ve spent a ton of footwear over the years. It left me wondering just how much revenue Nike generates. A few months ago, my reflections would have halted there. Now, I am armed with the technical adroitness to pursue this question.

Opening up Jupyter Notebook, I utilized Python and BeautifulSoup to build an automated web-scraping application. I surfed the internet and came across data pertaining to Nike revenues sales in their North American region. Briefly inspecting the website using developer tools, I scraped away.

Manipulating the data so it can be consolidated in Tableau was next on the agenda. Finally, I consulted with a chart catalog to determine what type of graphs would align with this visual.

Voila!

To cap this project off, I’ve been drafting a piece about how the high-powered company, with considerable influence, has often thrown its weight behind social justice movements — namely, the backing of former NFL Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick for its new campaign.

Can’t wait to pick that one apart.

While a relatively small project, this demonstrated the power that can be achieved when an individual decides to venture outside the box and marry an array of skills rooted in Programming, Data Science, and Literature

Be Scared

Make no mistake, my journey into Data Science has been an arduous daily battle. The infusion of light-hearted humor only masks terrifying moments, riddled with uncertainty about whether or not I am on the right path.

Brilliantly explicated by Nana, there is no clear-cut learning strategy to becoming a proficient data scientist. With that being said, I’ve done my best to lay out a blueprint to aid those with aspirations to excel in this field.

Take it all with a pinch of salt and seek to blaze your own trail. Everyone’s journey differs. Perhaps the underlying concept that connects us all is that pesky human emotion, Fear.

Entering your first line of code on VSCode is scary. Submitting your first viz on “Makeover Monday” is scary. Publishing a story on a platform like Medium is, you guessed it, SCARY.

So what?

Do it scared!

Switching your perception about fear is a game-changer. As opposed to viewing it as something that should be avoided, I urge people to embrace it, even seek it out in some instances.

Avoidance keeps you stagnant. In turn, it may be keeping you away from the very thing that might propel you to the next dimension of your life.

“I kept it juggin’ in the rain when they was callin’”

— Dutchavelli

Master your fear and keep plugging away. Do not cram yourself into one box. Grab two, three, or even four. Maybe you grab a blue one — or a yellow box.

Finally, take a pair of scissors and carve out your own inspiration from a place of desperation.

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