Growing up, I found myself drawn to creative activities — from playing around with Lego sets, drawing and illustration, music performance, to dabbling in graphics design software as a teenager.
However, like most people would have experienced as they grew older, I was swayed to look into more realistic and practical routes for a career at the time. One thing would lead to another and in high school and throughout university, I would find myself immersed in the world of business and finance. I’d still be involved in a lot of creative endeavors during this time, but I started to feel a clear delineation between my passion and what my eventual vocation would be.
Fast forward a few more years — I was networking with a bunch of potential employers from the accounting industry when I realized that integrating my background and passion for creative arts may actually be a competitive advantage from a personal brand standpoint during these conversations. So I decided to experiment and test out this approach in the next few events.
Using the little bit of graphics design experience I had, I decided to spruce up my business card at the time to make it stand out — I ended up with a lime green coloured card with minimal text. It was tacky I know… but as I eventually started to have follow up conversations and interviews with recruiters, I started to be referred to as “the kid with the lime green business card”. From that point on, I would go on to embrace my creative inclinations and intertwine it with my career search aspirations. I would eventually land a role as an audit associate with Big-4 professional services firm PwC, where I would go on to article en route to a Chartered Accountant designation for the next three years.
Now I know what you’re thinking, how does an accountant transition over into a career as a data professional and become a data viz enthusiast? For me, it came down to continuing to staying true and embracing my creative side, being at the right place and right time, and a little bit of faith.
In 2016, my family and I were blessed with the opportunity to move to the other side of the world and work in beautiful Sydney, Australia. Being in a new country and new office, I figured it would be a good time to network outside of just the audit circle where I primarily worked in then. I ended up having many conversations with peers from different departments. Fortunately, a data analytics Partner and Manager saw my enthusiasm and after showcasing some of my fancy Excel workbooks, they decided to give me an opportunity to work on a 2-week analytics project. This engagement would also introduce me for the first time to the world of self-service BI and analytics via Alteryx and Tableau and the rest as one might say, is history.
I would eventually transfer over to this data analytics team and over the next two years while still in Australia, I began to grow and develop my skills as a data professional. From a creative expression standpoint, discovering the practice and art of data visualization was heaven sent. After years of compartmentalizing my creative affinities and daily vocation, a career in data analytics gave me an opportunity to combine the two — work started to feel like play and I would not look back.
Upon returning back to Toronto at the start of 2020, I was keen on expanding my horizons and looked for data visualization inspiration outside the traditional business context. While on my search, I stumbled upon the awesome #MakeoverMonday initiative and discovered a whole new world of possibilities. So I got back on Twitter, created a Tableau Public profile, and started sharing my vizzes. I’d also go on to meet and connect with the awesome members of the #Datafam community and have just absolutely been loving the support and learning experience so far.
So as you can see, my journey so far to get to where I am today is quite non-linear — and if I’m being honest, there where times were it was just down right confusing and frustrating. This is where that little bit of faith and trust in God comes in. One of my all-time favourite quotes by the late Steve Jobs went something like this:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”Steve Jobs
Looking back at my journey so far, I can certainly attest to the truth behind this statement — no experience is wasted, no matter how nominal or significant. So for anyone feeling lost or frustrated with where they are at right now, I encourage you to have a little faith. Hold true to what you love to do and what gives you joy. Don’t be afraid to reach out and meet people (especially those not typically in your line of work), and always seek out learning opportunities — you never know where it may all take you!